Revealed: This is how much your uni is spending to test students for Covid

Some unis are spending millions

Unis are spending millions to test students for Covid in a bid to carry on business as usual and contain outbreaks on campus.

Among the top spenders, Nottingham Trent will spend £2 million, Cardiff £1.8 million, and Oxford £1.5 million on Covid testing.

Information obtained by The Tab revealing how much unis have budgeted for Covid testing. The numbers are orders of magnitude less than the billions spent on testing by the British state, but show just how much money unis are spending on capacity beyond what the NHS can provide.

Across the country, unis expect to spend at least £18 million on Covid testing for students. In response to the findings, Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, told The Tab that the need for unis to splash out on mass testing reflects a government failure.

“The planning and expenditure for testing should not be left to individual institutions,” Grady said.

See how much your uni is spending to test students for Covid:


King’s College London is spending £10 million to provide 13,000 tests a day on its campus. However, this is offset by the NHS to result in a net zero cost, and so is not included in the graph.

Cambridge’s testing scheme – which aims to give weekly tests to all students living in colleges – will cost the uni £1.3 million.

A number of smaller spenders – such as Bristol, Loughborough, and Durham – have purchased a small amount of tests as a contingency, rather than to set up a dedicated testing scheme for students.

Nottingham and Liverpool refused to say how much they were spending on testing, arguing the information was so commercially sensitive that people did not need to know.

In contrast to those spending millions, plenty of unis are not doing additional testing, instead relying on existing NHS testing.

While a large sum of money across the board is going towards staff and site costs, a considerable amount is being paid to the private sector.

Bath and Loughborough paid a total of £280,000 to Randox – the controversial Tory-linked firm given a new £347 testing contract by the government. Tory MP Owen Paterson is paid £100,000 a year for consultancy work with the firm.

Other firms landing uni contracts include Halo, who supplied Surrey with 450 tests at a cost of £150,000, and NTL Biologica, who will take up part of Portsmouth’s expected £668,000 bill, along with Portsmouth Hospital Trust.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady told The Tab: “It is by their insistence on in-person teaching that the government has pushed universities into this current mess. The crisis on our campuses is a wider public health issue of the government’s own making and the planning and expenditure for testing should not be left to individual institutions.

“Mass testing of students can only work if it is part of a plan for letting them return home safely. But even then, it needs to be combined with rigorous contact tracing and proper support to allow them to self-isolate safely where needed.

“The government must insist universities move activities online wherever possible and use the current lockdown period to establish and properly fund a workable test, trace and isolate system for both staff and students so the country can stop yo-yoing in and out of isolation.”

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