This operational guidance (“the guidance”) provides advice on COVID-19 transmission risk-reduction mitigations to support universities, colleges and community learning and development (CLD) providers to plan for and operate in the academic year 2021 to 2022.
The guidance reflects:
- the anticipated lifting of restrictions on society in general once the ‘gateway condition’ for moving to beyond Level 0 has been reached
- the resumption of in-person learning and research together with wider student activities
- an emphasis based less on national ‘rules’ and more on the reduction and management of risk, and good practice for achieving this
- an understanding that the virus is unpredictable and significant risks remain
- the advice prepared to support Higher and Further Education bodies to plan for the approach to COVID risk-reduction in the next academic year by the COVID-19 Advisory Sub-group for Higher and Further Education
The guidance is subject to review and amendment to account for developments relating to alleviating the harms of the virus, the latest expert advice as that evolves, and consideration of feedback on effective implementation of the guidance itself.
The guidance covers:
- the framework for guidance at ‘beyond Level 0’
- steering principles that underpin workable and practical guidance for the sector to follow
- key measures to help suppress the virus, and their application to the sector, e.g., vaccination, testing, managed isolation etc
- recommendations from the Scottish Government on specific policy areas pertinent to the sector, that are intended to foster good practice and keep people safe
At Beyond Level 0
The ‘levels’ system of restrictions is generally lifted, but with the need to retain some baseline measures provided for either by regulations or in guidance, to mitigate ongoing risks of transmission.
In line with the Strategic Framework there is no national legal requirement to physically distance in any setting. Although clinical advice remains that maintaining distance can reduce the risk of transmission.
Our revised Strategic Framework is the main source of information for this guidance, but is adaptable to track the baseline (protective) measures. It makes clear that some of these measures, provided for either by regulations or in guidance, will be expected to continue, including:
- good hand hygiene and surface cleaning
- continued promotion of good ventilation
- requirement for face coverings in certain settings (e.g. public transport)
- continued compliance with Test and Protect, including self-isolation when necessary
- ongoing need for outbreak management capability, including active surveillance
- encouraging a greater degree of working from home than pre‑COVID-19 where this is possible
Our decisions about the baseline measures to be retained beyond Level 0, provided for either by regulations or in guidance, (including any sectoral differentiation) will be evidence based to ensure they are necessary and proportionate and made with reference to ‘Four Harms’.
Universities and colleges are expected to continue taking all reasonable steps to protect staff, outsourced workers, students, visitors and others from coronavirus, including to engage in COVID-19 risk assessment work, and involve trade unions and student bodies in any review of such work.
Specifically on travel and international students:
- all students will be subject to the same travel guidance, and any regulations that are in force for the whole population of Scotland at the time of their arrival, including requirements for pre-departure and post-arrival testing and quarantining, where appropriate. Those students who change household at the start and end of term should be encouraged to participate in pre-departure and post-arrival testing.
- international students will follow the required current guidance, and any regulations that are in force for the whole population of Scotland, for green, amber and red listed countries before departure and on arrival in Scotland
- universities and colleges will determine and provide adequate and tailored support to international students, alongside communications about the mitigations that are in place and approaches to risk assessment and personal responsibility
Guidance for blended/restricted-blended learning models is held in reserve and can be re-introduced if needed to support front-line outbreak management and to suppress the virus.