The Scottish government has given the green light to a plan for universities to use in campus accommodation for international students if they can demonstrate that the security measures implemented would match those used in quarantined hotels.
However Before it is allowed, a pilot scheme involving two anonymous universities must be carried out to ensure that it is feasible.
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At this time, anyone arriving in the UK from the red list countries have to quarantine themselves in government approved hotels at a cost £ 1,750, a hugely expensive sum for many students.
More than 100,000 international students must come to the UK in September from red list countries, according to Universities UK International (UUKI) . In addition to cost concerns, it is unclear if there is enough space in the hotel to accommodate all of them.
In April, it was revealed that some institutions were in talks with the Scottish government to participate in a pilot "hotel quarantine" in July to help deal with the influx of foreign students due to start courses in September.
The Scottish government did not confirm if it still plans to run the pilot in July or if it would be delayed, but in a statement, a spokesperson said: “The Scottish government has been exploring with universities how student accommodation could be used instead of hotels for the administered isolation.
“A guide for a 'pilot' scheme is currently being drafted to assess how this would work in practice, with two universities expressing interest in participating.
“ Ministers agreed to allow student accommodation to be used for the controlled isolation of international students and students returning to Scotland after an educational exchange if universities can provide the necessary guarantees that the accommodation meets the guarantees of protection of public health equivalent to those of hotels. If the plan is yet to be implemented next month, international students due to arrive for pre-session education in July could be in frame to be used.
Universities Scotland, which represents the 19 universities in Scotland. institutions of higher education, said that international students would start arriving from mid-August to September and that many expected clarity on quarantine requirements.
A spokesperson said: “The situation with international travel is constantly changing, as we have seen again throughout this week. Our main concern at this time is to ensure that the UK and Scottish governments are planning with some urgency to ensure that there is sufficient capacity for arrivals from Red List countries for higher education purposes in August and September.
“The start of the academic year, like the summer tourist season, has been on the horizon for some time. We must be prepared to safely manage these arrivals for the benefit of all.
"Universities are prepared to support this, but they need clarity from both governments on this issue."
When asked about the pilot quarantine program, they added: “Several universities in Scotland expressed interest in being part of a pilot program to run managed isolation for international students arriving from 'red list' countries as a means of offering Safe entry for Covid while offering stronger wellness and support measures for what is likely a younger demographic than most people using hotel isolation.
“The institutions are still in discussion with the Scottish government on the detail of how this could be achieved in a way that provides equivalent transmission risk management to hotel use. ”
The government declined to confirm which universities will participate, but the universities of Aberdeen, Stirling, St Andrews and Glasgow are known to have expressed interest.
The University of Edinburgh was contacted for comment.
Edinburgh Heriot-Watt University said it had withdrawn from the scheme because the institution did not have adequate facilities.
A spokesperson said: "Heriot-Watt University had expressed early interest in the pilot program run by the Scottish government.
" However, after careful evaluation, it became clear that the The university could not meet the necessary requirements to bring the style of student residences to the hotel style guidelines and has now been withdrawn from the scheme. The University of St Andrews spokesperson said: “The University of St Andrews is working with the Scottish government and clinicians to find a sensible approach to providing managed isolation at the university in an environment where students can be supported by the full range of university services.
"The university has demonstrated a strong track record in handling quarantine since the pandemic began in March 2020 and is hopeful that the Scottish government will support it to allow managed isolation to be provided within our university residences."
A spokesperson for the University of Aberdeen said: "We continue, with the rest of the industry, to work closely with the Scottish government to ensure that students and staff coming to Aberdeen from outside the Kingdom United States receive support through the self-isolation requirements that are established. ”
The universities of Stirling and Glasgow did not respond to the request
Vivienne Stern, director of UUKI, described the Scottish pilot scheme as "good news", but said there was nothing similar in the cards of English universities at this time.
She said: “Some individual universities can comply with hotel quarantine standards, so now the discussions are between the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the sector on whether that would be possible to carry it forward, WH ether that will form a pilot, I don't know.
“I think there will be questions about how DHSC feels at the end about the travel distance from the port of entry to the quarantine point. So it is not resolved, there is no discussion about a pilot, it is simply that we are in that information exchange phase ".