Universities will continue to adhere to the limit of 5 per cent of students for in-person learning at any one time until 26 April. There will be some limited flexibility above the 5 per cent limit for some specialised and postgraduate courses. We will discuss with universities arrangements for any increase in the number of students beyond the 5 per cent limit after 26 April, when Scotland will move into protection levels.
I am pleased to announce today a package of further support for further and higher education students, to provide reassurance that they can complete their studies when they have been impacted by Covid-19 restrictions. The package includes eligibility for full-time HE students to receive a guaranteed one-off Covid payment of up to £1,600 for additional study of 16 weeks or less. HE students who require an extension beyond 16 weeks can apply to the Student Awards Agency for Scotland to continue to receive the standard monthly package of bursary, grant, loan and fees until their extended course ends.
Concern remains that, for the majority of higher education students, a meaningful full return to campus is not proposed until May and even then it will be only for blended learning. Under the Government’s road map proposals, students will be able to go to the pub but not to lecture theatres. Are there plans to alter the course of action and allow more students to get back on campus as quickly as possible, i f the virus situation allows it?
We are taking a cautious approach in Scotland. Our objective is absolutely to allow more students to return to campus when it is safe to do so. We are paying close attention to the course of the pandemic and to the advice from clinicians and others. As I said in my initial answer, we are keeping the situation under close review. After 26 April, when the hope is that Scotland will move into protection levels, we will decide what that means for further and higher education.
Members should rest assured that we are determined to ensure that as many students as possible can complete their courses and get a degree of university experience if that is safe to do before the end of term. We hope to make such progress.