Universities Scotland has today [Friday 13 March] issued a statement on behalf of Scotland’s 19 universities and higher education institutions to offer clarity on the sector’s preparedness for the potential impact of COVID-19.
Commenting on the statement, Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, said:
“Universities have no plans to close. They are closely following the public health advice as they make their plans to manage the likely impact of COVID-19 and minimise the disruption experienced by students and staff over the coming days and weeks. They have made sensible contingency arrangements and as part of that, they will transition to online learning and assessment, where possible, and create more opportunities for staff to work remotely. University services, including advice and support for students and research remain in place.”
The statement follows close coordination between the sector and Scottish Government on contingency plans.
Richard Lochhead, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, said:
“I held very constructive discussions today (Friday) with university and college principals and the Scottish Funding Council on the evolving COVID-19 situation, to discuss coordinated, ongoing arrangements for learning and research, and the best ways of supporting students and staff, including a planned transition towards online learning and assessment.
“Scottish universities are autonomous institutions, and decisions on operational delivery are entirely their own, but we support the common-sense, measured approach.”
Statement from Universities Scotland:
In response to COVID-19, Scotland’s universities have made preparations to minimise the potential disruption for students and staff and to ensure the wellbeing of our community as we look ahead to the coming weeks.
Universities have no plans to close. The way that universities deliver their teaching and other services will change over the coming weeks, in light of new advice, and to recognise that students may wish to work from home, in the UK or overseas. Universities will not close as they have commitments to students, including those who live on campus. Many research facilities must run around the clock and student support and IT infrastructure systems require continuous attention.
Now that the UK has moved into the ‘delay’ phase of the outbreak, many universities will start to transition to online learning and assessment for students in subjects where this is possible. They will offer revised guidance for staff who may need to work remotely. The precise pace of this transition will vary by institution, reflecting different term dates and other factors. As large institutions, which educate and employ many thousands of people, it is sensible that we are responsive to this outbreak, in a manner that is consistent with public health advice.
Institutions have suspended international travel for their staff and students unless it is business critical and only where it adheres to the travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Students and staff are encouraged to check their university website, email and social media for specific details about their course and their institution. The subject mix, term dates, exam and graduation periods at each university is slightly different and each institution is taking a range of measures best suited to its students, its circumstances and the advice of professional bodies who have a role in assessment.
Scotland’s universities will continue to follow the expert advice from public health agencies and the Scottish and UK Governments. The actions universities are taking will ensure proportionate measures are in place to respond to an unprecedented epidemic that will continue to evolve. Universities and Universities Scotland are working very closely on these arrangements with the Scottish Government, Scottish Funding Council as well as with agencies at UK level.
Susannah Lane, Head of Public Affairs, Universities Scotland. M: 07715 992908