Students who are having difficulty in university accommodation following a wave of Covid outbreaks have been told they can return home.
But Education Minister Richard Lochhead said he did not expect a ‘mass exodus’ after the release of updated guidelines by the Scottish government.
The guidelines also say that students can visit parents if there is a “reasonable excuse” such as a family emergency.
But short stays without one are still considered an “offense”.
The guidelines were issued after a flood of complaints from students who felt trapped in university or college accommodation.
Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland program, Mr Lochhead said: ‘I know a lot of students are struggling right now, but I also know that a lot of students are okay with wanting to be at the university.
“It’s a challenge right now, especially if they are self-isolating, but they take the opportunity to make new connections, at least to meet their tutors, even though a lot of their learning is in the process. line.
“So I don’t expect a massive exodus from Scottish campuses, but the opportunity is there for those in difficulty. “
Students who decide to return permanently to another home have been asked to follow self-isolation rules and not to use public transport.
The new guidelines have been well received by student union NUS Scotland.
Its president, Matt Crilly, said: “Today’s advice brings welcome clarity to the students in the rooms, who will consider their next steps.
“We welcome the fact that the students are able to return home permanently. However, we are disappointed that the government continues to talk about in-person teaching, which can keep students on campus and increase risk unnecessarily.
“We continue to call on the Scottish government to strengthen educational guidance so that distance learning is the default and a reality for as many students as possible. “
‘Halls of Horror’
But Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the picture was still ‘muddled’ and criticized the guidelines being released so late on Sunday.
He told Good Morning Scotland on BBC Radio: “On the one hand, students are told they can go home, then they are told they can go home if there are certain circumstances and I think that there are still questions about these circumstances. ”
Ross also said ministers should have anticipated the problems given the surge in cases seen in the United States when colleges and universities returned for the new academic year.
He added: “This direction should have been absolutely clear before these young people left home and certainly before they got to college and were, in many cases, locked in horror rooms. “
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the guidance had brought some clarity to students, but called on ministers to go further.
Speaking about the program, he said: “We need these asymptomatic routine tests to make sure people know if they are negative so they can go home and continue their education. ”
Mr Rennie also called for rent discounts and mental health support for students after a wave of epidemics across the country which he said were predictable.
He added: “It was the biggest movement of people since the lockdown began, so it was inevitable that we would have it.”
The body representing Scottish universities has said the well-being of students must be a priority.
Professor Gerry McCormac, Head of Universities in Scotland, said: “With the support of their universities, students need to choose what suits their own physical and mental health.
“Unfortunately, the current situation with this pandemic means that these choices need to be balanced within the broader context of public health.
“There is a real benefit, in our view, to staying in university this semester and benefiting from the combination of digital and in-person learning and the wider range of services and support available.
Professor McCormac added: “It was a very difficult start to the new academic year for the entire student community, both those returning to university and especially those who are attending for the first time. “