UCL update on students travelling home for Christmas

A rapid Covid-19 test will be available for students

Since the second lockdown is coming to an end on 2nd December, many UCL students stuck in university accommodation will be thinking about travelling home for Christmas, to try and enjoy at least the end of 2020.

The government recently published guidelines for university students who wish to spend Christmas at home. A ‘travel window’ has been put in place from Thursday 3rd – Wednesday 9th December, during which students can “travel home on staggered departure dates set by universities”, in an attempt to reduce transmission of Covid-19 following the end of this lockdown.

There are conditions and requirements which need to be met by both students and universities for this to be a success. So what does this mean for UCL students?

The UCL website was first updated on the 13th November with a message from Vice-Provost Professor Anthony Smith (Education and Student Affairs) and Students’ Union UCL Officer Carol Paige (Democracy, Operations and Community Officer), explaining that as part of the government guidelines: “From 3 December, most face-to-face teaching goes online until the end of Term One. In practice-based and practical subjects, face-to-face teaching may continue as scheduled until 9 December. Your department will contact you if this applies to you.

“From 9 December until the end of term on 18 December, all teaching will be online, except teaching on our MBBS programme, where students are designated as key workers. Postgraduate research students will be able to continue on-campus research activities from 3 December if the research cannot be conducted remotely.”

The government also announced that mass rapid testing is will be available to as many students as possible at many universities, prior to travelling home. A more recent UCL Communications email (23rd November), from Professor Anthony Smith and Students’ Union UCL Officer Yasmeen Daoud (Welfare and International Officer), confirmed that this is the case at UCL.

UCL has set up a testing centre “as part of the national testing programme for universities to support students to travel over the winter break. The centre uses rapid Lateral Flow Tests (LFT), which provide results within two hours. Testing is free and voluntary.

“If you are planning to travel, you should allow enough time to take two of these tests, three days apart. Taking two tests means the results will be more reliable and you can be more confident when you’re making plans to visit your family and friends. Please remember that your results only reflect your status at the time of taking the test and you must keep following the safety guidelines to protect yourself and others, even if you test negative.

“If you’re travelling overseas, some countries may require you to have a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test result instead of a rapid Lateral Flow Test. If you’re not sure which test you need, please check our guide to the different types available and how to arrange one.

These tests can be requested and booked through UCL or the NHS, depending on the type of test you require. More details on travel advice and booking a test can be found here.

The government guidelines then state that should students receive a positive result, they must self-isolate for 10 days before travelling home.

Now not all students may be returning home for Christmas. For students remaining at UCL, support will be provided. The UCL website states: “The Student Centre will be open, although libraries and social spaces will be closed. Our Accommodation and Student Support and Wellbeing teams will be on hand to provide support throughout the closure period, including for self-isolating or symptomatic students. The Students’ Union and their clubs and societies will continue to host online events and activities throughout the winter break”.

Whilst this term at university may have been problematic for many, with this system in place you should be able to return home and enjoy Christmas with your family around a warm and cosy fireplace. Remember to stay safe and follow government guidelines and precautions when travelling home, whether that be in the UK or abroad.