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Plaid Cymru MS Helen Mary Jones says “Current situation with regard to students returning to university is completely untenable”

IN response to the current situation for Welsh University students Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Post-16 Education, Helen Mary Jones MS said,

“The current situation with regard to students returning to university is completely untenable. Students from England are being told to stay at home until mid-February, while those studying in universities in Wales are being offered a phased return starting next week. No wonder many students do not know what to do for the best.

“Given the gravity of the public health emergency, and the fact that schools have had to be closed, we are calling for Welsh Government to tell most students to stay where they are, and for most University learning to go online for now. Only those studying courses where face to face and practical learning is absolutely essential, such as nursing, medicine and veterinary science, should return to face to face study, and that in a very carefully controlled way to minimise social contact. The public health crisis is so serious that tens of thousands of young people moving about the country at this time is just wrong.

“This would have obvious financial implications for universities, and we are calling on Welsh Government to ensure that universities are fully compensated financially for those losses, as incurred by each institutions, since different institutions would be impacted in different ways. It is vital that our universities are effectively supported at this difficult time. They will have a major role to play in rebuilding our society and our economy when the crisis is over.

“Ways must also be found for students who have paid their accommodation costs upfront, or who are tied into contracts for the whole academic year to be repaid or released from their contracts. It is simply unfair for them to be paying for accommodation they cannot use, particularly at a time when many of the part-time work opportunities that students rely on to top up their incomes in fields like hospitality are not available. We understand that many universities have been generous to their students in this regard and we appreciate that. This loss of income should be taken into account when Welsh Government is providing additional funds to universities. But there is a real issue with students whose contract with private landlords. We are calling on the Welsh Government to work with the UK Government to find ways in which emergency powers can be used to release students from their accommodation contracts, and to ensure that business support is available to private landlords affected.”

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