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Updated guidance to keep universities safe

14 September 2020

THE GOVERNMENT has updated guidance to help universities reopen buildings and campuses this September while keeping students and staff safe.

Government guidance to help universities make campuses as safe as possible has been updated ahead of students starting the new term.

The Department for Education has updated its guidance in line with the latest public health advice from SAGE, which was clear that there is no scientific basis that face-to-face teaching is unsafe as long as COVID-secure plans are in place.

Universities have been working hard to make campuses as safe as possible, including through enhanced cleaning measures, good ventilation, social distancing on campus and changes to timetables to stagger or reduce attendance on site.

The Government already recommends face coverings are worn in all communal and enclosed spaces. Universities can choose to adopt the use of face coverings as part of their wider COVID-secure measures, particularly where social distancing cannot be maintained or it is difficult to provide good ventilation.

The updated guidance includes advice on what a provider should do in the event of a local lockdown, track and trace procedures, the creation of new households in student accommodation and reflects the latest social gathering restrictions coming into force on Monday.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said, "The safety and wellbeing of university staff and students is our priority.

"Universities have been making a mammoth effort to safely open campuses and buildings to students this autumn, and the Government has worked closely with them to ensure they are well prepared for the return of students.

"The updated guidance includes the recent SAGE advice and will help university leaders access the information they need, and assist their existing plans to keep students and staff as safe as possible."

The SAGE group has made clear that teaching in person is important and fully online provision would have an impact on students’ mental health. Where practical work occurs in close contact like medicine, dentistry and performing arts, universities should follow advice for the relevant professional environment.