The University absolutely recognises that it has been a very challenging time for all our students over the period of pandemic, and we appreciate our international students have faced some specific challenges.
While we are delighted that you have chosen to study at the University of Manchester and hope that you will all be studying safely on our campus in the not-too-distant future, we do particularly understand the concerns of international students who have not yet travelled to Manchester. We are seeking to address these here and will continue to do so, providing another update early in the new year, by 7 January 2022.
Studying in person and on-campus
As you can imagine given the challenging environment, we have received significant levels of correspondence from many students since the beginning of this new academic year on a range of subjects, but in particular from those students who have chosen to study remotely during the first semester. We have read all of this correspondence carefully and are addressing the points raised in detail, within this message. We hope that this reassures those students, so they no longer feel the need to regularly raise these concerns.
Throughout the pandemic we have adhered to the advice of the UK government and our public health experts. The specific advice for Higher Education providers from the Department for Education, is that we should continue with in-person teaching. (See page 4, paragraph 1 of the linked guidance).
Many of our degree programmes have required their students to be on campus since September 2021. We have been delighted to see thousands of UK and international students already back on campus in Manchester and doing well, with positive feedback, enjoying the full learning and life experiences that go well beyond the classroom.
Semester 1 was always a transitional period for some students in terms of allowing remote study. This was made clear at the beginning of the academic year. As you know, we have consistently and regularly communicated with you since before the start of this academic year and through our on-going coronavirus FAQs that our default study route is on-campus and, subject to government and public health advice, all teaching in Semester 2 (starting 7 February 2022) would be in person.
Impact of the Omicron variant does create uncertainty
We recognise that concerns may well have been heightened by the appearance of the COVID Omicron variant and the impact that it is already having around the world, which as yet remains uncertain. We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis, in the context of Manchester, more widely in the UK and of course internationally.
Through daily contact with other similar Universities such as other members of the Russell Group, we know that all are facing the same issues. However, we will continue to adhere to the advice of the UK government and our local public health experts
So, what can we do to answer some of your immediate questions and concerns?
Can you provide more time for travel?
While Semester 2 teaching is due to begin on 7 February 2022, we are willing to allow flexibility for you to arrive up to two weeks after the official start of term – up to 21 February 2022. This only applies for students who do not already need to be in Manchester for on-campus examinations and assessments in January. We would support you in any catching up that you would need to do.
Why can’t you offer some flexibility on further dual teaching for Semester 2?
We are following UK government policy that is clearly requiring that the University and the whole sector maintains in-person, on-campus teaching. Many of our programmes and their specific accreditation require in-person learning and degrees may depend on that attendance. Our courses are fundamentally designed for a face-to-face setting, and we do want students to have the opportunity for a full learning and living experience.
What if I have legitimate problems with visas or travel, such as local lockdowns or flight unavailability which delay my arrival further?
In most cases, we would expect any disruption to travel to be temporary and this is why we have a two-week joining period at the start of the next semester in February. We recognise, however, that theremay be some cases where localised lockdowns will prevent travel to a visa appointment or to an airport leading to significant delays which could go beyond the first two weeks of Semester 2. Where this is the case, you will need to contact your academic school to discuss options as these will vary according to your chosen programme of study. The University has a clear policy concerning mitigating circumstances.
If you have not yet started your visa application process you need to contact the admissions department in your academic school to request a CAS. If you have an existing CAS and have a query on this, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do not email this address to request a new CAS, as that team cannot help you with that, you will need to contact your admissions department.
We have a step-by-step guide to the visa process on our webpages.
What are my options if I do not want to travel to the University to attend for Semester 2?
If you feel that you don’t want to travel to the University for Semester 2, you should contact your academic school. You can apply for an interruption to your studies and should you choose to do so we will recalculate your tuition fee for the year.
How can I find accommodation in Manchester?
We understand that this may be a concern and so we have created a specific website page for accommodation options in Semester 2. This is constantly being updated and our Student Accommodation team are available to assist you.
How safe is campus now and how safe will it be in February 2022?
It is impossible for us to predict the impact of COVID-19 in six to seven weeks’ time but we continue to track the situation extremely closely. To date, our campus has been a safe place and we continue to take strenuous steps to ensure robust COVID-19 safety measures are in place. As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will continue to act in line with any UK government guidance and regulations.
We have maintained our safety measures throughout Semester 1, including enhanced cleaning and ventilation. Face coverings are already mandatory across campus in indoor settings and are freely available to collect from building entrances. The safety of our students and staff will always come first.
We encourage you to get vaccinated. The majority of you already are, and returners in the new year can also get vaccinated for free. Everyone over 18 in the UK who has had their second vaccination is also now eligible to book a booster, and we would encourage you to do that, as soon as you are able to.
We also encourage everyone on campus to get regular COVID-19 tests, by collecting free testing kits from campus or ordering them to their home address. Find out more about vaccination and testing on campus.
We ask students, as we do staff, to report any confirmed cases of COVID-19 to us so that we can support then and monitor any outbreaks.
Following expert clinical advice and the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine programme, people previously considered to be particularly vulnerable or clinically high-risk, are not being advised to shield again. If you were previously considered as clinically high-risk, you should continue to follow all COVID-19 related safety guidance, along with any other precautions your specialist or clinician may have advised.
We will continue to update our student coronavirus FAQs as more information becomes available.
We understand that the current situation may be making some students feel anxious. We are always here to support you and would encourage you to reach out to our support and wellbeing services, should you need to.
Professor April McMahon – Vice-President Teaching, Learning and Students
Professor Nalin Thakkar – Vice-President, Social Responsibility