Scottish Government guidance on the return to campus

The Scottish Government has published detailed guidance for university, colleges, students, and accommodation providers, replacing the previous guidance from 22 July.

David Kernohan is an Associate Editor of Wonkhe


Here I’m not reporting everything in the guidance – for that please read the guidance – rather I’m just noting points of particular interest since guidance was last updated in September.

As most Covid-19 guidance is based around the idea of a “household” it is important to be clear how this is defined. For this guidance a university household is:

shared accommodation such as university accommodation that share a kitchen or bathroom”

Otherwise, judgement should be made on an individual basis – usually where areas are shared by groups of students in a residence. It’s notable that within larger residences, face coverings need to be worn in areas shared by larger groups, such as corridors, laundries, and common rooms.

The party is over

The Scottish Government is extending the house party offence provision that came into force on 28 August to include parties held within student accommodation. This will make it an offence [from 14 September] to attend a party in student accommodation as it currently is in other forms of private dwelling.

This could be clearer. What I think is meant is that parties within a household residence are not allowed – so you can’t invite everyone back to your HMO or room(s) in halls – but that a (masked) get together in the common room following social distancing requirements might be OK. Maybe.

I’m hedging this because the same section of the guidance continues on to say:

We expect non-compliance to be treated as a serious breach in terms of disciplinary procedures.

So as tempting as sitting two feet away from other students wearing a mask and occasionally sipping a tin of Tennant’s through a straw might be, I’d be checking and double checking what the precise rules of your uni are.

Getting on line

Sometimes guidance seems to be written with universities perceived as big boarding schools. It’s from this misplaced idea that we get lines like:

Providers should ensure that all students have access to Wi-Fi in accommodation

Which is fine for university owned halls, and laudable in that it is required for mental health and wellbeing as well as online classes. But how does this duty on providers translate to HMOs and private halls? How could a university compel a terraced house full of students in Dundee to have wireless access?

Getting to university

We get the usual stuff on staggering and planning arrival times, but for those questioning the wisdom of students travelling from Covid hotspots to study we have the following advice:

Students must not travel if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or are coming from an area where no non-essential travel is permitted.

Currently there are no areas where non-essential travel is banned, but who knows what the next weeks hold. Scottish universities have mainly deferred the start of term to later in September.

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