Tuesday 14 April 2020

All staff email

Covid-19 update Tuesday 14 April

Dear colleagues,

Welcome to the start of the summer term - a term that is likely to be very different to any other that we will have experienced. I hope very much that many of you will have had a chance to have a rest over the Easter break. And I’m very grateful to those who worked through the break to support our students on campus and to keep core campus services in good order.

The situation with regard to Covid-19 continues to be very concerning with a number of reports highlighting that the impact of the virus in the UK has not yet reached its peak. Given that, the health and wellbeing of family, friends and wider community will continue to be a source of concern to us all.

We should also assume that disruption to our normal mode of operations at the university will continue over the coming months.

Supporting Universities - Universities UK Proposal to UK Government

In that regard I was very pleased to see that Universities UK (UUK) have now published a set of proposals to Government highlighting how different parts of the UK Higher Education sector are being adversely impacted, financially and otherwise, by the current crisis, and setting out ideas on how the Government could help.

I thought it would be useful for everyone to be able to see UUK’s analysis of the situation as it was published while we were on our Easter break.

It is of course important to note that UUK represents the entire range of universities in the UK, so that some of the impacts outlined in their analysis will have more relevance to York than others. Potential impacts of particular concern to us include how Covid-19 will affect our research capacity and funding and our ability to sustain international student recruitment.

The overall aim of this package of suggestions by UUK is to ensure the sector as a whole can be in a position of strength to help with post-Covid-19 recovery. We now await the Government’s response.

I will continue to work with UUK and the Russell Group to ensure that our voice is heard and that we can continue to press the case on why supporting the university sector is absolutely vital. I will continue to update you as these discussions progress.

Supporting Postgraduate Researchers

We also received communication late last week from both UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Wellcome Trust with regard to extensions to funding for PGR students. This is a very complex area as there are many different funding mechanisms for our PGRs. Professor Deborah Smith as PVC for Research, and Professor Tom Stoneham, Dean of the Graduate Research School, are working with a number of colleagues to assess the total scale of the impact of Covid-19 on our PGR community and we are also awaiting further details on the criteria for implementing the funding extensions offered by UKRI and the Wellcome Trust as well as engaging other PGR funders.. We anticipate this work to be completed early next week in order for UEB to make any decisions required in this area.

Information Updates for Staff and Students

We are also listening to your questions, feedback and concerns, and, on that basis, continually developing and posting new information on the Covid-19 website. I urge you to keep referring to this website for useful guidance and information. And please also highlight these pages to your students.

We will also continue to disseminate links to new UK Government information, including to University students and COVID-19 FAQ, which covers many issues, from visas, to fees, loans and accomodation.

We know that students will continue to have questions as term progresses and in anticipation of this a dedicated call centre has now been established (+44 (0)1904 809571) to provide additional support and guidance.

Financial Support for Students

We know some students are facing financial challenges as a result of the Covid-19 crisis and the Emergency Student Support Fund, established to provide support for students in financial distress will open again for a second round of applications from 5pm on Wednesday 15 April. Again please do highlight this fund when communicating with your students.

This fund, supported through donations from alumni, friends and supporters of the University, provides bursaries of up to £500 per applicant. It’s also open to those students who may wish to reapply following the first round, who might now be facing new or more pressing challenges. I’m delighted to say that the first round provided funding for 341 students.

International Students

The Universities Minister has also issued a letter to international students which provides more guidance and advice. The Minister is working with the education sector on a wide range of issues, which are replicated across so many different countries around the world, and her letter outlined details about visas and studying here in the UK from Autumn 2020 to provide reassurance at this moment of disruption.

Further staff updates to be published this week will include more specific information on the way our research community has responded to the Covid-19 crisis.

For now welcome back to the summer term. I appreciate very much how colleagues across the University are adapting their work so rapidly and so well in these extraordinary circumstances. Many thanks.

Best wishes

Charlie

Professor Charlie Jeffery