Up to 800 students will return to the University of New England's residential colleges in stages from today.
Director of the UNE Residential system Ashwin Bhutani said the plan prioritises students who are experiencing hardships at home and those with practical course work to complete as a critical part of their degrees.
"Demand to return to the colleges has been high especially from students who are required to be back on campus for their studies or had to work around connectivity issues or other hardships at home," Mr Bhutani said.
While a handful of returning students are first-years and entering college life for the first time, the majority are students who had to vacate the colleges when COVID-19 restrictions were implemented. These students will return to the colleges to continue and complete their studies.
The reopening of the colleges will be carefully managed in line with the UNE Residential System COVID Safe plan which includes control measures such as increased cleaning schedules, hygiene stations and social distancing controls.
Head of Duval College, Ilona Mair said while residents will return to their own college communities and peer support, it is important to clarify that they will be returning to a very different experience given the current social distancing regulations.
"Numbers will be limited to four per shared bathroom and students will have to obey the one person per four square metres rule in kitchens and other communal facilities," Ms Mair said.
"All food will be served pre-packaged and students will be discouraged from cooking for one another."
Some 250 college residents have been safely hosted on campus in Wright College and Village, and Austin College under strict regulations since the start of COVID-19 restrictions.
"We are now opening all our colleges to accommodate returning students," Ms Mair said "which allows us to distribute small clusters of students across large areas to reduce the risk of community transmission."
Residential staff have continued to work on campus on a part-time rostered basis but will return fulltime from in June 29 to support college residents.
This return to colleges is part of comprehensive return-to-campus roadmap developed in consultation with key stakeholders and ensures UNE's campus services, retail outlets and recreational activities remain compliant to government health directives.
SportUNE reopened on Monday, June 15 to members only and the Belgrave Twin Cinema is set to reopen, initially weekends only, on Friday, July 3.