The government has refused to rule out a ban on unvaccinated students returning to university amid reports Boris Johnson is actively pushing the issue.
The Prime Minister has reportedly made low take-up rates of the Covid vaccine among 18-30-year-olds one of his priorities, particularly over the autumn and winter months.
The Times reported today that Johnson proposed making vaccinations mandatory for all university students as they return to campuses in autumn in a meeting at Chequers last week.
A senior government source told Sky News today that “we aren’t ruling out” making vaccines mandatory for students.
Education minister Vicky Ford also refused to rule out the idea during a series of interviews this morning, telling Times Radio that “I think it’s important that everyone looks at every practical situation that we have there to try to keep people safe”.
“If you want to get that freedom, not worrying about self-isolation, get on with university life …. do make sure you’ve had that vaccination,” she said.
Johnson’s initial proposal would see students banned from attending lectures or staying in halls of residence unless they have been vaccinated.
However, the Department for Education is reportedly concerned about the legality of such a policy and how it could be implemented properly.
It comes after the government last week said that Covid vaccine passports will likely be made mandatory for nightclubs and mass events from the end of September.
The announcement caused a backlash from some Tory MPs, with a large group already vowing to vote against the measure if it is introduced to parliament.
Labour has also said it would not vote for mandatory vaccine passports, making it very difficult for the measure to pass through parliament.
Tory MP and Education Committee chair Robert Halfon said he was not in support of mandatory vaccines for students.
“It’s like something out of Huxley’s Brave New World where people with vaccine passports will be engineered into social hierarchies – i.e. those who will be given a higher education and those who do not,” he said.
“Where does this stop? Do we fire apprentices who have not had the vaccine?”