Thursday 31 December 2020

PGR email

Important update - new restrictions in York and testing

Dear postgraduate researchers,

Firstly, let me wish you a happy new year - 2020 has been a very tough year for us all and we are looking forward to the brighter and healthier times we will see later in 2021 now that we know a comprehensive vaccine programme will roll out from early January.

That will of course take time, so we still have a difficult period to get through. This was confirmed in the Government’s announcement on 30 December about tighter restrictions across a number of regions in England, which was a response to the growth in infection rates driven by the new Covid variant.

I know many of you will have questions about these restrictions, along with the further guidance we received from the Department for Education on 30 December about the start of Spring Term and what we need to do to help reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19.

Below is further information we can share at this stage (more will follow as we work through the details and as we get further guidance from the Department for Education).

What level is York now in?

For the time being, thanks to York’s efforts in following the safety measures, the Government has placed the City in Level (Tier) 3, which means we are not facing the highest level of restrictions, unlike most of the country.

This means many shops and other businesses like gyms remain open, organised sport can take place, and you can meet up in mixed household groups of up to 6 people outdoors. Read the basics of the current restrictions. We will need to work hard, however, to make sure York stays at this level. We need to do what we can to limit virus transmission and prevent further restrictions for our campus and our city.

What does the new education guidance say?

The latest Government guidance means that our staggered start to Spring Term is being extended for undergraduate and postgraduate taught students, so for our GTAs, here is what we have shared with students. For GTAs, Departments will also be in touch with more detailed information about changes to the modules you teach on and arrangements for online teaching.

The Government has advised us that new guidance does not apply to researchers and research students, so where you are able to work from home, please continue to do so, but if your work requires you to use labs and campus facilities you can continue to access them as before the break.

We are also reviewing our health and safety risk assessments in light of the new variant of Covid-19 and will let you know as soon as possible if this means any changes for you. We appreciate your support in continuing to follow the guidance.

New term, new test

A reminder that we expect all students, including all postgraduate researchers, to get tested in York and minimise social contact until a negative test result has been confirmed.

You can find out more about booking a test and advice on travel. If you’re not sure how the testing on campus works, take a look at this video produced by York Student Television, giving you a step-by-step guide.

We want you to get a test as soon as possible when you return to campus. For students who have stayed in York or who were on campus over the break, you should also get a test to minimise the risk to yourselves and others returning.

These tests are being offered to everyone to give you some reassurance that you can resume your in-person activities and use campus facilities safely, and that you are not unknowingly spreading Covid-19 to others on campus and in our wider community. Thank you in advance for your support.

Although we are sharing as much information as we currently have and trying to reduce uncertainty where we can, I know you will still have many more questions.

Over the next weeks, I will keep updating you through email, our Covid website and on our social media channels, and your supervisors will be in touch to help with any questions. The York Graduate Research School will also be in contact about funding, academic and wellbeing support and other sources of information for PGRs.

Finally, I would like to thank you in advance for your patience, and for the care and commitment I know you will show your fellow students and our staff. Every one of us has a role to play in keeping ourselves - and those around us - as safe as possible. Thank you for being part of a community that works together to support each other. I wish you a safe and happy 2021.

Best wishes

Charlie Jeffery
Vice-Chancellor