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
Supporting staff and students

Supporting staff and students

In addition to the key principles, health and safety and hygiene measures referred to in previous sections of these guidelines, and guidance on returning to work safely, the following aspects are included in the universities’ approach.


Communication with staff, students and unions is crucial at each stage of the phased return, particularly in provision of reassurance and evidence that measures recommended in workplace risk assessments have been implemented and that staff and students feel they are returning to a supportive, caring and safe environment.

Universities will implement clear and effective communication of the arrangements and policies in place including during the expansion of activities as we move through the phases. This will be via a range of media to ensure high levels of awareness among students, staff and visitors, including external contractors. It also includes channels where concerns can be raised.

Universities will remind staff and students of the symptoms to look for and clear advice will be provided on how to respond should symptoms become apparent while on university premises. 

Work from home and public transport

Scotland’s route map highlights that remote working remains the default position for those who can; from lockdown to and including Phase 3. In Phase 4 it states that remote and flexible working remains encouraged.

In Phase 2, consistent with the reopening of workplaces, where home working is not possible, businesses and organisations are encouraged to manage travel demand through staggered start times and flexible working patterns.

Although by Phase 3, public transport is expected to be operating full services, physical distancing will be applied. It is estimated that the capacity with physical distancing in place on public transport could be between 10% and 25% of ‘normal’ capacity. Transport Scotland has stated that where staff need to be present at the workplace, employers should be as flexible as possible, to allow earlier or later start and finish times to spread people’s use of the transport system. 

Universities are committed to following the evolving Scottish Government and public health guidance on stay at home through each phase of the route map. Remote working will be supported, where possible and appropriate, and staff will begin to return to campus where government guidance allows for it and roles require it.

Universities will also consider the guidance on transport, advice on how to travel safely and other guidance both in considering the implications for staff and student travel to campuses and where they are transport providers themselves.

Universities should ensure that staff and students have access to public health guidance on keeping public transport safe. This includes that wearing of face coverings on public transport is now mandatory.

Universities will also take into account that Health Protection Scotland (HPS) advice which reiterates that people should not travel if they exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms.

Special consideration for people who are clinically vulnerable or shielding

People who are clinically vulnerable are those with pre-existing conditions who have been advised to stringently follow the physical (social distancing) guidance and should work from home where possible. If they cannot work from home, consideration should be given to whether they might undertake alternative work or working hours to enable them to stay away from others wherever possible.

If clinically vulnerable individuals can’t work from home, they should be offered the option of the safest available on-site roles, enabling them to stay 2m away from others. If they have to spend time within 2m of others, this should be carefully assessed to identify if this involves an unacceptable level of risk. As for any workplace risk, specific duties to those with protected characteristics must be accounted for.

All universities should follow the latest guidance for students and staff who are shielding or who live with individuals who are shielding.

People who are shielding fall under the extremely clinically vulnerable category and require a different set of measures from above to keep them safe. The most up-to-date guidance and list of underlying health conditions that necessitate shielding should be checked on the NHS Inform website under the shielding section.

When planning on extending/resuming activities, universities should consider the needs of those who are shielding, or people who have household members who are shielding.

If people who have household members who require shielding attend university premises they should be advised to adhere to stringent physical distancing.

Universities will adjust their approach accordingly if new public health advice emerges, following due risk assessment processes. 

Test and Protect and self-isolating

Test and Protect, Scotland’s approach to implementing the 'test, trace, isolate, support' strategy, is a public health measure designed to break chains of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community. More about Test and Protect can be found on the NHS Inform website.

As part of the risk based approach, universities will follow the guidance aimed at employers in helping staff who self-isolate.

All staff and students have a responsibility to ensure they adhere to overall COVID-19 advice for individuals who are self-isolating. This states that people must stay at home and self-isolate if they have symptoms, are waiting for a coronavirus test result, tested positive for coronavirus, live with someone who has symptoms/ are waiting for a test result or has tested positive.



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