Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 21 Dec 2020
Last updated: 19 Jul 2021 - 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
Levels system: what it means for colleges and universities

Levels system: what it means for colleges and universities

Scotland follows a COVID-19 levels system. There are 5 Levels (0-4).

At each level, a combination of digital/remote and face-to-face teaching (blended approach) will take place. The exact blend depends on the level a campus is operating under.

You can find out the protection level of an area using the postcode checker

At each level, universities and colleges can operate as follows:

  • Level 0 (Baseline) – Blended
  • Level 1 – Blended
  • Level 2 – Blended
  • Level 3 – Restricted Blended
  • Level 4 – Restricted Blended

Further to the learning models, find out what you can and cannot do in each protection level.

As they did at the start of the crisis, colleges and universities should continue to support the provision of equipment to support blended learning, while maintaining physical distancing, and also to minimise the impact of digital poverty on their students.

At all levels, students should refer to our guidance on visiting their non-term-time address. Many students do not change address during term time and will consider their term-time address as home.  

Institutions, providers and student associations should continue to follow specific national guidance relevant to a particular area where it is applicable to the setting or activity.

Levels 0 2 : blended learning

Colleges and universities should implement a blended learning model and identify the appropriate blend of delivery, reflecting what will best ensure compliance with public health requirements while providing high quality learning as well as supporting more vulnerable learners and staff.

Staff and students may spend time on campus, albeit not in the numbers or as frequently as before the virus. The learning environment will be different from ‘normal.’

Recognising that there may be negative impacts to students and others if access to education is limited, colleges and universities should carefully consider the appropriate use of risk and equality impact assessments in deciding the scope and scale of face-to-face teaching and support services.

For all in-person activity, mitigation measures should be put in place to manage risk.

Large scale teaching events indoors must continue to be avoided. The expectation is that most face-to-face engagement will be in much smaller groups. Physical distancing measures should be in place in all situations. Intensive workis underway to assist colleges and universities to effectively plan for the next academic year.

How institutions should operate in levels 0 - 2 is set out below:

Level 0: As per the guidance above with the possibility of more on-campus activity if that can be done within FACTS guidelines.

Levels 1 – 2: As per the definition of blended learning above.

Level 3 – restricted blended learning

Restricted blended. Learning and teaching will be predominantly online, with in-person provision only where it is judged necessary to fulfil learning outcomes, such as for subjects which require clinical, practical or a vocational/professional learning element, and to support student welfare and retention.

Institutions will review each course and support services, taking into account risks associated with the increased prevalence of the virus at this level, to determine the balance of provision and whether more elements should be temporarily moved online.

Level 4 – restricted blended learning

Restricted blended. Learning and teaching will be online with an exception for the delivery of critical and time-sensitive learning, assessments and work placements that cannot be delivered remotely or postponed.

Critical in-person student wellbeing and studying support services can continue.

Additional risk assessment and mitigation measures.

First published: 21 Dec 2020 Last updated: 19 Jul 2021 -