Campus life 2020: A short guide for students

What will life be like at the University of Glasgow in 2020-21?  Understandably, this is a question many people are asking as we deal with the effects of COVID-19.  Our University has been impacted like all other institutions around the world, and this will still be the case in the coming academic year.

The first and most important thing to know is that the University campuses will be open in 2020-2021.  The semester will start as always with Freshers' Week, beginning on schedule on Monday 14 September with appropriate safeguards in place around physical distancing. However, the University has had to make a number of changes in response to the pandemic and this includes the way that we provide teaching and assessment, and the way we provide services and facilities to students on-campus. Our top priorities always have been and will remain the health and wellbeing of the University community and providing high-quality learning experiences and support to our students.  Here, we’ll set out the key changes we have made and what you might expect, but in some cases (for example, for particular academic programmes) there may be other changes.  You should look out for further communications from your School and/or Programme contacts for details.

We believe wholeheartedly that whilst the University experience in 2020/21 will be different, it will be full and engaging.  Of course, for those who live in Glasgow or are able to travel, the rest of the city of Glasgow and all it has to offer is available to you. 

Classes for most students will commence on Monday 21 September.  A number of taught postgraduate programmes will begin in November; some will have a January 2021 start date and still more will offer options to start in September 2020 or January 2021.  This year, we have received more applications than ever from all over the globe.

Learning and Teaching

The main change to learning and teaching is that the majority of learning experiences across the University will be provided online in Semester 1, rather than through face-to-face teaching. As long as the 2-metre physical distancing rules required by the Scottish Government are in place, we are required to deliver large group teaching remotely, because we cannot bring large groups of students together in a teaching space.  

This means that we will provide pre-recorded or live lectures, tutorial and seminar sessions and other learning materials through our virtual learning environment (VLE). These teaching experiences will be enhanced by learning activities and guided reading, as would normally be the case. These may involve guest speaker input, simulation activities, peer support and other interactive experiences.

Where we can do so safely, we will facilitate small-group activities and events to support your learning. In addition, for programmes where practical and/or skills-based learning and teaching is a requirement, we will free up space on campus for access to laboratories and other practical sessions wherever possible.


Since the introduction of restrictions as a result of the pandemic the University has moved the vast majority of assessment to an online format – electronically submitted coursework, open book exams and timed exams.  These have proved to be successful and we anticipate that for the foreseeable future (as a result of the pandemic) this is likely to remain the format for the vast majority of assessments.  However, for certain programmes where skills or competence have to be assessed through practical assessments or projects, Schools and/or Programme leaders are working on plans for how these will be delivered with the relevant safeguards in place.

Campus facilities and services

Our campus is open and many services and facilities are operating, with appropriate safeguards in place -for example, through the use of physical distancing, face coverings, and enhanced cleaning regimes. Access to library and study space on campus will be provided throughout your period of study, subject to appropriate safeguards, so that our students and staff are always safe. Given that most learning and teaching will be delivered online in semester 1 we expect to provide a mixture of in-person access to services and support, and support delivered through online means. This will ensure that students based on campus, and those at a distance, are appropriately catered for.

Wider learning experiences, social and cultural activities

Because we are delivering the bulk of teaching online, we expect to free up some spaces on campus for alternative uses.  We plan to offer a range of events and experiences using these spaces. For example, TED-style talks, events exploring some of the cutting-edge research taking place at the University and other opportunities for students to get to know staff members and fellow students. Our student organisations (Students' Representative Council (SRC), Glasgow University Union (GUU), Queen Margaret Union (GUU) and Glasgow University Sports Association (GUSA)) are also planning a range of events and activities to ensure you have a fulfilling and rewarding experience at the University.

Health and safety

We are taking comprehensive steps to protect the health and wellbeing of each and every student.  At Glasgow, we have a certain advantage over other institutions – we have the largest medical school in Scotland and a highly qualified team of experts who inform our approach to keeping students and staff safe.  The University manages one of the three main testing centres in the UK; we have a range of COVID-19 related research underway in our laboratories and we are currently testing a COVID-19 vaccine on volunteers in collaboration with our colleagues in Oxford.  All of this expertise is being used to ensure that the health and safety regime at Glasgow is second to none.

Drawing on the best public health advice, we have already developed detailed plans to combat COVID-19 and protect our student and staff communities.  At all times, we will put your health and safety first: this means closely following national guidelines and also going beyond them – learning from the best practice from countries around the world.  In particular, we will apply the physical distancing rules set out by public health authorities – currently 2 metres in the Scotland, though this may change over time.

We will welcome students into our residences and you can move around our campuses, use the library and other study spaces, eat and drink on campus, and meet and socialise with other students – subject to appropriate safeguards.

At this time, the impact of the virus in Scotland is receding.  The country is gradually moving towards greater freedom of movement; social life is slowly picking up again and the economy is set to rebound.  However, we have to remain vigilant if we are to avoid a new spike in COVID-19 cases, either in Scotland or elsewhere.  To this end, all of the above activities will have to happen in an environment where individuals remain physically distant from each other.  This inevitably has consequences for life on campus.  These are a few examples of our plans:

  • All members of the University community will need to observe guidance around hygiene and in relation to interactions with others
  • An enhanced cleaning regime will apply in all spaces used by students and staff
  • We will operate one-way systems in corridors of buildings, where we can safely implement these
  • There will be specific guidance for those living in student residences regarding access to kitchens and any shared household facilities
  • The numbers allowed in any building or room will be limited to avoid congestion
  • We will issue all staff and students with face coverings and encourage their use in certain environments
  • Anyone who is showing symptoms will be asked to undertake a test and may have to self-isolate; we will aim to identify those who have been in contact with them and ask them to take a test
  • Some facilities (for example, sadly, the night clubs in the student unions and some sports facilities) will remain closed for the time being
  • Again, to reduce congestion on campus, many staff will work mostly from home
  • Rooms across campus will be reallocated to support face-to-face teaching in smaller groups
  • Special rules will apply in confined spaces such as cafes and toilets, again to make physical distance as easy as possible and to ensure the highest standards of hygiene.

This isn’t a complete list, but hopefully it gives a sense of our commitment to your safety, and the careful thought that is going into how the campus will operate in 2020-21.

Support for students

We know that some people experience difficulties over the course of the academic year.  Please be assured that the University will always be there to support individuals depending on their needs – whether academic, health related, relationship issues, financial problems or any other sort of challenge.  We have excellent, highly experienced services to draw on, but more importantly, we care for our students and will be there to help if you need us.

Support services – careers advice, counselling, disability advice, financial advice and academic support, to name only a few – will be delivered both face-to-face (always observing physical distancing rules) and online.

We have developed a range of support and wellbeing services online, designed specifically to help our student community during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We are also working with the student associations – the Students Representative Council, Glasgow University Sports Association, Glasgow University Union and the Queen Margaret Union – to make sure that social life on and around campus is as enjoyable and fulfilling as it possibly can be.  As in any other year, we will encourage students to join the unions, take part in organised sport (whether for fun or competitively), meet with like-minded individuals, enrol in clubs and societies, become a volunteer, organise campaigns for worthwhile causes, take part in religious worship – student life at Glasgow offers innumerable opportunities which the rich infrastructure of campus organisations supports.

As a University which listens to the student voice and works very closely with student reps, we will do everything we can to facilitate student social life, recognising that small-scale meetings and online gatherings will be necessary in many instances.


We appreciate that being able to live close to campus is an essential part of the student experience. All our residences will be open from the start of the academic year; we are well prepared and will ensure that students can enjoy safe, healthy and active lifestyles whilst living in our accommodation.  We are also in regular touch with private providers of student accommodation, most of which are located within easy walking distance of the campus.

We encourage those wishing to apply for University accommodation to do so as soon as possible.  There is more information available on our Accommodation webpages and on the Accommodation-specific social media channels, particularly on Twitter @UofGLiving.

We expect to offer a range of  options from our catering outlets on campus, with exact details and opening times to be confirmed nearer the start of term.

Last thoughts

No-one can be one hundred per cent sure what life will be like in six months, or a year.  However, the signs are positive and this year, like any other, we are determined to offer a fantastic learning experience to all our students.  

We look forward to seeing you in a few weeks’ time; and we very much hope that this session at Glasgow will be one of the best years of your life.

Please follow us on social media (UofGlasgow across all our social platforms Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Weibo and WeChat) or through the #TeamUofG Student Newsletter, which is emailed out to all students, to see what’s happening at UofG, including more information about how we’re supporting our student community through the COVID-19 recovery.