University and college students will not return to campuses for at least the next two months, with the Scottish Government saying it won’t be likely they can resume studies onsite before March.

Students have also been advised not to return to their term-time accommodation until on-campus education resumes.

The move comes as the Scottish government tries to curtail rising coronavirus cases and it is hoped that preventing the movement of tens of thousands of students nationwide will limit the spread.

Richard Lochhead, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, said in a statement released on Friday, January 8: “These changes reflect the current status of the virus, the reality of the new strain, and the rise in cases in recent weeks.

“Our immediate priority right now is to say to students, other than in specific special circumstances, they must not return to their campus or term-time accommodation before they are specifically told to do so by their institution.

“For the overwhelming majority of university students, this means all learning will be online-only at least for January and February, and students should not expect to return to campus or student accommodation before the end of February.”

The advice is slightly different for college students, where returns to campus will be dictated by their local authority’s level of coronavirus restrictions, with all of mainland Scotland under Level 4 restrictions, it means “learning and teaching will be online with an exception of a small number of students where face to face teaching and in person assessments are critical to the successful conclusion of their studies”.

A spokesperson from Ayrshire College said: “Following the First Minister’s announcement today, we can confirm that we will be continuing to follow the Level 4 restrictions and we will deliver online learning and teaching only. College services are also available online.

“The Scottish Government plans to hold a review on January 12 to decide which tiers areas will be placed in from January 18 onwards.

“We will advise you of our delivery arrangements for week beginning Monday, January 18 as soon as possible after January 12.”

The University of the West of Scotland wil also be affected, a spokesperson advised: “In line with the Scottish Government announcement that the timeline for the national phased return to on campus face-to-face teaching at universities has been revised, we are closely monitoring this fast-moving situation and remain in regular liaison with the Scottish Government and key partners, and expect to receive more detailed information on these arrangements this week. We will update our students and staff as soon as more information is made available.”