St Andrews University students have been advised to ‘go home without delay’ but told that those that cannot will be able to stay, while at Cambridge University, colleges have been criticised for their inconsistent advice and creating panic by asking students to leave at short notice.
In an email to students earlier in the week, St Andrews Principal, professor Sally Mapstone urged those who can go home to do so, while also reassuring those who cannot.
“I cannot over-emphasise the seriousness of this situation, or its effects on the life of our university,” she said. I wrote to you two days ago recommending that those of you who had remained in St Andrews with us over spring break make arrangements to go home.”
“I am writing again today to ask that you go home without delay, if you can. I know that there are some of you who cannot travel or go home, and I want to assure you that we will do everything we can to look after you in St Andrews in the weeks and months ahead. The fewer students who stay here, however, the better we are able to look after those who cannot leave.”
The Principal continued: “I know that these are intensely worrying times for you and your families, as they are for our staff and their families. Our priority is your safety and wellbeing, whether you are at home or staying with us in St Andrews, and we will be continuing to work very hard on behalf of all students, and our staff.”
“The life of our university will continue, but it will necessarily be extraordinarily different to that which we have known, and is likely to face further, significant restrictions and challenges. We are doing our best to anticipate those, and to keep you fully informed of their implications.”
The university’s libraries, sports centre, students’ association, and public spaces have all been closed until further notice. The student residences will remain open, but life in them may be subject to very significant constraints. The Schools and Professional Service Units were last night instructed to implement remote-working plans which have been in preparation for several weeks, for staff who can work from home.
At Cambridge University, colleges have been criticised for asking students to leave over coronavirus and Cambridge lecturers have criticised the university’s colleges for provoking “wide-scale panic” among international students and staff by urging them to return to their home countries due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The president of Cambridge UCU, Jennifer Marchant, warned that the advice put overseas students from countries with weaker healthcare systems at risk and would exacerbate the global spread of Covid-19.
In a letter to the central university and college masters, Marchant wrote: “We are extremely concerned that the invitation to leave the country at such short notice, when most countries are closing their borders, will dramatically affect the most economically and socially vulnerable members of the college community who cannot afford to leave the UK at the last minute, who do not have healthcare coverage in their country of origin, who simply have nowhere else to go, and do not have clear instructions on how leaving will impact their visa status.
“Furthermore, we are concerned that some students and staff come from countries … with a much weaker healthcare system than the UK, and travelling right now would only contribute to further spreading of the pandemic.”
UCU also criticised the confusing and contradictory advice issued by the colleges and the central university, and called on them to offer financial help to international students who were returning to their home countries and put in place safety measures for those unable to leave.
On Friday (13th March) the vice-chancellor, Prof Stephen Toope, sent an email to all students advising against international travel. But an email from the senior tutor and principal of Newnham college sent on 15 March advised students to “make plans to leave your college accommodation by 19 March at the very latest and earlier if possible” unless it is “truly your home”.
Click here for more on the situation at Cambridge.