January 25th, 2022
Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Long wrote to staff and students earlier today to set out the university’s plans for reverting back to Plan A from Monday 31 January, now that the government has ended its ‘Plan B’ restrictions.
The government has confirmed that people are no longer advised to work from home, and from Thursday 27 January face coverings will no longer be mandatory in indoor venues, and organisations will be able to choose whether to require NHS Covid Passes. The Department for Education has updated its guidance for higher education accordingly.
From Monday 31 January, the university will in effect revert to our Plan A safety measures whereby we: strongly encourage staff and students to wear face coverings in indoor spaces; continue to test for Covid-19 at least weekly; and take up full vaccination and boosters.
Colleagues engaged in delivering teaching, student-facing services and campus operations should continue to deliver this from their place of work on campus in line with university policy which already specifies normal in-person teaching from this semester. Staff who have previously been advised to ‘work from home if they can’ are now invited to return to conduct more of their work on campus.
Precise working patterns should be agreed with line managers who can use their discretion, working with Heads of Schools and Professional Service Directors, to determine the balance of campus- and home-working according to institutional needs and priorities. However, the intended effect is to restore further energy and vigour to the campus experience for both staff and students, whilst not losing the gains we have made in more flexible approaches to work during the pandemic.
Please read the following sections for further details and rationale for these decisions, which have been discussed and agreed with the city’s public health team.
The updated guidance published by the Department for Education sets the expectation that all higher education providers should ensure that they deliver face-to-face teaching without restrictions.
University policy already specifies normal in-person teaching from this semester unless there are pedagogic reasons for other modes, and so colleagues who need to be on campus to enable this should continue to work on campus. This includes staff engaged in in-person teaching and those working in libraries, student services, hospitality, retail, and domestic services, for example.
Research can now be conducted fully on campus and all research facilities and laboratories are open to support this. Staff and students conducting research on campus are strongly encouraged to follow safety measures including the wearing of masks, weekly testing, and vaccination.
Many of our colleagues are already working on campus to deliver teaching and student services in-person or to keep essential facilities running, and some have worked on campus throughout the pandemic to provide essential services that cannot be delivered remotely.
Where colleagues were previously required to ‘work from home if they can’, for example certain professional services roles, we now invite you to return to campus to your place of work or a professional services hub.
For staff in this category, specific working patterns should be agreed with line managers, who can use their discretion to determine the balance of campus and home-working according to institutional needs and priorities. As a principle, we would suggest managers could initially permit working from home for up to 60% of time, changing to a maximum of 40% of time later this term according to the course of the pandemic, with precise dates to be determined in due course.
I appreciate that some colleagues may require a small period of time and support to re-adjust to campus working and would ask line managers to make local arrangements to manage their return to campus in a timely and supportive manner.
Whilst the government has said that face coverings will no longer be mandatory in indoor venues, the university continues to strongly encourage the wearing of face coverings in all indoor spaces, unless exempt, and this includes corridors and communal spaces; teaching settings, including lecture halls, seminar rooms, laboratories, and workshops; libraries and shared offices.
When working or studying in NHS environments, staff and students should continue to obey NHS rules, which mandate the wearing of surgical face masks. If working in or visiting the Medical School Building, because of its close proximity to NHS space, staff and students are expected to continue to wear face coverings unless they have a valid exemption.
Staff and students should continue to test for Covid-19 at least weekly, using the university’s unique asymptomatic testing service. The test is quick, simple and identifies infection at the earliest possible stage so that you can avoid transmitting illness to others.
Communications to students will continue to strongly encourage them to take a weekly Covid-19 test and take up full vaccination and boosters – please do repeat this message in any Faculty, School, or programme-level messages you have planned.
The Estates team will continue to ensure optimal levels of ventilation according to guidance to monitor air quality and make sure that rooms have a plentiful supply of fresh air. Almost half of our teaching rooms are automatically monitored and ventilated, and portable CO2 sensors are regularly moved around other rooms to confirm that CO2 levels are within the recommended limits. Were CO2 levels to exceed recommended limits, the room would be taken out of service and alternate teaching locations provided until CO2 levels have been addressed.
If you do develop symptoms or test positive for Covid-19, please complete our reporting form. This information is essential to help us track infections and manage potential outbreaks. We will continue to publish active case data for staff and students.
Please continue to follow these guidelines and act cautiously and considerately to help us keep our community as safe as possible. Continued case numbers are to be expected as our data reflects national trends. However, we are confident that the measures we have in place on campus will help to keep transmission as low as possible.
We will, of course, continue to monitor the situation and keep our policies under review. I will update you with any changes or updates to national or local guidance over the coming weeks.
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