Principals ask uni students to ‘prioritise public health’

Scotland's universities calls on students to 'look out for each other' as they return to classes during pandemic.

Principals ask uni students to ‘prioritise public health’ Pixabay

Scotland’s universities have asked students to “prioritise public health” as they return to classes this week.

The principals of the country’s 19 higher education institutions have written a joint letter to students addressing the challenges caused by Covid.

“Our top priority as universities, in the midst of a pandemic, is to keep you and our staff safe and to contribute to keeping everyone else in our towns and cities, across Scotland as safe as possible,” the statement said.

It calls on students to “look out for each other, and for the wider community” and says campuses and teaching have been adapted to “keep you safe”.

“Campuses will look and feel different this term. With a blended approach to teaching in the first semester there will be fewer people on campus than usual and our spaces will be reconfigured to support physical distancing, enhanced hygiene protocols and the use of tech to support NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect contact tracing system,” the statements says.

“As students, we ask you to recognise the important role and responsibility that you have, on and off campus, to keep yourself, and the wider communities around you, safe from coronavirus.

“Please prioritise public health so we can ensure that the new academic year is a safe and satisfying experience for everyone.”

A survey by Universities Scotland accompanying the statement found widespread changes to campuses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Two thirds of institutions have made public health information part of the student registration process while 93% have made university accommodation available to some students for two weeks ahead of the start of term to allow them to quarantine.

Teaching and study spaces have been changed to support physical distancing and technology is being used to “track staff and student movement on and around campus”.

Professor Gerry McCormac, convener of Universities Scotland and principal and vice chancellor of the University of Stirling, said universities have “made the safety of our students, staff and wider community the highest priority”.

He added: “It has been a huge undertaking to make the necessary adaptations to course curricula, to timetables, and to the physical and online spaces needed to support public health.

“The whole university community has been part of this planning process in every institution, up and down the country.”