This guidance applies to England, but you should follow any wider restrictions if they are in place.
This guidance is designed to help higher education (HE) providers in England minimise risk during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and to provide students with an enjoyable experience, while staying as safe as possible as all remaining students can return to in-person teaching and learning from 17 May.
This guidance does not apply to further education (FE) providers who offer HE qualifications. FE providers should follow FE guidance for these students.
Guidance setting out expectations for providers in maintaining quality and standards is available from the Office for Students (OfS), the HE regulator in England.
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has a series of resources to support you.
You should make sure that continuing and prospective students receive clear, accurate and timely information to make informed decisions about their academic future. It is important that obligations under consumer protection law continue to be met, including in relation to information provision, terms and conditions, and complaints handling.
Universities and other HE providers have worked very hard to provide COVID-secure teaching and learning to all students. Anecdotal evidence collated by SAGE suggests that there was limited evidence of transmission attributed to in-person teaching and learning environments, such as lecture theatres. Instances where transmission could be traced to in-person teaching were associated with guidance not being followed.
Based on recent ONS data, the risks to higher education staff are similar to those for most other occupations.
How to use this guidance
As HE providers, you will make your own judgements about your provision, while following the latest public health guidance. You should continue to work alongside local authorities and other agencies to put appropriate plans in place to control and manage any local outbreaks.
You should plan the specific actions you will take, depending on the demographic profile of your staff and student bodies, the nature of your institution, including the size and type of institution, and how the institution is organised and operated.
Your plans should set out clearly what steps you have taken to reduce risks to students and staff in their working or student environment, in accordance with government guidance.
We expect you to remain open while following any wider restrictions and public health guidelines that are in place to ensure you minimise the risks to students and staff.
To help you decide which actions to take, you should carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment, just as you would for other health and safety-related hazards. The Health and Safety Executive has a helpful risk assessment template and examples.
You should continue to have plans in place to respond in the event that there is an increase in the number of cases, or an outbreak associated with your setting, when you may have to adapt elements of your provision at very short notice.
Your plans should identify proportionate options to restrict in-person contact (including in-person teaching) where reasonable and necessary in the event of local outbreaks. In addition, plans should cover scenarios including:
- increased prevalence of infection locally that requires interventions in the whole community, including students and staff
- a large-scale outbreak that may impact on the activities of the university
- a localised outbreak in student accommodation
- a localised outbreak involving a particular student or staff member, faculty or department
You should work with the Director of Public Health in your local authority to control and manage any outbreak, including agreeing which option to restrict in-person contact should be implemented, based on an assessment of the risks. You should agree outbreak plans with your Director of Public Health and share your plan with DfE.
You should continually check, revise and update your outbreak plans, especially when there is new advice and guidance. You should share your plans with your staff.
DfE have published the Contingency Framework for education settings which provides a set of guiding principles designed to help decision makers when considering plans to apply, tighten or relax restrictions to education and childcare.
Principles for higher education provision
As HE providers are autonomous institutions, you should identify and put in place appropriate plans, in line with this guidance and any other relevant government guidance, based on your individual circumstances. We encourage you to share best practice with other HE providers so that there is a consistent approach to reopening that puts the health and safety of all students and staff at its heart and also recognises the importance of providing access to high-quality provision.
We expect you to give particular consideration to your legal responsibilities when taking steps to reopen, including under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Equality Act 2010, and to comply with those obligations.
Minimising COVID-19 risks
As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety, including from the risks of COVID-19. You should complete a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace and identify control measures to manage that risk. Employers have a duty to consult their employees on health and safety matters. You should continually check, revise and update your risk assessments, especially when there is new advice and guidance.
Employers’ health and safety obligations
Employers should continue to assess and update health and safety risks in the usual way, especially in the light of any changing circumstances.
Following the principles for higher education provision will help you:
- mitigate the risks of COVID-19 to students and staff
- meet your legal duties to protect employees and others from harm
The Health and Safety Executive have guidance on first aid during COVID-19 which:
- supports local risk assessments
- provides guidance for first aiders
Reopening buildings and campuses
The public health guidance is to reduce social contact, maintain social distance, adopt good hand and respiratory hygiene measures, and self-isolate and get tested if you have symptoms. Current evidence suggests that these measures continue to be the right measures to take, even taking into account new variants.
The government has been working with HE providers to offer twice weekly asymptomatic testing to all students residing in their term-time accommodation, or accessing university facilities, and to all staff, and this will continue throughout the remainder of the summer term. In addition, regular rapid COVID-19 testing for people without symptoms has now been introduced for everybody in England. Regular asymptomatic testing is important in being able to better identify and manage outbreaks and break chains of transmission.
It is your responsibility as a HE provider to assess the risk of opening buildings and to implement suitable precautions. The guidance on working safely during COVID-19 provides examples relevant to the HE sector.
Social distancing on campus
You should consider how to reduce social contact and maintain social distance in university settings. This means keeping people 2 metres apart from those they do not live with, where possible. Where 2 metres is not viable, you can reduce the distance down to a minimum of 1 metre but only if appropriate mitigation is in place. You should set out the mitigations in response to your risk assessment.
To determine what level of attendance is appropriate in HE settings and during open days, outreach activities, and the assessment of prospective students on campus, you should conduct risk assessments to understand:
- the number of students and staff likely to be within a learning space and how they can be accommodated as safely as possible
- the availability of staff, including contingency plans if individuals are 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 put in place during the pandemic, need to be in place to accommodate additional numbers (including additional cleaning of spaces and equipment following use)
Segmentation (such as the creation of small, sub-networks of students and staff) is one possible measure to make it easier to identify and limit those who need to take action in the event of a case or outbreak.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has advised that the benefits of segmentation could be:
- reduction in the risk of transmission (smaller number of people to infect)
- easier to control (smaller number of known contacts)
- less disruptive (small number of people to quarantine)
Effective segmentation could reduce the potential size of outbreaks. Segmentation of student or staff populations (for example, by course, year group, accommodation, site and so on, and in teaching and accommodation situations) would support easier detection of linked cases and, if necessary, enable more targeted closure or quarantine. Use of segments may also mean that certain classes or student households could be quarantined instead of wider groups, minimising wider disruption.
However, SAGE recognises that there is no one model of segmentation that would apply equally across all providers. The SAGE report on principles for managing the transmission of coronavirus COVID-19 has further examples.
Where social distancing or good ventilation is difficult to maintain, you can use face coverings as part of your wider COVID-secure measures (in addition to hand hygiene facilities and reduced access). This can include in workshops, laboratories, offices, libraries, teaching rooms and lecture halls. You may not wish to use face coverings where this would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity. Face coverings do not need to be worn when outdoors. More information can be found in the face coverings guidance.
Face coverings for students or staff, may be advised for a temporary period in response to particular localised outbreaks, including variants of concern. In all cases, any educational drawbacks should be balanced with the benefits of managing transmission. The Local Action Committee structure (Bronze/Silver/Gold) should be used in such circumstances to re-introduce the use of face coverings. Immediate outbreak response (at the level of individual settings or a cluster of settings) remains for local Directors of Public Health to advise on.
The use of face coverings may have a particular impact on those who rely on visual signals for communication. Those who communicate with or provide support to those who do, are exempt from any requirement to wear face coverings in education settings or in public places.
Transparent face coverings, which may assist communication with someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate, can also be worn. They may be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19. However, the evidence to support this is currently very limited. Face coverings (whether transparent or cloth) should fit securely around the face to cover the nose and mouth and be made with a breathable material capable of filtering airborne particles.
The main benefit from a transparent face covering is that they can aid communication, for example enabling lip-reading or allowing for the full visibility of facial expressions, but this must be considered alongside the comfort and breathability of a face covering which contains plastic which may mean that the face covering is less breathable than layers of cloth.
Face visors or shields can be worn by those exempt from wearing a face covering but they are not an equivalent alternative in terms of source control of virus transmission. They may protect the wearer against droplet spread in specific circumstances but are unlikely to be effective in preventing the escape of smaller respiratory particles when used without an additional face covering. They should only be used after carrying out a risk assessment for the specific situation and should always be cleaned appropriately.
You have duties to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students and staff to support them to access education and work successfully. Where appropriate, you should discuss with your students the types of reasonable adjustments that they need and that are being considered to support them.
There are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering.
This includes (but is not limited to):
- people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
- if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
- to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others ‒ including if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity
Safe wearing and removal of face coverings
You should have a process for when face coverings are worn on your premises and how they should be removed. You should communicate this process clearly to students, staff and visitors. Safe wearing of face coverings requires the:
- cleaning of hands before and after touching face coverings – including to remove or put them on
- safe storage of face coverings in individual, sealable plastic bags between use
- individual not to touch the front of their face covering during use or when removing it
If a face covering becomes damp, it should not be worn, and the face covering should be replaced carefully. Staff and students may consider bringing a spare face covering to wear if their face covering becomes damp during the day.
To minimise the risk of transmission you should introduce enhanced cleaning measures, including more frequent cleaning of rooms and shared areas that are used by different groups, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces, using standard cleaning products such as detergents. See guidance on the cleaning of non-healthcare settings.
Keeping occupied spaces well ventilated
Good ventilation reduces the concentration of the virus in the air, which reduces the risk from airborne transmission. This happens when people breathe in small particles (aerosols) in the air after someone with the virus has occupied an enclosed area.
When your setting is in operation, it is important to ensure it is well ventilated and a comfortable teaching environment is maintained.
These can be achieved by a variety of measures including:
- mechanical ventilation systems – these should be adjusted to increase the ventilation rate wherever possible and checked to confirm that normal operation meets current guidance and that only fresh outside air is circulated. If possible, systems should be adjusted to full fresh air. If they cannot be adjusted to full fresh air, then systems should be operated as normal as long as they are within a single room and supplemented by an outdoor air supply
- natural ventilation – opening windows (in cooler weather windows should be opened just enough to provide constant background ventilation, and opened more fully during breaks to purge the air in the room). Opening internal doors can also assist with creating a throughput of air
- natural ventilation – if necessary external opening doors may also be used (as long as they are not fire doors and where safe to do so)
The Health and Safety Executive guidance on air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus pandemic and CIBSE COVID-19 advice provides more information.
To balance the need for increased ventilation while maintaining a comfortable temperature, consider:
- opening high level windows in colder weather in preference to low level to reduce draughts
- increasing the ventilation while spaces are unoccupied
- rearranging furniture where possible to avoid direct draughts
Heating should be used as necessary to ensure comfort levels are maintained particularly in occupied spaces.
Additional protective measures
You should continue to identify and implement the complete range of protective measures required to comply with government guidance for safe workplaces, based on an assessment of the risks and requirements of each environment.
This should include (but is not limited to):
- enhanced cleaning measures, especially for frequently used areas, surfaces, touchpoints and washrooms
- increased availability of handwashing and hand sanitisation facilities where handwashing facilities are less readily available
- reducing congestion (such as at the start and end of the day), including through considering measures such as changes to timetables to stagger arrival or departure times or reduce attendance on site
- utilising outdoor space
- managing entrance to, exit from and movement around buildings, as well as signage with such measures as one way entrances, exits and staircases – avoid the use of lifts where possible
Some HE courses, such as vocational training, healthcare related courses, and the performing arts, may pose particular risks of aerosol, droplet and surface transmission and may warrant increased consideration, for example, face coverings, ventilation or cleaning in accordance with guidance issued for the relevant professional working arrangements.
Any additional costs would be funded from existing budgets.
Students and staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable
Since the 1 April, those who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) are no longer advised to shield. Updated advice is for the group to continue taking extra precautions to protect themselves, and to follow the practical steps set out in the CEV guidance to minimise their risk of exposure to the virus.
Everyone is currently advised to work from home where possible. If you cannot work from home, we are no longer advising that you do not attend the workplace. CEV students should attend their HE provider when advised by their provider, in line with this guidance.
Employers should talk to their staff about how they will be supported, including to work from home.
Those living with someone who is CEV can also attend work where home-working is not possible and should ensure they maintain good prevention practice in the workplace and home settings.
The shielding guidance is reviewed regularly. CEV individuals will be informed in advance of any change to the end date of the guidance.
CEV individuals (over 18) were prioritised for vaccination in phase 1 before the general population and in line with the priority ordering set by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Pregnant staff are advised to follow the specific guidance for pregnant employees because pregnant women are considered clinically vulnerable (CV). In some cases, pregnant women may also have other health conditions that mean they are considered CEV, where the advice for clinically extremely vulnerable staff will apply. COVID-19 vaccination: a guide for women of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding contains vaccination advice.
Your workplace risk assessment should already consider any risks to female employees of childbearing age and, in particular, risks to new and expectant mothers. If you are notified that an employee is pregnant, breastfeeding, or has given birth within the last 6 months, you should check the workplace risk assessment to see if any new risks have arisen. An assessment may help identify any additional action that needs to be taken to mitigate risks.
Any risks identified at that point, or later during the pregnancy, in the first 6 months after birth, or while the employee is still breastfeeding, must be included and managed as part of the general workplace risk assessment. You must take appropriate sensible action to reduce, remove or control the risks.
As part of your risk assessment, you should consider whether adapting duties and/or facilitating home working may be appropriate to mitigate risks.
You should be aware that pregnant women from 28 weeks’ gestation, or with underlying health conditions at any point of gestation, may be at greater risk of severe illness if they catch COVID-19. This is also the case for pregnant women with underlying health conditions that place them at greater risk of severe illness if they catch COVID-19.
We recommend that you follow the same principles for pregnant students, in line with your wider health and safety obligations.
Find out more about COVID-19 and pregnancy from the Royal College of Gynaecologists.
Compliance with guidance
You are responsible for ensuring that you, as an institution, as well as staff and students, are aware of the measures and guidance in place, and take action to promote the importance of complying with these.
This could include:
- regular communication to staff and students
- signs and posters to reiterate the rules
- a clear statement of expectations of student behaviour, for example, a behaviour agreement
You should consider incentives for compliance, and disincentives for non-compliance including, in serious cases, the use of disciplinary measures.
Communications about compliance
You should have communications strategies for students and staff, which will include principles such as:
- do not assume that everyone understands the official guidelines
- ensure the rationale for behaviours and protective measures is understood
- make COVID-secure behaviours the norm
- encourage an atmosphere within your institution that supports following COVID-secure behaviours
- involve staff and students when creating communications
- maintain consistent messaging and guidance
- consider the range of cultural backgrounds when developing communications and plans
There are legal limits on social contacts in England and in general, providers and students should apply the current regulations on social contact as set out in law. However, these limits do not apply for gatherings for educational or work purposes when reasonably necessary.
Use the Coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do guidance to find out more.
The government has introduced an £800 fine for those attending house parties, including in halls of residence, which will double for each repeat offence to a maximum level of £6,400. These fines will apply to those who attend illegal indoor gatherings of more than 15 people from more than 2 households. You should ensure that students are aware of their designated ‘household’, particularly if they live within large scale student accommodation.
Students returning to campus
At the beginning of the spring term, we prioritised the return to in-person teaching and learning for students on courses which had to be delivered in-person and which supported the pipeline of future critical key workers. We then advised providers that they could resume in-person teaching and learning for students who are studying practical or practice-based (including creative arts) subjects and require specialist equipment and facilities from 8 March. Following the review announced in the COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021 (Roadmap) of when all remaining higher education students can return to in-person teaching and learning, the government advises that these students can return from 17 May, alongside Step 3 of the Roadmap.
You should continue to organise the return of students in a way that minimises the logistical risks of a large number of students traveling between households at the same time. We encourage you to work with other local providers to manage the return of students in a way that minimises transport pressures.
Students are encouraged to test before they travel back to university, either through their local community testing programme or by ordering a free test online.
Once students have returned to their term-time accommodation they should follow the broader national guidance. After having returned to their term-time household, they must only return to their family or another household where this complies with wider social contact limits (from 17 May, no more than 6 people or 2 households/bubbles are permitted to mix indoors) or an exception to those limits applies (for example if they need to move home temporarily because of illness or mental ill-health).
Testing asymptomatic students and staff using lateral flow device tests (LFDs)
The government is working with HE providers to offer twice weekly asymptomatic testing to all students residing in their term-time accommodation, or accessing university facilities, and to all staff.
Testing before travel
Students are encouraged to test before they travel back to university, either through their local community testing programme or by ordering a free test online.
Students who have had a confirmed COVID infection in the last 90 days are likely to have developed some immunity and do not need to take a test (see below).
Testing on arrival
On arrival at university, students should take 3 tests at an on-site testing facility (3- 4 days apart). This is to reduce the risk of transmission following the movement of students across the country. It also ensures that students are familiar with the testing process before they begin testing at home. If a student or staff member has recently (within 90 days) tested positive for COVID-19, they are likely to have developed some immunity. If a student or staff member has had a positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test in the last 90 days, they do not need to be tested again within that time period if they are asymptomatic. They are still required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive case, even if this is within the 90 day window.
You are strongly encouraged to maintain facilities for supervised on-site testing so that students who are unable or do not wish to test at home may participate in regular testing.
Testing after arrival
After undertaking their initial tests on arrival at university, students and staff should test twice a week, either using home test kits or at an on-site facility. Some students at smaller HE providers may use home test kits immediately rather than testing on site.
It is very important that, when testing at home, test results are reported online to NHS Test & Trace whether positive, negative or void. Reporting results helps the NHS monitor the spread of the virus, combat the virus and save lives.
You should strongly encourage all students and staff to participate in the testing programme.
If students and staff know they are going to be tested using an LFD on-site, they should consider how they will travel back home in a way that protects others in case they should test positive. They should follow the guidance on keeping themselves, other passengers and transport staff safe during their journey.
While awaiting their result (typically it takes 30 minutes), the student or staff member should not interact with other students to avoid virus transmission.
If students are on a placement and not attending university facilities, they should follow and participate in any testing regime in place at their placement. It is not necessary to travel to university to be tested before travelling to a placement, unless this is advised by the placement provider.
Negative test result
Students and staff that test negative as part of the twice weekly testing programme should continue to follow any national restrictions.
Positive test result
For an assisted LFD test taken on-site
Upon notification of a positive LFD test result, students and staff are legally required to self-isolate immediately on the day of the test and for at least the following 10 full days and contact tracing will be initiated. Following a positive LFD test result, students and staff should take a follow-up polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test as soon as possible.
If a student or staff member takes a PCR test within 2 days of the LFD test and receives a negative result, they and their household can stop self-isolating. However, self-isolation must continue if:
- the PCR test result is positive
- no follow-up PCR test is taken
- the PCR test result is negative but the test was taken more than 2 days after the LFD test
For an LFD test conducted at home
Upon notification of a positive LFD test result from a test taken at home, students and staff should self-isolate immediately and take a follow-up polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test as soon as possible. If the PCR test result is positive students and staff are then legally required to self-isolate and continue to do so for at least the following 10 full days. Contact tracing will also be initiated at this point.
Supporting students who need to self-isolate
For those students who do need to self-isolate at university, you should take steps to ensure your students are safe and well looked after during their self-isolation period.
Universities UK have also produced a checklist for providers to support students who are required to self-isolate as well as bespoke guidance for HE providers on how to prepare for and care for students who are required to self-isolate on arrival in the UK. We encourage providers to review this guidance when considering how best to support their international and other students arriving from overseas.
The OfS have published a statement on support for students in self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some students may be eligible for a one-off payment of £500 through the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment scheme, if they are required to self-isolate.
Where students have a medical or other reason that prevents them from engaging in LFD testing they should talk to their HE provider about alternatives.
As above, if a student or staff member has recently (within 90 days) tested positive for COVID-19, they are likely to have developed some immunity. If a student or staff member has had a positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test in the last 90 days, they do not need to be tested again within that time period if they are asymptomatic. They are still required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive case, even if this is within the 90 day window.
If students are on a placement and not attending university facilities, they should follow and participate in any testing regime in place at their placement.
Travel and transport for students arriving from within the UK
Students and staff should use private vehicles, walk or cycle wherever possible. You should advise students using private vehicles to:
- avoid car sharing with anyone outside their household or support bubble
- rigorously follow the safer travel guidance for passengers to reduce the risk of transmission to others where this is not possible
You should also communicate travel guidance to all students, including how to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by:
- following the Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer travel guidance for passengers
- wearing a face covering unless exempt
- keeping their distance from people from other households when they travel, where possible
- washing or sanitising their hands regularly
- avoiding the busiest routes, as well as busy times like the rush hour
- downloading the NHS COVID-19 app before they travel, if possible and checking in where they see official NHS COVID-19 QR code posters
If students are travelling from areas which are undergoing surge testing, different public health guidance applies and they should ensure they get tested before they travel. If they test positive, their polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test will be sent to a laboratory for genomic sequencing and they must not travel. They must isolate with their household immediately and follow the guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus infections. Public Health England will carry out enhanced tracing of close contacts of confirmed cases of the variants.
You should continue to work with local transport providers and ensure that they are aware of your plans. DfE will continue to work closely with the Department for Transport to support HE providers.
New and returning students travelling from overseas
As set out in the introduction, government advice is that in-person teaching for all students can resume from 17 May, in line with Step 3 of the Roadmap. International students are also permitted to study remotely without a visa, and in most circumstances will be able to begin their course via distance learning.
Students that are travelling to the UK from overseas will need to pay regard to and comply with border measures that have been introduced to help prevent transmission of COVID-19 on their return.
Arrival procedure for students travelling to the UK from overseas
From 17 May at the earliest, there will be different restrictions applied to students arriving from overseas (known as the traffic light system) depending on level of risk. Risk will be based on factors such as the level of community transmission, variants of concern, levels of testing, genomic sequencing and reporting. This will provide the UK government with flexibility to adapt to the evolving health situation around the world whilst keeping our borders open. Countries will be sorted into 3 categories:
- Red list countries: high-risk countries
- Amber list countries: moderate-risk countries
- Green list countries: low-risk countries
Students will need to comply with the following measures, depending on which country they have departed from/travelled through in the preceding 10 days:
Students should refer to the latest information on country risk levels before travelling.
Before arriving in the UK, all students should:
- check the very latest information on entering the UK
- inform their provider when they intend to arrive on campus so that they can be appropriately supported
- check the arrivals procedure for the country that they are travelling from/through , and whether that country is on the red, amber or green list
- ensure that, prior to departing for England, they have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 3 days of departure – more information on pre-departure testing is available
- book and pay for a travel test package which will include COVID-19 tests to be taken on or before day 2 and, in some instances, on or after day 8 – more information about quarantine testing is available
- complete a passenger locator form upon arrival
- check whether the country they are travelling from is a red list country, meaning they will need to complete their quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel – these students should see the guidance for students who have been in, or transited through, a red list country in the last 10 days
- while travelling, remember to follow the safer travel guidelines, and plan ahead to avoid busy times
- speak to their travel insurer
Guidance for students who have been in, or transited through, a red list country in the last 10 days
Students should be aware that the UK has introduced travel bans for arrivals from some countries (otherwise referred to as red countries) as part of measures taken to protect the UK from new strands of COVID-19. The red list will be regularly updated.
British and Irish Nationals, or third country nationals with residence rights in the UK will still be able to enter the UK if they have been in or transited through a red country in the last 10 days, but they will be required to quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel on arrival for 10 days. Residence rights includes those with an entry clearance or visa that grants such leave, for example, students, holders of existing leave to enter or remain such as those students with biometric residence permits, and holders of EU Settlement Scheme (‘EUSS’) leave.
Individuals who have been in, or transited through, a red list country in the last 10 days and who are not British or Irish Nationals, or third country nationals with residence rights in the UK will not be granted entry to the country.
The cost of quarantining in a hotel will be borne by the traveller and is currently set at £1,750. Students must book the managed quarantine package in advance of travelling. More information on booking and staying in a quarantine hotel is available.
Students cannot use the Test to Release scheme if they have been in or through ‘red list’ countries in the 10 days before they arrive in England.
Providers that recruit international students (or other students who will be travelling to the UK unaccompanied) who are under the age of 18 should pay particular notice to Department of Health and Social Care guidance on quarantining in a managed quarantine hotel. If you do not believe that your students will be able to satisfy the requirements for managed hotel quarantine, you should consider asking these students to study remotely in the meantime.
Guidance for students who have transited through an amber list country in the last 10 days
All international arrivals who have departed or transited through an amber list country outside the Common Travel Area should self-isolate immediately in their own accommodation for 10 days when they arrive in the UK.
When students arrive in England, they must travel directly to the place they are staying and not leave until 10 days have passed. They should:
Students travelling from an amber country, who do not need to quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel, may be able to exit self-isolation early via Test to Release.
International arrivals from amber list countries have the option to reduce their self-isolation period by taking a COVID-19 test from a private testing provider 5 full days after arriving in England, with a negative result releasing them from the need to self-isolate. Read the Test to Release for international travel guidance. Look at the list of providers of tests for Test to Release.
Students planning to use the Test to Release scheme must still book a travel test package and take a test on or before day 2, unless they are exempt. Even if individuals get a negative result from their Test to Release and are released from self-isolation, they will still need to take a test on or after day 8 if travelling from an amber list country to check that they do not have coronavirus (COVID-19).
Students who have chosen to self-isolate for 10 days instead of taking a private Test to Release are not expected to take a further LFD test (administered by their HE provider) at the end of their self-isolation period when they initially return to campus.
Guidance for students who have transited through a green list country in the last 10 days
International arrivals that have transited through a green list country do not have to self isolate in their accommodation or enter managed quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel on arrival, but they are required to:
- ensure that prior to departing for England they have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 3 days of departure – more information on pre-departure testing is available
- book a travel test package before travelling to the UK – this involves taking a COVID-19, test on or before day 2 for variant surveillance and students should use the booking portal to book their travel test package
- complete a passenger locator form upon arrival
- ensure they follow public health guidance: to reduce social contact, maintain social distance, adopt good hand and respiratory hygiene measures, and self-isolate and get tested if they have symptoms
All international students should get tested twice a week after arrival at their HE provider, as is the case for the rest of the student population.
Arriving on campus
After following the correct arrivals procedure, students should follow instructions on ongoing asymptomatic testing as set out by their HE provider.
We are working with the HE sector to ensure that all students are welcomed to the UK and are supported on arrival by their chosen university. Universities UK has developed a checklist for to support students who are required to self-isolate to use as a guide in developing that support.
Further guidance is available on entering the UK.
Travelling to the Devolved Administrations via a connecting flight in England
If travellers have not transited through one of the red countries in the 10 days before arriving in England and they are getting an onward connecting flight to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland (Devolved Administration or DA) then they are not required to self-isolate on arrival in England.
Travellers from amber list countries should however self-isolate immediately on arrival at their destination in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Travellers should check individual Devolved Administrations for their policy on self-isolation to ensure they are following the most up to date guidance:
If travellers have transited through one of the red list countries in the 10 days before arriving in England then they will be required to quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel on arrival in England for 10 days.
Travellers should refer to the section in this guidance on managed hotel quarantine for more information, including on how to book their managed hotel.
Anyone who travels via England, whether they have been through a red country or not, should make sure they have booked their pre-departure test, completed their passenger locator form and booked their travel test package. Please refer to the arrival procedure for students travelling to the UK from overseas for more information.
Since the outbreak of coronavirus, the government has implemented a number of immigration concessions to assist visa holders in the UK who have been impacted by global travel and health restrictions.
International students considering coming to study in the UK should be aware that visa concessions for those on Student (or Tier 4) visas allow for the ongoing provision of online learning for the entirety of the academic year 2020-2021. Many HE courses continue to be conducted online, so that students unable to enter the UK in the immediate term can study remotely. The UK government continues to keep further visa concessions under review.
The government has confirmed in visa concessions guidance that international students who began a course of 12 months or less in 2020 by distance/blended learning and who have not previously entered the UK to study that course, will remain eligible to apply for the Graduate route provided they are in the UK by 21 June 2021, and meet the other requirements of the route.
The government has also confirmed that international students who began a course of 12 months or less in 2021 via distance learning and who have not previously entered the UK to study that course, will remain eligible to apply for the Graduate route provided they are in the UK by 27 September 2021 and meet the other requirements of the route.
Students who began a course of 12 months or less in 2020 or 2021 and who have already travelled to the UK during their studies with permission as a Student, will be able to make a Graduate route application, as long as they are present in the UK before the end date of their course and meet the other requirements of the route. The Graduate route will open for applications on 1 July 2021.
Students who are studying courses lasting longer than a year in length, which are not due to be completed in 2021, will not be prevented from being eligible for the Graduate route as a result of any distance learning that took place either in the UK or overseas between the period of 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 due to the pandemic.
Students will not be penalised for being unable to collect their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) while COVID-19 measures are in place.
Students should be aware that rules may differ depending on the UK nation within which they are studying, so are advised to consult the relevant COVID-19 guidance that applies in those nations.
International students and COVID-19 vaccination
International students will not be charged for vaccination against COVID-19. Students should make sure they are registered with a General Practitioner (GP), who will contact them directly to book their vaccine via an online or telephone system when it is appropriate to do so. Information on booking coronavirus vaccination appointments is available.
Travel guidance for Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps exchanges
This section of the guidance is for organisers of Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps (ESC) exchanges with participants planning to travel in the UK or overseas, and for those who have participants who are already overseas.
As part of the Withdrawal Agreement, legacy activity involving UK-based students on Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps agreed ahead of the end of the transition period will continue.
For UK beneficiaries managing Erasmus+ mobilities, you should utilise any Erasmus+ funding to the best of your ability, while ensuring participants remain as safe as possible. We expect all universities, colleges, schools and other organisers managing international educational mobilities to follow the relevant FCDO travel advice for the destination country and highlight this to their participants, being aware the situation can change rapidly.
We expect all providers to explore alternative options for mobilities and study, whether blended or fully virtual, if appropriate and to be flexible in their approach and be conscious of the potentially rapidly changing situation on a country by country basis. Providers should be ready to make quick changes to projects and mobilities, consider delaying mobilities and amending start and end dates if feasible as restrictions may change over time.
Providers who have Erasmus+ participants who are students at non-UK providers considering entering the UK to begin or resume an exchange, or UK providers who are re-entering the UK after a period overseas participating in an exchange need to ensure all of their participants:
- review the information in the section on arrival procedures for students travelling from overseas
- comply with all quarantine and self-isolation requirements that apply to them
Providers who have Erasmus+ participants who are UK students who are considering starting an exchange overseas need to ensure all their participants review the information on arrival procedure for students travelling to the UK from overseas.
Before starting a placement, providers should consult with their participants to confirm details and ensure all UK students participating in trips abroad:
- check the Living in guide and travel advice for the country they will be visiting, being clear with participants that their placement may not be able to continue as originally planned 30
- be ready to comply with local isolation, testing or quarantine requirements, and will need to rely on the local health system
- if they need to return early from their placement, they should contact you as their home provider to let you know of their plans
If you have any UK participants who need emergency help from the UK government while overseas because the country they are in will not allow them to travel back to the UK, or there are no commercial travel options available, you can direct them to contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission or the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London on 0207 008 1500 for help or advice 24/7.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has produced information on travel insurance implications following the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have any further questions about your cover or would like further reassurance, you should contact your travel insurance provider or, where your participants are required to provide their own cover, ensure their cover meets your requirements.
Students studying in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland
DfE has been working closely with the Devolved Administrations. Students at HE institutions in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland should follow any guidance issued by their HE institution and the relevant Devolved Administration. Within England, students are legally permitted to return to their term-time accommodation or attend their HE provider where reasonably necessary for the purposes of a HE course of study. This includes travel to and from the Devolved Administrations. There are restrictions for students arriving from overseas. Students travelling from overseas with a connecting or onward flight in England to the Devolved Administrations should follow the advice in the Travelling to the Devolved Administrations via a connecting flight in England section.
You should review your measures to ensure that student accommodation is COVID-secure and is as safe as possible for students. It is important that shared areas within accommodation such as kitchens and bathrooms are cleaned regularly to minimise the risk of transmission, and in particular, after use by those who have tested positive or are displaying COVID-19 symptoms. More information can be found in the guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection.
You should ensure that appropriate cleaning supplies and clear instructions are provided to residents in university- managed accommodation. It is likely that where households follow good practice to minimise transmission within the house at all times, the overall risk of transmission will be reduced. This requires focusing on the 3 main routes of transmission – close-range, airborne, and surface contact with routine measures that include: ensuring regular ventilation of common areas; maintaining adequate social distancing from visitors wherever possible; frequent handwashing using soap and water; limiting the use of sharing surfaces or objects where feasible; and frequent cleaning of shared surfaces.
The College and University Business Officers and the Universities Safety and Health Association have jointly issued a checklist for students living in shared accommodation to help minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission. This checklist includes practical advice on cleaning, food hygiene, and visitors among other aspects of co-living. This guidance also provides advice on how to minimise transmission within shared accommodation, where someone has suspected symptoms or tests positive. You should encourage students and visitors (where visitors are permitted) to follow this advice.
Forming new households
There is no prohibition on moving house where necessary, and anyone in England who wishes to move house can do so. This includes forming new households and moving into shared student accommodation and houses in multiple occupation (HMO). Guidance for landlords and tenants on renting and COVID-19 is available.
However, repeat or frequent temporary changes in household unit will increase the risk of disease transmission and staying within the same household unit will facilitate test and trace activities in the event of COVID-19. Those forming new households should take account of the guidance on meeting people from outside your household for advice on household interactions.
Letting agents, HE providers and accommodation providers should also consider how best to conduct tenancy check-ins for new tenancies agreed while broader measures remain in place, taking care to follow government advice on social distancing.
Within student accommodation, you should seek to identify ‘households’, within which routine contact can be managed safely. These households will also form the units by which you will manage any response to a suspected or confirmed positive case. Your approach to deciding what constitutes a household will depend on the physical layout of the accommodation, taking into account who shares a kitchen or bathroom. A household in halls of residence is normally considered to be those students living in the same flat, or on the same floor, who share a kitchen or bathroom, rather than an entire block. Accommodation providers should make clear which kitchen(s) or bathroom(s) are intended for each household’s use.
If a household within student accommodation is not obvious, you may need to identify students as belonging to households (these households may be greater than 6 people). There should be an easily accessible record of who is in each of these provider-defined households, and students should understand what constitutes their household for the purposes of guidance on interactions within and between households.
Students living in halls of residence, or HMOs, who develop symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate in their current accommodation. Students should discuss this with their you, and with the manager of their halls if they are privately owned, or the landlord of their HMO.
If a resident has coronavirus symptoms, all residents in that household must isolate for 10 days, following guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.
Opening of facilities and buildings
As the government eases restrictions, as outlined in the Roadmap, you should take note of Coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do, and assume that this guidance applies to your facilities, unless exemptions apply as stated in guidance. This will include the easing of restrictions with regards to organised sport, entertainment, or large events for example.
You should make your own judgement on the facilities that need to be made available and should complete appropriate risk assessments to do so. You should take any additional measures as required, including limiting numbers of students accessing facilities.
Providers should consider appropriate provision to support access to university facilities for the purposes of learning, to safeguard students’ wellbeing and to prevent isolation and mental ill health of students.
Facilities that you may want to consider opening include:
- libraries and specialist collections, for both studying and borrowing materials
- study spaces and practice areas
- facilities required for research activities, including those undertaken by postgraduate research students, if the research cannot be reasonably conducted from home, including laboratories, suites and associated offices and specialist collections. You should also adhere to the guidance on working safely in labs and research facilities during COVID-19
- catering facilities provided as parts of halls and educational accommodation can continue to provide that service. In line with wider government guidance, hospitality and catering outlets on campus will be allowed to serve people outdoors and to provide takeaway. From 17 May, on-premises provision is permitted where table service is provided and customers are seated. Table service is not required for cafes and canteens at a HE provider where there is no practical alternative for staff and students to obtain food and drink, and alcohol is not served for consumption on the premises
- on site gym and leisure facilities can re-open in line with wider government guidance for gyms and leisure facilities. In addition, you may want to designate specific outdoor areas to allow those students who live in halls, access to space for exercise
You should set a clear expectation that all students accessing university facilities or residing in their university halls of residence or other term-time accommodation, should participate in testing. Students should access testing immediately on their return to university and on a twice weekly basis thereafter.
Teaching and learning environments
For many HE courses, online teaching and learning works effectively and has a high degree of learner engagement (while it will also benefit those who are not able to physically attend). You should identify the appropriate mix of online and face-to-face content for each subject, reflecting what will maximise learning, as well as supporting staff or students who cannot attend campus, and enabling the whole organisation to minimise transmission risk.
Guidance on working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) is relevant to the HE estate. This guidance points out that the Health and Safety Executive may take action to improve control of workplace risks if needed, for example through the issue of enforcement notices to help secure improvements.
Find information about working safely during the COVID-19 outbreak in the guidance on laboratories and research facilities. The same considerations should be applied to laboratory science teaching as well.
We expect university libraries to remain open to provide library services, including study places in a COVID-secure way.
You should follow the NHS Test and Trace guidance, which applies to university libraries as well as public libraries.
Libraries Connected has drawn up guidance for public libraries to support reopening which may also be relevant for university libraries.
Sports training, teaching and activity
You may have programmes designed for ‘elite’ athletes (for example, athletes on elite development pathways). In such cases, the guidance on returning to training for elite sport will be relevant.
From 17 May, indoor and outdoor sport and physical activity, including extra-curricular sport, is permitted. Those responsible for indoor and outdoor sporting facilities should follow the providers of grassroots sport and gym leisure facilities guidance.
Activities can be undertaken in line with guidance on working safely during COVID-19 in the performing arts which applies to both professionals and non-professionals.
Performing arts courses, in normal circumstances, may involve a considerable amount of practical face-to-face teaching and assessment. Some HE providers have found alternative methods during the outbreak. You should consider new ways of delivering in-person teaching and assessment that adhere to guidelines on social distancing so that all students can receive a high-quality academic experience in a way that protects both students and staff.
If face-to-face teaching or group sessions are required, try to maintain social distancing (2 metres, or 1 metre where this is not possible, provided steps are taken to otherwise mitigate the potential for transmission).
Performing arts teaching sessions
Tutors and staff should design sessions and rehearsals to avoid situations where students are unable to socially distance and, if this is not possible, reduce any time that students are not able to maintain social distancing.
Smaller teaching group sizes should be used where it is not possible to maintain social distancing. For example, you might consider reducing the sizes of casts in drama, the size of orchestras, or the number of students involved in movement sessions. Where this is not possible, you should take mitigating actions to reduce the risk of transmission between staff and students, such as holding the session in a larger and well-ventilated room.
Where social distancing cannot be adhered to, consider using technology to reduce interactions. This could be for one-to-one tutorials, rehearsals and practice and, if possible, for assignments. You might consider using booths, barriers or screens between individuals who are not part of a teaching group, between teaching groups and others, and between performers and any staff or students not participating at that moment.
You should make sure that no one is taking part in in-person sessions if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or when advised to self-isolate.
Singing and playing wind and brass instruments
Students and staff can engage in singing and playing wind and brass instruments in line with this guidance and working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) in the performing arts but routine (2 metres) social distancing should be maintained.
Managing social and informal interactions for performing arts students
You should consider students’ desire to interact socially and creatively with other students as part of their educational experience. If possible, designate specific areas (‘creative spaces’) for students to socially and creatively interact beyond the usual teaching environment. These areas could include markings to allow for social distancing or the use of screens.
You should provide students with advice as to where these sorts of interactions would be appropriate, and how to do them as safely as possible.
If tutors are not present, students should take responsibility for these sessions, and for protecting themselves and others. This might include social distancing or cleaning instruments before use.
Performing arts equipment
Equipment, including instruments and props, is integral to many performing arts courses. Measures should be taken for handling equipment.
- students and staff should avoid sharing equipment if possible
- if the equipment has to be shared, you should ensure there is increased handwashing before and after handling equipment
- ensuring regular and meticulous cleaning of all equipment, including shared instruments, desks, sound and lighting equipment, mics and battery packs
- handling of paperwork, including music scores, scripts and learning materials
Audiences for performing arts
Refer to the working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) in the performing arts guidance for advice about audiences.
Where it is essential to have an audience, for assessment and teaching purposes, they should be seated in accordance with social distancing. Staff and other students can watch rehearsals and performances, but they should avoid cheering or shouting. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission, particularly from aerosol and droplet transmission. You might consider mitigating actions, such as the use of screens to protect audience members where necessary or the use of face coverings.
Students should be prepared for the difficulties of performing without an audience, or with a reduced audience, especially if the production is particularly interactive.
Educational visits and field trips
We recognise the significant benefits of educational visits for educational development as well as mental health and wellbeing and we are taking steps to unlock visits in line with the Roadmap.
For all educational visits, you should undertake full and thorough risk assessments to ensure they can be undertaken as safely and as COVID-secure as possible. As part of this risk assessment, you will need to:
- consider what control measures need to be put in place
- ensure you are aware of wider advice on visiting indoor and outdoor venues
- consult the health and safety guidance when considering visits
- consider the ability of accommodation to mitigate risks where appropriate
- consider whether any further measures are needed to protect vulnerable students and staff
- consider how the integrity of the group of students and staff can be maintained throughout the visit
- ensure there are plans in place for if a student or staff member tests positive, or they develop symptoms and need to isolate during the visit, or if they have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive
- ensure that there are clear contingency plans in place to respond immediately to changes in government guidance
Consideration should be given to spending as much time as possible outdoors whilst on the visit as this reduces the rate of transmission of the virus.
Educational day visits
In line with the Roadmap, HE providers can undertake educational day visits. These should be conducted in line with relevant COVID-secure guidelines and COVID-19 regulations in place at that time, such as maintaining consistent groups throughout the visit and during travel, and students and staff should follow the COVID-secure measures in place at the destination. We recommend that trips are kept to a minimum and groups are limited to approximately 30 students, or smaller if possible, to help manage transmission risks.
Domestic residential educational visits
From 17 May, in line with Step 3 of the Roadmap, HE providers can undertake domestic educational visits. Residential visits are permitted where they are within the general indoor social contact limits (up to 6 people or 2 households/bubbles) or where an exception applies, for example where the trip is reasonably necessary for the purposes of education (including in relation to a HE course of study). However, we recommend that trips are kept to a minimum and groups should be limited to approximately 30 students, or smaller wherever possible, to help manage transmission risks. Where larger groups are needed, you should organise your staff and students into separate self-contained groups, with mixing between the groups being prohibited. You should consider the number of individuals attending the visit as part of your risk assessment.
As with day visits, residential trips should be conducted in line with relevant COVID-secure guidelines and COVID-19 regulations in place at that time, and students and staff should follow the COVID-secure measures in place at the destination.
In addition, and as part of the recommended twice weekly testing, students and staff should ensure they get tested before and after the visit. See Testing asymptomatic students and staff using Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests for more information.
Hotels and other accommodation providers that are hosting these visits should have in place the protective measures as outlined in the Working Safely: Hotels and Other Accommodation guidance. You should request this information prior to any visit. You should pay particular attention to how the centre will manage any COVID-19 outbreaks during your stay and what arrangements you will need to have in place should a student or a members of staff become symptomatic and need to return home.
Overnight sleeping arrangements place students and staff at the most risk of exposure to COVID-19. As a consequence, if an organised residential visit contains more than 6 people, you should ensure the numbers of students are broken down into smaller groups (no more than 6) for sleeping arrangements. It is also recommended that members of staff have their own single room and do not share with other members of staff. Your risk assessment should, amongst other things, manage the numbers in each room, space between beds, space between groups of beds and the quality of ventilation.
You should carefully consider and plan your travel arrangements to and from the destination and follow the advice set out in this guidance. It is important to observe and make travel plans that reflect the principles for minimising COVID-19, especially in relation to maintaining the integrity and exclusivity of the educational visit group of students and staff. General information on travel can be found at Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer travel guidance for passengers.
The government has now published its new international travel advice – Red, amber and green list rules for entering England.
Given the complexities attached to international travel at this stage of the pandemic, we recommend providers do not go on any international visits this academic year up to and including 5 September 2021.
The position beyond 5 September will be reviewed again in advance of Step 4.
For information on Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps exchanges, see Travel and transport for students arriving from within the UK. We expect providers and other organisers managing international educational mobilities to follow the relevant FCDO travel advice for the destination country and highlight this to their participants, being aware the situation can change rapidly.
Staff and student wellbeing
You continue to have responsibilities towards students including the provision of pastoral support, and taking steps to protect the physical and mental health, safety and wellbeing of students. The department has asked providers to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of their students and this includes determining what welfare and support services students need, and adapting provision to the circumstances including reaching out to those students who are likely to be more vulnerable. The Student Space platform, funded with up to £3 million by the OfS, is designed to work alongside your existing mental health services.
We have asked the OfS to allocate £15 million towards student mental health in 2021 to 2022 through proposed reforms to Strategic Priorities grant funding, to help address the challenges to student mental health posed by the transition to university, given the increasing demand for mental health services. This will target those students in greatest need of such services, including vulnerable groups and hard to reach students.
Some students and staff will have additional mental health needs which cannot be met within the HE setting. You should continue to work in partnership with local NHS and care services to address any additional needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the government’s Mental Health Recovery Action Plan, the government has provided an additional £13 million to ensure young adults aged 18 to 25, including university students, are supported with tailored mental health services, helping bridge the gap between children’s and adult services.
Students are a key part of this population and face some unique challenges in the transition from school/college to university, including access to support from NHS mental health services where they move area or GP practice.
We have worked with the OfS to clarify that providers in the Approved (fee cap) registration category are able to use existing funds, worth around £256 million, for the academic year 2020 to 2021, towards hardship support. We also made an additional £85m of student hardship funding available to higher education providers in the 2020 to 2021 academic year.
The guidance on safer workplaces acknowledges the responsibilities that employers have for their staff. The agreement between trade unions working in HE and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, published as appendix A to Universities UK’s principles and considerations for emerging from lockdown, will help ensure campuses are as safe as possible and protect the health and wellbeing of staff, students and visitors to campus.
Find out more about mental health and wellbeing from guidance for the public on mental health and wellbeing.
Emergency treatment, for example, the provision of first aid, should be prioritised and given promptly in the event of an emergency. This means that people do not have to stay 2 metres apart if emergency assistance is required. People involved in the provision of the assistance of others should pay particular attention to hygiene measures immediately afterwards, including washing hands.