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Covid in Scotland: Aberdeen University students warned of fines

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image copyrightAnttoni Numminen
image captionAberdeen student Anttoni Numminen criticised the university's stance

Students at Aberdeen University have been warned that fines could be imposed for coronavirus rule breaches.

The university has written to students following reports of guideline breaches in halls of residence at the weekend.

There is a warning of "robust action", with fines of up to £250. There is also the potential for further action - including suspension or expulsion.

Some students said it was a "disappointing" stance being taken by the university.

NHS Grampian said an investigation was continuing into 62 Covid cases linked to university's student population.

It is not currently being treated as a single cluster

The letter to all students, from acting director of operations Debbie Dyker, states: "I am writing following reports of breaches of national Covid-19 related guidance within private halls this weekend.

"I am disappointed to hear these reports, especially in light of the various communications that have been issued to our community in the last week.

"Given the events of the last few days I want to emphasise that any breaches will not be tolerated, and those found to be breaking the rules will face robust action."

'Safeguard yourself and others'

It adds: "It is incumbent on all of us to follow national guidance as part of the collective effort to safeguard yourself and others, and I hope that you will play your part as a valued member of our university community."

Aberdeen University said it was in contact with private landlords asking that they report any incidents.

The university said fining, suspending or expelling students was a "last resort" for serious cases, but confirmed a "handful" of students had been fined for repeated breaches.

A spokesman said: "This a challenging situation for our entire community, and our actions to date have sought to strike a balance that best ensures the safety and wellbeing of students, staff and the wider community in Aberdeen."

image copyrightUniversity of Aberdeen

Third year politics and international relations student Anttoni Numminen returned to his private accommodation about a month ago.

"I think it's a really disappointing attitude taken by the university", he said.

"Students are doing their best, students just got caught up in it.

"The fact the university is now threatening its students with fines or expulsions for breaking rules seems to be way over the top. Are people in work threatened with losing their job?

"Students were told to come back to university. I have not got any face-to-face lectures. I think people are quite rightly annoyed, if not angry."

image copyrightCatriona McCartney
image captionCatriona McCartney said the threat was "quite a big thing"

Second year international business student Catriona McCartney expected a "somewhat normal" year in her rented accommodation after she arrived at the start of September.

'Not trusted'

"To threaten to take away our university place, and fines - most of us are skint students - is quite a big thing", she said.

"We are separate from halls, there's four of us. We all get on, but to not be able to see other people I don't think is very fair.

"I feel like we're not trusted. It will put a strain on mental health."

She added: "I think I'm going to stick it out in Aberdeen. If I'd known before I'd probably have stayed at home in Forfar."

Short stays

Students in Scotland struggling at university accommodation have been told they can return home.

Education Minister Richard Lochhead has said he does not expect a "mass exodus" after updated guidance was published by the Scottish government.

The guidance also says students can visit parents if there is a "reasonable excuse" such as a family emergency. But short stays without one are still deemed an "offence".

The guidelines were issued after a flood of complaints from students who felt they were trapped in university or college accommodation.

The guidelines say that students can move to another home permanently which means they would have to change household.

Students who decide to do this have been asked to follow self-isolating rules and not use public transport - as well as to "consider how you may benefit from in person learning".

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