The University of Sussex is offering cash prizes of £5,000 to students who can prove they have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The move is an incentive to drive up vaccination rates among young people, and it follows the news that the government is working with companies such as Uber and Deliveroo to offer more benefits to increase take-up.
Professor Adam Tickell, the university’s vice-chancellor, said: “We’re going to automatically enter every student in, and unless they have said they want to opt out, after we’ve given them the opportunity to have vaccines – this will be about 12 weeks after the announcement – we’ll just randomly choose ten names.
“If they can prove they’ve been double-vaccinated, or indeed if they are medically exempt, we’ll make them the award.
“We’re not bribing them. What we’re doing is we’re just giving an incentive.”
The prize draw will take place at the end of November to allow students time to get vaccinated.
Ministers are encouraging universities to be creative in an effort to increase young vaccination after recent NHS England data revealed those aged 18-34 now make up more than a fifth of those admitted hospital with Covid-19.
Tickell said that the scheme was worth it even if vaccine numbers increased “only slightly”.
We’re not bribing them. What we’re doing is we’re just giving an incentive
– Professor Adam Tickell
He said: “Whilst these are significant prizes for our students, the cost to the University is small compared with the human, social and financial cost if students were to experience the kind of disruption we faced last year.”
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “Vaccines are the surest way to put Covid behind us and for students to reclaim the freedoms that enrich university life, and I encourage all eligible students to take up the offer of both vaccine doses.
“The Department [for Education] is encouraging universities to look at creative ways to boost uptake and to discuss the possibility of pop-up centres with local health partners – making it quick and easy for students to grab a jab.”
The government has decided against vaccine passports for university students, but is urging the institutions to promote the chance to get the jab.