Second half session return, testing, catering & free space on campus

An update to students, 9 December

Dear student,

Following this week’s meeting of our Campus Planning Group we wish to update you on the following:

  • Arrangements for second half session return
  • Asymptomatic Testing Centre – extension to opening hours
  • Catering and free space on campus

Arrangements for second half session

The Scottish Government yesterday announced arrangements for students returning to University following the winter break.  The steps were set out by Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney in a statement to the Scottish Parliament, and the published guidance can be found here.

In summary, the Education Secretary announced:

  • A staggered return for students to universities and on-campus teaching over six weeks
  • It means that some students will start the second half session online and should only return to campus when asked to by their university
  • Students are asked to restrict social interaction for two weeks prior to, and following, their return to campus
  • Asymptomatic lateral flow testing of students will take place as part of their return

Teaching – whether online or on-campus – will start for most of our undergraduate and taught postgraduate students as planned on 25 January. The focus of the guidance is for on-campus teaching. In terms of our own arrangements, this means a phased approach for on-campus teaching, as follows:

  • In the first phase students who have placements and Postgraduate research students will resume from 4 January onwards (Medicine, Dentistry, Physicians’ Associates, Education),   although PGRs are reminded that campus will reopen on 6 January – non lab-based students should continue working from home unless advised otherwise by their School
  • A second phase will begin from 25 January for undergraduate students in the following Schools - SMMSN (non-placement), NCS, SBS, Engineering, Psychology, Geosciences - with all planned teaching taking place including lab-based teaching. On-campus teaching will also commence for all postgraduate taught students from 25 January
  • A third phase – spread over two weeks (week commencing 1 February and week commencing 8 February) – will see undergraduate students from the following Schools return: DHP, LLMVC, Business, Law and Social Science
  • Students who are undertaking optional courses that are part of the Phase 2 return can return for the on-campus teaching for those courses, even if they are based in one of the Schools listed in Phase 3. For example, if a student in Social Science is studying a Psychology course, they will be able to undertake the on-campus teaching for that course.


Work is ongoing to finalise these arrangements and further information will be provided if anything changes.  Your School will be in touch with you regarding the specific arrangements for your individual course.  Library services will be available for all students whether classes are in-person or online during the phased return. Our libraries reopen on 6 January, enabling access to resources such as computers or books for anyone who requires them prior to in-person teaching commencing.

Asymptomatic Testing Centre – extension to opening hours

We’d like to say a huge thank you to all of you – nearly 2,000 in total – who have made use of our testing facility at the Butchart Centre on University Road.

The asymptomatic testing programme – for students with no symptoms of coronavirus – is a UK-wide initiative to support students leaving their term time accommodation to join another household for the winter break. 

With many students not intending to leave Aberdeen until next week, the testing centre will now be open on Tuesday 15 December and Friday 18 December, to support students leaving at a later date.  This is a change to the original planned closing date of Friday 11 December.

We hope as many students as possible book a test before the centre closes, and you can do so here

Please do remember there is still a risk of becoming infected and spreading the virus following a negative test and the Scottish Government FACTS guidance should be followed at all times.

Catering and free space on campus 

With regards to study and social space, the Sir Duncan Rice Library, Law Library (Taylor Building) and Medical Library (Foresterhill) will remain open until 5pm on Friday 18 December with bookable study space available in other locations across campus until that time. You are reminded that we offer a ‘click and collect’ service and we encourage you to use this if you can, as this helps us limit overall numbers in our libraries and further reduces risks associated with handling books. Our libraries reopen on 6 January.

In the meantime, we remind you that cafés that remain open on campus include The Hardback Café at the Sir Duncan Rice Library which closes at 3pm on 18 December, with the library building closing at 5pm. The MacRobert Café has stopped serving food and drink until the New Year; however the seating area remains available for use. The TV Lounge and Library in Crombie will open as additional study space on 6 January.

Finally, as you know, the majority of our courses will shift to fully online delivery from the end of today (Wednesday, 9 December), until the end of the first half session on 18 December.  Some school-based and clinical placements continue for some students. 

As it currently stands Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire remain in Level 2 under current Covid restrictions, although a move to Level 3 remains a real possibility.

Even though the majority of on campus teaching ceases today, the current uncertain position acts as a reminder of how vital our efforts are as we approach the end of term on 18 December. 

This means continuing to follow FACTS guidance, and for students planning to leave term-time accommodation for the winter break, booking a test at our testing facility so that you can return to another household safely.

We know that many of you are planning to travel away from Aberdeen in the coming days, and we wish those who are a safe journey.  We’re sure that you are all looking forward to some much-deserved time off as we progress towards the end of our first half-session on 18 December.

We thank you once again for all your ongoing efforts and support.

Best wishes

Ruth and Debbie

Professor Ruth Taylor
Vice-Principal (Education)

Debbie Dyker
Acting Director of Operations