Monday 16 March 2020

All staff email

Covid19 - 16 March 2020

Dear colleague

The Covid-19 situation in the UK and internationally is evolving at an extraordinary pace. We face a perhaps unprecedented global public health challenge with far-reaching impacts not just on universities but on our wider society and economy.

Against that background I want to make clear that the health and wellbeing of our staff and students is our main priority. We have therefore decided to take the following decisions:

  • That all teaching from the start of the summer term on Tuesday 14 April will move to online provision
  • That all examinations and assessments for the remainder of this academic year will also move online
  • That all first-year examinations will be cancelled
  • That international out-bound travel will only be authorised in genuinely exceptional circumstances
  • That staff with vulnerabilities to underlying health conditions should move to home-working immediately. Please consult with your direct line manager and with HR to discuss further
  • That we will implement social distancing measures, including split team working between home and campus, along with a significant extension of home-working as required
  • Colleagues should generally move to organising meetings via tele- or video-conference where possible
  • That Post Offer Visit Days and Widening Participation residentials will move to an online-only format
  • That other events, involving significant numbers of people visiting our campus, should be assessed as to whether they go ahead

I recognise that you will have many questions about these decisions. We will communicate further with you about how we implement these measures in the next few days, and I am writing in parallel to students to inform them of these changes.

Please continue to monitor our central www.york.ac.uk/coronavirus page for further information, and also monitor your staff email address for new messages. In addition, we will also shortly be establishing an information telephone helpline to provide any further updates on how the University is responding.

It is important to note however that while taking these steps the University is not closed. Most facilities – including the Library – will remain open - albeit we will introduce social distancing measures for large common areas across the campus and further communications will be issued in the coming days. Our catering outlets and our residential colleges will also remain open and we have been in consultation with all of our suppliers to ensure continuity of supply.

It is important that all members of our community are aware of and follow official Public Health England advice on self-isolation if they have possible Covid-19 symptoms.

These are exceptional circumstances and concern for the health and wellbeing of staff and students has to be at the forefront of our minds. I am conscious that the decisions set out above will require significant change to our working practices and involve additional work in the short term. I am conscious too that due to self-isolation, but also family responsibilities should we see school closures, we may experience periods of short-staffing. In this light it will be important for us to identify areas of work that we can postpone so we can manage our workload to best effect in the interests of our staff. Again, you can expect to hear more on this in the coming period.

We face this situation just after a difficult period of strike action. I underline the commitment I made to work with campus unions to jointly address the issues around working conditions that are an important part of the current dispute and hope that we can take this conversation forward soon. I will, of course, be engaging closely with trade union representatives as we develop our response to the Covid-19 issue.

Our colleagues in HR will continue to work with anyone who has serious concerns with regard to Covid-19. We have also created a central email account - covid19-enquiries@york.ac.uk - in order to be able to triage and respond quickly to anyone with concerns and we will also be creating a call centre imminently. Please continue to check our main Covid-19 pages at www.york.ac.uk/coronavirus for accurate and updated advice.

As you will appreciate the decisions taken today will require much detailed work by colleagues across the institution. A number of working groups are now developing implementation plans to deliver against the decisions taken this morning. I would ask you to remain patient and we will provide further information on the detail behind these decisions as quickly as possible.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation in a period in which the shared sense of community and compassion that marks out this University will be all the more important.

Best wishes

Charlie

Professor Charlie Jeffery

Vice-Chancellor

All student email

Covid19 - 16 March 2020

Dear student

The Covid-19 situation in the UK, and internationally, is evolving at an extraordinary pace. We face a perhaps unprecedented global public health challenge with far-reaching impacts not just on universities but on our wider society and economy.

Against that background I want to make clear that the health and wellbeing of our staff and students is our main priority. We have therefore decided to take the following decisions:

For our students

  • That all teaching from the start of the summer term on Tuesday 14 April will move to online provision
  • That our residences and colleges remain open
  • That all examinations and assessments for the remainder of this academic year will also move online
  • That all first year examinations are cancelled
  • That Post Offer Visit Days and Widening Participation Residentials will be delivered online

For our staff

  • That out-bound international travel for staff will only be authorised in genuinely exceptional circumstances
  • That staff with vulnerabilities to underlying health conditions should move to home-working immediately
  • That we will implement social distancing measures, including split team working between home and campus along with a significant extension of home-working as required
  • That we move to a general shift to conducting meetings remotely via tele- or videoconference
  • That other events, involving significant numbers of people visiting our campus, should be assessed as to whether they go ahead

What this will mean for you:

Online teaching

We will be working over the Easter vacation period to start the process of updating and moving teaching materials online. We are also in the process of assessing the best digital tools in order to deliver seminars and tutorials via online platforms. We will be able to tell you more about how this will all work in the coming days. Our aim will be to provide access to online learning opportunities wherever you are in the world at the start of next term.

Examinations and assessments

It would be irresponsible to continue with examinations that rely on large numbers of students physically gathering together to sit exams or take assessments. Therefore in line with most universities in the UK we have decided that exams scheduled for April/May will not be undertaken in the normal way in large exam halls on campus. We have also taken the decision to cancel all Undergraduate first year examinations.

We are working with all departments to assess how we can move to an online assessment process for all other years of study, and they will be in contact with you to provide further information in this regard. All staff are working hard now to get this ready for you. We are committed to ensuring that all students can complete their academic programme and graduate or progress on time. You should continue to work on any assessments that have already been set. We strongly advise you to continue with your studies and revision as normal.

International travel

We have taken the decision to stop all staff out-bound international travel relating to University business. Further details on travel arrangements will be published on the University Covid-19 web pages including information for students on international placements or study abroad programmes.

Campus arrangements

We understand that many students may wish to return home, or have already returned to their homes. Some students may wish to remain at home during this period of exceptional circumstance. However, we also appreciate that for some students the campus or the city is their year round home. The following explains what you should do in different circumstances.

For students who would normally return following the Easter vacation

Students who have left campus for the Easter vacation will be able to access online teaching provision from wherever they are in the world from the start of next term. More information on how to study online will follow. If the campus or the city is your usual place of residence and you plan to return following the Easter vacation please contact the Student Hub to discuss your circumstances.

For students currently on campus

Should you choose to leave campus or the city and return home following the announcement of online teaching, please inform the Student Hub. For any student remaining on campus or in the city, it is important to understand that the University is not closed. At present most facilities, including Colleges, residences, the library and cafes will remain open and we have been assured by our supplies of fresh food that stocks have not been affected. Our laboratory and other technical facilities will continue to be supported. We will be working to develop guidance with regard to social distancing in large common areas in the coming days.

We appreciate this is a very worrying time and that you will have lots of questions and concerns. Our priorities are to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff and students. Our Covid-19 contingency planning groups are meeting daily to discuss the ongoing situation, we will be updating the University Covid19 advice pages regularly and you should also consult the Public Health England website for information on how to self-isolate if it is required.

As you will appreciate the decisions taken today will require much detailed work by colleagues across the institution. A number of working groups are now developing implementation plans to deliver against the decisions taken this morning. I would ask you to remain patient and we will provide further information on the detail behind these decisions as quickly as possible.

We will continue to email you with updates. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation in a period in which the shared sense of community and compassion that marks out this University will be all the more important.

Best wishes

Charlie

Professor Charlie Jeffery

Vice-Chancellor