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University outlines plans for phased return as students and EUSA raise concerns

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Scottish government laid out their plans for students’ return to university campuses in January. 

It was determined that students will return over a staggered six-week period. 

Those who are not able to return immediately will be expected to initially study from home. 

An email to students on Wednesday evening, clarified the University of Edinburgh’s current plans for the start of semester two. 

Notably, all postgraduate students will return to the university from the 11th January whilst undergraduates will return over a number of weeks in alignment with the government advice.

The University of Edinburgh will begin online teaching on the 11th January as planned but undergraduate students will be asked to return to university for hybrid teaching in a small number on the 4th January.

The majority of undergraduate studnets will return in four larger phases between the week beginning the 18th January and the week beginning the 8th February. 

Upon their return, students will be offered lateral flow tests as well as being asked to restrict their social interaction for the two weeks before and after travelling. 

Speaking to The Student, Ellen MacRae – the Edinburgh University Students Association President – slammed the decision to introduce a phased return in January: 

“Government mandating a phased return to on campus teaching only continues to ‘other’ students from the rest of the community and singularises our undergraduate students. 

“I struggle to see how this will do anything other than prolong periods of isolation experienced by students and increase the financial burden of being a student during this pandemic.

“We know students will look to travel when it is cheapest and most convenient for them.”

The announcement poses a problem for students who have already booked transport to return to Edinburgh in January. 

A second-year student told The Student

“We can’t be expected to wait a few weeks before the flights to book them because that’s when they’d be at their most expensive.” 

Ellen MacRae added that it will “increase the financial burden of being a student during this pandemic” and said that the Student’s Association was “pushing for the university to not charge any student rent whilst this phased return is happening”.

A third-year English Literature student said that “this is yet another blow in what has been an incredibly disrupted year”. 

They recognised the importance of reducing the spread of Covid -19 but described the expectation for students to have to pay full tuition fees whilst doing so as “unreasonable”. 

They also said that “something must also be done” about all of the students “paying rent for yet another month of accommodation that we can’t live in”. 

One first-year Edinburgh student that The Student spoke to indicated that they would ignore the university’s plan for a phased return: 

“I think I’m just going to come back whenever unless the university makes it clear that they will be enforcing these rules.”

Speaking to The Student, a first-year Spanish and Social Anthropology undergraduate said: 

“We are still being charged for six weeks of accommodation which we are legally not allowed to move back into. 

“It also does not take into account university athletes, I play a performance sport and am required for training four times a week from the start of term. 

“Also some of us have part-time jobs or family lives which mean we can’t stay at home for mental or physical well-being for extended periods of time.”

The Student approached the University of Edinburgh for comment but they are yet to respond. 

Image: Wikimedia Commons