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Taught Programme Student Update

By Newcastle University

Dear Taught Programme Students,

I know there has been a great deal of information to take in this week due to the rapidly changing government guidance. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

We have now received guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) to inform our planning for the Spring Term following the move to a national lockdown. In this message I provide updates on the following:

  • Degree programmes where students are permitted to return to campus in January
  • Travelling back to Newcastle
  • Testing for returning students
  • Plans for the return of students on all other programmes
  • An immediate 7 day extension for assessed coursework
  • Ensuring fair assessments

Degree programmes where students are permitted to return to campus in January

The DfE guidance requires universities to limit the courses that return to on-campus teaching in January. For Newcastle University, subject areas permitted to return fall into the following categories:

  1. Medicine & dentistry
  2. Subjects allied to medicine/Health
  3. Education (initial teacher training)

In the case of subjects allied to medicine/health, we are required to focus primarily on clinical courses when considering which degree programmes can return to campus in January.

It is on this basis, that the list of degree programmes where students are permitted to return to Newcastle in January has been prepared.

If your degree programme features on this list, and if you’ve not already done so, then you can prepare to return to campus/your placement in line with the dates provided by your academic unit/placement provider. If you haven’t already heard from your academic unit, they will be writing to you shortly.

If your degree programme features on the list but you are unable to return to campus/your placement at this time, please contact your academic unit to discuss the options available to you.

Travelling back to Newcastle

The Government guidance provides specific advice on travel for students who are required to return to campus (see page 15 of the guidance). Students are advised to travel by private vehicles wherever possible and to avoid car sharing with anyone outside their household or support bubble. If students are unable to travel by private vehicles, travel by public transport is permitted but students should follow the Government’s safer travel guidance for passengers.

To help reduce the spread of Covid-19 when travelling you should:

  • wear a face covering unless exempt
  • keep your distance from people from other households when you travel, where possible
  • wash or sanitise your hands regularly
  • avoid the busiest routes, as well as busy times like the rush hour
  • download the NHS COVID-19 app before you travel, if possible and check in where you see official NHS COVID-19 QR code posters

Testing for returning students

To protect both the University and local communities, students who are returning are expected to take two Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests on their return.

You should book your first test for as soon as possible following your arrival in Newcastle and arrange a second test 3 days later. Between the two tests you should minimise social contact and you should not access University facilities until you have received two negative test results.

If you remained in Newcastle over the winter break and have been in contact with others you should also make arrangements to book two LFD tests 3 days apart before accessing University facilities.

Please book your tests via this link.

If you receive a positive Covid test you must self-isolate and let us know, even if you are not in Newcastle. Please inform us by completing the self-isolation form. Support is available from the University if you need to self-isolate and colleagues will work to accommodate your needs during this time so that we can ensure everyone is kept safe.    

Plans for the return of students on all other degree programmes

The Government guidance states that all remaining degree programmes (i.e. those not included on this list) should continue to be offered online from the beginning of term and the return/arrival of other students should be paused until at least mid-February.

The number of programmes where students will be permitted to return in mid-February is likely to be limited and, for the majority of programmes, teaching will continue online until the end of the Spring Term (Friday 26 March).

We will provide details of the limited additional programmes where students may be able to return in mid-February, subject to the public health situation, before the end of the month. In line with the Government guidance, these will be degree programmes where in-person teaching and learning is judged absolutely necessary to fulfil learning outcomes.

The majority of students are not expected to return to Newcastle before Easter at the earliest.

Immediate 7 day extension for assessed coursework

In recognition of the disruption caused to students as a result of the current national lockdown, University Education Committee has agreed with immediate effect that all assessed coursework with deadlines scheduled between 11 January and 31 January 2021 (inclusive) will receive a seven day extension.  This extension will be applied automatically and students do not need to submit a PEC in order to benefit from it. If you have already submitted a PEC for an extension this will be set aside if it was for 7 days or less. In the small number of cases where a Semester 1 January 2021 deadline has already passed, schools will continue to take account/process extension request through the PEC process.

Please note: This extension does not apply to clinical students studying MBBS, BDS and ODHS programmes in the Faculty of Medical Sciences.

Ensuring fair assessments

We understand many of you are concerned about the impact of the latest national restrictions on your assessments, and many of you have taken the time to contact us with requests for a ‘no detriment’ or ‘safety net’ policy to be applied to assessments undertaken during the 2020-21 academic year. 

To ensure that your assessment outcomes for 2020-21 are fair and protect the integrity of your degree, we have a range of measures in place to ensure that all students, as individuals and as a cohort, will receive fair outcomes. Details of how these operate, including consideration of how individual circumstances are taken into account, are set out here. Our approach will be reviewed regularly in light of prevailing circumstances.

In next week’s message I will provide more information on the support that is available for students during the national lockdown, both online and on campus, accommodation refunds and updates on any changes that happen in the coming days.  Please keep checking your emails.

With thanks and best wishes,

Lucy Backhurst - Academic Registrar

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