Beyond Freedom Day: LSE implements the strictest Covid regulations among top London universities

After almost two years of living with Covid-19 restrictions, in July England became one of the first countries to entirely relax its regulations. However, the government still issued guidelines to reduce the risk of transmission in various spaces, shifting its responsibilities to institutions and individuals. In light of this, universities across the country set their own rules for what students can and cannot do. 

LSE chose to be on the safe side: even though its teaching arrangements closely mirror other London universities, it otherwise has the strictest restrictions. For example, take testing: LSE is the only top university in London to require a negative  Covid test from its students for access to campus. While other universities say they “expect” students to abide by testing twice a week, they don’t enforce this as strictly as LSE does. 

Face coverings are also mandatory in all LSE classrooms, whereas other top universities use more lenient language by saying face coverings are “expected”, with KCL only “recommending” face coverings. The lack of a uniform approach to this issue may seem bizarre, given the risks associated with transmission in each of these universities are similar. 

The case of face coverings demonstrates the shaky ground on which most restrictions now stand. Government guidance goes only as far as recommending face coverings in enclosed and crowded spaces. More importantly, contrary to the sweeping language used by LSE, the government has made it clear that no student should be denied education based on whether they are or aren’t wearing a face covering. Even in light of the government’s relaxed approach, it remains to be seen if London universities will change their restrictions in Lent Term.

  • Face-coverings
    • LSE: “Mandatory” when prolonged contact is required such as teaching and learning spaces and lifts. Strongly recommended (but optional) in other indoor and outdoor spaces.
    • UCL: Everyone on campus “expected” to wear a face-covering when indoors. Optional when outside.
    • King’s: Recommended but not mandatory.
    • Imperial: Everyone “expected” to wear a face-covering when indoors. Optional when outdoors.
    • Government guidance: Recommended in enclosed and crowded spaces. However, no student should be denied education based on whether they are or aren’t wearing a face-covering.
  • Testing
    • LSE: Proof of a negative test in the past 4 days required for campus access, even if fully vaccinated.
    • UCL: Students and staff “should get tested” twice a week but not mandatory for campus access.
    • King’s: Students “expected” to submit two tests a week but not mandatory for campus access.
    • Imperial: Taking two tests a week is recommended but not mandatory for campus access.
    • Government guidance: Students and staff are strongly encouraged to test twice a week.
  • Lectures
    • LSE: Lectures will normally be online, except a few. More lectures may be moved in-person in Lent term.
    • UCL: Most large group lectures will be online.
    • King’s: Large lectures will be online.
    • Imperial: Some lectures will be in-person and some online, depending on the course.
    • Government guidance: No restrictions for in-person teaching.
  • Classes
    • LSE: All compulsory teaching will be in-person, including classes, seminars, tutorials, and workshops. Office hours, mentoring sessions, and dissertation/thesis supervisions will also be in-person.
    • UCL: Most small group teaching will be in-person.
    • King’s: Small group teaching will be in-person, but the extent will depend on the discipline and stage of studies.
    • Imperial: Classes and labs will be in person.

This article was published in Issue #913 in October 2021.

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