The University of Worcester, one of the Country’s largest, high-quality educators of teachers, nurses and midwives, is preparing to re-start in-person teaching in September, under a careful plan to Save Lives; Protect the NHS; Live; Learn.
Every year, hundreds of health professionals graduate from Worcester, including paramedics, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists, as well as nurses and midwives, many of whom opted to join the NHS early this year in order to assist with the national emergency and help to save lives.
Students taking those vital degrees require face-to-face practical teaching in dedicated clinical simulation suites in order to gain the high-quality skills needed to complete their course and go on to support and protect the NHS going forward.
Professor David Green CBE, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive, said: “The University is committed to ensuring we continue to contribute our all to the national recovery from Covid-19. This includes the best possible education of several thousand health and education professional students, who will benefit from practical face-to-face teaching. We are actively undertaking a series of practical examinations and risk assessments to ensure that we can do this in the safest possible way, respecting physical distancing and other guidance. We are in discussions with our Health Trust, School and other partners to do all we can to ensure students can continue to learn safely in their practical placements.”
Professor Green said re-starting as much in-person activity as is possible was in the best interest of students.
“Research already shows that students from disadvantaged backgrounds have found it hardest to progress their studies during the lockdown,” he said. “As one of the UK’s universities which best reflects society, with a long, proud record of combining widening participation with educational quality, we must do all we can to ensure that the University of Worcester remains a powerful engine of educational opportunity.”
The University is planning to introduce a number of measures to ensure a safe start to the new academic year, which include extending the teaching day in order to diminish the ‘peak use’ of the campus, control of entrances and introduction of on-campus one-way systems, the creation of covered outdoor space for dining and informal learning, and the introduction of outdoor washing stations. Noting current government advice on travelling by public transport, the University is also currently trialling face coverings, with the intention of making these freely available to staff and students. Students and staff with significant underlying health conditions will also be included through the provision of online teaching and working options.
The University envisages running smaller in-person lectures, strictly respecting physical distancing guidelines, with simultaneous online broadcast and organising students into ‘bubbles’ who might participate in every other lecture in-person, depending on the group and room size.
Worcester is taking a significantly different approach from that being adopted by the University of Cambridge, of which Professor Green is a graduate.
“We have a responsibility to our students, staff and the wider community to ensure we continue to deliver the high quality, transformative education for which we are well known” he said. “Our approach will of course remain under continuous review as the national situation evolves and the scientific understanding of Covid-19 and how to tackle it improves. Naturally, we will comply with all relevant government regulations and seek to be an exemplar of good practice in promoting health and safety as well as in the testing, tracing and isolating approach to the virus which has been so successfully adopted elsewhere and is so highly likely to be adopted in Britain over the coming months.”
The University successfully moved all its teaching, learning and assessments online on March 20th before the Country went into ‘lockdown’ and plans to continue to build on the many positives learned during this period as it moves forward.
The campus has remained open for around 170 students who needed to continue living in halls of residence, and staff have worked hard to keep the University’s vital education, research and community work operating throughout.
Professor Green said: “Colleagues, students and graduates of the University have acted with a superb combination of professionalism, skill, self-discipline and quiet courage throughout this period despite personal tragedy for some.”
He added: “As an integral component of our overall approach to safety, we will carefully assess the best advice about how to assist students and colleagues with underlying health conditions in studying and in working as safely as possible in the ‘new normal’.
“Our aim is to enable students to be able to make excellent use of the facilities provided at the University’s campus whilst lowering peak density in order to facilitate physical distancing. We aim to enable students to continue to benefit from a personal, appropriately ‘blended’ education with both in-person and virtual elements, rather than a purely remote education.”
Existing students of the University will receive more detailed information from the University by the end of the week. The University has been working closely with Worcester Students’ Union throughout its planning.
Harry Lonsdale, President of Worcester Students’ Union, said: “We are really pleased to be working alongside the University to work out the best ways to start welcoming new and returning students in September. We will be making sure additional wellbeing activities and support will be offered and looking at ways to run recreational programmes, as well as continuing with the fantastic volunteering and fundraising work that has continued throughout this difficult time. We will be doing lots of careful planning over the summer.
“We’ve really missed the in-person connection with our students and are really proud of the fantastic ways that they have adapted to the situation, and of the many students who have been contributing their time to help others.”