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Why do students travel to university? Covid has proved they don’t need to | Simon Jenkins

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September 25, 2020 at 08:00AM

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Freshers’ week in Glasgow has turned into a fiasco. But tech advances mean most students can become digital commuters

Who ever thought it a good idea to disperse 2 million Covid super-spreaders across British cities this month? One hundred and twenty-four returning Glasgow students have already tested positive, with dozens more at Aberdeen, St Andrews and elsewhere. Six hundred are now confined to their Glasgow lodgings and told they may have to stay there through Christmas. Now this fiasco is to be repeated in England as freshers’ week gets under way there too.

At the same time as this mass return to campus, the Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon is banning most households from meeting even their next-door neighbours, the most severe curb of personal freedom in this phase of the pandemic so far. Yet teenagers who have won the privilege of a university place have also won the privilege of travelling as far as they choose from home and meeting thousands of new friends. This might be called a giant exercise in herd immunity, a national version of what used to be a children’s chickenpox party. Is this now policy?

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