UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES: Return must be delayed in line with schools

West College at Clydebank on the banks of the Clyde at Queen’s Quay. Picture by Bill Heaney

By Lucy Ashton

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today called for the Scottish Government to delay the return to universities in line with the decision on schools. He has also called for the publication of an urgent new plan so students can manage the weeks ahead.

Mr Rennie said:  “Students and universities have been left in the dark once again about the start of the new term. They should be advised without delay that in person teaching won’t start until after February.

“Before students returned to universities in the autumn, I warned that this was going to be the biggest movement of people since the pandemic began and called for testing to be put in place to protect students and the communities in which they live. Instead, the Scottish Government’s indecision and lack of preparation allowed the virus to be seeded across Scotland.

“Students need clarity about what their studies will look like for the forthcoming year. They need to know if there will be in person teaching and how it will be phased in.

“Many students are stuck paying for student accommodation or private housing far from home. The Government will need to ensure that these students are supported with a proper rent rebate. Many of them have made huge sacrifices to keep others safe, they should not be punished financially for doing so.

“Our colleges and universities need to have access to routine asymptomatic testing to start in universities to reach people who show no symptoms but who carry the virus. There is also more to be done to help unwell students to get additional support from universities and local health professionals and mental health support services. We need to see the Universities Minister set out detailed plans this week to ensure that students are not left hung out to dry.”

LATE NEWS:

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has called on the Scottish Government to urgently publish clear and detailed guidance to help students prepare for the new academic term, following confirmation that the majority of university students will have online learning until the end of February.

The Minister for Further and Higher Education announced today “detailed sectoral guidance will be published as soon as possible next week”, despite the new timetable applying from January the 5th.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are also repeating their calls for students to get rent rebates.

Ms Wishart, pictured left, said: “Students want to do the right thing but many remain in the dark about what exactly is permitted under the new lockdown rules. Students still have questions about accessing learning materials left in term-time accommodation and on rules around forming and re-forming households. In the middle of this cold snap they might be liable for problems in properties that they are not allowed to attend. They need urgent answers to help them make them make safe decisions to ensure they are in the best place to begin in the new term.

The Government was slow to act on getting detailed plans and guidance in place for the pre-Christmas movement of students. Students expect and deserve better.

“News today that online learning will continue throughout February also means many will be stuck paying for student accommodation or private housing they can’t use. The Government should ensure these students are treated fairly and are supported with a proper rebate. Many of them have made huge sacrifices

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