Thursday 19 November 2020

All students email

Covid-19 update - Spring Term (video message)

Dear students

I have recorded a video message for you today to update you on our plans for the Spring Term. Watch the update about our plans for the Spring Term.

The information in the message is also included below in this email, for those who prefer to read more about it.

I am grateful so many of you are responding each week to our ‘Tell Us’ survey, so we can understand more about how you’re feeling, your views on both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and learning, and how we can respond in ways that get the right support to you. The survey is every Tuesday, so keep an eye out for it each week.

I’ll take this opportunity now to say that I hope you are coping well during the current lockdown period. I’ve seen some good, positive feedback on our welfare packs/lockdown loot, and students making the most of lockdown life. I’m always keen to hear more about what we can do to support you, especially in this lockdown period. Do be in touch.

Spring Term

I know many of you have been asking what Spring Term will look like and whether we can get back to something a bit more like ‘normal’ student life.

I’m hopeful that we will see good progress in the next few months. I’m sure you will have heard the promising news about the development of vaccines, and we may well move into a first phase of vaccinations for the most vulnerable groups soon. And the University is working closely with the City of York and the local NHS so we can take advantage of opportunities to participate in the new mass testing programmes that are being introduced (as my colleague Wayne Campbell wrote to you about yesterday).

With these developments I hope we will be in a position to re-introduce more and more in-person activities on campus. This will of course depend on general government guidance, the local Covid situation in York, and all the health and safety assessments which we absolutely have to get right. But if the situation allows we hope to follow the outline plans set out below.

Teaching

Subject to Government guidance, we expect to start our Spring term as planned on 11 January 2021, and, initially at least, to continue with the current blend of online and in-person teaching and learning.

We will review things a few weeks into Spring Term and hope - if the wider situation allows - to increase the proportion of in-person teaching you will receive.

We know for many of you that the first week back will involve exams and assessments, and we are looking at how we can provide spaces for you to study and take online exams in a quiet place, so that you have an alternative to your study bedroom or shared accommodation.

Campus life

I know this has been an incredibly tough year. Together with Colleges, YUSU and GSA we are working on an expanded package of measures which we hope will give you the support to make the most of campus life from January.

If Government guidance allows, we will start up social and sporting activities again on campus in January - we have heard very clearly from you how important these activities are to your University experience.

Our package of support will include:

  • Renewing outdoor and indoor social spaces on campus - We know it is very important that you have a safe space to spend time out of your own homes. So we have now agreed with YUSU to fund the Forest and keep our other social spaces on campus going through to the end of the academic year.

  • Sport and social activities - We know sport, societies and activities have an important impact on students’ mental and physical wellbeing. York Sport Union YUSU, York Sport, the Colleges and the GSA are also monitoring relevant Government and Sport England guidance closely, so we can move quickly, when it is safe, to resume activities on campus next year.

  • Continuing our Emergency Student Support Fund to support financial hardship - York was the first university to launch an emergency fund last spring. It helped those who needed immediate financial support, whether for housing, food, IT equipment or other financial challenges. We’ve had really positive feedback from students who were helped by the fund, so we have now relaunched it (and we’ve seen a lot of response already to the call we put out last week).

  • Supporting students in the City who have broadband problems - We know some students, especially those living off-campus, have had issues with broadband. So we have negotiated new arrangements with Vodafone so that from next term, we can provide a mifi device to households with connectivity problems that are affecting academic work.

  • Lobbying the Government for more support for students - Together with Patrick O’Donnell at YUSU and Purnur Altay at GSA, we have challenged the Government to provide more financial support for students. We know some of you have lost work or casual jobs and that this has severely impacted your ability to support yourselves. We’ve also lobbied the Government to count students in the same way as other low-income groups, so that you can access financial support for periods of self-isolation.

  • Covid testing - We are working closely with the City Council and the local NHS to make sure we can offer enhanced testing. We want to minimise the number of Covid cases and, with that, the need for households to self-isolate. For those who do need to self-isolate, we are looking at how we can provide additional support - we will announce more on this soon.

  • Your health and wellbeing - Beyond the very real impact on finances and your student experience, we are also very focused on supporting you. Covid-19, social distancing and self-isolation are challenging. The uncertainty is very unsettling. Your Colleges and Student Hub are here for you, to listen and support you. The Open Door team and Togetherall mean you have support to turn to if you need it.


That’s all for now. More updates will follow as we approach the end of term, including more details for students in York who wish to participate in the mass rapid testing we will have in place by the end of term (in case you missed it, read yesterday’s update on testing).

Whatever restrictions we may face, we’re looking forward to you joining us back on campus next term and making 2021 inspiring and rewarding. Thank you for all that you do to make this University a community which supports each other.

And please: stay smart, supportive and safe. The more we all follow the Covid guidance the more likely we are to move gradually back to normal.

Best wishes

Charlie