March 17th, 2021
Professor Andy Long wrote to staff recently to provide an update on the latest plans for the University’s roadmap for a fuller return to campus.
As the government’s roadmap for easing Covid restrictions continues to progress, I thought it would be helpful to give you an indication of how we anticipate this will impact life at Nottingham over the coming months.
I do not want to be anything but optimistic that by June, if the progress of the pandemic and vaccination programme allows, we can start to welcome increasing numbers of colleagues back to our campuses. However, the course of the pandemic remains difficult to predict and there is no absolute guarantee that the target dates set out in the government’s roadmap will be met.
Some of the decisions we need to take now must reflect the current risks we face and therefore may seem overly cautious. However, I am confident that they are the right decisions given the size and scale of our community and the responsibility we share for the health and safety of everyone in it.
In this communication I want to talk about: new ways of working, term dates for 2021/2, pay increments and the postponement of this year’s graduation ceremonies, alongside some context for these decisions.
New ways of working
As I outlined in my last message we will support a safe, gradual expansion of the number of staff working in Covid-secure environments, aligned to support the further returns of students which may be anticipated in April.
A number of working groups continue to consult Schools and Departments to plan for a wider return of staff to our campuses during the summer term, as far as national restrictions and social distancing requirements will permit.
Our Return to Campus principles have been updated to reflect these plans and provide guidance and support to managers and individuals on managing a phased, gradual and safe return to working at the University.
It is important for everyone to recognise that some staff – including those working in security, estates, halls, catering, grounds, libraries and researchers and technicians – have remained on campus throughout the pandemic in order to ensure critical operations and services. Their experiences have shown that staff can work on campus in a safe and secure way.
I know that other colleagues have now been working from home for an extended period, frequently managing home-schooling and the many other challenges resulting from the national lockdown. Many will want to see our campuses again, whilst others may be anxious about returning before most of the population has been vaccinated.
Therefore, when changes to the restrictions in England allow, we plan to enable these colleagues to start spending some time working on campus and some time working from home. While many staff will be able to return to their offices in Covid-secure buildings, we are also preparing a series of Covid-secure office hubs across all four campuses – University Park, Jubilee, Sutton Bonington and Kings Meadow.
These office hubs will allow staff whose office buildings remain closed, or which have reduced capacity, to book space and spend more time working on campus with their teams and colleagues, while much of their time will still be spent working from home.
This ‘hybrid model’ will continue to evolve over the summer, while we prepare to support a more developed way of ‘agile’ working for teams within specially designed workspaces that maintain health and safety alongside offering new ways of collaborative working.
The University, following feedback from Faculty teaching and timetabling groups, has made a small number of changes to the dates of academic year 2021/22, to provide additional time to welcome our new and returning students back to campus, and to prepare for the new term.
This will give us two weeks to provide students with a longer welcome period – the first week dedicated primarily to new starters and the second to help familiarise current students with any new health and safety rules or testing requirements. For both new and returning students, we believe that a dedicated period of induction or re-acclimatisation to campus life is essential, given the experiences they will have all had over the previous 18 months.
The Spring term will remain as published and the Summer term will start a week earlier to make some extra time available for teaching and assessment, should it be required. The start date of Semester 2 has also changed to reflect this. Staff will be asked to deliver the same number of contact hours as previously planned, and there is no expectation of additional content provision.
You can read more here.
While spending had been paused on pay increments while we navigated the financial uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic, university finances are now in a position to be able to pay increments and the latest Voluntary Living Wage rate, as follows:
Re-grading and promotion panels have also resumed, and the University will return to the normal timetable for the 2021 academic promotion cycle, which will open in September 2021.
We are not yet in a position to reinstate the Nottingham Reward Scheme but we will keep this under review aligned to our financial performance later in the year. More details can be found here.
As you will have read earlier this week we have made the decision to postpone our graduation ceremonies and events until 2022. We have made this decision now to provide clarity and certainty and in response to the wishes of three-quarters of our 2020 graduates who have told us that they would prefer to celebrate at a graduation ceremony which is free from restrictions.
Students who are due to graduate in 2021 will be invited to a virtual ceremony this year and certificates will be available digitally and sent in the post. The virtual ceremonies will allow an opportunity for students to recognise their achievements and to celebrate with their peers and tutors.
The University will now plan for graduation ceremonies in 2022, to which we will invite our graduates from 2020, 2021 and 2022. This is promised to be our largest ever set of graduation ceremonies.
In closing, I would like to remind everyone about the availability of weekly asymptomatic Covid tests for all staff and students and the ways you can encourage others to be tested and help to keep our community safe. You should continue to be tested regularly even if you have had the vaccine. You can now book appointments several weeks in advance, as well as simply turning up.
I remain incredibly proud of the ways in which our university has adapted and thrived during a pandemic we all hoped would be over by now. The current reduction in infection rates and hospital admissions, alongside increasing vaccination rates, is cause for cautious optimism. I look forward to a time when we can welcome more colleagues and students back to campus.
Professor Andy Long, FREng
Provost & Deputy Vice-Chancellor
University of Nottingham
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