January 8th, 2021
Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Long has written to all colleagues and students providing an update to the university’s plans in light of newest national lockdown restrictions.
I am writing, as promised, to provide more information as to how the government’s announcement of a further national lockdown affects you.
This communication is lengthy but includes important details on:
We have now had updated guidance from the Department for Education. This continues to stress that education remains a priority activity and that teaching can be carried out safely in Covid-secure environments. The University can and will remain open. However, there is a need for new restrictions because of the transmissibility of the new strain of the virus and as such the movement of people into and across the country must be reduced.
I have written to all students reiterating the revised term date information, including exceptional reasons for returning other than course-based, along with additional details on testing, accommodation refunds, a response to the request for an academic ‘safety net’, and support with identifying current student locations. You can read a copy of this email here. I have also written to PGR students and you can read that email here.
Revised start dates
Thank you for your assistance in confirming or advising on the dates for the resumption of in-person teaching with your students.
I recognise that the challenge of teaching and supporting students both on and off campus is considerable, and that staff have made huge efforts to deliver high quality and engaging teaching both digitally and face to face in 2020. The Digital Learning Directors will continue to work with Professional Services colleagues to ensure that the Faculty Teaching plans can be delivered, and that staff know how to access advice and training.
Covid-19 Testing Regime
As you will be aware all staff, including postgraduate researchers with a University email address, can access asymptomatic Covid-19 testing through the University’s testing service. This is simple saliva test that takes about 10 minutes to complete, with results usually available within 24 hours.
Testing is, of course, voluntary but we hope that the service for staff will offer reassurance at this time and keep our community safe. There are no limits on the number of asymptomatic tests staff can take and those who are on campus regularly should consider taking a test weekly until vaccines are widely deployed. We are issuing the same guidance to students.
With that in mind we are asking all line managers to encourage and facilitate participation in staff testing as part of the working week. In light of the current restrictions this is aimed at staff who are currently on campus. We believe that regular testing is key to preventing outbreaks, although not a substitute for existing Covid-19 security measures.
Information on testing stations and times is available here. Staff do not need to book and can simply turn up at a convenient time for them. A support toolkit for staff who test positive will be added to the testing webpage in coming days. Anyone who is symptomatic should access a NHS test as per the Isolate, Notify, Test process.
Academic ‘Safety net’ and extenuating circumstances
We have a package of measures in place to support students during the new national Covid-19 restrictions. The 2021 ‘safety net’ measures ensure that their degree provides a strong foundation for their personal and professional aspirations. Read more here.
Professor Dame Jessica Corner has written to all research staff and PGR students to outline what the current restrictions mean for those working in research. The update can be found here.
HR and People support
HR are currently updating the SharePoint pages and FAQs with updated information and advice for line managers, the position and process for furlough and guidance for vulnerable staff.
Staff should not take the latest lockdown rules as an opportunity to travel overseas to work from home, e.g. where ‘home’ is not the UK. There are important considerations and potential liabilities associated with staff employed in the UK working outside of the UK e.g. regarding salary, tax and social security payments. Staff should consult their HR Business Partner and Payroll for further advice.
You will be aware that university staff have been defined as critical workers. This enables travel for work purposes and access to education. The latest information on this can be found here.
We realise that in spite of this some of you will be balancing your current role with home-school or caring challenges. If this is the case please speak with your line manager to discuss your working arrangements. We understand how challenging this can be and, as on previous occasions last year, we will do our very best to support you in this situation.
Buildings and Parking
In light of the new restrictions we will be operating a new process to ensure buildings remain safe and secure for those who cannot work from home.
The University will keep buildings open wherever possible to support those on campus. Where the usage is low or nil a building may be placed into standby, with any essential activities to be carried out elsewhere on campus. Standby means a building is maintained but not normally accessible by general staff or students, although access to offices for the collection of books, equipment, teaching materials etc. will still be available via the Grab and Go process.
This system means that resources can be better focussed, energy waste is reduced and buildings are more secure. It also means that buildings can be fully reopened, when permitted, within 48 hours. The majority of buildings will remain open but more details will be shared over the next week.
As in previous lockdowns we have also suspended parking restrictions until further notice. More information can be found here.
We will also be offering use of the Medical School Building car park to our NHS colleagues as we have done in the past. This will be offered from Monday 11 January through to the end of February. Spaces will be reserved for university staff who are coming on site for teaching and research.
I’m pleased to share news that Kings Meadow Campus will host a regional coronavirus vaccination centre and our own Cripps Medical Centre will begin administering some of the first vaccines in the City.
The centre at KMC will be based using space currently empty in Studio 7 (A177, A151, A153a, b & c and the café area).
It will operate independently to the University, separated off using barriers, temporary walls and doorways, ensuring that patients are able to gain access without coming into contact with members of staff or accessing spaces used for university operations.
The site is expected to open to patients next week and will be in operation seven days a week until Spring 2021. Vaccinations will be pre-bookable only to limit the numbers accessing the site and parking and traffic management measures will be in place.
I will continue to keep you informed with further news as we receive it. The health and wellbeing of our university community remains our priority. We should all do our best to ensure that we are not coming onto campus if we may have the virus, and adhere to the guidance on social distancing, wearing a face mask and washing our hands regularly.
It doesn’t matter how infectious the virus is, if it is not able to reach a susceptible host, it will not be transmitted. I appreciate that this is an extremely anxious time for many of you but please know that we will continue to work hard to support you as best we can. You may find our webpages on staff wellbeing useful but please don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
Professor Andy Long, FREng
Provost & Deputy Vice-Chancellor
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