‘What is the current guidance regarding return to universities?' and other questions answered.
"As students, we need to be able to trust the university. I want them to talk less about being there for everyone's mental health and actively do something..."
By: Mireia Jiménez
On Monday 4 January, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the Scottish Parliament to announce new lockdown rules across Scotland. The new restrictions were justified on the basis of a fast-spreading new Covid-19 strain and as a strategy to help with the vaccination process.
The new restrictions include rules on leaving home for necessary purposes only, such as essential shopping, caring responsibilities, exercising or being part of an extended household.
With the start of the second term approaching university students, many are wondering how this situation affects their degrees and moving back to their accommodations.
In addition to the essential purposes mentioned above, the Scottish government has published a list of “reasonable excuses” that allow people to travel within Scotland, two of them include travelling for education and for activities in connection with moving home.
Email from University communications - 8 Jan
However, despite these being included as “reasonable excuses”, the Scottish government is advising students to not travel to their accommodation until face-to-face classes resume.
The Twitter account of the Scottish government’s education department (@ScotGovEdu) answered a question regarding this issue, saying: “At present, the message to students remains that they should not return to their term-time accommodation until in-person teaching resumes, as advised by their institution.”
The University of Aberdeen has told students that teaching will resume as planned on January 25th but only in an online format, with on-campus teaching delayed until it receives updated guidance from the Scottish government.
According to the University of Aberdeen, students living in halls of residence will be “entitled to a rent rebate for the period between January 25th and their return” and it is advised for the rest of students who changed households during the break to not return to their accommodation until in-person teaching starts. Despite this, the university also said that “students with pre-arranged travel may still arrive” and those “unable to study at home can return to campus but will still study online.”
President of the National Union of Students Scotland (NUS) Matt Crilly (@MCrilly) expressed his disappointment with the guidelines on Twitter, saying: “It seems there is no provision in the law to return to your term-time accommodation right now” and “many students are stuck paying rent for flats they’re locked out of... there needs to be Government intervention here!”
International students travelling from outside the UK can still travel back to Scotland completing the compulsory passenger locator form and self-quarantining of 10 days. In addition, following suit from other countries such as the Netherlands, the UK may soon require travellers to hold a negative Coronavirus test in order to enter the country. There is no mention from the University of any support being offered to international students who will have to quarantine regarding essential shopping and other necessities.
Students who are currently in Aberdeen and other parts of Scotland have expressed their concerns regarding the situation. Speaking to the Gaudie, Gabriela, a 4th-year student said: “I am afraid of the impact of lockdown on my studies, particularly as I have a dissertation to complete over the upcoming term and I am worried the access to the library resources and other materials will be difficult.
“I am also concerned, since I don't have much information regarding one of my courses and I am afraid that the information that I have will no longer be applicable under the new restriction rules. [...] Many students have not seen their families for months now, which could lead to their mental health deteriorating. Of course, it is necessary under current circumstances, but the detriment effect of lockdown on student's mental wellbeing needs to be recognized as well”
Rian, a 3rd-year Geography and IR student said: “Lockdown affects my mental health and last semester didn’t go well because of it, I expect it to be the same this semester. The guidelines confused me about coming back. I wasn’t sure what I was to do.”
Heather, a 3rd-year Politics & IR student said: “Online teaching was catastrophic in many cases last semester. As students, we need to be able to trust the university. I want them to talk less about being there for everyone's mental health and actively do something, in terms of workload, expectations regarding homework / assessments, quality of teaching... that will ultimately contribute to preventing students from developing stress, anxiety, depression, etc”.