DOWNING Street yesterday vowed to get all university students back home for Christmas amid a national revolt over campus lockdowns.
But students faced fresh trouble as a hard-left union demanded all face to face uni tuition is scrapped.
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The University and College Union (UCU) have written to Boris Johnson saying students should be allowed to go home and all teaching be done on Zoom.
Thousands of teens in Britain have been banned from leaving their halls of residence, even to get food, after a wave of Covid outbreaks.
Risking the wrath of millions of parents, Health Secretary Matt Hancock had warned youngsters could be forced to stay on campus as virtual prisoners for Christmas.
But the PM’s official spokesman promised anxious mums and dads he would not wreck their Christmas plans.
He said: “We would expect all students to be able to go home at Christmas.” But he dodged growing calls for youngsters to get some of their £9,000 a year tuition fees refunded amid the chaos.
He said: “Universities are autonomous and they set their own fees. What we would expect is that they continue to deliver a high quality curriculum to their students.”
Some 1,700 youngsters are under lockdown at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) after 127 people tested positive for coronavirus.
While there have been outbreaks at Queen’s University Belfast, and Exeter and Edinburgh universities.
Students must be allowed to safely return home if they wish to and without fear of financial penalty for leaving their student accommodation
Worried teenagers say they have been left wondering “where the next roll of toilet paper is coming from” because they are not allowed to leave to go to the shop.
Amid the chaos, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said all uni tuition should be done online.
In a letter to the PM she said: “Given the rapidly changing situation and the increasing Covid outbreaks, now is the time for swift action and to move the majority of universities’ work online.
“We are not prepared to take chances with the health and safety of students, staff or local communities.
“Manchester Metropolitan University shifting teaching online only for foundation and first year students, for example, exposes the absurdity of trying to continue with blended learning.”
She added: “Students must be allowed to safely return home if they wish to and without fear of financial penalty for leaving their student accommodation.”
MMU boss Professor Malcolm Press promised teens will be given financial compensation for their plight.
Nicola Dandridge, boss of the Office for Students, said locked-up youngsters being given sub-standard Zoom teaching could get their tuition fees refunded.
She told the BBC: “If students are not getting what they were originally promised they should be making complaints to the university. Students have legal rights as consumers.”
Meanwhile, Labour seized on the growing chaos to twist the knife into Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, who will make a statement to MPs on the crisis on Tuesday.
Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green MP, said: “After days of silence, this statement is a chance for the education secretary to end his Invisible Man act and begin to get to grips with the situation.”
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