Scottish universities plan for online and campus teaching

By Alasdair Keane
BBC Scotland

  • Published
University of St AndrewsImage source, Getty Images
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St Andrews University says students who are in town can expect to be taught in the usual way

Most of Scotland's universities are planning to offer a mix of on-campus and online teaching when the next academic year starts after the summer.

Some students told the BBC's Unlocked Podcast they are unsure if they should be arranging accommodation or not.

BBC Scotland asked all of Scotland's 18 universities about their plans for next year.

Fourteen said there was likely to be some form of teaching online for those who cannot make it to campus.

Several including, Abertay, Robert Gordon and Aberdeen have also announced a change to their start date, in some cases pushing it back several weeks.

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Molly, left, and Rowan are unsure about accommodation because of the wider uncertainty

Rowan Roscher is planning to move to Dundee after the summer and says she's worried about signing up for accommodation she won't be able to move to.

"I was really excited about doing it and wanted to get in there and book the accommodation before all the rooms got booked up," she said.

"You don't want to sign up to this and not be able to go to university because of coronavirus."

The University of Dundee is one of those planning to change its start date having told students it will be three weeks later than originally planned.

Like most universities it told Unlocked it wants to be able to provide teaching on campus but it all depends what social distancing is required by government guidelines at the time.

Not far from Dundee, the University of St Andrews' website says that students who are in the town can expect to be taught in the usual way.

However, it says for those who cannot travel safely "we will provide comprehensive tuition remotely, and a smooth transition to the classroom on joining us in St Andrews once travel restrictions is lifted."

Institutions are calling it a "blended approach" combining face to face contact with tutors and online resources.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Students face a dilemma over whether to apply for student accommodation

Students will have to wait until closer to the time to know exactly what their timetable will look like which makes it difficult when finding a place to live.

Molly Ward has accepted a place to study in Glasgow and says it's hard when you can't even view the accommodation.

"I've had to pick from online photos"

"I'm worried about deposits and prices if we're not able to stay in the accommodation for the year."

For students who have signed up to halls, the Scottish Parliament is considering legislation which would allow them to give notice to end their contract.

If passed it will bring purpose-built student accommodation further in line with the private sector.

Jenny Love from Shelter Scotland says people with a private tenancy agreement, such as in a shared flat, can give notice to leave.

"If they've not moved into the property yet then they are well within their rights to change their mind"

"They should contact the landlord and put it in writing to explain they won't be able to take up that tenancy.

"If they're in a tenancy already they have to give a minimum of 28 days' notice, so they should put that in writing to the landlord which can be in an email".

There is still a lot of uncertainty about what restrictions could be in place after the summer, which means it might still be too early for students to properly decide what to do.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said: "Universities are looking forward to welcoming students at the beginning of the academic year and are currently working on the detail of how to continue to adapt provision, if still required to do by public health advice.

"Although face-to-face learning is preferable, universities' primary focus is the health and safety of students and staff so a mix of online and face-to-face learning might be required initially."

Hear more about the housing challenges young people are facing and advice on the BBC Unlocked Podcast.