Students could be disciplined for Covid rule breaches

The new guidance from the government has been criticised by UCU leaders.

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The Scottish Government has published new guidance regarding teaching at university campuses during the covid 19 pandemic.

The guidance published yesterday, which the government emphasizes “does not amount to legal advice” outlines that a blended model of learning and teaching will continue and that “institutions should continue to make reasonable efforts to facilitate working and studying remotely.”

The guidance also states that “The aim should be to keep group numbers for face to face teaching at a minimum, and generally less than 30” and two metre distances throughout university campuses and buildings.

The use of face coverings is also advised “indoors wherever two-metre distance cannot be guaranteed” but face coverings “should not generally be required when students are seated in classrooms or other learning and teaching environments.” 

The Scottish Government Minister for further and higher education Richard Lochead said that remote learning “will significantly reduce the number of people on campus at any one time, while everyone on campus or in student accommodation must follow the rules around quarantine, self-isolation, physical distancing and using face coverings.

Credit: Scottish Government

“While we will keep the guidance under review, we believe this strikes the right balance of allowing young people to get on with their lives in a manner that is as safe as it can be for students, staff and society. I have no doubt that students will want to act responsibly and will follow the rules that we are asking them to observe.”

The convenor of Universities Scotland and University of Stirling Principal Professor Gerry McCormac said “Universities are looking forward to welcoming students back for the start of a new academic year.

“We have been working for months to plan a safe return that will support high quality learning and offer a rounded student experience while ensuring the safety of our students, staff and the wider community.

“It’s important that students have the opportunity to continue their studies; they’ve been through a lot and will benefit in many ways from a safe return to study.”

According to the government guidance, failure to comply with the guidance surrounding physical distancing and face coverings “may be treated as misconduct” and “be dealt with through existing misconduct policies and disciplinary procedures with due process”

Credit: UCU Scotland

Commenting on the possibility of student’s being disciplined for failure to comply with the guidance, Mary Senior UCU Scotland’s official described it as “disappointing” adding that,

“The rules need to be adhered to, but heavy handed threats should not be meted out to students and staff at a time which is uncertain and worrying for many.”

A University of Stirling spokesperson said the university “has liaised with all relevant agencies to put in place extensive measures to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of our students, staff, and the wider community.” and that “Those mitigation measures are detailed in the Stirling Campus Commitment , and reflected in the Stirling Campus Pledge which we are confident all members of the University community will respect and follow” .

Commenting on the possibility of students facing disciplinary procedures for failing to observe and follow the guidance, the spokesperson added:

“New students have agreed to uphold the Stirling Campus Pledge as part of the enrolment process, and we believe all students want to play their part in ensuring campus continues to be a safe and welcoming environment. In any instance where students don’t adhere to COVID-19 guidance, the University will engage with those involved and encourage them to understand what is acceptable behaviour

“Putting others at risk is unacceptable and in, keeping with Scottish Government instruction, the University has the capacity to take disciplinary action under the existing Student Code of Discipline ,including matters of health and safety”

Feature image credit: Harry Williamson

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