Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 21 Dec 2020
Last updated: 1 Jun 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
Returning to campus

Returning to campus

Institutions have been taking a staged approach to resuming their activities on campuses in line with guidance on creating and maintaining safer workplaces.

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 will continue to apply public health  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.

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 Government’s 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)
  • 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.

Schools and local authorities should, in partnership with FE/HE institutions and local public health teams, pay very close attention to any evidence suggesting the potential for emerging bridges of transmission between school and FE/HE settings. In the event that any such evidence is identified, they should consult immediately with local public health teams on any requirement to pause in-person attendance at FE/HE institutions by senior phase students. They should ensure that appropriate contingency measures for remote learning are in place for any required period of time.

First published: 21 Dec 2020 Last updated: 1 Jun 2021 -