Decisions on whether university students need to be vaccinated to return to campus will be taken in September, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said.
Mr Raab said the Government would make sure students, most of whom will be starting their new terms that month, have “advanced warning”.
Earlier this week education minister Vicky Ford repeatedly refused to rule out that students could be required to be fully vaccinated in order to attend lectures in person and live in halls of residence.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether vaccination will be advisory or compulsory for students returning to halls of residence in September, Mr Raab said: “When we come to the crunch, these decisions will be taken in September.”
Responding to a suggesting that the timing would be “a bit late” for students, he said: “We have, right the way through this pandemic, had to take advice and decisions based on the evidence as we see it.
“We will certainly make sure university students have advanced warning, of course we are going to be mindful of that.”
He said there must be reassurance that “we don’t take backwards steps having come out of what has been a very intrusive lockdown”.
He added: “The only steps that we will take in this regard are ones that will maximise the freedom that the vast majority of the country want and are hankering to enjoy.”
Labour has previously called on the Government to set up vaccination centres on university campuses to ensure students are fully inoculated ahead of the winter.
In June, leading institutions had also called on the Government to set up pop-up vaccination centres on campuses to ensure students are fully vaccinated at the start of the autumn term.
The Russell Group of universities, traditionally the most selective in the UK, has offered spaces and facilities for vaccines to ensure a smooth start to the next academic year.
Last week, the University and College Union (UCU) called on the Government to work with education providers and local and regional health service providers to offer full vaccinations to students before September.