Thursday 19 March 2020
All student email
Covid-19 update Thursday 19 March - travelling home and arrangement on campus
I am writing with a further update about the Covid-19 situation. I appreciate the rapid pace of change here in the UK and elsewhere is worrying. Our overriding concern is for your good health and wellbeing.
You will be aware from media reports that many national borders are closing and that air travel is scaling back radically around the world. You will also be aware that a number of European states have introduced significant limits on social interaction including major restrictions on domestic travel. We cannot rule out that similar policies will be introduced in the UK.
With these unfolding developments in mind, we strongly advise that all students, who are in a position to do so, consider leaving student accommodation on campus and returning home. If you are living in accommodation elsewhere in the city, you may also wish to consider the implications of possible future Government advice as the situation evolves. As our International Pathways College (IPC) have also moved to online teaching, the information in this email is also applicable to our IPC community.
For those of you who have no option other than to remain on campus for personal reasons or due to travel restrictions, the University of course remains your home. It is our absolute priority to do all that we can to support your health and wellbeing. We will continue to support and maintain essential facilities and services. We are following Government advice, however, which means many of our staff are working from home and we are not able to maintain a full range of services. Rest assured, the small number of staff remaining on campus remain dedicated and focused on supporting you, if you have to stay.
Our Campus Support teams will be giving you detailed guidance, depending on whether you have already left campus, decide to leave in the coming days, or need to remain on site. Please follow this guidance as we will need to coordinate carefully the numbers of people who might be arriving on campus to collect students, in line with Government guidance on social distancing.
If you are self-isolating, you must continue to follow Government guidance and stay in your accommodation until you have recovered, in line with self-isolating requirements. People who are self-isolating must not use taxis or public transport.
We also know that many of you have asked questions about rental agreements. We are considering these issues and we will be in touch with further updates.
I have already let you know that all teaching from the start of summer term, and that assessment and examination processes for 2nd and 3rd years and PGT , will be online. Our Library will also close at 5pm on 20 March. This is a very fast moving situation and at this moment in time, we do not anticipate students returning to campus after the Easter break.
We are living in extraordinary times - none of this is at all ideal - but we need to do the very best we can for the health and wellbeing of all our students and staff, and to do what we can through our actions to limit the spread of Covid-19 in our wider community. In asking those of you who can return to your homes to do so, we ask for your cooperation and understanding. We need to work together to get through this and to help each other to stay well.
I will be in contact again in the coming days with further information as the situation unfolds. But for now, please keep checking your emails and the Covid19 webpages for new information and updates.
Professor Charlie Jeffery
Vice-Chancellor and President
All staff email
Covid-19 update 19 March: Implications of latest announcements
I hope you are all well and keeping your equilibrium in the midst of the troubling times we are living through. I hope you and your family and friends remain well.
You will have heard about the Prime Minister’s press conference last night, which, combined with the latest announcement in Parliament by the Secretary of State for Education, had further, significant implications for the university sector in general and, of course, for this University and the communities around us in York and beyond.
School Closure Implications
The first - and largely anticipated - statement relates to the closure of all schools and nurseries (including the University of York Nursery) from tomorrow afternoon, except for those children of workers defined by the Government as ‘working in critical services’. Our own nursery staff are currently assessing whether any children on their list fall into that category or whether we can collaborate with other educational provision across the city.
School closures will clearly have major implications for many of our staff who will now have additional challenges of childcare to deal with without necessarily being able to rely on the usual forms of family or friendship network support.
I want therefore to be able to reassure everyone that we will work to be as flexible as possible to support staff affected by the latest changes. We are amending some of our HR policies to reflect the changing position, with our emphasis being on trying to support our staff through these difficult times. New information has been published on our FAQ pages. I urge everyone to read our FAQ pages before contacting individual services with queries. If information is not on those pages, then do please address your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll continue to add those questions and our answers to the website.
Changes to Public Examinations
The second major announcement made last night flows from the closure of schools - which in essence means that the normal schedule of public examinations will not now happen in the summer months. This has obvious and potentially serious implications for the university sector.
Both the Prime Minister and Secretary of State have made clear that they are putting in place arrangements for students taking A-level, GCSE and other public examinations to be able to progress, and for students who qualify in this way to be able to progress to University.
We await further detail on what the alternative arrangements for progression will be. But it is likely that our normal admissions process is going to be impacted and may need to change significantly. A team led by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Saul Tendler, and supported by colleagues in Planning and External Relations, is monitoring this situation closely, and will be making recommendations once we are clearer what the new process will be.
Supporting students and critical research on campus
Allied to those government announcements, it appears likely that the UK will implement further and more restrictive travel and social interaction arrangements. In light of that, we are today writing to strongly advise all of our students currently living on campus to return to their homes if they can do so before any further travel restrictions are introduced. It is important to note that some students have no option other than to remain on campus for personal reasons or due to existing travel restrictions. The University of course remains their home and we will continue to support them.
We must therefore ensure that teams who are delivering essential services on campus are able to focus on those tasks. This will include teams tasked with supporting those students who are unable to leave campus and teams to deliver critical services to support research, campus infrastructure and services. To that end we will be streamlining the operational functioning of our campus and further information will be published on this early next week.
Public Engagement and Graduation
We have also taken the decision to further restrict large social gatherings of any kind by cancelling all scheduled music performances, open lectures and the Great York Walk. The York Festival of Ideas has also been postponed and festival donors, partners and speakers are being contacted today.
We have also taken the decision that we must very regretfully also postpone this summer’s planned Graduation ceremonies. It’s important to note that in doing so we are still determined that final year students progress and will be conferred with their degrees. Precisely how we will do this is now being thought through and further communication will be issued.
Colleagues in Research and Enterprise are also working intensively with colleagues in our Graduate School to provide further advice and guidance for our PG Research community and further information will be made available on the central www.york.ac.uk/coronavirus information hub.
In these challenging times, I want to ensure that, collectively, our initial priority must be to focus on delivering on the most important things we need to do to manage our way through this situation. I have asked a number of colleagues to identify those activities which we can pause and or/ stop to enable us to concentrate on the current situation and reduce our workload. My Covid-19 Advisory Group will take the final decision on what we can stop doing and we will send further communications on this.
I know many teams and individuals across our community have now moved to working from home in order to ensure that those who are delivering critical services can do so in a much less crowded environment. I want to thank all of you for putting in place these quite radically different modes of working with such good grace and understanding. I also want to thank most sincerely those teams who are working so hard to deliver critical services on our campus.
The dedication and creativity of everyone in delivering mass scale operational change is enormously valued and appreciated.Together we have shown just what a remarkable community we have here in York.
Professor Charlie Jeffery
Vice-Chancellor and President