Following the Prime Minister's announcement on Monday 22 February, I would like to outline what this means for you.
Limited return to in-person teaching for some courses from 8 March
The Government has prioritised the return to in-person teaching for students on practical and creative courses who need access to specialist equipment and facilities. As we said last week, this will apply initially to only a small number of degree programmes, given that we will have only a limited amount of time before term ends. We will confirm which students this will apply to via their Departments, which will be in touch with those students to outline further arrangements in the next few days.
A fuller return after Easter
For the majority of students, learning and teaching will remain online until at least 19 April, when the summer term starts here in York. All students on courses which require access to specialist equipment and facilities will have some in-person teaching from that point, though of course still with all the Covid risk mitigations in place. The Government has said it will review whether in-person teaching on other courses can resume by the end of the Easter holidays, and give a week’s notice for any return. We believe that much will depend on the latest health situation, particularly the latest picture on campuses and the take up of Covid testing.
An important part of resuming more in-person activity on campus will be rapid results Covid testing. It is vital that when you return to campus, you take part in testing to break any chains of transmission and identify asymptomatic infections. You should be tested twice in your first week of return, immediately upon arrival and then again three days later. After that, you should get tested twice weekly. Learn more about the testing available on both Campus West and Campus East.
The Government is asking students to remain where they are until their in-person teaching starts. We know, of course, that many of our postgraduate and international students never left, while many other students have returned for their wellbeing or because they do not have the study facilities they need outside York.
We will be working through the Government’s roadmap to enable more in-person social activity for students here in York and, when allowed, we will reopen recreational and sports activities. We’re looking forward to supporting more and more social activities next term as restrictions are eased, including in the Forest and other outdoor facilities.
I should stress though that the Government’s timetable for easing of restrictions may change, and that we will need to proceed cautiously. The Government is planning to review the situation every few weeks, and will only confirm the move to the next planned stage following each review. It may well be that the timetable is delayed if the various tests the Government has set are not met. So please be patient. We may not be able to do all that we would like as early as we would like.
Additional outdoor spaces
In order to resume in-person activities as safely as possible, we are retaining the marquee at the Piazza on Campus East and we are adding four additional covered outdoor structures around campus, which can be used for learning and teaching purposes during the day and as bookable social spaces in the evenings once restrictions have eased further. We know that Covid transmits less easily outdoors, and the warmer spring weather should make it more comfortable to use these facilities!
University accommodation rent rebate extension
We will extend our rent credit scheme for students in University owned, managed or approved accommodation from 11 January until 19 April 2021 for those students who are not returning to campus in the light of Government guidance.
I will continue to update you as we work through the details in the Government roadmap. Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, has written to all students, with a message that the Government is also keen to get students back to in-person teaching safely and as soon as possible.
I should stress again that there are many uncertainties around the timetable the Government has set out, such as pressure on the NHS easing, possible new Covid variants, and the vaccine rollout going to plan. Testing take-up will be an important additional factor for universities, so please play your part. Fingers crossed that we progress through the stages the Government has set out without setbacks. In the meantime, please continue to look out for yourselves and each other.