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UCU condemns approach of Universities Scotland guidance which “blames students”

By Luke Chafer

The guidance introduces a new yellow and red card system to discipline students.

The University and College Union (UCU) has condemned the approach of Universities Scotland guidance which they say “blames students” for Covid-19 spikes.

In response to a dramatic rise in Covid-19 cases on campuses across the country, including 172 confirmed at the University of Glasgow and 120 at Edinburgh Napier, as well as allegations by the University and College Union’s Scotland that “universities are hiding behind ambiguities in the current guidance”, Universities Scotland took action publishing enhanced guidance for students.

The new guidance which aims to “drive down transmission in student accommodation and build on the wide-ranging measures agreed by the government”, citing a “minority” of students who “have not lived up to expectation” as the reason why the announcement has come. 

The new measures mean that a new yellow and red card system will be used to discipline breaches. Students are advised not to attend hospitality venues this weekend, staff presence in accommodation will increase and liaison with the police will intensify. 

The statement also sought to emphasise the Scottish government’s new law that means students are unable to mix with other households and breaches will be dealt with accordingly, with the threat of expulsion not off-limits for those who repeatedly break the rules.

This announcement was reinforced by Principal Sir Anton Muscatelli in his address to students where he stated that “there have been some serious breaches [from students] that have helped to spread the virus within our community” and that is why the new measures have been imposed, despite the latest from the University twitter page claims the opposite “that students are not to blame for the current situation.”

Commenting on the updated rules for students announced by university principals and the Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead MSP, the University and College Union’s Scotland official Mary Senior said: “it is astounding that the Scottish government and principals are blaming students for Covid outbreaks on university campuses. This is an incredibly contagious virus and students were encouraged to return to campuses….students have the same rights as any other member of the community and should not be treated as second-class citizens.” 

The correspondence from the University of Glasgow that confirmed that teaching would be online as opposed to blended learning only arrived on 10 August, a week after Highers results day when students from Scotland confirmed their place at Universities. 

In the statement, Principal Sir Anton Muscatelli stated that “we expect the majority of our students will be in Glasgow for the start of the session and we want you to be here, on time and as planned”, which after the most recent announcement has led many, including the UCU, to question the motivations behind having students back on campus. 


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