Scotland’s colleges and universities are preparing for a phased return of students to campuses in September as the coronavirus lockdown eases.
Further and higher education minister Richard Lochhead has written to the country’s college and university principals about the Scottish Government’s plans for easing coronavirus restrictions to allow the return of students.
Under the Scottish Government’s route map, the third phase would mean universities and colleges returning at the start of the next academic year.
Most are planning for an initial combination of digital and in-person learning, with public health measures such as physical distancing in place.
Lochhead said: “I am immensely proud of the huge contribution our colleges and universities, their staff and students have been making in the fight against this global pandemic, and their efforts to adapt so quickly.
“They have demonstrated their substantial contribution to the national response – for example, supporting Covid-19 research and testing, donating personal protective equipment, and students and staff volunteering for front-line roles in health and social care. This shows an impressive collective ability to step up to these unprecedented challenges.
“Preparations are now underway for Scotland’s colleges and universities to have a phased campus return in the new academic year, with the safety of students and staff of paramount importance.
“While next year will undoubtedly be different, studying with our institutions will continue to be world class, attracting students from across the globe, and anyone thinking about studying in Scotland should apply without delay.”
Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said: “Recruitment and application processes for the next academic year in the college sector are already under way and a college forum has been established to explore how best our colleges can deliver for their learners and staff, including developing the curriculum to be delivered effectively online and remotely.
“We will continue to be guided by the latest public health advice – as the overarching priority is the safety and well-being of students and staff in the sector – and it is initially likely there will be a blended approach with both onsite and digital learning.
“While the timing and specific nature of current restrictions being eased is not yet defined, we will be prepared across the country for the new academic term and our new and continuing students.”
Professor Andrea Nolan, convener of Universities Scotland, said: “Universities are working hard to adapt their arrangements so they can continue to offer students a high quality learning experience and wide range of support services in the autumn.
“Universities will confirm their individual start dates for next year as soon as possible – some have already done so.
“Next term’s teaching will include a flexible blend of digital learning and safe on-campus provision.”
She added: “Scotland’s universities have long been a beacon for students from all over the world and that is still an important part of who we are as a country.
“The Scottish Government will be working closely with the university sector to ensure that remains the case.”