Universities in Northern Ireland are to move all teaching online by 9 December to allow students to return home for Christmas.
Students have also been advised to take a Covid-19 test before they return to their family home.
testing is being offered to students
at Queen’s and Ulster Universities.
The Christmas guidance for students in Northern Ireland was published by the executive on Friday.
Many students were already learning remotely as many degree courses were being taught online, although thousands remain on campus.
Face-to-face teaching has continued in some subjects where it is regarded as necessary.
A small number of those courses may be able to continue to hold classes on campus after 9 December.
But students have been told that if they remain on campus after 9 December they may be in a situation where they have to self-isolate over Christmas.
Rapid Covid-19 testing is available for students at Queen’s University’s main campus and the Magee and Coleraine campuses of Ulster University.
“This will reduce the risk to your friends and family,” the new guidance said.
“These tests are only suitable if you do not have any symptoms of Covid-19.
“If you have Covid-19 symptoms must book a coronavirus test in the normal way.
“If you remain at university after 9 December you are at risk of having to undertake a period of isolation if you contract Covid-19 or are identified as a close contact of a confirmed case.
“This would result in you being unable to travel home in time for Christmas.
“All students should aim to reduce their social contacts during the 14 day period prior to their intended travel date.”
Northern Ireland students at universities elsewhere in the UK
have begun to return home for the Christmas break.
Some may not return to university until February as
start dates for the new term have been staggered
But it is still not clear what arrangements for the start of the term of the university term in January will be in place in Northern Ireland.
‘Students deserve better’
While the guidance on Christmas travel has been welcomed by the National Union of Students and Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI), its president Ellen Fearon has criticised the absence of a plan for January.
“It is now crucial that the government turns its attention to semester two by developing a national strategy to support students through the rest of this pandemic and creating clear guidance for the higher education sector,” she said.
“Students who are making plans to travel home need to know now what their studies in January will look like so that they can decide where the best place is for them to continue their studies.
“Students deserve better than a repeat of a chaos and confusion we saw in September.”