A top university has asked private landlords to report students caught breaching coronavirus restrictions.
The University of Aberdeen has warned students of the consequences facing them if they breach national Covid-19 related guidance.
In a statement emailed last night, university bosses said students caught breaking the rules would 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.
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.
“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.”
Third year student Jack Boag, 20, said students have been ‘sold a lie’ and ‘treated like the problem’ – despite being encouraged to come back to university.
Jack 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.
“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 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, said while he doesn’t have plans to move back home, 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.”
Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said a “mass exodus” from Scotland’s university campuses is not expected.
He 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.”