Universities and their students are essential to the economic, social and cultural life of Yorkshire. Last year, over 196,000 students attended universities in the region, and they contributed enormously towards the places in which they lived and studied. At the start of this academic year, new students are being welcomed to universities and our region, alongside many others who are returning to campus.
Universities in Yorkshire continue to lead many of the national efforts to defeat the virus, with scientists searching to find a vaccine and treatments, graduates joining the frontline of the health and care sector, and universities working with business and local places to address the immediate economic challenges presented by the crisis. Universities will also be central to the rebuilding of our economy and society in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Since March, universities in Yorkshire have, in collaboration with students, local public health bodies, the NHS and regional and national government, put in place COVID safety measures, guidance and regulations.
As the Prime Minister said, the return of students to campus is critical for students’ life chances, and the health risk to individuals in the student age group is low. As civic institutions, with a deep sense of commitment to the cities and towns in which we are located, we have a responsibility to support the region as it seeks to turn the tide of the damage that COVID has inflicted.
Last week, the government published new guidance for the higher education sector, and it has also announced measures to tackle the recent increase in infections in England. Universities themselves have introduced specific teaching and learning provision, and other measures, to protect student well-being. We would encourage everyone connected with universities to play their part in helping to minimise the wider transmission of the virus, by following the rules and guidance.