Nottingham's two universities have begun testing thousands of students to enable them to safely leave the city ahead of the winter break during the "student travel window", which is due to start on Thursday.
The University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University have worked with the city council to offer testing for the local student population.
Students with negative tests can return home but if they test positive, they will be told to stay and self-isolate.
The travel window runs from 3 to 9 December, with all teaching moved online from 9 December to the end of the term.
The dates were chosen so that anyone who has to self-isolate should still be able to leave before Christmas.
Both universities said more information would be made available soon on staggered start dates for next term.