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The 2020/21 academic year – a message from April McMahon

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I hope that you are remaining well and looking forward to what will probably be a slightly different summer break, but nonetheless – some time to unwind and relax from your studies.

I wanted to write to you to now further confirm our arrangements for the full year ahead.

Your safety and wellbeing are our main priority, as well as ensuring that we deliver outstanding teaching, learning and student experiences. We want to reassure you that we’re doing everything we can to enable every student to fully participate and engage in their studies, regardless of your personal or family circumstances and the changing course of the pandemic. We’re hard at work behind the scenes developing excellent, creative and interactive teaching for the start of the year. 

Structure of the year

We will have slightly staggered start dates for new undergraduate, returning undergraduate and postgraduate taught students to allow for a phased population of the campus. This will also allow us to support new students through an enhanced induction programme, along with welcoming you back, after what has been a difficult past year, in a more structured and meaningful way than we have been able to offer before. 

Induction activities will be available online, so you do not need to be in Manchester to access these. For some programmes the start and return dates may differ for regulatory or other reasons and where this is the case, your School will notify you.

Although we are starting the academic year slightly later than usual for some students, we will finish at the same time as normal for the summer, to limit any disruption for those of you due to graduate in July 2021. We’ve also introduced a week’s break at the end of semester 1 for undergraduate students so that they can prepare for the next semester. Many students have made it clear to us that this is important, so I’m delighted that we’ve been able to introduce this. The week’s break will also greatly benefit our staff too, by ensuring that they have time to mark before semester 2 teaching begins. 

Teaching and learning

As previously communicated and as many other universities have also now confirmed, lectures will be delivered online in semester 1 and we will offer other teaching and learning activities, such as seminars and practicals on campus, if it is safe to do so and following UK Government advice.

In semester 1, large lectures will be will be delivered online in virtual spaces and supported with timetabled activity to bring an important level of structure to your week. The online lecture material will allow you to work at your own pace, where and when suits you. It will also bring opportunity for Q&A and other interactivity, across different formats in timetabled slots. The lecture material will be available for you to watch and re-watch whenever you wish, to catch up on anything you may have missed.

End of semester 1 assessment tasks will also be conducted online. 

We know that many of you will want to come and have an on-campus experience as soon as possible, and we’re committed to providing that as long as Government advice allows us to. We’re also aware however that some of you may not be able to come to Manchester in September, for various reasons. To make sure we don’t exclude any of you, this hybrid-flexible approach combining both in-person and online face to face teaching and learning activities, allows you to choose whether or not to attend in-person activities with no ‘learning deficit’.

We are committed to improving and extending our blended learning provision and are continuing to support our brilliant teaching staff in re-designing teaching material for 2020/21, working with our Institute for Teaching and Learning and through the sharing of best practice on our Teaching and Learning Online Network. We are also currently recruiting additional e-learning and learning technology team members, to provide our colleagues with the very best support and online learning expertise.

A safe return

A great deal of work is taking place to ensure a safe return to campus for us all and as part of that, I am pleased to confirm that we will be providing our staff and students with washable face masks and clear guidance on how our teaching spaces, libraries, study spaces and labs will operate to ensure everyone stays safe. We will also take the opportunity to fully brief you on health and safety, as part of your ‘welcome back’ activities. You can be reassured that with many of our academics undertaking world-leading research on public health, our pandemic response protocols are founded on the latest science and expertise.

I’m aware that many of you may be feeling anxious about your accommodation arrangements. We have one of the largest university-owned accommodation provisions in the UK, much of which has remained open throughout the current pandemic providing excellent support and a vibrant community for those students who have remained with us here in Manchester. I am therefore confident that with this experience under their belts, our halls and residences teams are fully prepared for the next academic year and that all the right safety measures are in place ready for you to arrive. We have also adjusted our residences contract terms, to provide maximum flexibility for any further disruption that may occur during your time staying with us. 

If you are returning to private accommodation, you may have some questions relating to your tenancy and belongings. We have a section of FAQs dedicated to these topics online, and the team at Manchester Student Homes are also there to support you, offering advice and guidance on any housing or community related questions you may have.

I’m also pleased to confirm that international students who have booked University Halls of Residence and are required by the UK Government to quarantine on arrival, will be able to arrive two weeks in advance of their accommodation contract start date in September with no additional charge for accommodation provided during this period.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that if you are experiencing any unexpected or additional financial worries at the present time, we can help you through our Living Cost Support Fund. The fund is open to all students, regardless of level of study or nationality. In addition, our Emergency Support Fund, established in response to the coronavirus pandemic, has now received more than £1 million in donations thanks to more than 2,000 generous alumni, staff and friends of the University. This will continue to support projects and initiatives across the University, in offering financial assistance to those students who may need it.

I am very much looking forward to the new academic year and a return to a slightly different, but very safe and welcoming, campus life. In the meantime, I hope that you continue to stay safe and well and enjoy the break. We will keep you regularly updated through the My Manchester news bulletin which will be issued every fortnight over the summer. You can always access the latest information and updates from our online FAQs and we are of course, always here to support you.

With very best wishes,

Professor April McMahon.

Vice President for Teaching, Learning and Students

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