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Rennie: University return must be delayed in line with schools

January 6, 2021 4:00 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today called for the Scottish Government to delay the return to universities in line with the decision on schools. He has also called for the publication of an urgent new plan so students can manage the weeks ahead.

Mr Rennie said:

"Students and universities have been left in the dark once again about the start of the new term. They should be advised without delay that in person teaching won't start until after February.

"Before students returned to universities in the autumn, I warned that this was going to be the biggest movement of people since the pandemic began and called for testing to be put in place to protect students and the communities in which they live. Instead, the Scottish Government's indecision and lack of preparation allowed the virus to be seeded across Scotland.

"Students need clarity about what their studies will look like for the forthcoming year. They need to know if there will be in person teaching and how it will be phased in.

"Many students are stuck paying for student accommodation or private housing far from home. The Government will need to ensure that these students are supported with a proper rent rebate. Many of them have made huge sacrifices to keep others safe, they should not be punished financially for doing so.

"Our colleges and universities need to have access to routine asymptomatic testing to start in universities to reach people who show no symptoms but who carry the virus. There is also more to be done to help unwell students to get additional support from universities and local health professionals and mental health support services. We need to see the Universities Minister set out detailed plans this week to ensure that students are not left hung out to dry."