Covid-hit university students: 'Why have they sent us here?'

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Media caption,

Nell Manson and Lucy Owens are self-isolating at the University of Glasgow

Students caught up in a spate of Covid outbreaks have questioned why university halls were allowed to open.

They have been told not to visit pubs or restaurants this weekend or go home after hundreds of students across Scotland tested positive for the virus.

However, many have called the outbreaks inevitable given students were encouraged back to campus.

The Scottish government said all efforts were focused on stopping further transmission of the virus.

One of the worst affected halls is Glasgow University's Murano Street residences where at least 172 students have tested positive for Covid-19 and hundreds more are self isolating.

Lucy Owens, a student living in the Murano complex and who has coronavirus, questioned why students had been brought back given so much learning had moved online.

She asked on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "What are we paying for? I could do everything I am doing from my house, so why have they sent us here?

"I know we're making the most of this accommodation because we're stuck in it all day but we're not really making the most of being at university.

"Putting two thousand students into such a confined area, something like this was bound to happen."

Fellow student Nell Manson said keeping students out of pubs and restaurants was not the answer.

She said: "More things will be happening in accommodations.

"In pubs and restaurants there are lots of social distancing measures, you can't even get up from your table without a mask.

"It lends itself to people socialising in other ways where there's not such strict rules."

Image source, Getty Images
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Students in Glasgow have been getting tests and told to self isolate

Tessa Morrison, 17, who is studying politics at Glasgow University, said she has had a positive Covid diagnosis and is living with 10 other people, some of whom also have the virus.

The students all have their own rooms but share two bathrooms and one kitchen.

She said it was "difficult to avoid people" in this setup, adding, "They should have waited until at least Christmas to let us come here, I do think they are just trying to make money off us being in halls and they knew this was inevitably going to happen."

Image source, PA Media
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Glasgow University said the positive cases were due to social activity during Freshers Week

There are currently about 250,000 students in Scotland, with up to 35,000 living in university halls and 10,000 in private halls.

Covid outbreaks have been reported at halls of residence in Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

Arturo Morselli, a student from Italy studying at St Andrews University but living in Dundee, said he felt left in limbo by the current situation.

He said: "My belief is that universities are trying to avoid accountability in the sense that they are not taking decisions.

"We students are caught up in the fact that no one wants to take responsibility for what's going on and we are the ones caught up in it and we don't know if it's worth the money we are paying."

Image source, Isobelle Robinson-Gordon
Image caption,
Isobelle Robinson-Gordon described her university experience to date as "very ostracising"

Isobelle Robinson-Gordon, a first year student at Edinburgh University, said her experience had been "very isolating" so far.

She said: "I've moved to Edinburgh. I'm in accommodation, but all the learning is online. I'm frustrated.

"A lot of students are here and ready to learn, but it's all online. It's the lack of direction. It's debilitating.

"We've not had any guidance from the university. Everything we're learning is from the news media."

'Essentially imprisoned'

Helen Kirkpatrick's daughter is a second year student at Glasgow's Strathclyde University and is staying in private halls.

She said: "After going back there she has found out that all classes will be online for the first semester.

"She's signed an agreement and paid a lot of money to stay there and what for? Now she is essentially imprisoned?

"She could have studied at home - I think the Scottish government could have handled this a lot better."

'It's not stigmatising students'

Universities in Scotland have agreed to introduce a "yellow card, red card" system for breaches of student discipline that put students and others at risk, which could result in an end to their studies.

Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said this, and curbs on going to hospitality this weekend, was about trying to stop the virus spreading.

He said: "This is an ask of the student population of Scotland from universities. The Scottish government support that, but the universities are asking the students jointly across Scotland this weekend - given we've got a number of outbreaks of the virus and some campuses across Scotland - to have the weekend off from socialising out-with the households."

"The vast majority of students have been so responsible, it's a very tough time for them."

Mr Lochhead added that "it's not stigmatising students, it's not about saying they're particularly to blame for what's happening."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish government was trying to strike the right balance between protecting public health and ensuring there is a "degree of normality around education".

She told Radio 1 Newsbeat: "Students deserve to have a campus experience. They deserve to have some kind of normality in their life. So people will have different views about the rights and wrongs."

Image source, Alamy