This article is help providers of higher education in England to understand how to minimise risk during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and provide services to students. From 4 July, where 2 metres social distancing is not viable, reducing the distance down to a minimum of 1 metre can be used but only if appropriate mitigation is in place.

Principles for higher education provision

All higher education providers should share the same practice so that there is a consistent approach to reopening that puts the health and safety of all students and staff at its priority:

  • Accommodation for all students who need to be on site should be recommended to minimise any coronavirus (COVID-19) risk
  • Students in residential settings (halls of residence or houses of multiple occupation): this guidance on isolation for residential educational settings may be helpful
  • International students who may have returned home: when reopening settings you should pay particular attention to those international students who have returned home and have been unable to return to the UK. You should ensure that they receive adequate teaching provision, exams and other core elements of the learning experience
  • All students who may have been released from accommodation contracts and would have nowhere to stay if needed on campus

Reopening laboratories

Guidance on Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19), including in laboratories and research facilities. The same considerations might apply to laboratory science teaching as well, if it can be done in a way that reduces risks to those using the facilities.
Health and Safety Executive should carry out a risk assessment to assess the risk of (COVID-19) and the need to protect people who are at a higher risk to improve control of workplace risks if needed.

Reopening other buildings

It may be appropriate to consider reopening low-density buildings first as a phased way of extending access to the campus while safeguarding the needs of staff and students. Libraries can open from 4 July in a COVID-secure way. Libraries Connected has drawn up guidance for public libraries to support reopening that will also be relevant for university libraries.

Social distancing on campus

University Campus
Risk assessments should be conducted in the forthcoming academic year in order to understand:

  • the number of students and staff likely to be included in a learning space and how they can be accommodated as safely as possible
  • the availability of staff, including contingency plans should individuals be shielding (until 1 August, but refer to public health guidance for updates) or self-isolating
  • supporting services required in increasing the number of individuals on-site (for example, catering) and how they can be provided as safely as possible
  • what measures in addition to those that have already been undertaken during the current outbreak will need to be in place to accommodate additional numbers (including additional cleaning required of spaces and equipment following use)

Higher Education should implement a range of protective measures including increased cleaning, reducing ‘pinch points’ (such as at the start and end of day), and utilising outdoor space. Beside that, they should ensure that they understand the NHS Test and Trace process and how to contact their local Public Health England health protection team.

Identify the appropriate mix of online and face-to-face lecture, reflecting what will maximise learning as well as supporting staff or students who cannot attend campus, and enabling the provider as a whole to minimise transmission risk.

The public health guidance is to reduce social contact, maintain social distance, adopt good hand and respiratory hygiene measures and to self-isolate and get tested if you have symptoms.


Some Uni may also arrange transport. Student will therefore want to have regard to the guidance for passengers and operators. The current advice is to avoid using public transport, and aim to walk, cycle or drive instead. If using public transport is necessary, wearing a face covering is mandatory, unless you are exempt for health, disability or other reasons:

International students and self-isolation

University Campus

Uni and students will need to have regard to guidance that relates to residents or visitors travelling to the UK, who will be required to self-isolate for 14 days and complete a contact detail declaration from 8 June 2020.

Staff and student wellbeing

University Campus

The Minister of State for Universities, Michelle Donelan, wrote to the OfS and HE providers in March to highlight a need to focus on mental health and wellbeing across HE.
Govt will continue to work closely with the HE sector to promote good practice and support students and providers during the outbreak. HE providers are autonomous bodies, independent from government and have a responsibility to support students with mental health conditions.

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