Tuesday 12 January 2021

Undergraduate and Postgraduate taught students email

Covid-19 update: support, assessment and progression, and accommodation

Dear students,

I hope this email finds you well and you are keeping safe. I would also like to wish those of you starting Spring Term exams and assessment good luck.

There are quite a few things I would like to update you on regarding additional measures to support student wellbeing, clarification on the new package of measures to support assessment and progression, Covid testing, and financial support, including university accommodation rent credits.

I am sorry for how much information is shared in this email, but as the situation continues to change, so do our plans about how best to support you and keep you safe. My emails hopefully provide a useful summary in one place.

Assessment and progression support package

If you are a taught student taking exams and assessments this term you should have received an email from me last week explaining the new measures we are putting in place to support your assessments and exams to help you achieve your best results. (This is not applicable for IPC, CPD, York Online and HYMS students. Our York Online students will receive separate communications on this very soon.)

This approach will be different to the safety net we introduced in Spring 2020. The method of calculating last year’s safety net score relied on the assessment results that students have already taken. Because the information used for the algorithm isn’t available in the same way for the 2020/21 academic year, we are not able to replicate the same style of safety net. The assessment arrangements (for example, the processes for exceptional circumstances) are the same for students now as they were during the Summer Term 2020.

Many of you have taken the time to write to me with queries over these measures, and listening to your feedback, we have made changes to the information on the Covid pages to help clarify these measures. Mostly there seems to be confusion around the weightings of years for degree classifications. Please let me reassure you that our approach for undergraduate students will make the results from your most successful/best year count for more when it comes to your degree classification. Our PGT students have different arrangements.

I know how anxious many of you are feeling at the moment about your performance and the impact of this pandemic on your teaching and learning. By introducing these measures, our intention is to reduce stress levels and to help our students to be successful in their studies, whilst maintaining the value and integrity of a York degree.

Testing - including asymptomatic testing - for students living in York

It is estimated that 1 in 3 people with coronavirus do not display symptoms, and therefore may be spreading the virus without realising. I have been incredibly proud of how responsible our students have been, and continue to be, when it comes to keeping themselves and others safe. A crucial part of this is to get yourself tested using our on-campus facility. You must get tested. You can book your test here. If you are a placement student, receiving in-person teaching or visiting campus regularly, we strongly encourage you to get tested regularly (two tests a week, three days apart).

If you’re a student living off-campus in York, we encourage you to get tested so you know you are not unknowingly contributing to any transmission and that you’re helping protect our whole community. Testing is only part of our responsibilities and cannot lead to complacency - we must continue to follow the restrictions and safety guidelines: hands, space, face.


Please remember that if you test positive, and you are self-isolating, you and your flat/household should not leave your accommodation for the period of time you need to self-isolate. This includes leaving for food or supplies. We have even more support on offer this term for any of our students who are self-isolating, including vouchers, activity packs and food packs, so please complete the self-isolation form and our advisers will be in touch with details of how to access the support package.

More support for you

The ‘Tell Us’ Tuesday survey, launched last term, has helped us to understand how students are feeling on a week-by-week basis, so thank you to everyone who completes the three questions.

From your feedback we have been able to identify where we need to maintain support for wellbeing, and where we need to increase our efforts and invest in further levels of support.

Mental health and wellbeing support

We know from your feedback that you don’t always know who to turn to when you need support, and so I wanted to share again some of the ways you can access help and support.

  • The Student Support Hub is a great starting point for any student needing advice, help or support. All student support services are available online;

  • You can also find all information on what’s available and who to talk to on our wellbeing pages. For students who on campus from there is a walk-in reception point on the ground floor of the Library where you can talk to someone who will help you find the right support for you;

  • If you just need to talk, our College Duty Teams are making calls (or are available on campus for students who are in York). You can also access the Togetherall online mental wellbeing platform;

  • Careers appointments can be booked online and York Strengths programme is also available online;

  • Academic Skills support (workshops, community groups) are online, including support through the Writing Skills and Maths Skills.

Feeling part of a community

Listening to your feedback, what many of you are missing the most is the ability to meet with fellow students in your department and on your course. I recognise how difficult it must be to feel part of a community in a way you would have during normal times. Together with your academic departments and the Students’ Unions, we are working on ways to help you connect with each other through events and initiatives and by forming online learning communities. We will share more details as soon as possible. Don't forget you can find out more about what’s on, how to connect with others, and find ideas of what to do during lockdown on our Covid webpages.

Accommodation support

Following last week's government announcement of a national lockdown, we can now confirm how we are supporting our students with accommodation costs, which includes offering rent credits for students in University owned, managed or approved accommodation. We understand that many of you in private accommodation off-campus are also concerned about your rent payments. Together with our Student Unions and the Vice Chancellor of York St John University I have written to our local MPs to ask for support from the Government, and will be making the same point directly to ministers whenever I have the opportunity.

Financial and IT support

If you’re facing financial hardship, we’d also like to remind you of the following help and support available:

If you are struggling with your internet connections and you live in the UK, we can now offer households where the connection isn’t adequate for online learning a 4G MiFi device to get you connected.

Thank you again for patiently reading through these details. We know how anxious these uncertain times can be, but let’s continue to play our part in keeping ourselves - and each other - safe and well. As always, I welcome all of your feedback, positive or otherwise, and promise to keep on listening and doing my best to help you wherever possible.

Best wishes