Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): universities, colleges and community learning and development providers

Published: 15 Jul 2021
Last updated: 22 Jul 2021 - see all updates

Guidance for operations in the academic year 2021 to 2022.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): universities, colleges and community learning and development providers
Steering principles

Steering principles

Universities, colleges and CLD providers will follow the national Strategic Framework.  

The guidance is consistent with, and where necessary builds upon, the measures identified within this Framework and put in place for broader society.

It is in the interests of all involved across the sectors to ensure robust and proportionate measures are in place in order to minimise the risk of significant outbreaks (which may lead to more restrictive measures being required).

Collective responsibility across the further and higher education sectors, whilst institutions, staff and students themselves all have a responsibility to maintain the continuing baseline measures (as a minimum) and thereby maximise the positive impact they can provide.

At the start of term (and beyond for those under 18), institutions are strongly recommended to implement a greater level of protective measures that takes particular account of the profile of vaccination across the population, and concentrations of young people in student accommodation.

Institutions should ensure measures go further than the minimum baseline where that is necessary to keep people safe. This could include, for example, limiting student numbers in lectures; keeping class lists for test and protect purposes; hand-sanitisation stations; one-way systems; face coverings; voluntary physical distancing and / or provision of materials to clean surfaces.

The guidance aims to foster effective and consistent practice across the sector that is coherent and enhances awareness, understanding and sustained adherence nationally, particularly where that prioritises the safety of all people, which also meets the needs of those who are at a clinically higher risk of COVID.

The guidance also provides an underpinning for local mechanisms to reflect the diversity of the university and college sectors, and the institutions within them.

Institutions should have clear plans for communicating what the student experience will look like, including the approach taken to teaching and learning, and across the sector, a nationally consistent approach to communicating at least the baseline protective measures.

The guidance will be implemented, taking account of the experience and level of responsibility across the sector, with an emphasis on risk assessment and transmission reduction, ensuring consultation with recognised Trade Unions and student representative bodies/unions.

Consultation with the Trade Unions will be in accordance with statutory frameworks, national and local agreements and Fair Work Guidance – see link for further information.

Universities and colleges are strongly encouraged to have regard to jointly agreed statements from UCEA and the 5 HE trade unions – see link for further information on this.

We expect that all staff and students will be appropriately supported by institutions in relation to COVID-19 harms and the wider harms that have arisen as a result of the pandemic.

We expect continued support for home working where possible and appropriate, but without detriment to learning, the overall student experience and considering the impacts of isolation and unsatisfactory home working environments on staff wellbeing.

It is crucial that protective measures are fully implemented across the sector to ensure there is appropriate mitigation. For example, institutions should ensure precautions are in place so that young people (not fully protected by vaccines) can take part in-person learning and research, together with wider student activities safely, including working with student associations. Further, as set out below, Scottish Government will work with health boards to drive forward the rapid roll out of the vaccination programme to students.

Communication with students into why certain mitigations are remaining at certain times and in particular settings will be crucial at this point in order to ensure compliance when the rest of society being generally back to ‘normality’ – see also Public Health Scotland - COVID-19: Non-healthcare settings guidance.


First published: 15 Jul 2021 Last updated: 22 Jul 2021 -