Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 11 Sep 2020
Last updated: 20 Nov 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


This guidance is for the college, university and student accommodation (including student associations, halls of residence and Purpose Built Student Accommodation Providers) sectors in Scotland. The following guidance applies from 1 September 2020 and replaces the guidance issued for colleges and universities on 29 June and the guidance issued for student accommodation providers on 22 July. It will be updated and renewed as circumstances change. It sets out both the Scottish Government’s current advice and guidance for institutions and providers in helping to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

This document is provided as guidance only and does not amount to legal advice. Individual institutions and providers may wish to seek their own advice to ensure compliance with all legal requirements.  

It is one of a set of Scottish Government sectoral guidance on Safer Workplaces about how to work safely in different types of workplaces should it not be possible to work from home. These guidance are applicable as we progress through the phases described in Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis and any subsequent updates. The route map provides an indication of the order in which the Scottish Government will carefully and gradually seek to lift restrictions across Scottish society. It states the criteria used to decide in movement between phases with a commitment to review and report every three weeks. While it might be possible to lift some measures more quickly and some may take longer than envisaged, it may also be necessary to reverse some of the measures should circumstances demand.

We have worked with universities, colleges, student accommodation providers and trade unions to ensure that this guidance offers clear expectations and practical approaches to a safe, phased reopening of institutions.

The guidance emphasises in particular the importance of undertaking robust and ongoing risk assessments with full input from trade unions and student associations and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that staff and students continue to feel, and be safe.

Each institution has a distinct and diverse mix of work as well as a range of services and commercial operations. Each institution’s buildings and operations reflect these distinct mixes. It will therefore be for each institution to work with its trade unions, staff and students to determine specific actions to apply this guidance in their own particular circumstances. This also applies to accommodation providers. Policy and action will be guided by public health advice and a measured approach to managing risk through local consultation on appropriate measures. 

In setting out this guidance we recognise that during lockdown universities and colleges moved to delivering teaching and assessment online, allowing the vast majority of students and staff to ‘stay at home’ and that essential COVID-related work on campus commenced, contributing to testing capacity, research and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) production. Students unable to travel home were supported to remain safe in student accommodation and essential public health services, emergency veterinary care and essential national infrastructure and supercomputers were maintained safely and securely.

First published: 11 Sep 2020 Last updated: 20 Nov 2020 -