Go back

Scottish universities to host isolating international students


Successful pilot scheme would mean international students could skip hotel quarantine

Universities in Scotland could be allowed to use their own on-campus accommodation to house international students who need to quarantine when they arrive in the UK this autumn.

The Scottish government has confirmed that it is planning a pilot scheme to test whether universities can safely host international students from red-list countries. Currently, people travelling to the UK from one of the 56 red-list countries must quarantine for 10 days in a designated hotel.

If the pilot scheme is successful, international students would instead be able to spend their quarantine in university halls.

According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, over 60,000 international students were enrolled at Scottish universities in the 2019-20 academic year.

Research Professional News understands the pilot scheme is taking place in July.

A spokesperson for the Scottish government said it had been “exploring with universities how student accommodation could be used in place of hotels for managed isolation” when international students arrive.

The spokesperson confirmed that “guidance is currently being drafted for a pilot scheme to assess how this would work in practice” and two universities had expressed an interest in taking part, although they could not name the institutions.

“Ministers agreed to permit student accommodation to be used for managed isolation for international students and students returning to Scotland following an educational exchange if universities can provide the necessary assurances that the accommodation meets equivalent public health protection assurances as hotels,” the spokesperson added.

Detail to be discussed

A spokesperson for Universities Scotland, which represents vice-chancellors, said institutions were “still in discussion with the Scottish government on the detail” of how quarantining students in university accommodation could work “in a way that gives an equivalent management of the risk of transmission to the use of hotels”.

“A number of universities in Scotland expressed interest in being part of a pilot to run managed isolation for international student arrivals from ‘red list’ countries as a means to offer Covid-safe entry whilst also offering more robust wellbeing and support measures, for what is likely to be a younger demographic than the majority of people using the hotel isolation,” the spokesperson said.

But they stressed that both the UK and Scottish governments should be “planning with some urgency to ensure there is sufficient capacity for arrivals from red list countries for the purposes of higher education in August and September”.

“The start of the academic year, just like the summer tourist season, has been visible on the horizon for some time,” they added. “We must be ready to safely manage these arrivals in everyone’s interests. Universities are ready to support this but they need clarity from both governments on this issue.”