September 15th, 2021
Ahead of the start of term, and with many colleagues preparing to begin hybrid working or teach both in-person and online, we would like to remind you of the Covid safety measures and expectations on campus.
The university asks staff to follow national guidelines set by government and the Chief Medical Officers unless otherwise advised – this applies to all restrictions including face coverings, which are strongly encouraged, and social distancing.
Exceptions may be in place where there is a specific risk assessment or local public health officials require specific measures.
NHS buildings, including shared spaces, have additional rules including mandatory face coverings and differing rules on isolation of close contacts. This is to ensure that the most vulnerable patients can continue to access medical care as safely as possible. Staff, researchers and research students working in these buildings should ensure they are aware of the differences and follow NHS protocols.
The Westminster government has published its Covid-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan 2021 which includes guidance on booster vaccinations and measures which could be implemented later in the year. The University will of course follow this guidance and update advice, should it become necessary.
Please be respectful and considerate of both our university and local communities, understanding some people will feel more comfortable with fewer restrictions than others and that health vulnerabilities remain.
This communication provides updates on the following:
Our work, teaching and research
Safety on Campus
Preparing to be back on campus
The government’s lifting of national restrictions does not mean that the risks from Covid-19 have disappeared. It simply marks a new phase where we are all urged to manage risks to ourselves and to others. The university has created a policy which supports a new way of working during this period. The information below also sets out how some of the different groups of staff around the University will be working, while acknowledging that there are also many who have been on campus throughout the pandemic.
Hybrid working supports colleagues in spending part of their time working remotely and part of their time on campus where their role enables this. Managers should help staff prepare for return, ensure they complete the appropriate online training, and understand what will be expected of them. Supervisors and PGR Programme Directors should do the same for postgraduate researchers who have not already returned to campus, or who will be involved in teaching activities.
Professional Service colleagues will be able to use Professional Service Hubs – a mix of bookable desk and collaborative spaces. Please note that for some teams this will be a different location to pre-pandemic office space. To find out more visit the Hub SharePoint site.
Teaching in Semester 1
The university is committed to providing our students with as much in-person teaching as we can deliver safely during 2021-22. Detailed plans for teaching have been developed by Faculties in discussion with their Schools and Departments. Read the University-level plan for teaching.
Alongside the vast majority of Russell Group universities and the higher education sector more broadly, small group teaching will normally be delivered in-person on campus whereas a significant proportion of our large group teaching will remain online for Semester One. Schools and Departments have developed their approaches according to the needs of their disciplines, and whether or not they have students studying remotely during Semester One.
The proportion of in-person teaching will increase substantially for Semester Two, subject to the course of the pandemic.
Research and Innovation
The University is now back to full capacity in all our research facilities, with colleagues being supported to work flexibly and in hybrid mode, as appropriate. The Biodiscovery Institute on University Park and the Cobot Maker Space on Jubilee campus both officially opened last week, reaffirming the University’s commitment to world-class, transdisciplinary research spaces that are hubs for innovation and knowledge exchange. The latest consultation on the University Research Strategy has recently been published and colleagues are invited to contribute their thoughts.
Approaches to fieldwork and international travel should continue to be conducted according to University policy which is kept under regular review.
New safety campaign
Materials and resources to support the general rules and information for keeping staff, students and visitors safe across our campuses have been created and are available for staff on a dedicated SharePoint site.
While digital screens, social media, posters and banners are being installed across our buildings the SharePoint will enable staff to access other assets to help with sharing the message to colleagues, students and visitors.
Face coverings and social distancing
In line with government policy, the University expects and recommends that staff and students wear face coverings in enclosed spaces, communal areas and busy parts of the University. We have made it clear to our students that by ‘busy’ we mean rooms and spaces where any form of social distancing would be difficult, emphasising that face coverings help them to reduce their risk to others and help others to reduce their risk to them. Please continue to follow good hand hygiene measures and give people space where it is sensible or requested.
The Equality Impact Assessment on this decision and advice for vulnerable people or those who have caring responsibilities for vulnerable people can be found on the EIA SharePoint. It sets out the ways in which we will support staff, and their line managers, and mitigate risk. A set of supporting FAQs has also been shared with Senior Leaders.
The university actively supports the roll out of Covid-19 vaccines and is encouraging all those who can to take up the offer of the vaccine as soon as it is offered. Two doses are needed to ensure the vaccine is most effective, but they do not have to be taken in the same location. The Government has announced that booster vaccinations will now be given to vulnerable people in the autumn.
More information about vaccines, how to book them and other FAQs can be found on our Coronavirus webpages. Experts at the university have also put together a factual website dispelling myths and providing independent advice about vaccines.
At end of August more than 82% of 18-21-year-olds registered at Cripps Health Centre had received at least one dose and more than 50% were fully vaccinated.
Test, trace and isolation
All staff and students spending any time on campus will be expected to continue taking asymptomatic testing at least once a week which can be performed quickly and easily through the Asymptomatic Testing Service (ATS). This test has now been recommended for accreditation by the Government meaning anyone who tests positive is automatically entered into the NHS Test and Trace system and does not need to take a confirmatory test.
Of course, those who experience Covid-19 symptoms should continue to isolate immediately, notify the university and book an NHS confirmatory swab test.
Contacts of those who test positive no longer need to isolate if they have had both doses of the MHRA-approved Covid vaccination, or are under 18, unless told otherwise by NHS ‘Test and Trace’ or if they begin to experience symptoms themselves. Government advises contacts to seek a PCR test, and the university’s ATS test would be a suitable option for this – we recommend that you test daily in such circumstances for a period of 10 days.
If you are not fully vaccinated and are identified as a close contact of a positive case, you will need to isolate in accordance with government guidelines. More details on support during your isolation can be found on our Coronavirus webpages.
Ventilation and monitoring
Ventilation of our buildings is being closely monitored by the Estates teams to ensure that rooms and laboratories are as safe as possible. A detailed policy on room ventilation and monitoring will be available next week on the Health and Safety SharePoint. If colleagues are ever concerned about the air flow within a room, they should report this immediately to the Estates team for investigation.
Health and Safety
Do take time to review the latest documents and policies in the Health and Safety workspace pages. A revised master risk assessment has been created in light of changing restrictions. This can be found on the Health and Safety workspace pages.
Parking charges have been re-introduced across the university and staff returning to campus by car will need to renew their permits. There are two different ways you can pay to park:
If you wish to upgrade to a full parking permit, the cost of it will be reduced to account for the amount you have already spent on vouchers. For any members of staff typically needing to park on campus for fewer than four days each week, the occasional use voucher scheme offers the more cost-effective solution. Permits and vouchers can be ordered through the online permit system.
The Hopper buses have resumed operations this week. For more information and the latest timetable visit the website.
There have been some changes to university and commercial catering outlets across our campuses. For the latest information on opening times and menus, please visit the Catering webpages.
Finding the balance between working from home and working from an office offers the chance to establish new routines that can benefit both ourselves and the environment.
Visit the back to work sustainably pages for some tips on how to help make your return to campus more sustainable.
Mental and physical wellbeing
The past 18 months have been challenging for everyone and affected us all in different ways. There are a number of ways you can access support with mental and physical wellbeing if needed.
Staff wellbeing resources can be found on Moodle.
The Staff Sport programme and fitness opportunities resumed in the 2021 Summer term and follow all relevant government guidance and safety measures.
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