Yesterday afternoon, we received further guidance from the Government about how we are to support our staff and students during this third national lockdown. We are now working our way through the guidance and will continue to provide updates as necessary. However, work is already well underway to adjust our operations to make sure we’re doing everything we can to minimise the impact on both staff and students. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those staff who have responded so quickly and made the required, immediate changes following the latest lockdown
Today’s update includes:
- Guidance issued to students
- Our current position on this year’s Educational Safeguard policy
- IT support available for staff
- Logistics of being on campus during the lockdown including critical workers information
- Staff testing
- Research on campus
- Safety on campus
Student support and communications
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Tuesday, we emailed students about what the latest national lockdown means for them and provided information on how we will continue to support and guide them through this challenging time.
As the national situation has progressed throughout this academic year, we have been developing a new Education Safeguard policy appropriate for our current situation. This Safeguard is intended to mitigate any detriment to a student’s academic performance resulting from disruption to their studies caused by the pandemic. The key elements are:
- The uncapping of re-assessment, meaning students who retake any failed module will not be capped at 40% if they retake it.
- Extending the conditions in which students may apply for mitigating circumstances and removing the need for evidence in most cases.
- The option to defer January and/or May assessments until August where applicable.
Estates and Digital Services will resume appointments for the collection of devices and fixing of IT issues from Monday 11 January. This was paused earlier this week whilst they worked out staffing in light of the new restrictions. If you need to come to campus for this reason, more detail on the arrangements for this will be provided by the IT team.
Authorisation letters for critical workers
We are re-instating the authorisation to travel letter for staff designated as key workers to work on campus. We are also issuing letters for staff classified as critical workers by the Government to confirm this status, so that their children have the opportunity to attend school if places are available.
Yesterday, Professional Services Directors received details of the categorisation of key and critical workers during the lockdown, as well as the letter templates. Please liaise with your line manager to check if your role is classified as a critical or key worker and to request a letter.
As we are in a national lockdown, it is important that only approved staff should come to campus. If you are unsure if you should travel to work, please contact your line manager before travelling. We would also ask staff to be mindful of the pressures on schools to cope with increasingly high numbers of vulnerable and critical workers’ children.
Testing arrangements for staff
We have now had further guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) regarding lateral flow testing for staff. At this stage, staff are requested to undertake just the initial two tests with further details on the introduction of a weekly staff testing programme to be issued shortly.
Research on campus
Work is ongoing to review all research currently approved for on-campus activity and associated risk assessments, using our established principles and guidance. This work will be completed in the next few days, and if your on-campus research activity is approved, you will automatically be issued with a letter from the University authorising your travel to work. In the interim, staff and postgraduate students who already have approval to undertake on-campus activity can continue with this unless they have been advised otherwise.
Safety on campus
For those colleagues who are required to work on campus, I’d like to remind you to adhere to the following guidance:
- The 2 metre social distancing rule will continue throughout our campus and accommodation.
- The wearing of face coverings inside buildings, unless there is a medical indication not to wear one, is mandatory (it is not necessary inside single occupancy offices). Please provide and use your own face covering. If you do not have one, then we will provide single use masks. These are available from your school, college or department. Reusable face coverings are on order and will be provided when they are arrive.
- Wearing a face covering around campus and during travel to campus is advisory but not mandated (unless for example, using public transport where it is mandated by the transport carrier).
- We have produced an e-learning training package detailing the safety precautions staff should be aware of. It is mandatory that all staff view and complete these prior to their return to campus (or as soon as possible for staff who have already returned).
- Please download the Safezone App and when you arrive on campus please check-in. Buildings that are open require swipe card access to enter. Please bring your ID card if you are coming to campus. Find out what’s open and closed on campus online.
As I mentioned in my email on Tuesday, the wellbeing of our staff and students continues to be our priority. Although we're making Friday a Teams-free day for formal work meetings, I’d encourage you to explore some of the facilitated sessions that our Staff Health and Wellbeing team are running. These sessions give you a chance to take some time away from work and connect with others. The first of these, a weekly Wellbeing Café starts today (Friday 8 January) at 12.30pm, and is a chance for you to have a virtual coffee with the Staff Health and Wellbeing team and discuss your wellbeing and experiences with others. The link to join is here.
As ever, thank you for your ongoing support during this challenging time. We will continue to update you as soon as we have further information.
I hope you are all keeping safe and well.
This update follows on from our email sent after the announcement of a third national lockdown on Tuesday 5 January. Today, we wanted to provide further information on topics that have been raised by students this week.
Today’s email includes a number of important updates. Please take the time to read through all of them, as they include information on:
- Face-to-face teaching this term
- 2021 Education Safeguard
- Remote studying in semester 2
- The University hardship fund
- Inbound UK travel update
- Wellbeing support
- Safe accommodation
- Campus facilities
- Lateral flow testing.
We would like to remind you that all teaching, unless you are on an exempted course, has now moved fully online and no face-to-face teaching will take place until further notice. Currently, we do not have a clear date when face-to-face teaching and the staggered return to university may be able to resume, however it will not be before mid-February and will be dependent on Government guidance.
Our 2021 Education Safeguard
Following the announcement of the first elements of our Education Safeguard policy for 2021 on Tuesday 5 January, we wanted to re-emphasise and clarify some points about our policy for the 2020/21 academic year.
Firstly, we would like to say that we very much appreciate the substantial challenges and difficulties that many students are facing at this time. We fully recognise that some students are working in situations that will not allow them to demonstrate their full potential and we are committed to developing a package of measures for our 2021 Education Safeguard that will offer a strong level of protection for all of our students, which takes full account of all of the circumstances particular to this academic year.
We would like to emphasise that a number of significant elements of the Safeguard have yet to be confirmed and announced. Tuesday’s announcement focused on measures students can action quickly, such as mitigating circumstances applications or decisions around deferrals, or that could reassure students concerned about failing particular assessments.
Our future development of the Safeguard policy will focus on providing broader support for the outcomes and progression of students across the 2020/21 academic year. In particular, further developments will provide more protection for students who may pass all of their modules, but do not wish to defer their assessment, and are concerned about their overall attainment.
We are currently working on a number of actions to provide a fair and strong Safeguard for all our students, but these ideas take time to model, analyse and evaluate. It is important that we ensure there is fair and robust support for all of our students, studying on all years across our very broad and varied suite of courses. We would ask you to please bear with us while we complete this work and be assured that we will make every effort to protect all of our students’ educational attainment during these challenging times.
We wanted to make this statement at this time to reassure you that work is active and ongoing to provide you with the support you need. The wellbeing and attainment of our students is always paramount in our planning and there is nothing we want more than success for you all.
We will be consulting with the Students’ Union during the development of our Safeguard policy and will keep you updated on progress in the coming weeks.
Remote study in semester 2
Students who wish to study remotely for all of semester 2 should request this via their School. It may not be possible to approve all requests, as it is dependent on programme requirements.
If you are a home student receiving Student Loan Company (SLC) funding and you wish to study remotely for semester 2, please make sure you are aware of any impact this may have on your SLC funding and that you have given this due consideration. If you opt for remote learning and live at home, the Maintenance Loan element of any SLC funding may be paid at a different rate. You are responsible for informing the SLC of any changes in your circumstances, including your address during the academic year so that you can be correctly re-assessed if required.
If you are an international student and you have a current valid Tier 4 visa, the University can continue to sponsor you whilst you remain engaged with your studies in the UK or overseas and you intend to return to full-time campus-based study when circumstances allow. If you do not have a current Tier 4 visa because you are a new international student or because your visa was cancelled due to a break in your studies, we will not issue you with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) to obtain a visa at this time as you do not need to travel to the UK. We will issue you with a CAS to obtain a visa before you return to full-time, campus-based study. If you have any questions, including about eligibility for the Graduate route that permits successful graduates to remain in the UK for two years post-study, please contact email@example.com.
If you are struggling financially because of COVID-19, our hardship fund is here to support you. We recognise you may have encountered extra costs, such as for childcare, travel or IT during the pandemic. Our hardship fund is open to all students, including international, part-time and postgraduate.
Inbound travel update
Today, the UK Government updated regulations on travel to the UK. This will mean that all international students will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test taken up to 72 hours before travelling to the UK. On arrival, students from countries not in the travel-corridor will need to self-isolate for 10 days, while all international students will need to fill in a passenger locator form and adhere to national lockdown rules.
We know that many of you are undertaking remote assessments in January. We recognise these are challenging times for you and that COVID-19 may have impacted your ability to study. As a reminder, we have extended the conditions in which you may apply for mitigating circumstances and removed the requirement for evidence in most cases. We have dedicated wellbeing support in place, including mental health support, which you can find out about on our Life in Lockdown pages, as well as activities to keep you occupied.
From Monday 11 January, the Students’ Union have giveaways, as well as craft and wellbeing sessions, as part of their online destress campaign.
As a University student, you also have access to our MyWellbeing app, empowering you to make positive changes to your physical and mental wellbeing. Download from the App and Play stores, using your full University email address to register.
We’re also aware that the pandemic has made it harder to be with others, which may cause feelings of loneliness. The NHS have provided tips to support you if you are struggling with this.
Given the increase in cases of domestic violence in line with previous lockdown restrictions, we have continued to provide temporary accommodation for our students who need to leave their current housing and have no other safe place to stay. This accommodation will be provided with no associated costs to you and the length of stay will be agreed on a case-by-case basis. To access temporary accommodation if you require safety from a domestically abusive lockdown household, or to just discuss your support options, please complete a disclosure form. If you require an urgent response, please contact Security on 0116 252 2888 who are available 24/7.
For an up-to-date list of Library open hours and services, please visit here.
For details of campus building and facilities open, please visit here.
Lateral flow testing
If you are returning to campus for the first time in 2021, you must have negative results from two lateral flow tests before accessing any University buildings apart from your own accommodation. Online booking is available. We are currently refining the testing service we offer in light of the latest restrictions and we will communicate the new process as soon as can.
Finally, please ensure you stay safe, follow Government guidance and isolate, report (complete the student form) and test (book if not yet tested) if you experience any COVID symptoms.
We will continue to keep you updated regularly. Please visit our web area or follow us @uniofleicester and @leicstudentlife on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more information.
Please take good care of yourselves during this very challenging time.
Very best wishes