McArthur presses Minister over return to face-to-face learning

Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, has questioned the Minister for Higher Education on when college and university students will be able to return to full-time face-to-face learning.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Mr McArthur raised the concerns of students from Orkney who continue to face largely online learning, including for some science-based courses.  In response to the rise of the Omicron variant, the Scottish Government asked universities not to proceed with a scale-up of in-person learning which had been planned for semester 2 from January.  

However, following the recent relaxations in restrictions, Orkney's MSP has pressed the Minister to revise the guidance on face-to-face learning on campus to allow a "catch up in the interests of students and their learning", reminding the Minister that "nightclubs are open but some lecture halls remain closed."

In response, the Minister said, "guidance for the current academic year is being reviewed in collaboration with the sector and is taking into account advice provided by the Covid-19 advisory sub-group on colleges and universities."  Mr Hepburn went onto confirm that guidance for colleges and universities will be in-line with the Scottish Government's updated Covid-19 strategic framework due to be published later this month.

Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:

"While the risks of Covid-19 remain, it is welcome that an overall improved situation has allowed the lifting of restrictions over recent weeks.  Indeed, we saw the welcome announcement earlier today that the requirement for face-coverings in school classrooms is set to be scrapped later this month.

"However, despite the relaxation of restrictions and updated guidance elsewhere, local students have highlighted their concern at having to continue with largely online learning.  Given nightclubs have re-opened and social distancing requirements have been removed, it is surely time for the guidance on face-to-face learning on campus to follow suit.

"After two years of disrupted learning, the Scottish Government owes it to our students to get them back into lecture halls in the interests of their learning, well-being and overall experience."

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