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
Public health measures

Public health measures

Physical distancing

Physical distancing duties are set out in regulation 4(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020.

Work and study that can be done remotely should be done from home. Where the work or study cannot be done from home then physical distancing must be followed.

All reasonable measures will be taken to implement physical distancing (currently 2 metres) in all relevant areas of universities. In planning for physical distancing, universities will adopt the procedures set out in COVID-19 information and guidance for non-healthcare settings.

Social distancing applies to all parts of the university campus, including entrances and exits, break rooms, canteens and similar settings. Universities will take a risk-based approach and put in place measures to manage brief interactions within 2 metres which cannot reasonably be avoided, such as limited numbers of people passing each other in corridors.

Where physical distancing cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, universities should consider whether that activity needs to continue, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission.

Example of activities universities may also consider include:

  • the use of space by staff and students to ensure adherence to physical distancing guidance. This will be determined by a variety of factors including the dimensions and layout of buildings and the requirements of different disciplines
  • the use of clear, appropriate signage across campuses
  • physical adjustments such as the use of perspex shields at reception points
  • one-way systems or other special controls on access to constrained spaces such as toilets and changing rooms while adhering to social distancing guidance
  • other measures such as adjusted working times, shifts and part-time on campus to minimise the numbers of staff on campus and in specific buildings at any one time


Staff and students should practice hand and respiratory hygiene as summarised in COVID-19 guidance for non-healthcare with further information available from NHS Inform, for instance frequent hand washing. Universities will follow guidance in the provision of appropriate hygiene facilities (hand sanitising facilities), particularly at key areas such as entry and exit points, as well as guidance on opening public and customer toilets. 


COVID-19 guidance for non-healthcare settings sets out the expected cleaning regime. Routine cleaning should ensure regular cleaning schedules and procedures are in place using a product which is active against bacteria and viruses. Also regular (at least twice daily) cleaning of commonly touched objects and surfaces (telephones, keyboards, door handles, desks, countertops etc) relevant to the setting. Consideration should also be given to ventilation.

The guidance also provides advice on environmental decontamination (cleaning and disinfection) after a possible case has left the workplace. If a risk assessment of the setting indicates that a higher level of contamination may be present (for example, where unwell individuals have been or there is visible contamination with body fluids), then the need for additional PPE such as an apron and gloves should be considered.

Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

COVID-19 guidance for non-healthcare settings sets out guidance on use of PPE. This advice confirms that workplaces should use PPE consistent with local policies and in line with measures justified by risk assessment. There is no evidence of benefit to support the use of face masks outside healthcare environments therefore the advice on medical grade face masks is that their use is not currently recommended for the general population.

Health and Safety Executive recommends a risk-based approach focussed on a hierarchy of control which seeks to reduce risk to the lowest reasonable practicable  level. This will help determine in which settings and what type of PPE would be appropriate. Universities have considerable expertise in determining PPE requirements based on risk assessment. Where the need for PPE is identified, it will be clearly communicated to staff and students and will be readily available.

It is important to note the difference between face masks and face coverings. Face masks are surgical or medical grade masks that are used in health and social care settings. Face coverings are made from cloth or other textiles that cover the mouth and nose and through which you can breathe. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Phase 2: staying safe and protecting others (physical distancing) guidance describes the use of personal face coverings. Should face coverings be required this will also be communicated to staff and students.



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