Students at Edinburgh University are eating their meals alone in socially distanced dining rooms laid out like an exam hall.
Striking pictures capture a cheerless scene in which young freshers sit down to dinner at rows of individual wooden desks all facing the front.
A first-year undergraduate told MailOnline: 'I knew I'd have to sit exams at university at some point, but I didn't expect to be eating my meals under exam conditions!'
Striking pictures lay bare a glum scene in which young freshers sit down to dinner at rows of individual wooden desks all facing the front
The rigid floor-plan stifles conversation in the Pollock Hall dining room at Edinburgh University
At a time when new students would usually be throwing themselves into university life, the rigid floor-plan in the Pollock Hall dining room leaves people scrolling through their phones.
Although there was some conversation in the self-catered canteen between students who knew each other, there was 'no way you're going to be meeting new people over dinner'.
Edinburgh University, one of Scotland's ancient and most prestigious institutions, currently has 154 coronavirus cases among students and staff, who are required to self-isolate.
The fresher stressed that campus staff are 'making a real effort' and that sports teams and societies allow for bonding.
But problems have persisted and there have been rumblings of people quitting if tighter measures come into force.
Lecturers are 'making the best out of a bad situation' but 'virtual office hours' are 'impersonal'.
Staff are supposed to provide three meals a day for those self-isolating, but students have complained of going hungry.
Edinburgh University, one of Scotland's ancient and most prestigious institutions, currently has 154 coronavirus cases among students and staff, who are required to self-isolate (Pollock Hall accommodation pictured)
Last week, fresher Darcy Culverhouse, 18, who is also staying at Pollock Halls, said: 'People in our house have been missing dinners and breakfasts, they haven't been delivered the meals that they are supposed to be getting in isolation. And they're going hungry because they haven't been fed.'
Universities across the country are grappling with the start of term as a second wave of coronavirus forces local lockdown and curbs on everyday life.
The National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU) today demanded that 'trapped in halls' should be allowed to return home and study online if they wish.
NUS President Larissa Kennedy warned students have struggled to access basic supplies and said: 'The ongoing uncertainty students face is exacerbating poor mental health, debt and needlessly puts lives at risk. Put simply – students deserve better.'
A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: 'Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our students continues to be our absolute priority.
'We have teams of staff working 24 hours a day to provide those who are self-isolating in our catered and self-catered residences with three meals a day – including ready-to-heat meals – in line with their dietary requirements and preferences. Essential items are also being delivered on request.
'On the few occasions when students needs have not been met, we have addressed this as quickly as we can and are working hard to improve our systems.'