Publication - Minutes

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advisory Sub-Group on Universities and Colleges minutes: 12 October 2021

Published: 27 Oct 2021
Date of meeting: 12 Oct 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 12 October 2021.

Published:
27 Oct 2021
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advisory Sub-Group on Universities and Colleges minutes: 12 October 2021

Attendees and apologies

Advisory Group members

  • Prof Linda Bauld (Chair)
  • Prof Brigid Daniel 
  • Dr Diane Stockton
  • Prof Paul Flowers
  • Dr Eileen Scott
  • Prof Marion Bain
  • Dr Audrey MacDougall
  • Prof Ian Rivers
  • Prof Julie Fitzpatrick

Apologies

  • Dr Ellie Hothersall
  • Linda McKay
  • Prof Chris Chapman

SG (observing)

  • Stevie Boal
  • Michelle Iisalo
  • Alan Sloan
  • William Quinn
  • Holly Takenzire
  • Gery McLaughlin
  • Keith Fernie

Secretariat

  • Alistair Imlach
  • Sarah Wotton

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The meeting was chaired by Linda Bauld. The Chair thanked everyone for their participation. The Chair also introduced and welcomed Alistair Imlach who is supporting with the minutes of the meeting.

Minutes of last meeting and matters arising

Sub-group members were asked for any comments on the draft minutes. All were content for the minutes to be published online.

Linda provided an update on actions from the previous meeting:

  • Terms of Reference have been re-circulated
  • An additional Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) readiness return was received. Returns have been positive and this work is ongoing
  • John Keenan will confirm a date for the meeting on communications for students and vaccine uptake
  • Craig Robertson will work with the Covid 19 Advanced Learning Recovery Group (CRG) on sharing of best practice amongst the sector

Linda informed members that the CRG found the ‘Co-determinants of R’ diagram useful recognising that the wider adult education sector and inequalities are not currently captured.

In discussion the ‘Co-determinants of R’ will be reviewed monthly by members and updated to capture inequalities.

Members identified differences in the further and higher education (FE/HE) contexts, in light of the ongoing review on school mitigations. These included:

  • In FE/HE settings students wear face coverings for shorter periods of time with breaks in between group teaching and independent study.
  • In FE/HE settings there are greater numbers of people mixing together from different groups.
  • Children are least likely to become seriously ill from Covid-19 and previous mitigations have affected their key developmental stages. Members acknowledgement that FE/HE students have been negatively affected by Covid mitigations, however, age and maturity play a role in coping with mitigations.
  • The FE/HE sector will likely have a student population drawn from a wider number of communities and regions.
  • In FE/HE settings individuals are more likely to suffer severe harm from Covid-19 and Long Covid. There is a greater mix of older and younger age groups in FE/HE settings compared to school settings.

Modelling: projections for start of the new AY: Audrey MacDougall, Scottish Government

Audrey MacDougall delivered a presentation on recent modelling outputs summarising that:

  • The number of new infections has decreased. In recent days, hospital and ICU occupancies have plateaued and waste water data is showing a slight increase in cases. Further data is required to establish an accurate projection.
  • The EAVE II Study was summarised.
  • Between 1% and 2.3% of the population are at risk or showing symptoms of Long Covid after 12 weeks or more following their first suspected outbreak.

In discussion the point was made that four areas are being investigated to explore a possible increase in cases in recent days. These are:

  • The start of the new academic year in FE/HE settings
  • The relationship between increased cases in schools and the adult population
  • Declining compliance
  • The waning of vaccine efficacy

In discussion the following points were made:

  • The JCVI has not made a decision on second doses for 16 and 17 year olds.

Discussion on First Year students and consideration of wider harms: Prof Linda Bauld (Chair)

Linda Bauld introduced the paper and thanked colleagues.

In discussion the following points were made:

  • A detailed initial discussion took place on the themes of disruption to student learning, student mental health and wellbeing and financial support.
  • Members agreed that 2 papers should be produced on the discussed themes following further discussions with the sectors. The scope of these papers will go beyond first year students.
  • Members were informed that colleagues from the university sector will attend the next meeting and colleagues from the college sector will be invited to Meeting 11 to continue this discussion.
  • Members would like to consider the Community Learning and Development sector in future meetings.

The following points were also made:

  • Vaccine waning against symptomatic and asymptomatic infection may be contributing to more breakthrough infections in the 40-49yrs age group.
  • Members are interested in postcode data for halls of residence which is showing approximately 1% of cases compared to approximately 33.3% last year when accommodation and socialising were factors. It is likely that the vaccine programme is reducing cases along with protective behaviours.
  • Universities in England have seen relatively few outbreaks, also likely as a result of the vaccine programme.
  • Mitigations in teaching settings and among students were shared.

Student surveillance dashboard (update): Diane Stockton, Public Health Scotland

Diane Stockton summarised the latest figures, vaccine uptake, testing outcomes, incidents in FE/HE, seroprevalence of antibodies, symptom surveillance and outcomes.

  • 78% of individuals aged 17-21 have had their first vaccine. The vaccine remains highly effective against hospitalisations and deaths.
  • Death rates are decreasing and recent data has shown a plateau in hospitalisations and low case rates but further data is required to establish an accurate projection.
  • Antibody rates for 16-25 year olds are 78% and continuing to increase.

Discussion on looking ahead to Winter planning (Christmas and the student return): All members discussion

Linda introduced the discussion on Winter planning considering the full student return.

In discussion the following points were made:

  • Consider a focussed discussion on planning for the college sector and invite college leaders’ contributions.
  • Consider widening participation to include relevant experts for further discussion.
  • Identify timings for providing subsequent advice to the sectors.
  • Encourage uptake of testing prior to students leaving term-time accommodation.
  • Reinforce general Covid-safe behaviours e.g. frequent hand washing, testing and face coverings.
  • Recognition of how well the vaccination and testing programmes and measures implemented by universities and colleges have gone so far to address previous concerns about the return of the sectors and their continued importance following the Christmas break.

AOB and close

The Chair brought the meeting to a close. The next meeting will be on Tuesday 26th October.

Actions

  • The ‘Co-determinants of R’ diagram will be updated to include inequalities and reviewed monthly
  • The ‘Deep dive’ session to be held on increasing the uptake of vaccinations is to be rescheduled
  • Eileen Scott will present on postcode data and cases at the next meeting
  • Confirm which university colleagues will attend the next meeting and questions for their consideration
  • Invite College leaders and revisit Winter Planning at subsequent meetings
  • Gather additional intelligence on Professional Statutory and Regulatory Bodies accredited courses