As I am sure you are aware by now, the government has introduced a new national lockdown in response to increasing rates of COVID-19 infections, hospital admissions and deaths.
This is a serious development and one which I recognise will create difficulties and stress for many of our staff and students. In the light of this development, I want to reaffirm our ongoing commitment to your safety and wellbeing and offer you some guidance about how the University will operate over the next few weeks.
Teaching and learning
All teaching and assessment except for a few exempt courses will now be online. This will be reviewed by government in mid-February, but will likely remain in place until the end of March. Some exemptions are described in our message last week and in government information. Unless you have already been advised that you are required on campus for accreditation reasons or scheduled on-campus assessments, or you have specific personal circumstances you should not return to University. If you are travelling from outside the UK and are able to change your travel plans, you should do so immediately.
On-campus COVID testing is available to all students, and those who are returning should also take a test before travelling, if possible.
Students who are clinically extremely vulnerable should not travel, even if you have been advised that you are required on-campus for essential activities. You should stay at home and contact your programme team to discuss your options and the support that we can offer to you.
If you have stayed over the Christmas period, if you have already returned or if you cannot alter your travel plans, please be assured that you will be supported and should now stay on campus. Study areas and the Library will remain open.
Assessments for taught students
Unless you are required on campus for your assessments for accreditation purposes, the majority of you will be taking your January assessments online. We know that this may present you with a number of challenges and have already made additions to our Mitigating Circumstances processes to take circumstances such as IT failure, into account.
Steps will be taken for all students, across all programmes to minimise the academic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of our robust examination board processes.
Postgraduate Researchers (PGRs) and staff working on campus
Under the new restrictions, you can only leave home for work where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home. These legal restrictions will apply to all University staff and PGRs whether involved in teaching, research or professional services. The only exceptions are:
- Researchers (including PGRs) who require access to specialist facilities for their work. We have updated our guidance on research involving direct/in-person contact with human research participants.
- Staff required to attend the campus to deliver in-person teaching and assessments on essential programmes – mainly in the medical school and health sciences
- Professional Services staff who are providing vital frontline services.
On-campus COVID testing is available to all staff and PGRs who may be required to work on campus.
If you are required to be on campus it is critical that you continue to observe COVID safety rules that are in place. This includes holding meetings online and following instructions for moving around and using buildings. You must report if you test positive or are self-isolating.
As we face this major challenge it is very important that we support each other. We are stepping up our support services for staff and students, but please also continue to stay in touch with your friends to keep checking that they are OK.
We can at least see light at the end of the tunnel as vaccination is rolled out and I have no doubt that we will adapt and respond positively to the current situation.
Professor April McMahon
Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students.