The National Union of Students (NUS) has issued a warning to universities that students have a right to access their accommodation and that it is not illegal for them to move to their term-term address.
The NUS has warned that by refusing, universities could be breaking the law.
The NUS issued the warning to universities after an incident at Bristol University, where a student attempting to move back into their campus room was turned away by campus staff on the basis that she would be taught online.
Bristol University has since apologised for causing “unnecessary distress” and assured that this would not happen again.
Students studying subjects including medicine, dentistry, and social work, as well as courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments in January, are allowed to return for face-to-face teaching.
All other students have been asked to stay where they currently are and take their course online within reason. The government has laid out multiple other ‘reasonable excuses’ that legally allow students to return.
The Department for Education and Office of Students published guidance on 7 January clarifying these circumstances in which students may return to their university term-time residence.
If there is an essential reason why they need to return to their accommodation they can do so.
– Bristol University
The outlined ‘reasonable excuses’ for students to return to their term-time address include mental health, lack of study space, having left items essential for online learning behind, or having research outstanding which cannot be conducted remotely.
A spokesman for the NUS said that any attempt by university staff to prevent students returning is “likely illegal and probably constitutes harassment by the student’s landlord”.
The spokesman went on to say that students have “a right to enter and enjoy peacefully any accommodation that they are a tenant or license of” and that it was not illegal for students to return to their term-term address as “it is simply guidance that they should stay put except in limited circumstances”.
A spokesman for Bristol University apologised to the student in question and reassured students that “if there is an essential reason why they need to return to their accommodation they can do so”.
The University of Warwick has said on-campus accommodation is still open for students who need to return.
The University of Warwick has also confirmed that the library is open and off-campus students “within reasonable commuting distance” may travel to use the library and campus study spaces if they lack “appropriate study spaces or facilities” in their accommodation.