Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): universities, colleges and student accommodation providers

Published: 11 Sep 2020
Last updated: 24 Sep 2020 - see all updates

Guidance for higher and further education institutions and student accommodation providers to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19): universities, colleges and student accommodation providers
Progressing through the phases

Progressing through the phases

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

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


Plans for return should be developed in consultation with staff, students, student associations and recognised trade unions and updated on an ongoing basis. That planning must be based around risk assessments and safe systems of work, emphasising physical distancing and hand washing, fair work principles, and be designed to enable a restart that allows the organisation to operate while protecting employee health and wellbeing. 


Physical distancing and hygiene measures require work to be carried out before a restart – for example screens, one-way personnel movement systems, 2 metre zones, canteen re-arrangement, personal protective equipment (PPE) provision, hand sanitisers, etc. Briefings and inductions into the new ways of working must take place.


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 universities will continue to apply these guidelines and any subsequent updates, including the 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 guidance for the manufacturing sector.

Dynamic assessment

A risk assessment and adoption of mitigation measures should not be a one-off exercise, rather part of a regular and ongoing consultation and feedback loop between employers and trade unions and student associations to identify what measures are working, where refinements are possible and any gaps remaining. Reviews of measures and risks should be frequent, with daily assessments of progress initially not unusual. The open and ongoing engagement between trade union or workforce representatives, and student associations should enable adjustments to be made quickly and smoothly at the relevant stage, including potentially tightening workplace restrictions or reducing numbers on-site if the dynamic risk assessments indicate this is necessary.

Phase 3

Now we are in Phase 3, wider campus services such as indoor bars and eating areas, museums, galleries and libraries and additional health services may open. Guidance for childcare services and indoor office spaces has also been published. In carrying out these activities institutions and providers will apply the appropriate Scottish Government guidance, for instance for reopening early learning and childcare services. See the full suite of SG guidance.

Institutions and providers should 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, institutions and providers must apply specific guidance for that sector (for example retail guidance) in addition to specific guidance in this document.

Institutions should 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.

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 college and university campuses will be fully open with any necessary precautions.

School pupils attending college

The college guidance applies to senior phase school pupils attending college.

Senior phase school pupils attending college will be expected to follow the guidelines put in place by their college. Each college should ensure that senior school pupils are fully aware of their responsibilities when on their campus. 

As part of this, colleges should disseminate to senior phase pupils attending college information on the Scottish Governments FACTS campaign.

Sectoral guidance

The measures set out in this guidance must be applied when pupils attend college.

Risk assessments specifically for school pupils attending college must be carried out.

Schools and colleges should work together to consider first whether remote or blended learning arrangements can be put in place for school pupils, to limit the amount of face to face on-campus learning required. It is noted that some colleges and local authorities have already put in place such arrangements.

Where this is not feasible, and school students require to attend on-campus learning, as an additional layer of risk mitigation, colleges should consider whether school students attending colleges can be maintained in consistent groupings.

All public health measures must be strictly observed, including in  circumstances where school students are being taught separately from the wider college population.

The following public health measures (which are set out in more detail in the college sectoral guidance) are particularly emphasised:

  • all reasonable measures will be taken to implement physical distancing (currently 2 metres) – this applies to all parts of the college campus except for hospitality and retail spaces, where 1 metre is permitted with additional mitigation in place, in line with national guidance and legislation
  • staff and students should practice hand and respiratory hygiene
  • use of face coverings as set out in the circumstances within the college sectoral guidance
  • symptomatic senior school pupils should under no circumstances attend college and should follow the appropriate guidance for testing

This guidance will be updated with additional mitigation measures for school pupils in college as they are decided, based on the most up to date scientific and public health advice.

First published: 11 Sep 2020 Last updated: 24 Sep 2020 -