UNION bosses have warned that thousands of students heading back to campuses is a “recipe for disaster” amid a warning university could become “the care homes of a second wave”.

The Scottish Government is set to unveil its updated guidance for universities ahead of students returning for the new term – and rules could be set out over testing, amid fears over a large number of overseas students arriving in the country.

The director of Universities Scotland has stressed he is “extremely confident” that enough safety measures are in place in order for students to carry out their studies.

But the University and College Union (UCU) said that uncapped recruitment could overwhelm some institutions and risked “turning universities into the care homes of a second wave”.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Moving a million-plus students around the country is a recipe for disaster and risks leaving ill-prepared universities as the care homes of a second wave.

“Refusing to act now will only store up problems further down the line as courses are forced to move online and students forced into lockdown.”

In evidence submitted to Holyrood’s education committee, the UCU has called for tighter measures to be imposed on campuses to “ensure that our universities do not become Covid hotspots”.

The union has pointed to an influx of students arriving in university towns across Scotland.

It adds: “It is absolutely vital that a cautious approach is taken, which has safe and healthy campuses' strategies as the priority, with remote and online learning as the default position for the immediate future, and protects those students and staff most vulnerable to Covid-19, including older people, BME people, pregnant students/staff, and the disabled.

“Evidence so far is that not all Scottish institutions are taking this approach and we fear this risks the danger of us seeing a significant outbreak in a university.

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The UCU expects the default position to be for university staff to work from home where they are able to as part of the Scottish Government’s new guidance, but has called for the use of face coverings “for those staff and students required to be on campus”.

It added: “Decisions should be driven by health and safety concerns and not cost.

“The union has also called for a robust and extensive testing regime to be in place to support safe returns to universities. This means provision of tests for international or recently travelled staff and students, access to walk in testing centres, and regular testing available for staff and students.”

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland said he was a “little surprised” at the reaction from the UCU, adding a lot of the work had been put into place in conjunction with the staff and students, and expected further guidance from the Scottish Government tomorrow.

He said: “We’ve got physical distancing in place, a really high-quality blend of digital learning and face-to-face learning. We’ve got students being managed in small households, we’ve got attendance monitoring. We’ve got quarantine for students arriving from countries that aren’t exempt.”

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He added: “You’re not going to see anything like a big traditional lecture, with students sitting next to each other in a big lecture hall.

“The blend will be predominantly towards digital learning.

“Although there are subjects like medicine, nursing and performance, where a strong face-to-face learning is needed, and that will be in place in a way that has been worked on to make sure it’s safe.”

It is unclear how many international students will make the journey over to learn in Scottish universities, with Mr Sim saying many of them are still waiting on visas or cheaper flights.

He added: “International students are more likely to come over in a staggered fashion.

“They will arrive to arranged accommodation with a welcome pack, that will contain food and contact details, and those arriving from countries where quarantine is needed will quarantine for 14 days first.”

Mr Sim said that he trusts the students not to gather in large groups in pubs and restaurants, saying: “It is an extraordinary responsible generation, who have lived through this and understand the importance of it.”