Students who are returning to, or joining Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) for the first time can still look forward to plenty of hands-on learning this autumn – despite ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

While the college – which has six campuses across Scotland – will be delivering seminars and lectures online where possible during the first semester, vital practical elements in courses such as agriculture, forestry, engineering, horticulture, vet nursing and animal care will still be taking place.

In order to protect students and staff during the ongoing the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of measures will be in place when on-campus teaching returns on the September 28.

These measures include the introduction of one-way systems in buildings; floor markings to indicate social distancing requirements; as well as a reduction in touch points and increased cleaning.

SRUC this week said practical, vocational learning remained in great demand and was vital for students in preparing for their future careers.

BSc (Hons) Veterinary Nursing students at Barony, for example, will continue to develop animal handling and patient care skills within SRUC’s on-campus operating theatre, Animal Care Training Centre, stable yard and farm, though safely in smaller groups and with appropriate PPE and hygiene measures.

Clinical placements for third-year veterinary nursing students were put on hold during lockdown however, have now been starting in line with easing of restrictions, enabling students to gain essential ‘in-practice’ skills. These, as with all other teaching activities, will be delivered flexibly in response to Covid-19 developments and individual student needs.

While SRUC – which recently announced a new focus on the sustainable natural economy – will continue to emphasise the practical side of its courses for which it is well known, it is also investing heavily in its digital infrastructure to support a blended model of learning and teaching.

This includes investing in software to better deliver online lectures, tutorials and collaborative learning, as well as recording all on-campus classes for those unable to join physically.

The online elements will include a large proportion of ‘live discussion’ with staff, while SRUC will also use the opportunity to invite more guest lectures from leading members of the industry.

The organisation is developing ‘chatbots’ to support students engaging with SRUC at a distance – from application to graduation and beyond – and have invested in a large cache of laptops and tablets to ‘plug the digital poverty divide’.

SRUC has also invested in drones and 360-degree cameras to digitally enhance learning and ensure its students are immersed in the digital future, as well as hearing loop equipment.

Professor Wayne Powell, principal and chief executive of SRUC, said: “We recognise that obtaining industry-relevant practical skills is a major focus of much of SRUC’s education and training delivery.

“Therefore, we are taking steps to ensure that our students on campus continue to engage in practical work safely, whether that is in our engineering workshops or laboratories or developing forestry and conservation fieldwork skills outdoors.

“We will also continue to support agricultural, engineering and forestry Modern Apprentices undertaking their studies at their places of work.

“We are also investing in the infrastructure, equipment and tools necessary to ensure our students do not just experience a first-class education during Covid-19, but one that prepares them for success in a digital-by-default world.”

To find out more about studying at SRUC, visit