STUDENTS returning home at Christmas will be offered two Covid-19 tests in the run-up to leaving Glasgow, it has been confirmed. 

Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead revealed learners will also be asked to reduce their social contact for two weeks and only go out for essential reasons before their departure. 

As well as new testing protocols, which will be offered on a voluntary and not mandatory basis, in person teaching will be ended earlier than originally planned. 

Deputy First Minister John Swinney had previously suggested students could be asked to stay in their accommodation over the festive period. 

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Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Lochhead said: "Student welfare is of paramount importance and colleges and university students will receive early advice on how to stay safe. Those who choose to stay will be supported.

"There will be staggered and early departure, irrespective of the level the institution finds itself with regards to the [tier framework].

"Universities will be asked to schedule so in person teaching ends early enough to allow students to return home.

"We will advise any student who wants to return home to voluntarily reduce their social mixing for two weeks before going home.

"This means going out only for essential meetings and exercise." 

Mr Lochhead continued: "We will be including Scottish students in a UK-wide initiative to test all asymptomatic students before the end of term.

"We recognise the concerns of students moving from one household to another. We will be offering testing to students who are returning home.

"We intend to offer testing on a voluntary basis to those who intend to return home.

"We are currently planning on the basis two tests will be necessary, two days apart. But that could change." 

As we previously reported, universities across the city were plagued by Covid-19 outbreaks at the start of term following the return of students to campus. 

Murano Street Student Hall was among the worst areas affected with hundreds of youngsters, many of whom having left home for the first time, were forced to quarantine. 

Glasgow Times: Richard Lochhead outlined the move in Parliament Richard Lochhead outlined the move in Parliament

This led to accusations that university bosses had 'forced' learners to be in the city, despite many lessons being held digitally. 

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University bosses have since taken action to tackle outbreaks on and off campus and at the time provided support to learners who were isolating. 

Matt Crilly, NUS Scotland president, welcomed today's announcement. 

He said: "[The] announcement students can travel home safely for the Christmas period is warmly welcomed and will be a relief to many students and families across Scotland. 

"We've repeatedly called for a coherent plan for the end of term, these new plans for mass testing and staggered departure dates gives students the certainty they need. 

"Focus now must turn to ensuring that institutions are equipped with enough resources to cope with the demand for testing and have enough funding to offer support to those students who will stay in their accommodation."