Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for universities

Published: 31 Jul 2020
Last updated: 5 Aug 2020 - see all updates

Guidance for universities in helping to minimise the risk of transmission of coronavirus.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for universities
Key principles

Key principles

In applying Scottish Government direction on when restrictions can be changed, universities will consider a range of evidence on the progress of the pandemic in Scotland using the principles set out in Coronavirus (COVID-19) framework for decision making and the universities’ commitment to fair work which was set in the context of the current crisis in a joint statement by the Scottish Government and the STUC.

Universities in Scotland are committed to a set of principles which have been developed UK-wide and will be applied for the phases following emergence from lockdown.

These are:

  • the health, safety and wellbeing of students, staff, visitors, contractors and the wider community will be the priority in decisions relating to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in universities
  • universities will make appropriate changes to university layout and infrastructure in accordance – at minimum – with public health advice, including guidelines on social distancing
  • universities will review their teaching, learning and assessment to ensure that there is the required flexibility in place to deliver a high-quality experience and support students to achieve their learning outcomes in a safe manner
  • universities will regularly review the welfare and mental health needs of students and staff, and take steps to ensure preventative measures and appropriate support are in place and well communicated as restrictions are eased
  • universities will develop effective processes to welcome and support international students, staff and visitors, including throughout any self-isolation period
  • universities will regularly review their hygiene and cleaning protocols in all university spaces, and adapt these in response to changing public health advice and risk levels, to ensure that students, staff and visitors can have confidence in their safety
  • following appropriate risk assessment, universities will introduce measures to enable research to be conducted in a managed and responsible manner, following guidance specifically designed to protect researchers and support staff in laboratories and other research facilities and spaces
  • universities will engage with staff and students, including consultation with recognised trade unions and student unions, to ensure the transition from lockdown both protects the wellbeing of staff and students and enables the safe resumption of university activities
  • as well as the NHS, universities will work with other civic or local partners wherever appropriate including councils and community groups

These principles are complemented by UK-wide principles jointly agreed between the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) and the UK sector trade unions which includes Scottish universities and Scottish unions. This covers more detail on:

  • use of government guidance for Safer Workplaces
  • Health and Safety legislation
  • consultation with campus trade unions
  • risk assessment
  • communication
  • impact on staff

Both sets of principles complement, but do not supersede, the established mechanisms in place in universities through health and safety committees to consult campus trade unions on matters relating to health, safety and wellbeing in the workplace.

Additionally, in planning for the use of facilities, universities will consider and plan around:

  • the number of learners and staff likely to be included in a space and how they can be accommodated as safely as possible
  • the circumstances of staff, including those with caring responsibilities or who are shielding or self-isolating
  • availability and public health advice on PPE, other equipment and/or face coverings appropriate to the activity or location
  • the organisation of working patterns, breaks and variations to support physical distancing in accordance with government guidance
  • protocols to manage the use of shared equipment, including vehicles, hot desks and other facilities to ensure safe usage



First published: 31 Jul 2020 Last updated: 5 Aug 2020 -