Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for universities

Published: 9 Jul 2020
Last updated: 9 Jul 2020 - see all updates

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

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for universities
Progressing through the phases

Progressing through the phases

Universities will take a staged approach to resuming their activities on campuses under the different phases within the route map. In progressing through the phases, universities will follow the public health and health and safety measures outlined elsewhere in this document, including physical distancing.

Lockdown and beyond

During lockdown and Phase 1 universities have been at the forefront of supporting Scotland as it progresses through this health crisis. Examples include:   

  • key workers in, and supporting, the NHS, including through thousands of students joining the NHS workforce
  • the contribution of staff, equipment and resources to COVID-19 testing capacity
  • responding to government requests for coronavirus-related research to find solutions, including refocusing existing research capacity to address the pandemic across medical, engineering and other disciplines
  • contributing equipment and resources to support community production of PPE
  • maintaining key national infrastructure, including supercomputers, essential for COVID-19 research activities
  • providing accommodation, support and maintenance services for thousands of students unable to travel home during lock-down, including specific support for those required to fully isolate
  • essential public health services on campus including pharmacies and GP surgeries, following Scottish Government guidance
  • necessary maintenance, cleaning, safety and security of facilities
  • the ongoing operation of farms and the protection and care of livestock
  • providing emergency veterinary care
  • providing residential accommodation for key workers and some vulnerable individuals needing to self-isolate

These essential services will continue following appropriate risk assessment and the measures set out in this document.

Phase 2

To re-iterate, during this phase the universities will follow the appropriate risk assessment and use of public health measures as described above.

Phase 2 of the route map allows for indoor non-office based workplaces to resume including the reopening of additional laboratory and research facilities, including research libraries and research archives. It also enables universities to open some on-campus services such as small retail units, and outdoor sports facilities and expand some healthcare services. From 6 July 2020, outdoor hospitality spaces (such as bars and restaurants) will be able to open, subject to physical distancing guidance.

Universities can also (from 22 June) prepare for the new academic year; this can include preparing buildings, student accommodation and further adapt, where necessary, research facilities. A small number of people will also be permitted to access facilities to collect materials to allow them to continue to work from home and to work. They will also be able to go onsite to prepare teaching materials, including digital content.

Universities will also consider the re-opening, with physical distancing, of on-campus spaces such as small retail units and outdoor sports facilities with physical distancing. If they choose to re-open these services, universities will want to consider specific guidance for that sector (for example retail guidance).

GP and other essential health services on university campuses have continued where required during lockdown, following the guidelines set down by Health Protection Scotland. Where present, universities may also wish to consider how GP and other health services hosted on campus are expanded under this phase.


Universities have already undertaken considerable essential research on COVID-19 throughout this crisis following appropriate public health guidance. As restrictions ease and the amount of research activity is allowed to extend (from 29 June), universities will continue to apply these guidelines and any subsequent updates, including the pending guidelines specific to laboratories and research facilities. Where appropriate they will also follow specific sector guidance relevant to a given research discipline where it is applicable to the research setting, for instance for manufacturing.

Phase 3

In Phase 3, wider campus services such as indoor bars and eating areas, gym and sports facilities, museums, galleries and libraries and additional health services may open. Childcare services and indoor office spaces may also reopen. In carrying out these activities universities will apply the appropriate Scottish Government guidance, for instance for reopening early learning and childcare services.

Universities will also consider the safe, risk-assessed expansion of face-to-face student support services and any particular considerations to support students with caring responsibilities and additional support requirements.

Commencement of tuition in the new academic year

From 22 July, universities can commence a phased return to on campus learning as part of a blended model with remote teaching. Public health measures (including physical distancing) will be in place. Building on planning during the various phases of the Scottish Government’s route map, the precise blend of digital and face-to-face delivery will reflect current public health guidance. Institutions will identify the appropriate blend of delivery, reflecting what will maximise learning as well as supporting more vulnerable learners and staff, and enabling management of risk. As they did at the start of the crisis, universities will continue to support the provision of equipment to support blended learning, while maintaining physical distancing, and also to minimise the impact of digital poverty on their students.

Phase 4

Phase 4 is the final phase in the transition through the crisis where the virus remains suppressed and no longer considered a significant threat to public health, but society remains safety-conscious. At this stage while remote and flexible working remains it is anticipated that university campuses will be fully open with any necessary precautions.

Last updated: 9 July 2020



First published: 9 Jul 2020 Last updated: 9 Jul 2020 -