Online rescue aids students affected by the pandemic

Laptops at the ready for those currently unable to access courses.

Online rescue aids students affected by the pandemic Getty Images

The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) has launched an emergency fund to help students affected by coronavirus.

With campuses across the Highlands and Islands closed due to the outbreak, academic staff have switched to delivering their courses online.

While many of the university’s 40,000 students have been able to continue their studies from home, an increasing number have reported that they do not have the equipment or internet connections needed to access online classes and resources.

The university has set up an emergency study fund to address that, offering support to college and university students who are unable to purchase essential technology due to financial hardship.

It will provide students with a range of equipment and services including laptops and broadband connections.

Local businesses and individuals including Mark Mair, chairman of the Moray-based aviation museum Morayvia and Turriff-based company Ace Winches, have backed the cause.

The university’s IT department is working to refurbish existing laptops and purchase new ones.

The contributions have already helped to deliver laptops to more than 40 students.

The devices are being deployed on loan agreements so future students can benefit from them too.

UHI’s head of development Alison Wilson said: “The response to the fund has been fantastic. We’re extremely grateful for the donations.

“However, the demand from students is increasing rapidly. We’ve had another 45 applications in the past three days alone.

“As well as applying to funds set up to help Covid-19 related causes, we are also urgently seeking donations from anyone who might be able to help. We need to act quickly to reduce the risk of students dropping out or having to repeat their studies.”

Among the beneficiaries is Esther MacKinnon, a BA (Hons) archaeology student from Alness.

She said: “I am delighted to be able to carry on my studies and complete my first year. Since I got the computer this week, I have been able to access recordings of classes and I can now join classes online which is great.

“There is so much that is difficult at the moment, but I am glad to keep going with my study.”

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