It marks an apparent relaxing of the government’s position after culture secretary Oliver Dowden could only say he wanted students to be able to return home if Britons follow Covid-19 restrictions and get the virus under control.
“We would expect all students to be able to go home at Christmas,” Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson told reporters on Monday.
The prime minister is facing pressure to address the situation in universities after warnings from the National Union of Students (NUS) that people are being “trapped” in their halls of residence in “disgusting conditions” due to self-isolation rules.
Thousands of students are self-isolating following a surge in cases at universities including Glasgow, Manchester Metropolitan and Edinburgh Napier.
Students at Manchester Metropolitan on Sunday claimed they were being falsely imprisoned, with a number of legal experts backing them on social media.
The university later said it could not stop students under Covid-19 lockdown leaving their accommodation, but that it expected them to follow self-isolation guidance.
NUS president Larissa Kennedy told Good Morning Britain: “I’m hearing from some students across the country where there are security guards outside of these blocks where students are being kept, stopping people from leaving, coming and going, where students are being discouraged from getting deliveries and told by the university that they’ll deliver food, and that delivery has not arrived, and so they’ve gone for the day without food.
“I’ve heard from other students who, they’ve turned up with an amount of toilet roll, told with no notice that they’re going to be locked down and wondering where the next roll of toilet roll is coming from.
“It just feels like these are disgusting conditions for students to have been trapped in.”