Universities chief ‘confident’ in student safety measures

Alastair Sim said Universities Scotland worked closely with staff, trade unions and student unions on measures.

Universities chief ‘confident’ in student safety measures Pixabay

The director of Universities Scotland is “extremely confident” that enough safety measures are in place for students to start learning.

Alastair Sim said the representative body has worked closely with staff, trade unions and student unions to put measures into place for their return.

It comes after the University and College Union (UCU) said uncapped recruitment could overwhelm some institutions, and risked “turning universities into the care homes of a second wave”.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Moving a million-plus students around the country is a recipe for disaster and risks leaving ill-prepared universities as the care homes of a second wave.”

However, Mr Sim said he was a “little surprised” at the reaction from the UCU, adding a lot of the work had been put into place in conjunction with the staff and students.

He expects further guidance from the Scottish Government on Tuesday.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland on Monday, Mr Sim said: “We’ve got physical distancing in place, a really high-quality blend of digital learning and face-to-face learning.

“We’ve got students being managed in small households, we’ve got attendance monitoring. We’ve got quarantine for students arriving from countries that aren’t exempt.

“You’re not going to see anything like a big traditional lecture, with students sitting next to each other in a big lecture hall.

“The blend will be predominantly towards digital learning.

“Although there are subjects like medicine, nursing and performance, where a strong face-to-face learning is needed, and that will be in place in a way that has been worked on to make sure it’s safe.”

It is unclear how many international students will make the journey over to learn in Scottish universities, with Mr Sim saying many of them are still waiting on visas or cheaper flights.

He added: “International students are more likely to come over in a staggered fashion.

“They will arrive to arranged accommodation with a welcome pack, that will contain food and contact details, and those arriving from countries where quarantine is needed will quarantine for 14 days first.”

Mr Sim said he trusts students not to gather in large groups in pubs and restaurants, saying: “It is an extraordinary responsible generation, who have lived through this and understand the importance of it.”