Students to learn plans for Christmas travel window

There will be a ministerial statement on supporting students in Scotland to return home safely at the end of term.

Students to learn plans for Christmas travel window Getty Images

Students in Scotland will today be told how they can return home safely for Christmas.

An announcement on plans to create a travel window will be made to parliament on Wednesday.

There will be a ministerial statement on supporting students as part of a four nations approach to the issue.

Richard Lochhead, minister for higher education, is expected to outline a coronavirus testing scheme that will be rolled out in universities across the country.

Depute First Minister John Swinney confirmed the Scottish Government has held discussions with Westminster and other devolved government’s over their “shared interests of getting students home”.

The announcement will come as similar plans in England are accused of being “riddled with holes”.

Universities south of the border have been told to switch from in-person teaching to online classes by early December and set staggered departure dates between December 3 and 9 to allow families to be reunited.

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, highlighted the tight timescale for a mass movement of people, adding: “Allowing just a week for around one million students to travel across the country leaves little room for error.”

Westminster said Covid-19 tests will be offered to as many students as possible before they travel home.

Students will then have enough time to complete the self-isolation period and return home for Christmas if they test positive for Covid-19 before the travel window.

But if a student decides to remain on campus later into the month, they will need to remain in self-isolation in their student accommodation for 10 days if they test positive for coronavirus.

Universities will be asked to provide additional help and support – including affordable food – to students who remain on campus over Christmas.
Dr Grady said the plans are “riddled with holes” and “raise as many questions as they answer”.

In Wales, the issue is likely to be addressed at a press conference with the country’s education minister, Kirsty Williams.