Scottish Universities Advised To Postpone Freshers Week
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Universities in Scotland are now being advised to postpone freshers' week in September due to the risk of coronavirus spreading.
A Scottish government advisory group has issued the advice on the basis that many students will have only had one vaccine dose but the time they are due to return for the 2021-22 academic year, reports the BBC.
The advisory sub-group on colleges and universities said every effort should be made to get as many staff and students vaccinated as possible, with particular focus on international students.
The guidance has also suggested that virtual freshers' weeks and online learning may be required in the first few weeks of term in order to minimise infection rates among students who saw significant outbreaks in halls of residence last year.
The guidance has also called for extra advice for students who are entering halls of residence as well as regular testing and support for those who are told to self-isolate.
It says: "Recognising the higher levels of risk associated with the start of the academic year (due to lower levels of vaccination, the likely state of the epidemic, the impacts of the travel, and the establishment of new student households), institutions will wish to pay due consideration to the nature of freshers' week and other mass activities at that stage.
"Advice would be to postpone these activities for a few weeks if possible, and to focus on activities involving smaller numbers where distancing can be applied and ventilation enhanced.”
The National Union of Students (NUS) has also called for ‘the acceleration of vaccines’ for students, with Matt Crilly, NUS Scotland president, saying: "Students must be treated fairly - we are keen to work with the Scottish government to develop coherent guidance that ensures parity for student associations if pubs and bars are open and able to host unofficial freshers' week events."
Jamie Hepburn, minister for higher and further education, said: “I am hopeful the student experience in the autumn will look more normal but there will still need to be measures in place to help prevent transmission."
A spokesman for Universities Scotland said universities are working in conjunction with the government and taking expert guidance on the best way to provide a safe in-person learning experience this autumn, although the guidance is ‘not yet finalised’
They added: “We're also working with Scottish government to get full detail of how the vaccination and testing regime will support students' participation in a safe start to the new academic year.”
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