Registrar’s blog: Supporting the University’s recovery


June 10th, 2020

I wanted to update our community on the work undertaken by colleagues across the University’s professional services teams to support the phased re-opening of our UK campus and to welcome students in the autumn.

Our new academic year will start as planned, on 21 September 2020 and the Recovery Group, chaired by Deputy Vice-Chancellor professor Andy Long, is looking at every aspect of our preparations. Supported by colleagues in Planning, Performance and Strategic Change the Group is overseeing our programme for recovery and the re-opening of University buildings over the weeks and months ahead.

The Recovery Group is working through seven main strands of activity, involving colleagues from across professional services, and developing detailed plans for how we are going to conduct our research, teaching and services across the University. There are many complexities and interdependencies to consider and our over-riding concern will remain that of the health and safety of our staff and students. It is worth offering a sense of just some of the issues our colleagues are engaging with currently.

One of the challenges we face lies in supporting students to start their studies with us in the autumn. While the number of students accepting places at Nottingham is currently similar or better than previous years, we do not know yet how this year’s extra-ordinary A-level arrangements will play out, whether some students might opt to defer their studies, or what international applicants are really going to do when faced with travel across a globe still emerging from lockdown. To engage and reassure offer-holders, colleagues across External Relations are keeping them closely informed of our plans for September as they are developed, and are implementing virtual open days and digital recruitment and conversion campaigns to show prospective students what Nottingham has to offer.

Universities also face close scrutiny from our main regulator, the Office for Students, as well as the government and national media about their plans for re-opening. Colleagues in our Health & Safety Department are working with Estates teams to ensure that we are following all of the necessary guidance and regulations, so that we can ensure staff and students have the safest and best possible experience on returning to campus. This is perhaps the tallest order we face while government regulations continue to emerge at an increasingly rapid rate and may of course change to suit the circumstances we face at the time.

Looking ahead to September, professional services colleagues are working with Nottingham Trent University, the City Council and public agencies ranging from the NHS to Nottinghamshire Police to manage the safe and organised return of tens of thousands of students to the city. A significant operation at the best of times, it will be additionally challenging this year to ensure this is managed in line with whatever social distancing regulations remain in force come September.

And of course, we are working to address the big issues for students once they have arrived in the city: ensuring student accommodation is safe and supports social distancing; managing any quarantine and self-isolation requirements; providing catering, libraries, and learning resources alongside the necessary student support and welfare services.

As well as supporting our colleagues and students, professional services teams will also need to plan for our own phased return to campus, when this is both necessary and permitted, which may not be until much later in the summer. To ensure safety once we are back on campus and to embrace one of the positives of working during the lockdown, our new model of working is likely to be different from that of the recent past, with a greater emphasis on agile and remote working patterns.

In turn, a more agile approach will rely on excellent collaboration between professional services colleagues across Registrar’s, Finance and Infrastructure, Human Resources and in Schools and Faculties. We will support this partnership culture with a new set of values for professional services staff that will augment the values of Fairness, Ambition, Inclusiveness, Respect and Openness at the heart of the University Strategy.

These values will help guide our actions as we seek to respond to the biggest challenge our University and the higher education sector has ever faced. However, as you have demonstrated in your continued focus on delivery since lockdown, professional services colleagues are an incredibly resilient team. I know that every one of you will continue to do all you can to support our students and colleagues across the University.

I am extremely proud of the way that professional services staff have risen to the challenge of delivering our vital contribution – some working on campus to maintain critical operations, and so many more working at home while also managing caring, home education and shielding responsibilities. Thank you all for professional, dedicated and excellent standard of work in difficult circumstances over the past few months, and a special thank you to those in Estates, Security, BSU, Campus Life, in Medicine and Health Sciences, IS, Health and Safety and many others who have continued to maintain vital operations on campus during the lockdown.

Of course, the most important thing to enable us all to continue this important work is to do all that you are able to look after yourself, family, friends and colleagues at this time. Your personal health and wellbeing alongside that of your family and friends remains the number one priority. Do please keep in touch at paul.greatrix@nottingham.ac.uk and let me know your thoughts on our approach to recovery for the University.

Thank you again for you hard work, dedication and commitment to our University. I appreciate it enormously.

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