The CEO of the Student Christian Movement (SCM) has told Premier that the government's plans aimed at getting students in English universities home before Christmas are "brutal and confusing" and treats them differently to other adults in society.
Revd Naomi Nixon was reacting to a one-week student travel window that university students in England will be given between the 3rd and the 9th of December to make journeys home.
Students will be given staggered time slots over the seven days in an evacuation-style operation. In-person teaching is also due to come to an end.
Naomi Nixon said while they welcome the principle of students being able to go home for Christmas the measures don't treat students as "full equal adults."
"The way that it's been rolled out, is brutal and confusing. And it doesn't treat students as the full equal adults that they are, they're being treated differently to everyone else in society. And we have a lot of remaining questions about that. So what if students have exams scheduled after the cut-off date? What about those living off campus? Are we really saying that students living in regular housing and streets are going to be treated differently to other people living in that street, in terms of their being able to travel?
"Why is one neighbour different to others just because they're registered on a university course? What if students have expensive train or plane tickets that fall outside the window for travel that the government are allowing for? Are they going to be refunded? Or they're going to be able to make local exceptions? What about support for lecturers who have been horrifically messed around in this whole system and don't seem to be given much regard to their well-being?"
The Student Christian Movement also has concerns about students who don't have anywhere obvious to go and spend Christmas: "What about students who are from backgrounds where they don't have a parental home to go to, and they would normally spend the Christmas period, bopping between different supportive friends and more distant family members, perhaps, it seems a very middle class kind of happy kind of home situation where mum and dad can drive up and pick you up at a moment's notice. And not everybody has that.
"Those who left foster care situations to go to university, for example, and that support ends when they're 18. So what about them? And what about care for the students left isolating after a positive test? So the government is telling us that they'll have a rapid test before they leave? And if they get a positive test, they'll have to isolate in student halls? Well, does that mean they're going to be three or four people in a student tower block all by themselves? Who's going to be looking after them? And how are we going to make sure that the vulnerability of their mental health is taken care of while they're going through this really scary illness?
She added that members of the Student Christian Movement are supported and linked up with the wider Christian world thanks to SCM's weekly online gatherings. Care packages are also being send out to members with treats and assurances of prayer.
"There are some ways that we're suggesting that we can positively put that prayer into a way that the students can really tangibly experience. I think that's something for the rest of society, to be making sure that we think every day not just about how to pray about the students in these really difficult situations, we need to do it. But we need to also use our voices to make sure that pressure is brought to bear even if we don't have a child or a nephew or whoever at university ourselves, that to imagine that we did and make our voices heard," she added.