Are UK universities allowed to require their students to have the Covid-vaccination prior to attending physical teaching? Have any announced the intention to do so for the next term? Would an allowance for "religious or philosophical" objections need to be made?
No vaccination requirement has been announced by any UK university to date that I am aware of. It is not planned at the UK university where I work. I think this is very unlikely to happen, as it raises a range of legal and privacy issues. It would also be very controversial, as the topic of COVID-status certification generally has been here.
The UK government's current position on Covid-status certification is (as of 6 July 2021):
the Government will not mandate the use of COVID-status certification as a condition of entry for visitors to any setting at the present time
However, they do not rule it out for the future and they do not plan to prevent any business/organisation from imposing their own rules (subject to existing privacy/discrimination laws). Existing laws would most likely necessitate exceptions for medical, religious, and likely other reasons as discussed in this article.
As a note, most universities in the UK strongly encourage regular Covid testing (twice weekly at my institution) of their students and staff who are attending campus. However, the universities do not know if this is actually done by a particular individual or what their test results are. They also have no way of checking covid vaccine status as this is considered private health information.
Like anything Covid related this could change, but as it stands now a requirement for Covid vaccination for students to attend a UK university is technically legal, however it appears very unlikely. Of course it would be prudent to confirm this with your institution.
Update as of 26 July 2021: the UK Government has floated the idea of requiring vaccination for attendance at lectures. I still think this is unlikely to happen due to a variety of legal, logistical, and practical reasons but it seems more likely then it did when I first wrote this post.
I cannot answer for UK universities, but the planning for my university in Germany is that it will require either documentation of a vaccination, or of having recovered from COVID, or of having a negative test within the last x hours. Most of the entrances are closed, and all students can only enter the buildings by going past a person who checks their paperwork.
Students with religious or philosophical objections can thus participate in physical teaching by getting tested every day they want to attend university. Right now, the tests are free, but not offered by the university. So there is no financial hurdle for those students, but there is a real hurdle in terms of time and organization.
I had the chance to raise the question of making Covid vaccination mandatory for our students at a faculty meeting. The answer was our university leadership, union representatives and the Welsh government had discussed the issue, and arrived at the conclusion that it is not possible for our (Welsh) university to enforce a vaccination requirement on our students. So it seems we need to rely on our students doing the right thing on their own volition.
Update (July 29th): Raab is making some noises about maybe demanding students to be vaccinated in September (when there would be enough time for students to actually get both jabs). It is unclear whether he is taking about England or the UK. BBC
Update (July 31st): Right now, the government is saying they don't have any plans in this direction. Guardian
The Council of French Rectors said it supports the full reopening of universities only after widespread vaccination of staff and students. But in general, European universities are more loyal to vaccine refusals. Great Britain, Holland, Belgium, Germany do not oblige employees and students to get vaccinated, although they actively promote it. The Council of Rectors of Italian Universities said: University staff are vaccinated as part of a national campaign to vaccinate certain people, but universities have not yet planned to require it from teachers and students of the profession. But the council of Spanish rectors even asked the staff: to consider universities in the priority group for vaccination.
In many European universities, vaccination is not required for continuing education on campus, and epidemiological control and prevention are provided through access control, dilution of streams, regular, and so on.