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Regulator asks universities for coronavirus updates

Office for Students asks for data on case numbers

The Office for Students has written to universities asking for information on the number of confirmed and suspected coronavirus cases among students and staff. The request comes after a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee on 9 March declared that the UK was still in the containment phase of the disease.

The regulator said it was requesting the information to better understand the actions universities are taking in response to the virus, and assess how this might affect the delivery of higher education in England.

In addition to the number of cases, the regulator is also asking for information on actions taken in relation to confirmed or suspected diagnoses. Under the OfS regulatory framework, universities are required to provide the OfS with any additional information it deems necessary in a timely manner.

“We require this information to monitor and understand in a timely way how Covid-19 may be affecting students and higher education providers, the actions providers are taking in response, and how this might affect the ability of registered providers to continue to deliver higher education and comply with their conditions of registration,” says Susan Lapworth, director of competition and registration, in the letter.

“Once you have started to submit information, you should provide an update within one working day of becoming aware that the number of confirmed or suspected cases has changed,” she adds.

“If the number of confirmed or suspected cases at your institution is, and remains, zero, you will not need to submit any information.”

Information about the actions universities are taking in relation to any cases “should be provided when you first make a report that you have confirmed or suspected cases, and then subsequently when you make material changes to the way you are dealing with cases”, the letter says.

“Such information should be provided as early as possible after a change is made and no more than five working days later.”

There were 319 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK on the morning of 9 March, an increase of 46 on the previous day.