Scotland’s universities launch Consistent Core of Care for students during the pandemic

Scotland’s 19 universities and higher education institutions have today [Wednesday 30 September] confirmed a package of ten measures they are using to support student wellbeing, as students adjust to a different learning and wider student experience in the first semester of the academic year, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This will ensure that students across Scotland, regardless of where they study, are aware of the minimum level of support they can expect from universities, with many universities going beyond this. This applies to Scottish students, those from the rest of the UK and those coming to study in Scotland from overseas.

The Consistent Core of Care for students includes three measures specifically aimed at students who find themselves needing to self-isolate or quarantine in university-owned accommodation in order to limit the transmission of the virus. This aims to provide students, and their families, with the reassurance that every student in this situation in university-owned accommodation can expect:

  1. Very regular check-ins on all individual students/student households for those living in university-owned accommodation, where they have told the institution that they are self-isolating.
  2. Assistance with or the provision of support to ensure food supplies and other basic provisions to students who are in need of this.
  3. Provision of cleaning equipment and ensuring support with laundry.

A number of Scotland’s universities have experienced outbreaks of coronavirus in student residences over recent weeks. Universities are working rapidly and effectively with local health protection teams and the Scottish Government to contain transmission and this has meant households or blocks of student residences have been asked to isolate.

Universities have made major adjustments to the way that teaching and wider forms of the student experience are delivered this semester, in the interests of public health. All institutions are offering a mix of high-quality digital and in-person learning and support. Universities worked incredibly closely with the Scottish Government, public health and staff and student unions over the summer to plan for the start of the semester. Specific consideration was given to student mental health, wider wellbeing and the issue of digital poverty in the current context. All student services, including support for mental health, is available through a variety of routes, including online. The need to isolate is no barrier to accessing support for mental health or wellbeing. The Consistent Core of Care sets out a further six commitments that are available to all students studying at Scotland’s universities.

The package of measures includes promotion of hardship funds for students, extra support for those in digital poverty and the inclusion of student representatives in how universities respond to outbreaks.

Announcing the Consistent Core of Care for students, Professor Gerry McCormac, Convener of Universities Scotland said:

“Student wellbeing is always the number one priority of universities but this has never been more important than now, as we all experience a new spike in this pandemic. We have a duty of care to our students to look after them both physically and mentally and we take that very seriously. We hope that this provides greater clarity to students and their loved ones that there is a consistent core to the care and support you can expect if you need to isolate in student accommodation, or if you’re adjusting to a very different student experience. We hope this will provide reassurance and empower students anywhere in Scotland, wherever they are from, to seek the help they need from their institution.

“Front line staff in our universities and in the halls of residence have risen magnificently to the challenge of supporting students in these difficult circumstances. They are key workers in the fight against this virus. University leaders will continue to work closely with staff and student representatives to ensure that these commitments are delivered.”

Every one of Scotland’s universities is working hard to support students in a number of additional ways, as appropriate to their own student body and circumstances.

As the representative body of Scotland’s universities, Universities Scotland will continue a regular dialogue with NUS Scotland to understand what additional action may be required to support student wellbeing as the situation with the pandemic continues to evolve.