Students' return to universities postponed
The vast majority of university students will not return to campuses until March, the Scottish Government has announced.
The revised plan has been made in light of the spread of the new variant of coronavirus, with teaching to be carried out online in January and February.
Only very small numbers will be allowed back on campus in January, such as those who have remained there over the winter break and those whose education cannot be delivered remotely or postponed.
A limited number of students may be able to return from mid-February, where attendance is time sensitive to graduating.
However, all arrangements are subject to a future review of the situation.
Colleges will follow the level guidance for their local authority area, which in practice means the majority of students will be completing their studies online in January and into February.
The state of the pandemic, impact of restrictions and the rollout of the vaccine will be taken into account in the Scottish Government's consideration of whether it is possible to return at any point.
Richard Lochhead, minister for further and higher education, said: "These changes reflect the current status of the virus, the reality of the new strain, and the rise in cases in recent weeks.
"The return of students to campus, including returning to term-time accommodation, involves the mass movement of thousands of people across the country.
"The mixing of people on that scale, including the potential movement of tens of thousands of students to university halls and private-rented flats, simply isn’t safe right now. It would fuel the virus, and that is something no one wants.
"Our immediate priority right now is to say to students, other than in specific special circumstances, they must not return to their campus or term-time accommodation before they are specifically told to do so by their institution.
"For the overwhelming majority of university students, this means all learning will be online only at least for January and February, and students should not expect to return to campus or student accommodation before the end of February."