ENSURING students can go home for Christmas is an "absolute priority", John Swinney has said.

Scotland's Education Secretary and Deputy First Minister said the Scottish Government is working to ensure students are safe and well supported. 

It follows reports hundreds of students have left university campuses to return home, breaking strict new coronavirus rules. 

Students have been told not to go to pubs, cafes and restaurants this weekend and to avoid socialising with other households. 

Parties have also been banned, with university bosses threatening "disciplinary action including potential discontinuation of study" for those who flout rules. 

Students were also told they cannot go back to their parents' homes. 

Appearing on the BBC's Politics Scotland, Mr Swinney said the advice to students is that they should stay in their halls of residence "if they are able to do so". 

Asked if he could guarantee students can go home for Christmas, he said: "That's obviously an absolute priority for us, to make sure that students are able to do so.

"And all of our thinking, and all of our prioritisation is about making sure firstly that all students are safe and well supported, and we are working with universities to make sure that is the case, and also that they can experience positively the student experience that they signed up to do, by being on campus and being able to take forward their learning. 

"And crucially, enabling them to be able to return to families at the Christmas break and to enable them to experience that period of time at home which all of them would be expected to do."

Glasgow University has announced it will give students one month's free rent and a payment of £50.

Mr Swinney said the Scottish Government is considering further financial support for universities to help them give refunds to students. 

However he said ministers have already provided additional funding to universities to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.