Coronavirus outbreaks among students caused a “great deal of anxiety” among lecturers, while guidance on online learning was not clear enough, MPs have been told.
Some students also felt they had been “miss-sold an experience” due to confusion over blended learning rules, the Scottish Affairs Committee heard.
The Commons committee heard evidence from the Universities and College Union (UCU) and the National Union of Students (NUS) on Wednesday as part of an inquiry into higher education funding north of the border.
Mary Senior of the UCU said there was concern as some universities had required staff to go into campus to deliver in-person teaching.
She said the outbreaks among young people as courses started in September caused “a great deal of anxiety and concern for our members that hasn’t been resolved in all too many places, unfortunately”.
The language around blended learning – where some teaching takes place online – is “a wee bit too ambiguous”, she added.
Matt Crilly, president of NUS Scotland, agreed that guidance is “a little too open to interpretation”.
He said: “There was an encouragement for students to come back to campus and to make themselves available for in-person teaching, even when that didn’t necessarily need to happen.
“Some students were really frustrated because it hadn’t been sufficiently communicated with them.
“Some of them arrived back because they were told to make themselves available for in-person teaching, only to find out it was actually online teaching.
“And they felt they had been miss-sold, essentially, an experience.”
He also said structural issues around university funding had impacted the support available to students.
Universities had failed to prepare to support students when the virus began spreading like “wildfire” in halls of residence, he said.
“It was quite alarming,” Mr Crilly said. “Clearly institutions weren’t necessarily ready to deal with the mass outbreaks on campus.
“So we saw some students going without the very, very practical support that they needed.
“They went without access to food and drink in some cases and other support services weren’t necessarily available.”
He said institutions had later “got their act together” to support self-isolating students, but there were still some issues in private student accommodation.