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
Travel and transport

Travel and transport

There may be travel restrictions in place depending on which COVID-19 protection level a local authority area is under.


Use the postcode checker  to check a local COVID-19 protection level.  The protection level tells you what you can and cannot do in that area. COVID protection levels are subject to regular review.

Where travel is permitted, students should rigorously follow our guidance on how to travel safely. Students are encouraged to use private transport , where this is a practical option. Students should avoid sharing a vehicle with anyone from another household.. It is recognised that people with additional support needs may need to car share and in these circumstances, they should also follow the appropriate measures, steps and precautions where possible.

Under any circumstances, students should follow the steps and precautions in Transport Scotland’s guidance on car sharing.

Students returning to term-time accommodation elsewhere in the UK or international destinations should follow the guidance on travel outside of Scotland.   Students should check in advance and follow the restrictions and guidance in place within the area you are travelling to, including compliance with any quarantine requirements.

Those students who do need to travel or move household for essential purposes are encouraged to use available testing facilities (see Section below on Testing).  

Institutions and providers should consider the guidance on transport, which includes exemptions for work and education. Institutions and providers should also consider advice on how to travel safely and other guidance both in considering the implications for staff and student travel to campuses and where they are transport providers themselves.

Where possible, institutions and providers should encourage staff and students to use active transport e.g., travel by foot or bike. Guidance on journey planning is available. If bikes are stored in bike sheds/racks, consideration should be given to the cleaning of these areas and to reducing time spent at the bikes stores/shed. Consideration should also be given to allowing flexibility on start/finish times to accommodate those using active or public transport.

Institutions and providers should ensure that staff and students have access to public health guidance, including the wearing of face coverings on using public transport safely.

Face coverings should be worn on dedicated college or university transport, which should be regarded as an extension of the college or university estate. Important mitigations include adherence to physical distancing guidance as it relates to public transport, hygiene, ventilation, improved cleaning regimes, including regular and thorough cleaning of surfaces, and regular handwashing.

Students and institutions should follow guidance from Transport Scotland for advice on

  • walking, wheeling and cycling
  • public transport
  • travelling by ferry
  • taxis and private hire vehicles
  • private vehicles and car sharing
  • institutions providing transport
  • air travel
  • international travel
  • summary of latest changes

Self-isolation and travel

Students who are self-isolating as a result of having tested positive for COVID-19, having symptoms of COVID-19 or having been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, should stay in their current place of residence and follow the guidance on self-isolating.

If students require support while self-isolating, they should contact their college, university or student accommodation provider in the first instance to discuss the support in place. Self-isolating within a student accommodation setting can be difficult, but institutions and accommodation providers will want to help. Further information on support available can be found at the Student Information Scotland website.

If a student needs to return home because they require the support and care of a friend, family member or other supportive person to allow them to comply with the requirement to self-isolate, it is important that the guidance on self-isolating is followed to ensure any return home can be done so as safely as possible. Reasons for needing support may include, but are not limited to, physical, financial or mental health support.

If students are being collected from accommodation by a parent, family member, friend or other supportive person, they should contact their accommodation provider for guidance on how to do so safely.

The household the student returning to should also self-isolate if:

  • the student has symptoms of COVID-19 – a new, continuous cough;
  • fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste;
  • the student has tested positive for COVID-19.

If students are self-isolating as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, the household they are returning to does not need to self-isolate. The student should continue to remain in self-isolation. Further information on close contacts can be found within the guidance on who needs to self-isolate.

When returning to accommodation, students should consider how best to travel there and whether any precautions may be needed when returning to their previous household. Students should also contact their accommodation provider to let them know they are returning.


We are building on our experience, from last year, of providing rapid-result asymptomatic testing to some categories of students.

Testing is now available twice a week to:

  • students who have returned for critical in-person teaching, have returned for safety or wellbeing reasons or reside in institutional accommodation and
  • staff who are present on campus or in institutional accommodation.

Positive test results will be confirmed using a PCR test. Details of the local testing arrangements will be provided by universities and colleges, and will be kept under review to reflect changing circumstances.

It is also possible to order a test through the universal approach to testing.

These arrangements complement the existing arrangements for testing students who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Further information about testing can be found here: Regular rapid testing for everyone - (

Students who are undertaking work placements should adhere to the arrangements for testing in the sector where they are placed. Where this is not possible, they should follow the testing arrangements for the institution where they study or access tests through   the universal approach to testing.

Students who need  to travel or move household are encouraged to use available testing facilities such as their Asymptomatic Test Sites (ATS) if they are attending University, or to have two Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests, 3 days apart, before travelling. Alternatively, those who are attending college should collect these from their site for collecting LFD tests. Where possible they should also test again once a household change has been made.

Student Test at Home Before Travel (TBT) Scheme

Scotland and Wales-resident students studying in Scotland who have been notified by their college or university that they should return for critical in-person teaching will be able to access free PCR testing prior to leaving their current address. This will be arranged through the UK wide existing arrangements for requesting a test.

When booking a test, students should answer ‘No’ to all questions until they reach the question:

  • ‘Why are you asking for a test?’

This question should be answered by selecting the option:

  • ‘I’m a student returning to University in Scotland.’

Scotland-resident students studying in Wales who have been notified by their college or university that they should return for critical in-person teaching will be able to access free PCR testing prior to leaving their current address. This will be arranged through the UK wide existing arrangements for requesting a test.

When booking a test, students should answer ‘No’ to all questions until they reach the question:

  • ‘Why are you asking for a test?’

This question should be answered by selecting the option:

  • ‘I’m a student returning to University in Wales.’

Students should minimise social contacts before any potential change of household.  They are strongly encouraged to have a test 48 hours before they plan to travel to help avoid spreading of the virus. The results of the test will not be shared with their institution, although students are strongly encouraged to do so. On receiving a negative test, students should travel safely to their term-time address within 48 hours.

On receipt of a positive result, students should follow existing self-isolation guidance and are encouraged not to travel. If students require support while self-isolating, they should contact their college or university or in the first instance to discuss the support available. Further information on support available can be found at the Student Information Scotland website. They should also inform their institution, particularly if this means they will not be back on campus for the start of face to face teaching. There is no requirement for students to notify their institution of a positive result, although students are strongly encouraged to do so, since this can be helpful in terms of the institution providing pastoral support and further advice.

Even if the test result is negative, students should still arrange for two lateral flow tests, 2-5 days apart, as soon as possible after arrival on campus.

Students studying elsewhere in the UK

The Scottish Government has been working closely with the UK Government and other Devolved Administrations. Students at college or university in England, Wales or Northern Ireland should follow any guidance issued by their institution and the relevant government.

Guidance for students studying in England, Northern Ireland and Wales is available online.

Students and staff travelling from overseas to Scotland

Institutions and providers must ensure that students arriving from outside Scotland (including from the rest of the UK) are provided with clear and detailed information on Scottish COVID regulations (including any local restrictions) and guidance and understand that these may differ from regulations that exist in the student’s home area.

Staff and students must comply with guidance for residents or visitors travelling to the UK.

From 18 January 2021, passengers travelling to Scotland from outside the Common Travel Area must have a valid negative COVID-19 test result, taken no more than three days before time of departure.

From 17 May 2021, a number of countries are subject to additional travel restrictions, dependant on their placement on the Red, Amber and Green lists. Requirements for self-isolation are dependent on which country you travelled from and their placement on the Red, Amber or Green lists.

Check the Red, Amber and Green lists of countries and areas and what you must do before arriving in Scotland.: Coronavirus (COVID-19): international travel and managed isolation (quarantine) - (

Students should be aware that travel advice may change while they are overseas, and are advised to regularly check information on international travel and managed isolation for updates.

Students and staff who are travelling to and from Scotland should check the Scottish Government website for the latest advice.

Students who are currently overseas should delay travel to Scotland until required to commence face-to-face teaching or if they have another reasonable excuse for entering and remaining in the country, bearing in mind that (dependant on the country they are travelling from they may have to undergo 10 days isolation.

Institutions and providers must make clear to staff and students, ahead of and on their arrival in Scotland, that this is a legal requirement and it is essential they comply.

People who are self-isolating should follow national guidance on how to self isolate effectively: Coronavirus (COVID-19): international travel and managed isolation (quarantine)  

People who are self-isolating must stay away from others, not go out to work or college or university or visit public areas. They should self-isolate in one place for the full 10 days. This must be at the address they provided on the passenger locator form. 

For students, this can include:

  • the student’s own home or accommodation (if you are travelling from a country on the Amber list)
  • staying with friends or family (if you are travelling from a country on the Amber or Green lists)
  • a hotel or other temporary accommodation (if you are travelling form a country on the Red list)

Institutions and providers should ensure students who are self-isolating have appropriate support, for example access to food and other necessities, and to safeguard their health and wellbeing.

Institutions and providers must ensure all students are informed of the guidance and risk of asymptomatic transmission from members of their household who are quarantining and what to do if they develop symptoms. Information on staying vigilant and responding to COVID-19 symptoms can be found in this guidance.

Institutions, providers and students should follow public health guidance if someone becomes unwell with coronavirus symptoms on their premises. The person should self-isolate straight away.

Colleges and universities must have appropriate disciplinary arrangements in place should staff or students fail to comply with the law on quarantine, in addition to existing legal penalties in Scotland. If failure to quarantine has created a risk of a localised outbreak, colleges or universities should take advice from their NHS Health Protection Team (see section on outbreak management). We expect non-compliance to be treated as a serious breach in terms of disciplinary procedures. Sanctions will be determined on a case by case basis but it must be clear that they include the full weight of the disciplinary procedures.

The police have special enforcement powers under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (International Travel) (Scotland) Regulations 2020. Where the police have reasonable grounds for suspecting that a person has breached a requirement to quarantine under the Regulations, they may return that individual to the place where they are staying or remove the individual to other accommodation (such as government quarantine facilities) at the expense of the individual.

Students who travel to Scotland via the Common Travel Area (UK, Channel Islands, Ireland and the Isle of Man) who have been in a Red list country in the last 10 days must book and undertake managed isolation.

However, students arriving in the Common Travel Area (CTA) from countries not on the acute list of countries and travelling onto Scotland are not required to go into managed isolation. They need to book a testing package and take a Covid test on days 2 and 8 after arrival.

International students who have already arranged travel should speak to their institution in the first instance to inform them of their circumstances.
Passengers travelling from outside the Common Travel Area and arriving in Scotland (whether or not they have been in country
on the Red or amber list) must produce a negative test prior to travel.

As such, students should delay travel to Scotland until face-to-face teaching resumes for their course. If students think they have another reason for returning to Scotland, they should discuss this with their institution. Students may however make arrangements to arrive in Scotland at a slightly earlier date to allow them to meet quarantine requirements before in-person teaching resumes or to be in country before the cut-off date of June 21 to be eligible for the UK Government’s Graduate Route post-study work visa. Likewise if face to face teaching resumes for their course and students are concerned about travelling they should contact their institution. More information can be found on the International travel and managed isolation guide.

Further guidance for international students can be found in our main sectoral guidance.

International students facing financial hardship as a result of costs associated with the above are now eligible to apply to their university or college hardship fund.

International students and students returning to Scotland after an education exchange programme can apply for financial hardship support from the £22 million Higher Education Coronavirus Discretionary Fund and £3m Further Education Coronavirus Discretionary Fund.

These funds were allocated to the universities and colleges in February. Institutions' assessments and awards are based on the individual circumstances involved. However, the eligible scenarios can include costs associated with travel to and from Scotland if their travel is essential and in line with current travel restrictions/ exemptions, and they are in financial hardship and can demonstrate this through the institution's hardship assessment process.

Students travelling overseas from Scotland

Travel between a level 3 or 4 area in Scotland and anywhere else in the world is not allowed except for a permitted reason. While the law on international travel to Scotland and from the rest of Scotland has been relaxed, that does not mean it is advisable. Students should consider the international travel guidance available: Coronavirus (COVID-19): international travel and managed isolation (quarantine) - (

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