Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s blog: reflections on progress so far

June 8th, 2020

This week is the twelfth week of the UK’s Coronavirus lockdown and the fourth week of the University’s Recovery Board. It feels like a good point to pause and reflect on what we have achieved to date, while looking ahead to what we still need to do.

I do not think that any of us would have ever expected to be in a situation like this, separated from families, loved ones and colleagues, and living and working in a largely digital existence. Yet we have adapted quickly and our community has shown great resilience and come together in extraordinary ways. I am incredibly proud of the efforts you have all made to enable our University to continue to deliver high quality education and essential research supporting the COVID-19 efforts.

We are now at a key point in building on the University’s Recovery plan and we cannot lose momentum. Hearing me repeat the message to continue working from home may seem frustrating for some but it is necessary to keep our community safe and to enable us to prioritise our coordinated and phased return to campus. Please, be patient while we progress with this very complicated process.

As Chair of the Recovery Board, I have seen at first-hand a lot of the ‘behind the scenes’ work taking place and I wanted to share with you some of those efforts while also publicly thanking the Recovery workstream leads and their teams.

Health and Safety, Estates, Schools and Professional Service teams are working tirelessly to open up more of our buildings as soon as is safe. As you might imagine this is not a simple process, even for buildings that have had people working in them throughout the last few months. There are many factors to consider including implementing the right health and safety measures, ensuring that staff have correct personal protective equipment where required, and that they have undergone appropriate training.

In terms of re-starting on campus research activity, we are currently focussing on the following buildings: the Biodiscovery Institute and Chemistry Building at University Park; Vet School and Plant Sciences at Sutton Bonington Campus; and Advanced Manufacturing Building at Jubilee Campus. We are also developing an approach to allow access to research materials from the Hallward Library. Once we have made progress in these areas we will open up more facilities based on the priorities identified by our Faculty PVCs.

No one should return to campus until asked to do so even if you usually work within these buildings. Please be patient and in doing so avoid placing extra burden on colleagues who are working hard to open up our facilities.
While we continue to get our campus ready for research priority areas, we are also looking ahead to recommencing teaching. While the main focus is on the new academic year in September we are also looking at some early returners, in particular courses with clinical skills components or placements.

Our Education and Student Experience workstreams have been navigating the task of how we can deliver our high standards of teaching and learning in a safe way and this will be communicated, firstly to staff, and then to returning students, later this week. This work ranges from how to set out seminar rooms safely for face-to-face teaching to getting students engaged with online lectures and examining how students might move around campus. Already Estates have carried out checks in some 175 teaching rooms, assessing them for use under new guidelines.

Workstream leads are also looking at how we can adhere to guidelines on social distancing in halls and reassuring our students and their families, as well as local communities, that staff and student safety is at the heart of everything we are doing.

Digital workstreams are supporting plans to manage the student confirmation and clearing process this year, and Virtually Nottingham will give next year’s potential applicants an online version of our open days and a taster of life at Nottingham. This will progress to include support for Registration and Welcome Week activities at a time when social distancing restrictions are likely to continue.

With these few examples, you can see how these workstreams are interconnected and reliant on each other to drive our recovery. Please support this work by continuing to be patient, continuing to uphold the highest of standards in education and research and continuing our commitment to making the University a safe place to be.

Professor Andy Long, FREng,
Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor

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