Welcoming students back to campus in September

VC Blog - 30

I hope you had a restful bank holiday weekend and want to thank you once again for your hard work and dedication over the past few months in helping us to meet some of the most challenging times in the University’s history.

For the moment, our position remains unchanged. All staff should continue to work from home until advised otherwise. Exceptions apply for the small number of designated staff who are maintaining vital campus operations, conducting coronavirus research or supporting those students who remain with us. Students should continue to remain at home and conduct their studies and assessments online.  

I know many of us will be thinking about when we will be able to return to campus and continue our work in person and - for those already delivering critical work on campus - when buildings and other services will reopen. Thank you for your patience and understanding while work on this incredibly complex task is co-ordinated by the Recovery Group to ensure our UK campuses are safe and ready for people to return.

These are uncertain times, but our primary focus remains focused on the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff and students to ensure everyone feels confident and secure while working and studying on our campuses – much of this informed by our experience in already reopening and welcoming back more than 5,000 students to our campus in Ningbo, China.

In all our planning we will keep the concerns and sensitivities of our community at the forefront of our thinking, engage with our staff and student unions, and place health, safety and wellbeing at the heart of any decisions we make.

Safeguarding our community in the new academic year
For our undergraduate students and many postgraduates, our new academic year will start, as planned, on 21 September 2020. A number of postgraduate courses may commence later than this and we will confirm these very shortly. We will welcome new and returning students back to our UK campuses in line with whatever national measures are in place at that time. I will write to our students and applicants tomorrow to provide an initial outline of our preparations, but wanted to share this with our staff first, with further information to follow in early June.

To reassure our community, social distancing measures will be in place across our teaching and study spaces, offices, halls of residence, laboratories, cafes, meeting rooms, sports facilities, libraries, support services and outdoor spaces. We are also examining how we can guide people through buildings, introducing dedicated entrances and exits along with one-way systems, queues and distance markers that have become a familiar feature in other areas of national life. 

To maintain excellent hygiene and reduce opportunities for transmission, our buildings will be cleaned and disinfected regularly and additional handwashing and sanitising facilities will be provided. Personal protective equipment (PPE) will be provided where it is required in specific circumstances, for example clinical teaching and research facilities.  

The experience of lockdown has also given us an opportunity to experiment with more agile, flexible working practices. I am keen that as many of us as possible explore how we can continue these by, for example, staggering start times and working remotely or from home more often to achieve an improved work-life balance, contribute to environmental sustainability and limit the number of people on campus at any given time.

Teaching and the student experience 
As always, Nottingham will offer all students an outstanding education. Many of our programmes are taught through small-group settings such as seminars, laboratory classes and tutorials. We will seek to continue to teach these in person, while following any national safety guidelines in place at the time, to ensure students have every opportunity to engage with their teaching and learning.

Some of our larger-scale lectures may need to be delivered differently, for example through guided learning, deploying educational technologies or in interactive sessions with lecturers, but in all circumstances, students can be assured of the highest quality teaching.

We will aim to support students to personalise their learning experience according to their interests and career aspirations, particularly through their dissertations and research projects. We will support each other to teach and help our students realise their potential. Our core curriculum and modules will continue, and while we may need to adjust some optional modules to support this work, we will maintain the diverse curriculum and range of expertise that Nottingham is known for.

Conducting our research 
I am incredibly proud of the researchers, technicians and support staff who are contributing to the national effort to tackle the coronavirus, from developing potential drugs and vaccines to examining the broader impacts of the pandemic on people and society.  

While our world-leading research in other areas has not stopped, I know that many have had to pause research projects or continue them remotely in environments that may be less than ideal. I would like to thank these colleagues for their patience and look forward to restoring increasing amounts of research back to our UK campuses over the next few weeks in a phased return that will maintain our highest standards and quality outputs while keeping our staff safe.

Professor Jessica Corner is leading a consultation with Schools to establish the criteria for prioritising the return of campus research activity, aligned to the gradual restoration of buildings, facilities and equipment, as well as funding, partners and contract deadlines. You can read more about this in Professor Corner’s latest blog.

Staying informed
I hope that you find this information reassuring and join me in thanking the many colleagues across the University who are working intensively so that we can commence our new academic year in person, in safety and in the spirit of community that makes Nottingham so special.

Please continue to follow the latest information and updates on our webpages and I will write again to provide you with more detail on our planning in June. In the meantime, do let me know your thoughts feelings and ideas for our recovery at vc-covidrecovery@nottingham.ac.uk. Thank you for all that you are doing, stay safe and be well.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West signature

Professor Shearer West 
University of Nottingham 

University of Nottingham

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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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