Online classes, one-way corridors and 400-seat lecture theatres hosting only 50 students are some of the measures set to be introduced by third-level bodies ahead of the new academic year.
Students will not return to college as normal in September as universities review how they will operate with Covid-19 restrictions in place.
This means there will be no freshers' weeks, class sizes will be restricted and, in some cases where students are allowed on campus in the first semester, they may be encouraged not to return home until Christmas.
In most cases, universities will limit the time students spend on campus with many, including NUI Galway, considering bringing each student in once a week to ensure social distancing can be maintained.
"Blended learning" is the key phrase at each college, with officials working towards mixing face-to-face and online teaching methods.
Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O'Connor told the Sunday Independent guidance is urgently being developed for the third-level sector to ensure students and staff can return to college safely.
"The key elements of the return to on-campus provision in the autumn include, for example, social distancing and the use of face masks," she said.
"In parallel to this it is envisaged that a roadmap for the tertiary system will be developed to ensure that the sector continues to maintain the continuity of teaching and learning and plays a full role in supporting economic recovery and responding to the societal issues arising from the Covid-19 crisis."
Particular attention will be paid to assisting vulnerable and disadvantaged students, she added.
NUIG president Ciaran O hOgartaigh said officials will have to consider extending the financial grant available to students to help them cope where families have faced hardship because of the Covid-19 crisis.
"Financially the challenges for students are going to be much bigger than before. Part-time jobs are not available, their family situation may be more challenging so there is a need to explore the Susi grant and extending it.
"College will be a very different experience but we will always adhere to the public health advice. Students and staff will come first and that will be the challenge for us."
He said the university is reviewing how people travel around the campus, how the library operates and how learning is delivered so social distancing can continue.
Students will still have access to the library but caps are likely to be put on how many people may be in situ at any one time. Books may have to be called for rather than students and staff browsing aisles and shelves. NUIG's academic year will also start three weeks later than usual on September 28.
"We hope to [have students on campus] in September but it may be for a day a week or an afternoon because with social distancing we will only have about 20pc of the normal capacity available," he said.
Similar measures are being explored elsewhere.
A committee at Trinity College hopes the university will be able to "at least" host some second-, third- and fourth-year students in September. It is currently exploring how first-year students will be catered for, acknowledging some will have very little time to make arrangements and find accommodation between getting Leaving Cert results and commencing college.
A source told the Sunday Independent it is possible first-year students will spend most of semester one off-campus.
"It is unclear if those living outside Dublin will even be allowed to travel here in September.
"If they do come, they might be asked not to go home at weekends or stay until the semester is completed," the source added.
Trinity officials are also looking at introducing one-way corridors and examining how food is served on campus. A Trinity spokesman said college registration may have to take place online.
"We are currently examining how lecture theatres, libraries, tutorial rooms, labs, corridors, playing pitches, catering and accommodation can be made safe. As always, the health and well-being of our staff and students is our main focus," he said.
At University College Cork some lecturers have been told to expect "blended" classes as a feature of next semester.
Dublin City University's (DCU) next semester starts in the first week of October but first-year students are expected to start coming on campus two weeks earlier for a "phased" orientation process.
DCU and University College Dublin (UCD) have confirmed their Erasmus programmes are cancelled because of the pandemic.
UCD said it plans to take a blended learning approach next year. Its plans to bring students on campus will change in accordance with public health advice.
The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) envisages bringing students back next semester in various phases between September and October to allow for physical distancing.
Technical University Dublin acknowledges there will be "more virtual classes than in the past" but the wide range of disciplines on offer means a one-size fits all approach would not be effective. Various schools in the institution will be flexible in different ways.
A University of Limerick spokesman said it is exploring limiting capacity to 20pc when its campus begins to reopen this autumn.
He said the university recognises its plans for next semester must be flexible because a surge in Covid-19 cases means some government restrictions may need to be reimposed, leading to a full online learning experience.
According to the Irish Universities Association, a decline in revenue from international student fees and commercial activities is expected to be in the region of €400m across Irish universities. UCD alone said it "may face a revenue fall of up to €100m".
The universities have called for a €230m stability fund and another €80m to support research to help address the crisis.