Coronavirus leads to face-to-face learning being suspended at Borders college and university campuses

Borders College’s Galashiels and Hawick campuses are to remain open desite the current coronavirus pandemic spreading across Scotland, but all classroom learning is to be suspended from this Friday, March 20.

Heriot-Watt University and Borders College's Galashiels campuses.
Heriot-Watt University and Borders College's Galashiels campuses.

Heriot-Watt University’s Galashiels campus is also stopping face-to-face teaching, with that move taking effect from tomorrow, March 18.

A college spokesperson said: “Our first priority is the health and wellbeing of our students and staff, and that is at the forefront of any plans being made.

“Our incident management team are closely following the guidance from both the UK and Scottish governments, as well as Colleges Scotland.

“Any students or staff members, or members of their households, who display any of the symptoms of coronavirus should, along with the whole household, self-isolate for two weeks with immediate effect.”

Classroom tuition will be replaced by online learning where possible from next week, but exceptions will be made for students sitting exams and engaged in some practical activities.

The college spokesperson added: “Next week the college will remain open, including libraries and other support services to support students.

“We will encourage staff who can readily work from home to do so. This ensures that there is a balance of staff on site and home-working as agreed with line managers, thus reducing the numbers of people in close proximity.

“Our intention is not to close the college, but we may have to do this at a later date depending on external advice.

“All college events have now been cancelled. Where possible, they will be rescheduled in the fullness of time.

“We will continue to review the local and national position, and this is a quickly-changing situation, so it may well be that our planned approach changes in the days to come.

“Borders College have set up a Covid-19 email address, and we would encourage our students and staff to use this if they have any questions or concerns. It’s at [email protected]

“We also want to stress that it is important for those considering a college course commencing in August that they should continue to make their applications through our website as these applications will continue to be processed.

“It is vital that applicants have access to their emails so that they can receive updates.”

Edinburgh-based Heriot-Watt University is also stopping face-to-face learning at its Galashiels school of textiles and design, but the campus, including its library and halls of residence, will remain open otherwise.

In a joint statement, principal and vice-chancellor Richard Williams and student union president Kieran Robson Renner say: “We are taking this action now to anticipate the likely future developments in this pandemic so that student learning can continue.

“We are confident we have a plan in place to ensure students can progress to the next stage of their programme and graduate on time.

“The wellbeing of our community is our top priority.

“We currently have no known cases of coronavirus at any of our UK campuses, and you will be informed if this situation changes.

“We are listening closely to the concerns of students, staff and members of our university community as we take urgent decisions within the context of this unprecedented situation.

“We remain confident that, by working together, the Heriot-Watt community to which we all belong will be a cohesive team.

“It is important in this stressful period that we continue to support each other, our families and friends.”