Student and lecturer representatives in Scotland have hit out at suggestions that those wishing to enter English halls of residence may be required to receive Covid-19 vaccinations.
It comes after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said university students would get “advance warning” of any change, with decisions due to be taken in September.
The UK Government plans to make entry to nightclubs and other crowded venues conditional on having two jags.
Scottish ministers recently published operational guidance for universities, colleges and community learning providers ahead of the 2021-22 academic session. It sets out the importance of retaining certain Covid safety measures and highlights the need to ensure those not fully protected by vaccines can benefit from in-person learning and research, together with wider student activities.
Addressing the issue on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Raab said: “I think the key principle is in crowded places where we want to open up… whether it’s going to a football game or pop concert, we want to make sure people can do that.”
Asked if there were plans to require students in university halls to get vaccinated, Mr Raab added: “When we come to the crunch, these decisions will be taken in September. We’ve got some time to go.
“Right the way through this pandemic we’ve had to take advice and decisions based on the evidence when we see it.
“We will certainly make sure university students have advance warning, of course we’re going to be mindful of this.”
The remarks drew a strong reaction from NUS Scotland President Matt Crilly.
“NUS Scotland has serious concerns about the UK Government’s proposals, which threaten to unfairly penalise groups within society,” he said.
“I would encourage students to get vaccinated – to protect ourselves, those around us, and to allow us to get as close to normal as we can.
“NUS Scotland welcomes steps taken by the Scottish Government, the NHS, and our institutions to expand the reach, and encourage the uptake, of the vaccination programme.”
A spokesman for UCU Scotland added: “UCU supports all students being offered two vaccinations before our campuses re-open, but vaccination should not be compulsory or a condition for accessing education – this would be discriminatory and counterproductive.
“We need to be focussing on encouraging as many students to take up the offer of the vaccine as possible rather than resorting to ill thought out, knee-jerk proposals like the ones emanating from the UK government.”
NUS UK President Larissa Kennedy said: “It’s appalling if these reports are true, imposed with no consultation whatsoever with the sector.
“All the students I speak with are incredibly eager to get their vaccinations – if anything they would like them bringing forwards so that they’ve had both doses before term begins and would like the rollout extended to 16- and 17-year-olds who will also be travelling to campuses in September.
“What would this policy mean for those students who aren’t being offered the vaccine? Or to students travelling from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to study at universities in England? What about international students whose travel and quarantine plans are yet again thrown into disarray?
“Preventing students from accessing their education with yet another half-baked policy is unacceptable.”
The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.