Covid: Dear Edinburgh students, you have been wrongly blamed during this crisis – Frank Ross

Over the last month, we’ve welcomed 80,000 new and returning students to our city. Usually, this is an exciting time for each and every one of you – matriculation, starting lectures, reuniting with classmates and friends, or for freshers, meeting new ones.

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th October 2020, 11:18 am
Students arriving for freshers' week were met by signs and barriers designed to help them maintain social distancing and stick to the Covid rules (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
Students arriving for freshers' week were met by signs and barriers designed to help them maintain social distancing and stick to the Covid rules (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

While this is still happening for the class of 2020, it looks very different to previous years, with online learning, limited capacity lectures, masks around campus and not least the situation in student unions and local bars.

As a father of former students, I feel for you, truly. For many of you, your high school experience came to an abrupt end and what is supposed to be an exciting new chapter in your life is not how you envisaged it would be.

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One of the first lessons you will learn this term is that you are hugely welcome here. Of that, there is no doubt. Students have a major impact on our city’s economy whether it be working in hospitality, retail, the arts or engaging with our extensive volunteering sector.

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Edinburgh has a long and proud history of academia and has long been known as one of the best places in the world to study, to live and to work. Demand for places at our higher education institutions continues to rise each year with students applying from all over the world for a range of extensive and varied university courses.

You make up a huge part of our population and we’re proud that so many graduates remain in the Capital to make it their home after finishing their studies, with a higher proportion living here than anywhere else in Scotland.

The second lesson is that you are not in any way to blame for what has happened or whatever happens next and I have been disappointed in the manner in which some elements of the media have cast the student population in terms of the pandemic.

We all know that the circumstances that it has brought about are no one’s fault, but you, along with all other citizens, do have to be part of keeping the virus under control. You are now part of Team Edinburgh and you have to stand with the rest of the city in fighting it.

As you are among Edinburgh’s newest residents, we are here to help you too. It’s completely understandable if you are feeling overwhelmed, confused, or more anxious than normal and I would encourage you to pause, take a breath and stay calm. Your university or college can answer any questions you have and direct you to the services you might need. Please, make sure you’re looking after yourself – physically and mentally – during this challenging time.

Finally, look after yourself, your friends and your fellow Edinburgh residents by continuing to respect and follow all public health guidelines and I assure you that soon your student experience will be everything you hoped it to be.

Once again, please be assured that you are welcome here. We are proud for you to call Edinburgh your home, whether that’s for one year, for four or for many more.

Frank Ross is Lord Provost of Edinburgh

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