No vaccine mandate to study at English unis

british universities vaccines
No double vaccination required to attend lectures at English universities. Source: David Ryder/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

English universities will not be requiring students to be fully vaccinated to attend lectures. According to the BBC, foreign secretary Dominic Raab previously said students would get “advance warning” if they needed to be double jabbed. Details on Gov.uk notes that while international students do not need to have been vaccinated to study at English universities, they are still encouraged to receive a vaccine, either in a different country before or after arriving in the UK.

While students can attend class in English universities without being vaccinated, the Westminster government plans to require two jabs to enter nightclubs and other crowded venues from September. This announcement marks a U-turn from what was previously said. Earlier this week, ministers didn’t rule out the idea of vaccine mandates for university students — either to attend lectures or to live in halls of residence. 

When asked whether vaccination would be mandatory for students returning to halls of residence, Raab said a decision would be taken in September. “We will certainly make sure university students have advance warning, of course we’re going to be mindful of this,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday.

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson told The Guardian: “Vaccinations are important in helping to keep higher education settings safe for when students return in the autumn term and we strongly encourage all students to take up the offer of both vaccine doses.

“The government currently has no plans to require the use of the NHS Covid pass for access to learning, however, universities and FE [further education] colleges are encouraged to promote the offer of the vaccine and should continue to conduct risk assessments for their particular circumstances.”

British universities

Students who plan to study at English universities are still encouraged to get their vaccines if they can. Source: Andy Buchanan/AFP

English universities, HE sector encourage students to get vaccines

Sector representatives are encouraging new and existing students to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible. In a joint letter, published on July 28, HE representatives said: “Universities and other higher education providers continue to engage, explain and encourage new and existing students to take up the opportunity to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible. This includes amplifying and supporting the strong messages from government on how students can access a vaccination, whether they are in their term-time address or elsewhere, and working with public health locally to offer facilities as pop-up vaccination sites over the summer and leading into the new academic year.

“Young people have made tremendous sacrifices during the pandemic and evidence suggests that vaccine intent remains high among higher education students. We remain confident that the overwhelming majority of students in higher education will take up the opportunity to be vaccinated and we will continue to take every opportunity to encourage that they do so.” On July 27, University and College Union (UCU) said it welcomed calls for students to be prioritised for vaccines. 

English universities have stepped up to help incoming international students by partially or fully covering quarantine costs and COVID-19 testing. This includes Cranfield University and the University of Bristol.

Gov.uk notes that international students who haven’t been vaccinated will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine in England if they want one. “Anybody aged 18 or over in the UK is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine for free, regardless of their nationality or immigration status. International students in England and the rest of the UK aged 18 or over can receive the COVID-19. Nobody in England has to pay for the COVID-19 vaccination.”