Concerns have been raised for the welfare of Jersey students in Scotland after universities in the country went into lockdown, in response to a surge of covid cases.
Hamish Hay, a Jersey student who is currently on his second year of a four-year English course at Stirling University, said he was worried about what the rules would mean for his time there.
“I need to go home at some point… I can’t see my family over here,” he said, later adding: “I’ve no idea what I would do at Christmas.”
Hamish also said that, despite having “come back for the whole point of being at University and doing the work”, there’s currently “no reason to go” onto campus. He said students are currently being told to avoid it, after a covid case was detected.
He added that a large proportion of the teaching was being done remotely anyway, though he noted that as the wi-fi sometimes cuts out, seminars were more difficult to interact with.
The Scottish Government’s guidelines currently outline that as students in accommodation have formed a new household with their roommates, they may only meet one other household “outdoors or in a hospitality setting” with a limit of six people in one place. It also makes clear that any overnight visits, including to family homes, are forbidden.
Pictured: Students can only meet with one other household in an outdoor or hospitality setting, with a limit of up to six people in one space.
However, some updates to the guidelines last night in response to a number of student complaints over the weekend. The new guidelines said that provisions may be put in place for “a reasonable excuse” like “a visit home for a family emergency or for wellbeing reasons.”
Speaking to Express on Friday about her concerns for islanders currently studying in Scotland, Jersey’s Children Commissioner, Deborah McMillan, emphasised the need for clear details and reassurance.
“First of all, we have to establish the nature and legal basis for these restrictions – students need clarity on whether or not it applies to them,” the Commissioner said.
Giving an example of the current confusion, she continued: “If they’re leaving Scotland they’re not breaking the law, but when they go back from Jersey, they may well be.
“The Scottish ministers need to understand the case of international students and how it affects them. We’re particularly worried about first-year students - some of them have never been off-island, this is the last thing they need… Many of them have really had to fight to get into the universities they want after the A-Level markings and, in week one, they’re being told, ‘By the way, you’re not allowed to go home because you’re breaking the law.’”
Pictured: With many lessons currently being taught remotely, there are questions around the need for students to even be on campus.
She explained that she is currently working alongside Scottish Children’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson to address the issues.
“What myself and the Scottish Children’s Commissioner are doing is seeking clarification from the Scottish Government, asking the rationale for this and whether there’s something that could be done to relieve the student’s anxiety whilst keeping themselves and others safe.”
In reference to Universities Scotland’s plea for students not to go out to pubs over the last weekend, the Commissioner added that she felt this was an unfair deflection of blame towards young people, and that the Government should be responsible as to whether the pubs are open at the time.
“Myself and other UK children’s commissioners want to stop the vilification of children and young people… First, there was the young children as 'super-spreaders', and now it is all the fault of students and 20-something-year-olds drinking, but actually a lot of young people and young adults have been understanding [of the rules and restrictions].”
Pictured: Jersey's Children Commissioner described the anxieties about going home as "the last thing" that students need.
Speaking about the improvements she would like to see from the UK and Scottish Governments, she pointed towards testing, saying that while “we have world-class testing in Jersey, that isn’t the case across the UK", and that this should be something they look towards to assist the student population.
More recently, Glasgow University refunded students one month of rent over the weekend.
In addition, the UK’s Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, defended the decision to bring students back to University, stating yesterday on The Andrew Marr Show that “it’s important for students not to have to give up a year of their life by not going to university.”
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