Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out banning students from being allowed to have Christmas at home with their families.
This comes as over the last few days 600 students at a Dundee university tested positive for coronavirus and then at Glasgow University a further 120 tested positive and then Liverpool saw an outbreak.
The University and College Union had made calls for students to be taught wholly online, from home until Christmas.
However, Ministers advised that some face-to-face learning is key to their mental health, which has meant around 1m students are now back at university, which has seen a rise in more coronavirus infections.
Hancock was asked by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, if he will tell students to stay in their university towns for Christmas.
Hancock said, he had “learned not to rule things out.”
“I don’t want to have a situation like that, and I very much hope we can avoid it.
“We have said throughout that our goal is to suppress the virus, whilst protecting the economy and protecting education.
“And protecting people in education whether it’s school or university is obviously critical as is protecting the economy.”
He added, “In terms of universities, we are working very closely with them to try to make sure the students are safe, but that they can also get their education.”
“I’ve learned not to rule things out and one of the challenges that we have is how to make sure people are as safe as possible.”
But added, “This is not our goal, I don’t want to leave you with the expectation – but we have to work on all contingencies at the moment.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously warned, that universities have been provided with a “clear request not to send students home in the event of an outbreak, so as to avoid spreading the virus across the country.”
Laura Rettie, Vice President of education consultancy, Studee said, “The prospect of students being told they won’t be allowed home to their families feels exceptionally draconian. This would not go down well with students or their families, Christmas is like a milestone, especially for 1st years, many of whom won’t have seen family for three months.
“Stopping the spread of the virus must be a priority but students should have been warned that this was a possibility before committing to moving across the country or abroad. Universities should be treated on a case by case basis and only keep students on campus throughout the holidays if absolutely necessary.
“The simple fact is the government must get their act together and find a way around this before December. We simply cannot have a situation where students have to pay the price because of a lack of competence when it comes to organising a system to test quickly and effectively.”