‘Don’t blame students for coronavirus rise,’ says university leader

Students should not be blamed for the rise in cases – and the majority are following the guidance, says the vice chancellor of the University of York.

Scenes of a crowd of mainly young people singing and dancing after the pub curfew last Friday had led some to point the finger at students.

Prof Charlie Jeffery said York has a population of 40,000 students in total from both universities and the colleges, meaning some positive cases are to be expected.

He highlighted the disruption young people have faced to their education and said they are aware of their responsibility to the community.

Prof Jeffery said: “We know our students have had huge disruption over the last few months.

“Those continuing at university, who were locked down in March, and in particular those who went through the A level process this summer which we know was extremely disruptive and destabilising for them.

“We know that they want to get back to their studies.

“And we need them. They are our doctors, our engineers, our teachers, our scientists of them future and we are going to need them to get out of the long term effects of this crisis.”

Most are older

The crowds of people in York city centre last Friday night. Photograph: Joshua Murphy on Facebook

A video shot on the university’s Heslington campus showed a lack of social distancing. But Prof Jeffery said that “the vast majority of students follow the rules. They are aware of their responsibilities and of the wider community.”

The majority of recent cases in the city have been among residents aged 20 to 39 – older than the majority of freshers and college students.

Prof Jeffery added the universities are ready to adapt if further restrictions are imposed in York.

He said: “We are ready to move to additional restrictions if we need to, rolling back face-to-face teaching if we have to.”

Commenting on scenes of students self isolating inside university accommodation in Manchester, he said: “If we need to see students self isolating, we will do this with compassion.

“This is a public health measure, not a punishment.

“We will make sure they are provided for and that they have day to day contact so that their wellbeing is supported.”