University lectures will continue to be held online, despite this week’s easing of Covid restrictions.
While some face-to-face teaching will resume, there is still no indication as to when large lectures will return.
Most legal Covid restrictions in Scotland were removed on Monday, as Scotland moved ‘beyond Level 0’.
A parents’ campaign group blamed the failure to resume lectures on a ‘can’t do, won’t do’ attitude.
Under the new, revised restrictions, gatherings of 2,000 people are allowed indoors.
However, universities have pointed to separate guidance they have been provided with by the Scottish Government.
This states that “institutions should ensure measures go further than the minimum baseline where that is necessary to keep people safe.
“This could include, for example, limiting student numbers in lectures.”
Unis paying students’ quarantine fees
The University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University (RGU) both confirmed that, while some face-to-face teaching in smaller groups would resume, they are continuing with a policy of not holding “large” lectures.
Both universities also confirmed that they would be footing the quarantine bill for students arriving from ‘red list’ countries.
These include most of South America, many African countries, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan among others.
The University of Aberdeen said it would meet the cost of managed quarantine up to a maximum of £2,250.
RGU is also setting up a vaccination centre to ensure students are vaccinated.
It will be open through September and October.
Masks, distancing and twice-weekly tests
Students across Scotland will be encouraged to take a PCR test before any move to term-time accommodation, and twice a week thereafter.
And they will still have to wear face masks indoors, with one-metre physical distancing also required.
In England, there are no longer restrictions on teaching and learning at universities.
There is no requirement for social distancing or other measures within in-person teaching.
English universities are therefore able to shape their courses as they see fit.
A University of Aberdeen spokeswoman said: “While we do not intend to hold large lectures in person, we expect otherwise to offer a full range of in-person teaching.
“In line with Scottish Government guidance we will have enhanced mitigations in place in the early weeks of teaching, as not all students will yet be fully vaccinated.
“These will include reducing the occupancy levels in teaching rooms, and enhanced learning and ventilation regimes.
“We expect students to return to our Aberdeen and Doha campuses if they are able to, and are offering to fund quarantine costs for those travelling from red list countries.”
Face-to-face learning vital to wellbeing
Meanwhile, a spokesman for RGU stressed that everything would be done to comply with Scottish Government guidelines, pointing out these are different to the UK government.
He said: “We absolutely recognise the importance of face-to-face contact for our students, from both a learning and a wellbeing perspective.
“As such, in the first semester of the 2021/22 academic year, RGU will continue to deliver high-quality blended learning with as much safe in-person teaching as will be possible under the guidelines at the time.
“We are cautiously planning for one-metre distancing on campus. This will allow us to provide considerably more in-person teaching than last year.
“Should the requirement to socially distance be removed completely, then we will endeavour to open up even further.”
No large lectures
The spokesman continued: “While there will be an increase in on-campus teaching delivery in terms of seminars, tutorials, workshops, lab and practical classes, there will be no large lectures.
“For our international students, we will be ensuring that their quarantine fees are covered.
“We are also setting up a vaccination centre, which will be open through September and October, to ensure both home and international students have access to vaccinations.
“We are hopeful that our students will enjoy an experience much closer to that which they would expect from university when semester starts in September.”
‘Students being short-changed’
Parents’ campaign group UFT Scotland criticized the reluctance to restart lectures.
Organiser Jo Bisset said: “It’s incredibly disappointing to see students being short-changed in this way.
“While much of the focus is understandably on younger children, we must remember that these are young people too, embarking on what’s meant to be a formative and exciting new stage of their life.
“Society is well on its way to fully opening up, so quite why some universities aren’t bothering with lectures is a mystery.
“The ‘can’t do, won’t do’ attitude that’s plagued the education system for the last 18 months needs to stop.
“These young people deserve a normal university experience and it’s a shame certain universities appear to have little intention of delivering one.”
Blended learning in the Highlands
A spokeswoman for the University of the Highlands and Islands said their teaching would depend on the subject and location.
“We have established proven ways of learning through technology, delivering an active and personalised experience to our students,” she said.
“The pandemic has meant that our approach is now widely used across the university and college sector.
“We will draw on this experience as we continue to deliver courses using our blended approach to teaching.
“This includes using video conferencing, inventive remote learning technologies and face-to-face teaching.”