Staggered Christmas return to campus for university students
University of Glasgow – “undergraduates should initially plan to restart their studies at home.”
By Lucy Ashton
Universities will stagger the return of undergraduate students to campuses over at least six weeks, within a package of measures to minimise the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).
With only very limited exceptions, undergraduates should initially plan to restart their studies at home and only return to campuses and term-time accommodation when notified to do so by their universities.
When students return to term-time accommodation, they will be offered lateral flow COVID-19 testing, similar to that offered ahead of Christmas. All students are being asked to restrict their social interaction for a fortnight before they return to university and for the same period after they get there. College students – who largely do not move away from home to go to education – should return as planned, in line with the protection level for the area their college is in at that time.
Other student measures for Term 2 include:
- any student who has remained in university and other accommodation during the holiday, can continue to do so, whilst observing the relevant levels restrictions
- universities and other student accommodation providers should plan for how best to manage shared accommodation in ways that reduce the risk of transmission of the virus between students and between households, drawing on lessons learned from the autumn term
- universities and providers should offer additional support for any students who may have to self-isolate upon their return
Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said: “The Scottish Government, our colleges and our universities have a shared priority to ensure transmission of the coronavirus is minimised for the safety of all in our community.
“We also wish to see students have a positive educational experience in the coming spring term, including a blend of digital and in-person provision.
“The spread of the virus is, however, uncertain and prevalence is stubbornly high in some areas. So we are proposing these arrangements for the forthcoming term to ensure a safe return to college and university for students, staff and wider communities, building on the positive work done by colleges and universities based on the experience of the first term.”
Scottish Government guidance on colleges and universities will be made available to reflect these arrangements including key dates and how this will be kept under review.
University of Strathclyde – “universities and providers should offer additional support for any students who may have to self-isolate upon their return.”
Student accommodation linked to 3,000 covid cases
New analysis from Public Health Scotland has found almost 3,000 covid infections linked to student accommodation, and almost two thirds of respondents reporting worsening well-being and mental health since the start of the university term.
The report, published today, found that:
- 2,897 positive COVID-19 cases were associated with university accommodation postcodes, which represents 3.0% of the cumulative number of recorded cases of COVID-19 in Scotland (as of 30 November 2020).
- University accommodation in the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh accounted for over three-quarters (79%) of cases.
- At the universities studied, 65% of respondents indicated that their well-being and mental health had worsened since starting in the autumn term of 2020: 33% said it was ‘slightly worse’, 32% said it was ‘much worse’.
Scottish Liberal Democrat Further and Higher Education spokesperson Jenny Marr said: “The return to universities was astonishingly poorly handled by the Scottish Government. It’s no surprise that if you drag students halfway across the country and then lock them up in halls where the virus runs rampant with minimal supplies and support, their health and well-being suffers.
“Everyone knew that this was going to be the biggest movement of people around Scotland in months. That’s why Scottish Liberal Democrats repeatedly pressed for student testing to be made available in advance, as well as for rent rebates for students who would prefer to study from home and urgent mental health support for those who needed it.
“But poor planning led to a hugely damaging situation for both the students themselves and the communities they were told to move to. The repercussions of the spiralling infection rate that followed are still being felt.
“These failures must not be repeated in the new year. The Government need a comprehensive plan for our universities, that includes the provision of mass testing and an urgent expansion of mental health support.”