Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advisory Sub-Group on Universities and Colleges minutes: April 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 26 April 2022.

Attendees and apologies

Advisory Group members:

  • Prof Linda Bauld (Chair)
  • Prof Brigid Daniel 
  • Prof Paul Flowers
  • Prof Marion Bain
  • Prof Steve Reicher
  • Prof Ian Rivers
  • Jon Vincent
  • Dr Diane Stockton
  • Dr Eileen Scott
  • Dr Ellie Hothersall
  • Kathy Johnston


  • Linda McKay
  • Prof Chris Chapman
  • Gary Gillespie

University of Glasgow:

  • Dr Claire Hastie

SG Covid Analysis Division:

  • Iona Currie

SG (observing):

  • Stevie Boal
  • Alan Sloan
  • Idris Akormadu
  • Steven Scott
  • Keira McCutcheon
  • Evangelia Nakou
  • Caroline Pretty
  • Steven Scott
  • Gery McLaughlin
  • Keith Fernie
  • Iona Dempsie


  • John Keenan
  • Alistair Imlach

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The meeting was Chaired by Prof Linda Bauld. The Chair welcomed Dr Claire Hastie, lecturer in Public Health at the University of Glasgow, to support the discussion on long Covid. The Chair thanked everyone for their participation and noted apologies were received from Chris Chapman, Linda McKay and Gary Gillespie.

Minutes of last meeting and matters arising

Sub-group members were content for the minutes of the previous meeting to be published.

The Chair updated members on the following:

  • the Wider Harms paper has now been published. The Chair directed members to the feedback received from University of St Andrews, which can be found on SLACK
  • the UNCOVER report on student mental health from Public Health Scotland (PHS) and the University of Edinburgh is also available on SLACK. Members were asked to send John or Idris any other useful related studies or reports that they are aware of
  • the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) met on 19 April. Discussions were focussed on the updated nine guiding principles published on the 14 April. Sir Peter Scott, Scottish Government Commissioner for Fair Access discussed his ‘The impact of Covid to fair access to Higher Education’ report. The report is available on SLACK for members to access
  • officials provided the Chair feedback from institutions and unions regarding the changes to testing
    • some institutions have raised questions about the ease of access to test kits for those who still are advised to test. For example, as a close contact of a positive case, Scottish Government have advised students that they can still order test kits online or by calling 119
    • trade Unions have strongly criticised the end of free asymptomatic testing and have raised this issue in both writing and in-person with Ministers at Scottish and UK Government level
  • SG colleagues in the Covid Ready Society division have continued to make progress on the development on the Covid Safety Signage – Pilot Scheme. Their engagement with private and public sector stakeholders continues with a view of identifying partner organisations to participate in the Pilot Scheme. Ministers are keen to have a good representation of organisations running the pilots across different sectors, including the university, college and CLD sectors. Members were asked to provide any relevant contacts within their institutions to John Keenan to forward to Covid Ready Society colleagues to discuss the potential participation in the Pilot scheme

As an action from the previous meeting, Dr Eileen Scott confirmed that college student accommodation is not included in the student accommodation postcode analysis undertaken by Public Health Scotland. Officials will provide the relevant postcodes to Public Health Scotland to be included in next month’s analysis.

Prof Marion Bain provided the group with an update on the reported incidences of hepatitis in Scotland.

Prof Steve Reicher gave a summary on a new initiative which has been developed by the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies called the ‘Covid-19 Pledge’. Participating organisations will agree to the pledge which includes; undertaking risk assessments, protecting staff, users and customers from Covid-19 and abide by public health advice by supporting employees to stay home and self-isolate.

Covid Surveillance update

Dr Diane Stockton summarised the latest figures, vaccine uptake, testing outcomes, incidents in FE/HE, symptom surveillance and outcomes:

  • data shows that rates of vaccine uptake has been increasing slowly but looks to be nearing a plateau
  • seroprevalance data estimates that 96.5% of 16-25 year olds currently have antibodies to COVID-19 infection
  • hospital and ICU admissions for typical student age groups continue to remain very low compared to the population average. Current rates are lower than with previous waves
  • office of National Statistics infection survey results shows that overall rates of infection for age groups related to students continue to decline
  • data from university accommodation postcode analysis show that cases are in decline overall

Modelling: projections for the Academic Year

Iona Currie updated members on recent modelling outputs summarising that:

  • the current growth rate is estimated to be between 0.8 and 1.0
  • following changes to testing advice, wastewater surveillance and ONS infection survey data are the main inputs into modelling
  • wastewater surveillance shows an overall decline in nationwide prevalence
  • the Scottish Contact Survey indicates an average of 4.9 contacts. Mean contacts within the work setting have increased in the last 2 weeks by 55%

In discussion to agenda items 3 and 4, the following points were made in response to both presentations:

  • concerns were raised on the likely plateauing of booster vaccine rates in student age groups. The group strongly advise institutions to continue to explore ways to encourage students to access the vaccination doses that they are eligible for
  • the group recommended institutions consider, alongside marketing and social media campaigns, peer led activities to encourage students to get their booster vaccine
  • john Keenan to speak to SG officials regarding raising the issue of vaccine booster uptake with the CRG

Long Covid

The Chair welcomed Dr Claire Hastie, lecturer in Public Health at the University of Glasgow to present findings from the Scottish Long Covid Study. Key points included:

The Scottish Long Covid Study is being led by University of Glasgow and other partners. The study requires participants to complete a questionnaire on symptoms experienced following asymptomatic or symptomatic Covid-19 infection at 6 monthly intervals up to 24 months. The study findings showed that people with higher morbidity counts are more likely to experience ongoing symptoms linked to Covid-19. Following infection, study findings showed that 52% of participants were fully recovered, 42% were partially recovered and 6% were not recovered.

The Chair also welcomed Dr Eileen Scott to deliver a presentation regarding important and relevant publications on long Covid. Key points included:

The studies shared with the group were the “Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the UK : 7 April 2022”, “REACT-2: real-time assessment of community transmission”, a rapid evidence review looking at the effects of vaccination against long COVID or post-COVID symptoms by UK Health and Security Agency and “Long COVID (post-COVID-19 condition) in children” by University College London.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) have developed a guideline to cover care for people who have signs and symptoms that develop during or after an infection consistent with COVID-19, continue for more than 4 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis. The guidelines are continuously reviewed to reflect the new and emerging nature of the condition to ensure recommendations reflect the latest evidence. The guidelines also include common symptoms which are described as “highly variable and wide ranging”.

The recommended PHS approach to treatment is a holistic, person centric approach to manage present symptoms.

In response to both presentations the following points were made in discussion:

  • the NICE, SIGN and RCGP guidelines are a useful tool for institutions to use to understand the current clinical understanding of long Covid-19
  • due to variability in how symptoms present, there is a need for targeted support dependent an individual’s symptoms, and universities, colleges and the CLD sectors have an important part to play in this
  • the group asked Dr Claire Hastie to share research data from the Scottish Long COVID Study by age categories relevant to children and young people
  • common long Covid symptoms such as chronic fatigue and difficulty in concentrating can affect cognitive performance, which could be a challenging issue for students undertaking a course of study. Institutions therefore need to be alert to those issues and take appropriate steps to support students, learners and staff
  • although cognitive symptoms were reported widespread in the Scottish Long Covid Study, it is difficult to separate the effect of impairment to cognitive function in young people who have recovered from Covid-19 infection, and the widespread disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic on young people’s education
  • the number of students who have reported to their institutions that they are suffering from long Covid for support or appeal purposes does not reflect the estimations in the scale of individuals affected according to some of the studies shared with the group. This might suggest that there is a requirement for a general awareness raising of long Covid as a condition, together with the support available for those affected
  • the group discussed the importance of students and staff with long Covid being encouraged by their institutions to seek support, but emphasised there is also a need for individuals to take responsibility in informing institutions when they believe they need support
  • when cases of long Covid have been identified within institutions, existing systems and processes have been used to support both staff and students, such as occupational health referrals for staff members. This appears to be the best approach for managing staff or students with symptoms of long Covid, unless future clinical evidence indicates otherwise
  • while the effects of long Covid are still being explored, the group advise institutions to continue to offer support to staff and students using a person-centric approach, ensuring the institution does what they can to support individuals
  • the group identified the need to continue to review existing and future literature on the effects of long Covid on the student age population. The area the group felt more evidence was required before being able to offer advice was around the cognitive function and mental health effects of long Covid
  • the importance of ensuring that awarding bodies are aware of the issues presented by long Covid and have regard to the challenge it may present to some student’s examinations and assessments. However, it was noted that there was a risk of inflating long Covid categories

AOB and close

The next meeting will be on Tuesday 24 May 2022. Members are invited to share any questions in advance of the meeting.

The Chair brought the meeting to a close, thanking all members for their time.


  • SG officials to provide the relevant college student postcodes to Public Health Scotland to be included in next month’s analysis
  • John Keenan to raise an agenda item at CRG to discuss with institutions what other action can be taken to increase vaccine booster uptake
  • Dr Claire Hastie to share research data from the Scottish Long COVID Study by age categories relevant to children and young people
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