Thursday 15 July 2021

All PGR email

Subject: Our approach to the lifting of restrictions

Dear postgraduate researchers,

As you will know, Stage 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown begins on Monday 19 July. We have been working hard to prepare for the lifting of restrictions, to enable a gradual adaptation to the new situation over the Summer, and to plan for September and beyond.

Space on campus, including library and research

We look forward to seeing more of you on campus in the coming weeks, but as the Prime Minister made clear, we do not expect staff and PGRs to return in one go from Monday. Nor will our arrangements on campus change overnight.

Our Departments and Estates team need time to reconfigure spaces and, for example, we will continue using the booking system to book space in the Library. For research, booking systems should continue to be used to monitor use of laboratory space and other research facilities, and for field trips and off-site working, we will continue to use risk assessments to assess and mitigate covid risks.

Supervision

Your supervisors and Thesis Advisory Panel might be changing the way they work - continuing with remote working or hybrid working - so how and where they meet you might change. This is a conversation you need to have together, so you can find the right solution for everyone.

Face coverings

We know that face coverings can make a real difference in limiting the transmission of Covid-19. Our new policy strongly recommends the use of face coverings when moving around buildings, including communal areas, and areas where there are likely to be high numbers or concentrations of people.

We need to stress that we cannot mandate the use of face coverings, and the DfE guidance states that “No student should be denied education on the grounds of whether they are, or are not, wearing a face covering.” But at the University of York we will continue to emphasise that there are circumstances where continuing to wear one is appropriate, and that we expect everyone to be supportive and respectful of others’ preferences.

Other protective measures

You will continue to find comprehensive measures across campus, including provision of hand sanitiser and protective screens. We also know good ventilation remains important.

It is crucially important to stay at home when you feel ill and not risk transmitting infections to others (whether covid, flu, or a cold), and we will continue to promote the importance of good hygiene behaviours.

GTAs: Teaching

For our graduate teaching assistants, we plan for in-person teaching to resume for all subjects from September (though we recognise there will be exceptions, like the need to continue to deliver online teaching for international students unable yet to travel to York).

While no longer maintaining social distancing, we will follow a precautionary approach around busy indoor spaces. So, for example, we are working on guidance to students that will encourage them to watch in-person lectures via the VLE in the first half of term, so we can keep on-campus lecture attendance low. Assessment arrangements will remain online.

Our approach here at York

The Government direction - of moving away from legal restrictions to making informed decisions - means a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility.

We are all coming to this situation with very different viewpoints, concerns and expectations. Not all will respond to the removal of restrictions in the same way.

So we need to be supportive and considerate of one another, and work together to find the right balance, with empathy and respect. That sense of consideration and community has been a real strength of York over the last 18 months, and will continue to be important in the months ahead.

While the Government’s onus is on individual responsibility, we will continue to offer guidance to our staff and students to take precautions, which support individual actions and behaviours, and which bring collective benefit.

In doing so we will work closely with the GSA, and of course we will keep things under review both ahead of the start of term and midway through term one.

The importance of testing

We know that testing has made a real difference in breaking chains of transmission and regularly picks up asymptomatic cases in both staff and students.

As more activity opens up both on and off campus, testing will be even more important. If you have not yet been testing regularly, please do start to make testing part of your routine as you return to campus.

I very much hope to see more of you on campus soon, but in the meantime, as always, please do take care of yourself and others as we adapt yet again to this stage out of lockdown.

Best wishes

Charlie