‘Refrain from bringing sleeping bags onto campus’ – university ban on library camping


EXHAUSTED and stressed-out students have been banned from camping in the library of a Scottish university.

The students at Heriot Watt, on the western outskirts of Edinburgh, were bringing sleeping bags and staying overnight rather than going home.

But after they were caught by staff dozing among the book stacks, bosses at Heriot Watt issued a stern email telling them to sleep in their own beds.



Thousands of students throughout Scotland are in the middle of crucial winter exams that can count towards final grades.

While many steal a nap on their desk during the day, students  on the petroleum engineering course at Heriot Watt went a step further.

The isolated campus is far from many of their homes and it was easier to kip down for the night in the Enterprise Oil Building than try to catch a bus home. It also meant they could put more hours into studying.

But the warning email from the university ordered them to “refrain from bringing sleeping bags onto campus”.

One postgraduate student, who asked not to be named, said: “We have got so much to do before our exams that we simply don’t have the time to do go home.

“Us lab rats are really rather committed so a group of us started camping overnight.”

The student said they would not be deterred.

 “Now that we’ve been caught we’ll have to be a bit more sneaky about it but until exam time is over we will continue in our mission.”


An insider said: “They’re hoping that by basically living in the building that they’ll be able to study for as long as possible without having to worry about making the long trip back into town where most of them stay.”

“It’s a bit of a shame really because this says a lot about the students’ dedication to the course.

“I think we all understand why the university has asked them to stop because although it’s a secure building there are obviously safety fears like if there’s a fire.”

Eagle-eyed undergraduates across the Scotland have set up “Spotted” pages on social networking sites to images of slumbering students.

Images posted include one student lying flat out asleep on the floor of what appears to be a library.

Stacey Devine, NUS Scotland Women’s Officer, said: “Students today are under enormous pressure to succeed in their studies, as they know how important obtaining qualifications are in finding employment in these difficult economic times.

“These stresses are often compounded by the need for students support themselves through part-time jobs, which together with the pressure to succeed in studies presents a real risk of students suffering from mental ill health.

“Institutions should review the balance of coursework and assessment and ensure that there is ample communication between departments to prevent overlap in examinations and submission dates, and recognise that too many students are working beyond the recommended 10 hours per week, and ensure they are provided with the support and advice they require to reach their full academic potential.”

Student behaviour in libraries has frequently comes under the spotlight but rarely for working too hard.

A Freedom of Information Request found that Aberdeen University recorded at least four “sex acts” in 2011.

A man was found getting up to no good in the Taylor Library while another indulged in indecent exposure outside the building.

In the same year, Oriel College library in Oxford found itself embroiled in a sex scandal after students were caught having sex inside.

The layout of the bookcases was rearranged and a warning email went out to students saying “the library is not being treated with the appropriate consideration this term.”

A spokeswoman from Heriot-Watt University said, “While we are pleased that our students are dedicated to their studies and research, academic buildings are not designed for overnight stays. There are serious health and safety implications, including fire safety.

“To cope with extra demands around exam time, the University Library is open 24 hours a day during exams and for over a month before the exams start for students looking for additional study opportunities.