Published: 15:53, 26 July 2021
| Updated: 17:22, 27 July 2021
University students may have to be fully vaccinated if they want to attend in-person lectures and live in halls of residence from September.
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However, some students on the University of Kent's Medway campus feel that if the plans are confirmed for the beginning of the next academic year, it could create an unfair educational environment.
The Times reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had suggested the move in an attempt to drive up the rates of young people taking up the vaccine.
Conservative MP and education minister Vicky Ford was repeatedly asked about the potential policy this morning and refused to rule out the possibility.
At the beginning of July, the county’s student towns had the lowest uptake of the vaccine, with just over half of all residents receiving their second dose in both Canterbury and Medway.
Rhodri Andrews is a final year student, planning to start a year in French language in September.
After testing positive for coronavirus three weeks ago – the day he was booked to receive his first jab – he now faces a delay in becoming fully vaccinated.
He said: “I have every intention of getting both jabs but because I caught coronavirus on the day I was supposed to have the first one, and you can’t have it within four weeks of testing positive, it means that I can’t have my first jab until August.
“If I follow the eight week guide that means I won’t be getting my second jab in September.
"This rule in cases like mine is actually pressuring people to get their second jab earlier than recommended.”
He now fears that his entire university experience could be changed with the prospect of yet another year of remote learning and says it seems “unfair that students are being left behind and forgotten”.
After completing his first year of university almost entirely online, Kieran Webb is hoping that his second year studying journalism in Medway will be different after a “detrimental year”.
He said: “As much as it’s important that we all get vaccinated, I don’t think that it should be made mandatory for students to need to be double-jabbed before they can attend a university lecture.
"I mean after all, as students we’re paying for the experience of being taught in lecture halls and learning in person and having access to all these facilities. Without being vaccinated we’d be paying for absolutely nothing.”
However, some students are supporting the move, as they believe it will make the campuses safer when they reopen.
Sofia Akin is going into her final year on the Medway campus and said: “I’ve already had my first jab and I’m going to be getting the second jab soon so it’s not really a problem for me and obviously I’ll be having tests all the time.
"In a way it’s going to be more safe studying knowing people are double-jabbed, but obviously you don’t want to force people. I think people should have that freedom.
“It might be a little bit more worrying for international students who may not have as much access to the vaccine in their country.”
Similarly, Charlie Gurr plans to continue his studies on campus whilst living at home.
He said: “I do understand the thinking behind students potentially needing to be double-jabbed to attend lectures in person and stay in halls. The safety of students is paramount, and so the university would want to do all they can to ensure this."
However, after attending his first year at the university online, he admits that some students want clarity in how studies will be delivered.
A spokesman from the University of Kent said: "The safety of our entire community has been at the heart of our plans throughout the pandemic, which will continue as we prepare to reopen our campuses for the new academic year.
"This includes regularly reviewing government Covid-19 guidance to see what additional changes we can make to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can.
"In the meantime, we have been encouraging those students who are eligible for one to get a vaccine if they can, and will provide further advice throughout the summer as required if we receive additional Government guidance on this issue."