The University of Cambridge will offer weekly coronavirus tests to students, even if they have no symptoms.
Routine screening will be provided for about 16,000 people who live in college-owned accommodation, when term begins on 8 October.
It said the voluntary testing programme would help stop the spread of Covid-19 by people unaware they were infected.
Vice-Chancellor Prof Stephen Toope hoped an "overwhelming majority" of students would want to take part.
The university said it was focussing on those in shared accommodation, where the density of students was higher.
Prof Patrick Maxwell said: "Offering testing to all students in college accommodation, who make up the majority of our student population, will help us reduce the risk of outbreaks by identifying individuals who will often not be aware that they are infected.
"We hope that our approach, which we believe makes testing of our student population manageable using limited testing capacity, is one that other universities will be able to adopt."
Students will use a swab to take a sample from their nose and throat, with the results available within 24 hours.
The university said swabs would be pooled by household - classified as a unit where communal facilities are shared - meaning only about 2,000 would be needed each week.
If a pooled household test was positive, the rest of the household would be offered individual tests to confirm the positive result.
Affected students would then be offered support to self-isolate.
Other universities, including Leicester and the University of East Anglia, have said they would be offering coronavirus testing to students at the start of term.