Scottish UCU
Image: Wikimedia commons / LW Yang

UCU demands regular Covid testing in Scottish universities for safe return this September

Education unions have called for a rigorous testing system to be implemented in Scottish universities in time for their return this month. 

The University and Colleges Union (UCU) demanded that students and staff are provided with a “robust and extensive testing regime” as face-to-face teaching is phased in.

This comes days after the union urged the UK government to shift higher education completely online to prevent a resurgence in Covid cases.

The UCU’s general secretary Dr Jo Grady said: “Moving a million plus students around the country is a recipe for disaster and risks leaving ill-prepared universities as the care homes of a second wave.”

“It is no good blaming students later on for a problem that could have been avoided by government action”, Dr Grady continued.

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney also expressed concerns over the risk presented by large-scale socialisation at university freshers weeks.

Moving a million plus students around the country is a recipe for disaster and risks leaving ill-prepared universities as the care homes of a second wave

– Jo Grady 

He stated “I understand how exciting and thrilling the prospect of coming to university is for students.” However, he made it clear that “this year is different”.

Freshers week – typically known for parties, drinking and mixing between students – will have to be radically reshaped under new Covid restrictions.

The UCU’s most recent announcement on testing aligned with their five tests government and colleges must meet before staff and students can return.

These also include lower Covid cases, a national social-distancing plan, a whole college strategy for health and safety and protection for the vulnerable.

Current lockdown conditions in Scotland allow up to eight people to meet indoors and 15 outside – this does not include parties, however, which are banned in accordance with UK law.

While seminars are still set to be taught in physical, socially-distanced settings, lectures at Scottish universities have been moved online for the first term. Face coverings are also compulsory. 

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