The return of university students was put in doubt last night as the number of coronavirus lockdowns increased on campus.
As thousands prepared to begin the new term, the president of the National Union of Students said the government was playing with the lives of students.
Labor even called for a delay until the beginning of the English semester, until the chaotic test system can meet the rising demand.
In Manchester it turned out that 1,700 students who are banned cannot even find out if they have Covid-19.
Labor shadow education secretary Kate Green urged ministers last night to prevent students from returning to university until the chaotic testing system could meet rising demand
First year students at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) stand behind a fence after students who had self-isolated for a fortnight were told they could not leave campus
Students, who self-isolated at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) for a fortnight, were told they would not be able to leave campus to attend the local testing center, raising fears that the outbreak will spread.
The Manchester outbreak is just one of at least 36 in universities across the UK.
Labor education spokeswoman Kate Green last night called on ministers to prevent students from returning to university at the beginning of the academic year – which affects 2.3 million in the UK.
She said they should either postpone the start of the semester or pause students returning to universities where courses had not yet started.
Manchester Metropolitan Students speak behind a fence after an outbreak of the virus
A group of MMU students asks where their tuition fees are going
Manchester Metropolitan University students remain in isolation after an outbreak of the virus
NIS President Larissa Kennedy endorsed Miss Green and told The Guardian that the union wanted "a working test-and-trace system on campus and adequate funding to deal with student mental health problems".
In a tweet she added, "Government and universities are playing with student lives."
Pressure to refund tuition fees
By Emine Sinmaz and Daniel Martin for The Daily Mail
Pressure on universities to reimburse tuition is mounting as thousands of students face lockdowns, online courses, and the prospect of Christmas in their halls.
Tory MPs said it was "madness" that the country's universities charge the same fees for "second-rate" learning.
With students facing the prospect of being locked up in their dormitories over Christmas due to Covid-19 outbreaks on campus, 3,000 students have already been locked in their rooms after cases at 36 universities including Glasgow, Manchester Metropolitan and Edinburgh Napier.
Last night Robert Halfon, the Conservative chairman of the Education Selection Board, said students need compensation for the lack of face-to-face learning.
The Department of Education said students who want refunds should contact their universities. Mr Halfon told the Daily Mail, "If we have 3,000 students in lockdown now, it could be 6,000 next week, so ministers need to work out a plan for testing and tracing.
“And we have to make sure the students are back by Christmas because a lockdown over Christmas would frighten them and their families.
"The government needs to seriously think about a discount because if you pay for a product you should expect to get that product and if not you should get some money back."
Tory MP George Freeman said yesterday it was "insane" that students were locked in dormitories by students who "are still happily taking their money".
He said on Twitter, “How can universities make up for losses from offering student discounts? Well, not from fugitive students! Perhaps from the Vice Chancellor's £ 300,000 salary?
However, the outgoing Vice Chancellor of Buckingham University Sir Anthony Seldon said, “We need to have a sense of perspective. Universities have gone to great lengths to plan this, and many are getting along with it. & # 39;
And the Department of Education turned down Labour's call, insisting "to work closely with universities to help them keep staff and students as safe as possible".
The 1,700 MMU students banned yesterday complained about feeling abandoned – some were already planning their escape.
After 127 positive tests for Covid-19 on Friday, the shocked students – many of whom were freshmen away from home for the first time – were ordered to isolate themselves in their dormitories for a fortnight.
Desperate students said the supply of food and toiletries was low and complained about students holding night parties likened to "prison rioting."
Some tried to ease the boredom by putting up signs in their windows with slogans like "send drink" and "f *** Boris".
As some Lockdown students compared the university to a prison by calling it an "HMP MMU" and being prevented by security guards from leaving the prison, legal experts claimed their detention could lead to false detention.
Adam Wagner, a human rights attorney in the Doughty Street Chambers in London, wrote on Twitter, "Wrong detention is detention without legitimate authority."
Hours later, the university's vice chancellor, Professor Malcolm Press, admitted that he could only "expect" students to follow self-isolation rules – to prevent the infection from spreading to their hometowns.
While many students vowed to stick it out, others prepared to flee the city.
Tilly Thompson, 19, said she felt like a "caged animal" and was waiting for her mother to take her home to Wolverhampton.
The students claimed that some of the restricted ones ignored the rules and threw parties. One bragged the quarantine was "two weeks long" and said he had "200 cans of stock" and "it will be messy".
A student named Tom told BBC Radio 5 Live that people walked past their apartments and shouted, "Open your doors, we have coronavirus, we want to give it to you." He added, "It was crazy … parties everywhere, loud music … It was like a prison riot."
Martyn Moss, of the University and College Union, said he had warned MMU chiefs that their plans for "mass student returns would inevitably result in institutions becoming Covid incubators."
He added, "Universities should have spent the summer following science and properly preparing for this inevitable crisis."
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