Students at the University of Exeter have been sent home from campus for breaking coronavirus regulations and increasing infection rates.
The university confirmed it had suspended a “small number of students”, with other universities fining students for having illegal parties.
One university has even threatened fines of up to £500, according to the Guardian.
The National Union of Students (NUS) has argued such fines are obscene and would instead prefer a “care-centred” approach for many students forced to self-isolate.
Larissa Kennedy, president of the NUS, stated that “students have done everything they have been asked to do during this pandemic and have returned to university campuses in accordance with government advice”.
Ms Kennedy also remarked that “we have seen many instances of universities using draconian measures including obscene fines, locking fire doors, private security and guard dogs. This level of campus securitisation is not only wrong but highly ineffective. Students deserve better”.
Aberdeen University currently has 122 positive cases of coronavirus, with disciplinary action taken against 29 of its students.
Manchester Metropolitan University has had 901 students test positive between 14 September-4 October with 27% of all first-years currently self-isolating.
The level of fines has been variable with students fined up to £500 at Northumbria University, £200 at Liverpool University and £150 at the University of Warwick.
The majority of students are following the guidance thereby protecting themselves, their local communities and ensuring campuses can remain open. Any action taken by universities is separate to action that the police can take in response to the breaking of social distancing rules
– Department for Education spokesperson
A spokesperson for Exeter University stated that “students are required to abide by our ‘Safe Community Charter’ and the vast majority of students have behaved impeccably but where students break the rules we will take action”.
The university also remarked that students would only be told to leave the university when they have repeatedly broken the rules.
Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, remarked that it’s “ often by taking tough and drastic action early and effectively, that you can ensure more freedoms are enjoyed further down the line”.
53 confirmed clusters of coronavirus have been reported at English universities between 7 and 27 of September according to Public Health England, while @UniCovidUK has tracked 91 UK universities being affected.
Northumbria and Newcastle universities have joined Manchester and Sheffield universities in moving the vast majority of their teaching online due to threats of industrial action and high numbers of coronavirus cases.
University of Warwick staff have also announced a strike ballot over concerns linked to coronavirus, with industrial action likely if the university refuses to move to online learning.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Universities are responsible for setting their own discipline and behaviour policies. The majority of students are following the guidance thereby protecting themselves, their local communities and ensuring campuses can remain open. Any action taken by universities is separate to action that the police can take in response to the breaking of social distancing rules.”