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10 September 2020

DfE publishes new guidance for universities on reopening buildings and campuses

Sub-theme: Education


The Department for Education (DfE) updates its guidance to support universities to reopen buildings and campuses. The latest public health advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) states that there is 'no scientific basis that face-to-face teaching is unsafe as long as COVID-secure plans are in place'. The updated guidance includes advice on:

  • the importance of good ventilation
  • when and where face coverings may be required
  • the performing arts
  • what a provider should do in the event of a local lockdown
  • track and trace procedures in place
  • the creation of new households in student accommodation to manage routine contact as safely as possible
  • how to adhere to the latest social gathering restrictions coming into force on 14 September 2020.

Universities can choose to adopt the use of face coverings as part of their wider COVID-secure measures, particularly where other measures, such as social distancing or good ventilation, cannot be effectively implemented.

Where there are local lockdowns, four tiers of restrictions have been set out for higher education settings:

  • Tier 1: provide blended learning, including face-to-face tuition, while adhering to government guidance.
  • Tier 2: move to an increased level of online learning where possible, with face-to-face learning being prioritised based on a provider’s risk assessment.
  • Tier 3: increase the level of online learning to retain face-to-face provision only for priority courses and in as limited number of situations as possible.
  • Tier 4: majority of provision to be online, with buildings open to essential workers only (such as continuation of essential research).

All social activities will need to comply with the latest measures on social distancing (eg social gatherings of no more than six people), though students will still be able to socialise with the same 'household' they form in their student accommodation. Universities should seek to identify 'households'. What constitutes a household will depend on the physical layout of the accommodation and should take into account shared kitchens and bathrooms. Households may be more than six people. Identified households will form the units by which a provider will manage any response to a suspected or confirmed positive case.


Gov.uk press release

Gov.uk guidance – higher education providers