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UHI launches emergency fund to support students affected by coronavirus


By Alan Hendry

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Head of development Alison Wilson says there has been a fantastic response.
Head of development Alison Wilson says there has been a fantastic response.

The University of the Highlands and Islands has launched an emergency fund to help students who have been affected by the coronavirus crisis.

With campuses across the Highlands and Islands closed due to the outbreak, academic staff have switched to delivering their courses online.

While many of the university’s 40,000 students have been able to continue their studies from home, an increasing number have reported they do not have the equipment or internet connections they need to access online classes and resources.

The university has set up an emergency study fund to address this, offering support to college and university students who are unable to buy essential technology due to financial hardship. The fund is being used to provide students with a range of equipment and services, including laptops and broadband connections.

Local businesses and individuals have already supported the cause. The university’s IT department is working to refurbish existing laptops and purchase new ones.

The contributions have helped to deliver laptops to over 40 students across the Highlands and Islands so far. The devices are being deployed on loan agreements so future students can benefit from them too.

Alison Wilson, head of development at the university, said: “The response to the fund has been fantastic and we are extremely grateful for all of the donations. However, the demand from students is increasing rapidly – we’ve had another 45 applications in the past three days alone.

"As well as applying to funds set up to help Covid-19 related causes, we are also urgently seeking donations from anyone who might be able to help. We need to act quickly to reduce the risk of students dropping out or having to repeat their studies.

“We want to help all of our students who are struggling with access and hardship issues, and this may require anything from £250 to £750 per student depending on support needs. We would love to hear from any organisations or members of the public who may be in a position to donate to the fund and help students in need right now.”

Alan Simpson, president of the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association, says more funding will be needed.
Alan Simpson, president of the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association, says more funding will be needed.

Alan Simpson, president of the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association (HISA), said: “Working with the university, HISA has managed to secure £40,000 to be put towards student support in digital poverty. I am really pleased that we have been able to respond to feedback from our students and provide this additional funding, but much more will be needed to meet the needs of students across the region.

“The welfare of our students is always our main priority and so I am really happy that some of this funding will also go towards helping students with their rent, bills and food. Many people have lost their jobs and are unable to apply for Universal Credit because they are full-time students and this funding has the ability to support them.

“I am immensely grateful to the university’s management for recognising the need for this fund and for all that the public have already donated.”

Anyone wishing to provide support to students in need, or find out more about the emergency fund, should visit www.uhi.ac.uk/en/development/emergency-study-fund



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