The University of Aberdeen has warned students of the consequences facing them if they breach national Covid-19 related guidance - and said they’ve asked landlords to report any bad behaviour.

In a statement emailed out last night, university bosses told students of their collaboration with landlords so that those reported to have broken the rules can face “robust” disciplinary action.

Sanctions include a fine of up to £250 as well as possible suspension or expulsion, and private landlords around the city have been asked to report “any incidents of a breach” to the university.

It follows a number of Covid-19 outbreaks at student halls of residence across Scotland.

The statement read: “Given the events of the last few days I want to emphasise that any breaches will not be tolerated, and those found to be breaking the rules will face robust action.

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“Sanctions include a fine of up to £250 as well as the potential for further action – including suspension and/or expulsion – under our Code of Conduct on Student Discipline (non academic).

“Regardless of whether you live in University provided accommodation, a private flat or in student accommodation from a private provider, we will still look to take the same appropriate disciplinary measures against any student that fails to follow the requirements that are currently in place to protect everyone in Scotland.

“We are in contact with landlords and have asked that any incidents of a breach of our Covid Campus Pledge and Guidelines and the national guidelines are reported to the University, to enable the matter to be investigated in the usual way.”

Jack Boag, a third year student at the university, explained the announcement didn’t sit well with him.

He said: “In terms of the lockdown, I live in a private flat quite far away from the Covid hotspots, so it comes across as closing the stable doors after the horse has bolted.

“We were told it would be a blended learning experience, and obviously that hasn’t happened. Coming up to Aberdeen from my home in Fife has been completely pointless.

“We’ve been consistently told to come back to campus, we’ve been consistently told that it would be a blended learning experience, and now that we’re here it feels as if we’ve been sold a lie and treated as if we are the problem.

“For first years who have just moved into halls with people that they’ve never met, that’s hard.”

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Mr Boag, 20, added that he worried for students in more precarious living situations than his own. He said:

He said: “My main concern is that landlords could quite easily take advantage of this. The landlord / tenant dynamic is not an equal one, so it could become a tool for blackmail, essentially.

“I’m a private renter so if they’ve been talking to my landlord, and while I can understand the university isn’t taking any chances, it’s worrying.

“It seems when other universities are easing back, Aberdeen is doubling down and emphasising the punishments and what will happen if you breach regulations.”

Mr Boag, from Fife, added that while he doesn’t have plans to move back home at present, he understands why many other students might feel differently.

He said: “I would have to go back to my grandparents who are vulnerable or my dad who is a key worker, so for me it’s not really an option, although I can see why it would be attractive for others."

But according to Richard Lochhead, a “mass exodus” from Scotland’s university campuses is not expected.

The Higher Education Minister said students could visit home for “wellbeing reasons”, such as difficulties with their mental health and could also change their permanent residence if they are unhappy with student halls.

New guidance on visiting home for students was published on Sunday evening, setting out what could be considered a “reasonable excuse” for short stays at family homes.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, Mr Lochhead said: “I know many students are struggling at the moment, but also many students accept that they want to be at university.

“It is challenging at the moment, especially if they are self-isolating, but they are enjoying the opportunity of making new connections, of at least meeting their tutors now and again.

“So I don’t expect, you know, a mass exodus from Scotland’s campuses, but the opportunity’s there for those who are struggling.”

A University of Aberdeen spokesperson said: “Like other universities we continue to encourage and support our students in following national guidance to suppress the spread of Covid-19, while taking proportionate action where required.

“Yesterday we wrote to all of our students following several reported breaches of national guidance within privately-operated halls over the weekend, which required police involvement.

“This message was issued in order to remind students of their responsibilities, while thanking the vast majority whose behaviour has been exemplary.

“We continue to deal with a number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 within our University community, where a range of support is in place for students who are self-isolating.

“As a University the safety of our students is paramount, and we continue to do all that we can to support them, our staff, and the wider community here in Aberdeen, to whom we also have an important responsibility.

“In line with this, and in light of the actions of a minority of students who fail to follow national guidance, our current disciplinary procedures enable fines of up to £250, as well as the potential for further action including suspension and/or expulsion, to any students found to have repeatedly or seriously breached our Covid Campus Pledge and Covid Campus Guidelines.

“This is a last resort for serious breaches, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account any mitigating circumstances.  To date, a handful of students have been fined for repeated breaches, with proceeds going to assist students in need.

"We work closely with private sector accommodation providers - excluding letting agencies - and following discussion with police after breaches on Saturday night which took place in private halls, we agreed to communicate to our students the importance of following the rules, regardless of where they live.

 “We are in regular contact with our accommodation partners as a matter of course through our usual channels, where issues related to student behaviour are regularly discussed.”