Coronavirus information and guidance

Return to teaching

Last updated: 19 January 2021, 1pm

New Covid restrictions

On 8 January 2021, the Scottish Government confirmed that universities must delay the return of students to campuses in Scotland, at least until the beginning of March, in response to the increased spread of a new, highly contagious, variant of Covid in the United Kingdom.

This new guidance means that all tuition must be online from the start of Semester 2 on 25 January 2021, and that the vast majority of our students must remain at home in the meantime.

This applies to all foundation students, undergraduates and postgraduates with the following limited exceptions:

  • Students in the School of Medicine on the BSc Medicine and ScotGEM programmes who are designated key workers.
  • A small number of students whose course requirements mean that remote learning is impossible.

The Scottish Government is to provide further detail of which courses may be exempt from these restrictions in the near future. We will update this page when we have that information.

What does this mean?

You should not return to St Andrews until you are told that in-person teaching is due to resume on your course. 

Unless you are in the exempt categories above, that will not be before the beginning of March or later.

Why is this necessary?

These new restrictions are not because our classrooms or the University more generally are unsafe. We know from last semester that our classrooms are a safe, fully risk-assessed environment for teaching, and that there has not been a single instance of Covid being passed on in class, laboratory, or any educational setting.

The action the Government is taking now, with the support of universities, is to limit travel and people changing households, which are both considered major risk factors for spreading Covid.

We know this news will be hugely disappointing to many of you, but we and the Scottish Government would prefer to offer some clarity to you all now, rather than ask you to keep hanging on through what is likely to be a disruptive and extended period of lockdown.

Will this decision affect graduation?

No. Our plan is that graduation should proceed as planned this summer, but what form that takes will depend on the public health restrictions in force in Scotland at the time. We shall ensure that everyone who needs to graduate in the summer will still be able to do so.

How do I know when I should come back to St Andrews?

You should only come back to St Andrews when in-person teaching is due to resume. This is the same advice which we gave all students before the inter-semester break.

Unless you are in the exempt categories detailed above, you should prepare to begin Semester 2 on 25 January 2021 with all tuition provided to you remotely online. In-person teaching for all other courses will not begin in St Andrews before March, and possibly later.

Can the University give me official permission to come back to St Andrews?

No. The laws and guidance covering the return of students to universities in Scotland are made by the Scottish Government, not the University.

Under the current law, students can only return if it is for what is deemed as an “essential purpose”.

The University can only provide advice to our students about what is likely to constitute an essential purpose.

It is the responsibility of each individual student to know the current law and guidance and, if necessary, to provide proof of an essential purpose to legal authorities if you are challenged.

Please do not ask our Covid Helpdesk, Student Services team or other University staff to give you permission to return or to provide you with proof of an essential purpose.

Under the current law and guidance, the Scottish Government says that students may return to their term-time accommodation for the following reasons:

  • If you have been told by the University to return because in-person teaching is due to resume on your course. For most students, that will not be before 1 March.
  • If you have a serious wellbeing issue which means you are in danger, your health is at risk or it is impossible for you to study remotely where you are.
  • If you are an overseas student who had already booked travel back to St Andrews before the latest guidance was issued on 8 January 2021.

The Scottish Government has said that travel simply and solely to take up your term-time accommodation is unlikely to constitute an essential purpose.

It is also not an essential purpose to travel back to St Andrews to retrieve possessions from your term-time accommodation.

If you need to show proof that you are a student, you can use your matriculation card and/or copy of your student status letter which you can download from MySaint.

I have accommodation in St Andrews, can I come back to my flat if I don’t have any in-person teaching?

No. You should be aware that travelling back to university during lockdown simply to take up your place in term-time accommodation is no longer permitted under the new Government restrictions, unless in-person teaching is about to resume on your course.

The Scottish Government has indicated that it does not consider this an essential purpose for travel. It is now illegal to travel in or out of Scotland, and across local authority boundaries, for anything other than an essential purpose.

Does the request to delay a return to St Andrews apply to all students?

The new variant of Covid is highly transmissible, which is why governments in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK are anxious to restrict public movement as much as possible.

If you can, you should stay at home and delay any travel until you are told by us that in-person teaching is due to resume on your course.

We know, however, that some international students and students travelling back to university from outside the UK have already returned, or booked and paid for travel to return to St Andrews.

The Scottish Government says that international students should stay at home until told to return to by their university. If you are an international student and have already booked travel however, you will not be asked to cancel existing travel bookings.

You must however follow Government advice on travel and quarantine requirements. Please check the Scottish Government’s up-to-date list of exempted countries before you plan your travel.

You will also need proof of a negative Covid test before you can enter Scotland.

The Scottish and UK Governments have introduced a new requirement for all international travellers to the UK to have proof of a negative pre-departure test.

This requirement comes into force at 4 am GMT on Friday 15 January 2021.

The test must be “highly reliable” which in practice means a PCR test, and it must have been taken with 72 hours of your departure.

You should also be fully aware that the new laws and restrictions mean that if you return to St Andrews, you can only leave your term-time accommodation for an essential purpose such as shopping for food essentials or taking exercise.

Current advice is that postgraduate research students can, if they wish, return to university and undertake research within the limitations of Scottish Government guidance. Students may wish to contact their supervisors concerning research that can be undertaken on their projects in the current circumstances.

If you commute to your studies in St Andrews, you will be able to access some essential on-campus support services, but you are requested to limit your travel to and from St Andrews as much as possible until in-person teaching has started again on your course.

If you need to come back to university for health or wellbeing reasons, or because your home environment makes study impossible, or because you lack access to the technology you need to learn, you can return to St Andrews as you had planned.

You must contact us, however, to let us know when you are coming back and what support you think you may need by completing the returners survey in MySaint.  

Students who have remained with us in St Andrews over the break do not have to change any plans, but please be aware that in-person teaching will not start before March, and you are now subject to the strict stay-at-home lockdown rules introduced by the Scottish Government on 5 January.

The Scottish Government has said that students who have remained at university over the break should stay in their term-time accommodation and should not try to go home, unless in exceptional circumstances.

We will continue to do all we can to look after any student residing with us in St Andrews and we will do our best to provide you with the support you may need.

Do I need to tell you when I’m coming back?

Yes please. If you must travel back to St Andrews for any of the reasons outlined above, it is important that you tell us why you are coming back and when you will arrive. Please complete the returners survey in MySaint. If your plans have changed you can also update your details in this survey.

Will the University be providing a travel service again from airports and rail stations?

Yes. If you have no option but to travel to St Andrews, we’ll be providing special bus transports for you from Scottish airports and local rail connections to ensure you get to town safely. See details of this travel service and how to book.

Will any of my rent be refunded if I have to delay my return to St Andrews?

Yes. If you have a place in one of our halls of residence, we will pay back your rent for the period in which you are not in residence after 25 January up until the point at which in-person teaching resumes on your course. We will contact you with details of how you can be paid back due course. 

If you live in private accommodation, you may ask your landlord for a refund on the basis that the Scottish Government has requested that you delay your return to university and therefore cannot occupy your accommodation for a specified time. The University, however, has no powers to compel private landlords to offer a refund.

Can I take a Covid test when I come back to St Andrews?

Yes, and it is strongly recommended that all students take two Covid tests on their return to St Andrews.

We will provide free Covid tests to all students at our University Testing Centre in St Andrews. The Asymptomatic Test Centre at the Sports Centre will re-open on 11 January 2021 ready to deliver tests to all returning students. The Covid test booking system is available via the MySaint portal and is open for bookings now. As before, you are required to book two tests, three to five days apart.

If you require advice or support in using this service, please contact the Covid Rapid Response Team. If you have Covid-19 symptoms, you must not book any asymptomatic tests. Please contact the Covid Helpdesk if you are experiencing symptoms. 

You must not attend the Test Centre while you are quarantining.

You can only take a test once your quarantine period has ended. If you have booked a test for a time during your quarantine period, please cancel the booking and rearrange.

Do I have to quarantine in St Andrews if I’m returning from abroad?

Yes. We will provide all necessary support to allow you to complete your period of quarantine if you are resident in one of our halls of residence. Taking a Covid test will not exempt you from completing your quarantine period. 

It’s very important you tell us when you will be arriving back in St Andrews so that we can make support arrangements. Please complete the returners survey in MySaint.

In addition, if you are entering St Andrews from any other part of the UK, we ask you to follow Government advice to ‘lie low’ for ten days, so as to be as sure as possible that you do not risk inadvertently transmitting infection: this means not meeting anyone and staying in your room as much as you possibly can.

Can I study remotely for all of Semester 2?

Yes. All students can, if they wish, register to study entirely online for part or all of Semester 2, via MySaint. There is no longer a requirement to submit any evidence, although students must be able to meet the IT pre-requisites set out in the policy on studying online.

Will there be restrictions on socialising and other activities at the start of term?

Yes. The emergence of the new Covid variant is an extremely serious development which has necessitated the rapid introduction of new laws and restrictions to public behaviour in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK.

Under these new laws, it will be an offence for you to enter another household or socialise with anyone from another household indoors. You may meet one other person from another household outdoors as long as you remain two metres from them at all times.

Put simply, this means no parties or socialising in groups beyond the people in your own household, under any circumstances.

If you break this law, you can expect to be prosecuted.

As in Semester 1, the University may take its own disciplinary action against you if you break the Covid Code, with sanctions ranging from fines to expulsion.

We deeply regret the fact that these new laws and restrictions are necessary, and we are acutely aware of how much they will affect the St Andrews student experience in the short to medium term.

The more of us who stick by the rules, however, the sooner we can return to the freedoms of university life which we value so highly.

I’m staying in St Andrews over the break, what do I need to do?

Please familiarise yourself with the new lockdown rules and consider how they will now apply to you in St Andrews. We’ve set up a Microsoft Teams group for all students staying with us in St Andrews over the break, and we’ll continue to use this to:

  • keep you in touch with each other
  • share information from the Can Do team and the Students’ Association about online and 'at home' activities
  • update you on developments or changes to national or local measures to manage the Covid risk.

What should I do now?

Please make sure you’ve read and understood the new laws and restrictions which are now in force in Scotland, and the Scottish Government announcement on delaying a return to campus, and consider very carefully how they will affect you, if you are already in or travelling to St Andrews.

If you have not yet left home, please do not make plans to travel back to St Andrews until you are told that in-person teaching is due to resume on your course. That will not be until at least the beginning of March.

Please be aware that it may be many weeks or months before the Scottish Government restrictions are eased to allow universities to begin in-person teaching again.

Please continue to check your University email regularly, and the University’s main social media channels on Facebook and Twitter.