Monday 6 July 2020

All staff and PGR email

Update - campus restrictions and reopening our spaces

Dear colleagues,

I hope all is well.

As the Government guidance on lifting lockdown continues to evolve, I am writing today to update you on plans for easing restrictions and reopening spaces on campus.

I know that many of you are keen to have more clarity on what to expect, so I outline below our current position and the changes you can expect over the summer and as we move towards the start of term.

Current position: campus restrictions

First things first: The health and safety of our community remains our absolute priority. This will always determine how and when we resume activity on campus.

We continue to be guided by the latest Government and regulatory advice, including the changes which came into effect on 4 July.

What has reopened so far?

Based on the current Government timetable and guidance, we have already been able to open some of our labs and research facilities, primarily in the Faculty of Sciences, but also in some other parts of the University. As a result, a limited number of colleagues and students working on research projects - typically at about 25% of normal capacity in their area - have returned to campus following Covid-19 risk assessments.

We have also re-opened the Nursery and we will soon reopen the Library, initially for a limited 'click and collect' service, but working towards a full service including bookable study space for students and staff. In these cases too, we have developed robust Covid-19 secure procedures and preventative measures to reduce the risk of transmission, working with Health and Safety colleagues and Trade Union representatives to ensure safe practice.

Over the coming weeks and throughout the summer, we will push on with a phased reopening of spaces, while carefully managing the numbers of staff and students at work on campus. I have asked that - as soon as is feasible and safe, and after careful and detailed risk assessment - all academic departments are accessible at 25% of capacity. This may take some time to roll out, so in the interim we will soon share arrangements that enable one-off access to collect materials from staff offices.

We will be liaising with Department management teams to set out a clear timetable by which staff can return within those 25% capacity limits. This will need to involve a system for planning and booking days in the office and careful management of access to shared spaces including kitchens and toilets.

Managing our return: working as one community

We want to support as much campus-based and face-to-face activity as possible, but social distancing guidelines mean we will need to prioritise some staff in accessing campus and to plan carefully how best to use the campus safely and effectively. Those guidelines will significantly reduce available space for the foreseeable future.

With space at a premium, what is being considered in planning?

We want to do what we can within the restrictions that apply to enable excellent research, provide outstanding teaching and offer a rewarding and fun student experience.

To do this, we will need to identify extra capacity across campus in order to compensate for the reduced capacity our buildings will have for teaching and study space because of social distancing. This might mean using buildings for different purposes than usual.

Managing the safe flow of people in, out and around campus, is also important, as well as considering carefully how people will travel to campus including by public transport. This might involve staggered start/finish times.

I know that some colleagues have thrived with home-working and are keen to understand how we can build on this. I also know that others lack the facilities to work as effectively as they could from home, or are constrained by caring responsibilities. Others still have found home-working difficult for their wellbeing. We will look to understand individual preferences and needs, and how these align to the work we need to carry out.

Next year will be a challenging year, and we will need to work together, as one community, with both commitment and compassion, to enable the safe and successful reopening of campus, to welcome back students, and to support an inclusive working environment.

Next steps: institutional and local level cooperation

Working with our senior leaders group and our academic and professional service departments, we will continue to coordinate and progress how, where and when staff can be on campus, and to sequence and manage competing priorities.

We know that decisions often need to be taken and owned at the local level. We will soon share updated guidance about how we manage more controlled and safe access to buildings.

We will also continue to update guidance in response to the national situation as Government advice evolves. One thing will remain constant though, and that is the commitment to the health and safety of our whole community..

Best wishes


Professor Charlie Jeffery