Studying and the Campus in the new academic year (Thu 21 May)
I hope that your health and that of your loved ones is good and that your assessments have been going well.
This email provides you with some information on the approach the University is taking to the new academic year in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Please may I take this opportunity to thank you personally, and also the leaders of the Students’ Union, for the very responsible way in which Worcester students have reacted both individually and together to the pandemic and its effects.
Since the ‘national lockdown’ began in March the focus of the University has been on supporting each and every student to continue with their studies as well as possible in the new circumstances.
I am very grateful to my colleagues who have reacted so positively and professionally to moving teaching, learning and assessment online so that your studies and educational progress can continue as well as possible in the face of the pandemic. Thank-you for all your positive engagement, understanding, suggestions and support.
The University has done our best to support the NHS locally and to contribute to saving as many lives as possible by providing specialist equipment, helping our 3rd year nursing students join the NHS if they so wished, and in other practical ways, as well as by working closely with the Students’ Union in promoting volunteering in particular.
There has been active support for those students who have remained in residence and the big increase in requests for various aspects of student welfare support has been met with the compassion and empathy for which student services at Worcester is renowned.
Arrangements for next Academic year
The next academic year (2020-21) will begin as originally scheduled.
What will next year look like?
Provided the national situation continues to improve, including the effective implementation of the Government’s proposed test, track and trace programme, we hope to be able to move most of our learning back on campus by the start of the term.
We envisage running many in-person lecture programmes, often with smaller groups, strictly respecting physical distancing guidelines, with simultaneous online broadcast where possible and appropriate.
We will aim to deliver the majority of other teaching, including tutorials, workshops, lab work and practicals on campus as long as this can be done in a ‘Covid-19 secure’ way and fully in accordance with Government regulations and World Health Organisation guidance.
This will mean some significant changes – particularly making full use of the teaching day with the timetabling of more late afternoon and early evening classes in particular, in order to avoid busy ‘peaks’ at campus, which would make social distancing difficult. In addition, groups will be split into ‘bubbles’ who will have more teaching together. In some courses we will also use a buddy system for tasks which need to be carried out together.
A great deal of work is currently underway to ensure that our campuses are carefully prepared for the safest possible, socially distanced return to in-person study. Our actions will be guided by science and entirely up-to-date best practice and will likely include, for example:
- The creation of student residential, study and activities ‘bubbles’, where students are organised into groups;
- Full use of the contract tracing ‘app’ system. We will aim to be an exemplar generally of the national programme to ‘test, trace and isolate’, ensuring that any case of Covid-19 is quickly identified and that there is the minimum transmission;
- A further enhanced cleaning regime and the installation of facilities such as outdoor sinks, as well as easy access to hand sanitisers and wipes for computer equipment, desks and other frequently touched items;
- Careful management of the timetable, making full use of the teaching day, to minimise ‘peak density’ on campus;
- Physical distancing within our campuses, including increasing the distance between study spaces in such facilities as the Peirson Study and Guidance Centre;
- One-way circulation within buildings, wherever possible and appropriate;
- The creation of covered outdoor space for dining and informal learning;
- The creation of more cycle hoops and car parking spaces and continued access to a bicycle loan scheme;
- The availability of equipment, such as face shields, to help improve the safety of the whole community as well as managing occasions where social distancing is difficult, such as using public transport.
Acting in this way, we will be highly responsible, aiming to provide outstanding educational opportunities in which our students will be able to both learn and live on campus, as well as virtually. We will of course comply with all relevant government regulations and the latest World Health Organisation guidance and will keep all of our plans under continuous review, ready to act if the situation changes and to make full use of scientific advances. Together with the Students’ Union, we will continue to gather feedback, questions and ideas from our students to inform our approach. Your good ideas are crucial and most welcome so please do share them through our website. Of course, the safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and visitors to the University will remain our primary concern and will be the foremost consideration in our decision-making. There will be a special programme of support for students who are unable to come to campus due to their own health condition.
There is a lot of detailed work to do, and we will keep you updated throughout the summer.
As there is so much news about some universities being ‘online for lectures’ all next year, I thought it only right to be in touch now to let you know about the approach that we are taking.
Stay in touch
We remain here to help and support you and will write to you again as we develop more detail about next year, including further timetabling information. Please do refer to our Students’ Union Help and Advice website and continue to follow our Coronavirus FAQ pages as these will be regularly updated with new information. If you have immediate questions, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With all best wishes.
Professor David M A Green CBE
Vice Chancellor & Chief Executive
University of Worcester