The rising Covid-19 problem at universities has been made worse by the government’s “incompetence” over A-level results which means “more people are going to university than normal”, the leader of the Liberal Democrats has said.
As the Liberal Democrats annual conference starts online today, Sir Ed Davey accused ministers of making the risk of coronavirus infection “worse” for thousands of students across the country as they prepare to start the new academic year.
The University of Liverpool earlier this week confirmed there were already 87 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among students and staff on campus before the autumn term had even begun, and universities in Manchester were also reported to have recorded cases, while Scottish higher education establishments are fighting to control the number of cases.
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Sir Ed, who was elected leader last month, said: “What’s really worried me is the way the government has made this problem far worse.
“If you remember they completely messed up the A-level exams, it was a total fiasco, and that meant that more people have gone to university than is normal and the universities – who were getting ready, who were making their campuses and their accommodation safe – then suddenly had this massive influx.
“And the Government really hasn’t reached out to help universities and protect those students, so I’m afraid the Government’s mistakes yet again, their incompetence, have made a difficult problem worse.”
Ministers U-turned on a decision to deploy a “mutant algorithm” – the description given to it by the prime minister – and instead used teacher predictions for grades after exams were cancelled, in a move that boosted pupil results.