Following the Government’s announcement on 4th January our Vice Chancellor and President has written to all students.
On the evening of 4th January the Government announced a return to national lockdown and tighter restrictions to manage the spread of Coronavirus.
Government guidance following the announcement was clear that universities should remain open for essential research, teaching and support, but that we all now need to work together to keep the level of student travel to a minimum in light of the rising infection rates linked to the new variant of the virus.
Consequently, the government is now advising all universities that teaching should be delivered online until at least mid-February for the majority of courses.
Our current plan, if government guidelines allow, is that programmes with significant practical components where Present-in-Person (PiP) teaching is essential to achieve learning outcomes will recommence in-person teaching from 22 February. It is likely that all other programmes will remain fully online until the Easter break.
We are still waiting for the full detail from government so I will need to ask you to bear with us while we work through the information and we will write to you again tomorrow. We had an emergency meeting of our Executive Board this morning and discussed many of the issues that students have raised with me since the government announcement. As a result, we have made some key decisions that will support our students:
We agreed this morning that we will not be charging any student in University or managed accommodation for the weeks you are not in Newcastle and will look to reimburse you at the end of the academic year.
Students in Private Accommodation
I am acutely aware of the difficulties facing students in private accommodation and in my role on the board of Universities UK I will continue to raise issues associated with students unable to return to term-time accommodation. I will continue working with colleagues across the sector and with the Universities Minister and the Housing Secretary.
Students in Newcastle
For those students who have already travelled to university or have remained here over the winter break, the guidance states that you must not move back and forth between your permanent home and student home during term time.
I know how difficult this will be for some of you and I wanted to let you know that we are absolutely committed to continuing to support you over the coming weeks.
We know there are also some students who, for their own wellbeing, have a compelling reason to return to campus and our teams will work to support you if this is the case.
In order to keep footfall on campus to a minimum, you should work from home where you can but our buildings, study spaces and key facilities will remain open and accessible in a Covid-safe way if you need them. Our wellbeing and student support services are open and available as they have been throughout this pandemic and can be accessed here.
A number of you have called for the introduction of a “safety net” and we are currently discussing this alongside PECs, January deadlines and other measures which are in place to ensure you are not disadvantaged.
We hope to be able to provide you with more detailed information on teaching and assessments tomorrow so please keep an eye on your emails for this coming through from our Academic Registrar.
Finally, I want to thank you all for your patience. We realise that this ever changing situation is creating a lot of uncertainty for everyone and I want to reassure you that the health, safety and welfare of our whole Newcastle community remains our number one priority and will continue to guide every decision that we make.
All my very best wishes
Professor Chris Day
Vice-Chancellor and President