Students living in Aberdeen University accommodation reportedly broke the rules over the weekend – and could now be fined or excluded.
In an open letter to students, acting director of operations Debbie Dyker, addressed her concerns following reports of multiple breaches of Covid-19 rules within private halls over the weekend.
It is emphasised that “any breaches will not be tolerated, and those found to be breaking the rules will face robust action.”
A ban on visiting students in other flats was introduced as part of their “Covid campus pledge” and means students could be fined up to £250 or excluded or suspended from their course if found to be breaking the rules.
The regulations stretch to all students living in private and campus provided accommodation with landlords being asked to update the university of relatable incidents.
Mrs Dyker took the opportunity to thank students who are following guidelines set out by the Scottish Government and stressed the importance of cooperation and support during the “very real difficulties” that students are facing.
Speaking on BBC Good Morning Scotland, Further Education Minister Richard Lochhead emphasised that students cannot be blamed during the current circumstances.
He said: “It is really important not to stigmatise students – they are in a very difficult situation.
“They are young people, often away from home for the first time and they have to socialise to make connections but we are urging them to do that within the rules and regulations.
“The university have their own disciplinary rules and we (Scottish Government) expect them to be a last resort.”
Commenting on the same programme, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross shared information from those living in the “halls of horror” with students being forced to wash their clothes in their own sinks.
Asked if the measures where proportionate the Moray MP said: “The vast majority of students will follow the guidance now that it has been clarified… it has taken far too long for that to happen.”
Dell Henrickson, councillor for Aberdeen’s George Street and harbour area, which includes a large number of student halls, said: “It is disappointing that some students have been found breaching Covid-19 restrictions, and that others will be put at risk because of this.
“I appreciate that this is a testing time for everyone and that this is especially the case for many students.
“The simple message is that if we all stick with the rules then these restrictions will be able to be lifted sooner. I’d encourage everyone to play there part and, if they need help not to be afraid to ask for it.”
Councillor Ross Grant pointed blame at the Scottish Government and the changes made in the guidelines.
He said: “It is important to highlight that the vast majority of students who have arrived to commence with their studies have complied with the restrictions that are in place and university staff have worked hard to support students.
“But there is a need to ensure universities strike the right balance that all students feel supported and their needs are being met in such difficult circumstances.
“What has not helped is the total confusion with numerous changes to guidelines by the Scottish Government in relation to student halls and a clear, balanced and consistent approach is critical.”
The letter is published on the Aberdeen University website.
University and college chiefs across the north-east have put together packages of both pastoral and academic support for students experiencing a far-from-normal start to term.
With at least 18 students infected with coronavirus and hundreds more confirmed to their halls as a precaution, education bosses are insisting students will be duly supported with food parcels, emergency funding and online help.
Speaking to the Press and Journal last week, head of student support at Aberdeen University, Nick Edwards, said: “We know this is a difficult time, particularly for those who have chosen to move away from home, and I urge anyone who is struggling or has concerns to get in touch with our support teams.
“While we are adhering to government and NHS guidance, we recognise that essential measures such as limiting face-to-face activities on campus, asking students not to socialise in each other’s flats and asking some students to self-isolate will have raised issues and concerns for many of our community.”