'Struggling' university students in Scotland told they can return home amid coronavirus outbreaks

  • london
  • September 28, 2020
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University students in Scotland who are struggling with their mental health following a number of coronavirus outbreaks have been told they can return home.

New guidance on visiting home for students was published on Sunday evening, setting out what could be considered a “reasonable excuse” for short stays at family homes.

The guidance states students can visit home for “wellbeing reasons” and they can change their permanent residence if they are unhappy with student halls.

Education Minister Richard Lochhead said he did not expect a “mass exodus” from Scotland’s university campuses following the new guidance.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, Mr Lochhead said: “I know many students are struggling at the moment, but also many students accept that they want to be at university.

“It is challenging at the moment, especially if they are self-isolating, but they are enjoying the opportunity of making new connections, of at least meeting their tutors now and again.

“So I don’t expect, you know, a mass exodus from Scotland’s campuses, but the opportunity is there for those who are struggling.”

He said that there had been reports some students had already returned home, adding that it was “really important” that those who were self-isolating at university must do so at home as well.

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Asked if students would lose their rent money if they changed their permanent households, he said: “We’ve said to universities we want them to be very sympathetic towards students who are struggling at university and do return home and change their main household.”

Legislation passed at Holyrood also gives students the right to resign their leases for Covid-related reasons, he said.

A national lockdown during the October holidays was “not our plan just now”, he added.

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Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross also spoke on Good Morning Scotland, saying further clarity was needed for students.

“This is something that should not have come as a surprise, we saw in the United States of America when students went back to universities and colleges there was a spike in cases on campus,” Mr Ross said.

“I really think this guidance should have been absolutely crystal clear before these young people left home and certainly before they got to university and were in many cases locked up in halls of horror.”