After the Christmas break, university students will start the semester away from home and can only return to campus on the advice of institutions, John Swinney has announced.
The Minister of Education also said in a speech to the Scottish Parliament that they will be required to restrict their social contact for two weeks before and after returning to university.
The aim is to restrict the spread of the coronavirus in the new year.
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Nevertheless, the announcement has attracted criticism from student leaders concerned about the lack of information and direction.
They are also concerned about the effect on the mental health of students.
NUS Scotland President Matt Crilly said, “Students have asked for clarity on what they will look like in the next term. Unfortunately, without the necessary details and accompanying guidance, today’s announcement came too late.”
We are worried about the mental health effects of students being questioned for a total of 28 days to limit their social contact.
It seems that students are still forced to pay rent for six weeks of accommodation they will not use. This is grossly unjust. To ensure that no student is left behind, we will urgently seek clarification from the Scottish Government and universities.
“NUS Scotland continues to call for online learning to become the norm so that no student needs to be on campus unless absolutely necessary, and every student can make an informed decision about whether to return to their student accommodation.”
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Today’s announcement reinforces how critical it is for students to have access to learning and on-site support next term, said Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland. We think this is crucial for the learning, well-being and retention of students.
“Requiring a phased return would require immediate changes to schedules and educational services to provide students with the learning environment they deserve. To add substance to today’s high-level announcement, we urgently need detailed guidance from the Scottish Government.
A phased return and government policy that discourages students from returning to their accommodation at the beginning of the term poses many problems with student accommodation contracts, with potentially substantial cost repercussions at a time when universities are under very extreme financial pressure.
“We look forward to an urgent discussion with the Scottish Government in the interests of student support, institutional support and the operational effectiveness of the policy.”