In today’s update I want to focus on the Lockdown Exit Planning that is underway. This includes the current activity on campus, an update of our planning, making the campus COVID-compliant, working arrangements and updates on research and education next steps. This is a long and detailed update – please do read it in full to understand the plans and progress being made.
I know many colleagues are keen to hear more about our future plans and the progress we are making. I’m also conscious that some colleagues are keen to get back on campus as soon as possible and others may have some reservations or are concerned about how they will manage this with increased caring responsibilities. Please be assured, we are considering these different scenarios, and more, in our planning.
I wanted to remind you of the five principles we set to guide our return to campus and the plans for the University’s operating model in the coming months:
- Prioritise staff and student health, safety and wellbeing
- Follow Government guidance
- Adopt a phased approach, with key milestones in line with Government timings
- Learn as we go along – and deliver improvements
- Ensure all decisions align with our strategic priorities.
Current Activity On Campus
As many of you are aware, whilst a majority of people have moved to working from home, there are still a number of colleagues who have continued to work on campus to deliver critical research, to support students and to maintain a safe and compliant campus. When we went in to lockdown, risk assessments and new systems of work were put in place and training was made available to the University’s critical workers. This reflected Government guidance at the time and continues to be appropriate.
As we move to bringing more colleagues back to campus we need to review and update our guidance, as well as ensuring we reflect the latest guidance from Government.
There are a number of different groups who are working hard to plan for a safe return to campus for staff and students. A summarised governance map will be shared on MyWorkspace this week.
Three guidance documents will drive the University’s approach to deliver safe campus operations:
- Working on Campus (approved 4 June)
- Studying on Campus (due end of June)
- Living on Campus (due end of June)
These documents will continue to be updated as Government advice changes. I am grateful to the members of the University’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing Committee for approving the Working on Campus guidelines and the Return to Work Office Buildings Risk Assessment at its extraordinary meeting last week. This will now enable us to progress the detailed work to bring more research activity back to campus. Alongside these documents are a number of supporting documents - these document will be made available to all staff on MyWorkspace as they are approved.
A COVID-Compliant Campus
Detailed risks assessments and operating plans will be created for each building and the activities within each building. These will be completed locally in conjunction with the Health and Safety team.
COVID-compliant signage will be used across all buildings and around campus, taking a consistent approach so that you can easily spot and follow the guidance. This covers all parts of the University’s campuses, buildings and locations. Hand sanitisers will be available at the entrance of each building.
Plans will clearly set out social distancing requirements, revised procedures and processes for the building use (for example, the use of lifts, kitchens and bathroom facilities) and the enhanced cleaning activities in each building.
We expect many colleagues to continue to work from home for the coming weeks and months, and principles and additional guidance are being developed to support and inform staff about what to expect. These will be published on MyWorkspace when approved.
We recognise that some staff will be unable to return to campus due to shielding or caring responsibilities and any individual circumstances should be discussed with managers so that appropriate arrangements can be put in place for individuals.
Expanded staffing on campus will be carefully planned, tightly controlled and coordinated to mitigate potential risks and to ensure staff safety. No College, School, Department or Division should increase staffing levels without prior permission from the Lockdown Exit Group.
If you are required to return to work on campus you will need to complete the Return to Work Checklist and mandatory training. These set out the processes you need to follow to ensure you understand what is required of you on campus to ensure we keep our campus COVID-compliant and everyone safe.
Research Priorities – Plan and Next Steps
In line with Government guidance, our first priority has been to extend access to laboratories for scientific research. Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, we have maintained access to labs for those working on the virus and its effects and such COVID-19 related work, including newly funded work, will continue to be given priority.
Over the last few weeks, Colleges, working with Departments and Schools, have carried out extensive work to identify priorities for further returns to campus-based research. These priorities are based on three broad principles developed by Deans of Research.
The phased re-opening of some research facilities, in addition to those already open for COVID-related research, will commence from next week, ramping up gradually in accordance with College priorities. We are currently undertaking risk assessments for each building/work location and implementing necessary safe working adaptations (including signage).
Deans of Research/College Directors of Operations will be in touch with the staff involved in research that meets the current priority threshold to confirm local arrangements for access. Staff accessing research facilities will need to have completed the steps outlined in the Working Arrangements section above, and have their access authorised by Head of Security prior to attending campus. These buildings will not be fully open to all staff who normally work in them, but only to named staff working on the specifically prioritised research projects.
We will now move to prioritise the next phase of research activity and will monitor how this is going so we can learn from the process and adapt our approach as we go. We are also looking at the extent to which we can communicate likely timetables for return at a more granular level, but as Government guidelines change, and as our volume of COVID-19 research increases, any such timetable needs to remain flexible.
For those requiring access to research materials held in the Library, a click and collect service will begin this month and next month we expect to begin limited, pre-booked, access to non-digital archives. We will make further information on these services available shortly.
Education – Plan and Next Steps
I am sure many of you are now aware of our approach to teaching next year. This was launched at the Executive Board Live Q&A on 14 May and the Education Planning Principles for 2020/21 were shared with Schools on 20 May. Following this, we launched the top level principles of ignite to all staff, current students and prospective students. Details of the exceptional curriculum planning process for the summer were circulated to Schools yesterday, 8 June.
Many schools have been working on their plans for revised curricula in response to the Education Planning Principles and the curriculum planning guidance sets out the process to capture and approve structural changes to programmes for 2020/21. We have built in as much time as possible for Schools to consider their curricula for 2020/21 and formulate the best educational experience for students and staff.
In addition to this, further, practical guidance on dual delivery is being finalised by our Flexible Dual Delivery Working Group and will be circulated to Schools this week. The guidance provides the practical context for the education planning principles for different disciplines, advice on synchronous (live) and asynchronous teaching activities, setting up clear module structures and example content and suggestions for various different types of teaching sessions. Following this guidance, more details on timetabling for both synchronous and asynchronous teaching sessions will be circulated to Schools next week.
We are running a Live Q&A for Heads of School and Directors of Learning and Teaching on Wednesday 10 June. There will also be Live Q&As for current and prospective students on Thursday 11 June. Looking ahead, we will publish some ignite FAQS for staff and we will hold regular education “drop-in” sessions for staff to discuss ignite and all education related matters across the summer. We are also updating our students, both new entrants and returning students, who need guidance and reassurance of our plans to support their preparations for the next academic year.
There is still much to do but good progress is being made and we will continue to share updates with you each week. Please keep up to date by reading these emails and The Citizen. If you have any further queries, contact the University’s dedicated COVID-19 support team.
Thank you all for your hard work, patience and support during this time.
Chief Marketing and Engagement Officer
(Interim Chair of Lockdown Exit Group)