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. 

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

Risk assessment

The COVID-19 risk assessment is an important process which enables institution to identify and mitigate against the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

As an employer, institutions must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect staff, students, visitors and others from coronavirus. This is called a COVID-19 risk assessment and it will help organisations manage risk and protect people.

Institutions and accommodation providers should have revised existing Risk Assessments to ensure that any new or increased risks are identified, recorded and mitigated.

You must:

  • identify what activity/situations may increase risk of transmission
  • think about who could be at risk
  • decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed
  • act to remove the activity/situation, or if not possible, control the risk

If you have fewer than five employees, you don't have to write anything down, but it might help if you do.

Institutions and accommodation providers should ensure that they review and update risk assessments regularly, particularly when moving between the phases set out in this guidance.  Institutions should communicate with each other and accommodation providers should be offering consistent messages and mitigations to their students.

You should seek full input from trade union or workforce representatives when reviewing risk assessments.

Further Information on developing a risk assessment is available from the Health and Safety Executive.

Study spaces (including libraries)

Institutions in areas under local protection levels 0-3 should follow the guidance for public libraries in Scotland..

The continued access to safe study spaces on campus, including in college and university libraries, is an essential part of blended and restricted blended learning, to support education outcomes and student wellbeing, particularly for more vulnerable students.

In level 4, the following measures should be in place in on-campus libraries and study spaces:

  • limits on numbers of people, with essential access for current students and staff only
  • access to study spaces by appointment only, pre-booked where possible or strict capacity monitoring and access control (in order to manage limits on numbers as above). This includes study spaces accessed through browsing areas
  • enhanced hygiene procedures for all surfaces and facilities (e.g. toilets)
  • at least 2m physical distancing
  • face coverings (which are required by law in all areas of libraries, unless an exemption applies)
  • ventilation, in line with current guidance
  • library browsing suspended, with books and resources available online or via click and collect or home delivery where available

Guidance in level 4 specifies that browsing is suspended and books and resources will be made available online or via click and collect or home delivery where available.

Consideration should be given should be given to whether using suitable safe study spaces elsewhere on campus are a better alternative to using similar spaces in libraries. If so, study spaces in libraries should close.

Research and archive access can be arranged by exception only where resources are not available online or via click and collect and are necessary for research that cannot be postponed, in line with Level 4 guidance for laboratories and research facilities.  

On-campus activity

Universities have already undertaken considerable essential research on COVID-19 throughout this crisis following appropriate public health guidance. Universities will continue to apply these guidelines and any subsequent updates, including the guidance for 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 guidance for manufacturing.

Minimising contact: teaching groups

Where face to face learning is delivered on campus, teaching groups should be of limited numbers.

This will help to reduce the likelihood of direct transmission and to allow for quicker identification of those who need to self-isolate. This will reduce the overall number of students who need to isolate in the event of a positive test for COVID-19. Rather than isolating an entire course or halls of residence, use of groups may also mean that certain classes or households can be isolated instead, minimising wider disruption.

A household means you and all household members or extended household members.

Colleges and universities should consider the most appropriate delivery and timetabling models to minimise the mixing of groups. The approach taken to configuring groups should be risk-based and adapted to the specific circumstances of the college or university.

The aim should be to keep group numbers for face to face teaching at a minimum, and generally less than 30. This should be supported by other infection prevention control measures (see section on ‘Enhanced hygiene and environmental cleaning arrangements’).

Group numbers of up to 50 students may be considered in some circumstances, but only where supported by a risk assessment, and with the provision of all other mitigations including 2m physical distancing, face coverings (in circumstances where the use of face coverings is recommended), environmental hygiene and effective ventilation. This would also need to be supported by the capacity of the premises, rather than just a single room.  E.g. the room capacity might be 30 or 50 but the premises may not be able to accommodate this number while maintaining physical distancing in common areas like toilets, cafe space, corridors and circulation ares. It would be advised to work to consider other measures, such as staggered teaching times, one way systems, access to building only for certain groups at certain times etc. to prevent bottle necks.

Sharing of resources must be kept to a minimum. If unavoidable, resources and the surrounding area should be cleaned and wiped down between use, with a suitable risk assessment and safe systems of work to ensure the previous user has cleaned / sanitized the area before the next user.

Where risk assessments indicate an increased risk due to sharing of resources, appropriate control measures must be introduced to minimise the risk of transmission. These risk assessments must be appropriate to the subject and equipment as well as the space.

Close contact training and assessment in colleges

Where close contact hair, beauty and complimentary therapy treatments are performed in college settings, colleges must follow our guidance for close contact services.

It is recognised that the use of face coverings poses difficulties for the effective training and assessment of these activities where treatments must take place in the mouth/nose area.

For treatments in this area, where possible within the requirements for the qualification, alternative activities and assessment should be utilised. Where admissible within the qualification requirements, this may include undertaking treatments and activities that avoid the need for clients to remove face coverings and/or undertaking work on models or other simulated settings. Only if this is not possible, should the treatment take place in a college setting.

In line with the Scottish Government close contact guidance, from 31 May 2021,  a client may temporarily remove a face covering to receive a treatment to this area, as long as the student or person providing the treatment is wearing appropriate protective equipment as detailed in the close contact guidance.

Before this approach is implemented, colleges must ensure that appropriate consultation has taken place with local trade unions or staff representatives.

Approaches to be considered in strict order

1. Where possible within the requirements and arrangements allowable for the qualification, alternative activities and assessment should be utilised. Where admissible within the qualification regulations this may include undertaking treatments and activities that avoid the need for clients to remove face coverings and/or undertaking work on models or other simulated settings.

Where this is not possible the reason for this should be recorded and the following steps considered.

2. Where possible the work will be undertaken using a client from within the same household as the student. If possible within the assessment criteria this may be undertaken within the student/client household and appropriate evidence (e.g video or photograph) utilised. Where this is not possible this may be undertaken within the college with all other relevant guidance and mitigations in place. This includes the student performing the service and the assessor continuing to wear face coverings unless exempt and physical distancing continuing to be observed by others in the setting, including assessors.

Where this activity is taking place within colleges, it must not be provided as a retail service and no other retail activity will be able to take place within the area in the college being used.

Before this approach is implemented, colleges must ensure that appropriate consultation has taken place with local trade unions or staff representatives.

For information on wearing face coverings in beauty, hair and therapy delivery refer to the close contact service guidance.

Educational visits or work placements

Students who are required to carry out educational visits or placements as part of their study should familiarise themselves and adhere to the guidance for the particular sector in which they will be carrying these out.

A full list of sectoral guidance can be found at this link: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-returning-to-work/pages/employers/

Graduation ceremonies

Institutions will consider how to mark graduations whilst observing the restrictions under this and events sector guidance. Many colleges and universities have adopted innovative approaches to hosting ceremonies virtually to ensure that students' work is recognized.


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