Wednesday 21 October 2020

All students email

Important COVID-19 update: change to teaching arrangements

To: Undergraduate and Taught Postgraduate students (PGRs for info only)

Dear student,

In my email to you last week, I wrote about the UK Department for Education (DfE) Tiers, which offer different teaching and learning restrictions in response to local outbreaks. Since September, we have been operating at DfE Tier 1, offering a blended approach of online and face-to-face where possible.

The City of York moved to the national risk Level of 2 (high) last weekend, reflecting the high rate of Covid-19 cases in the city. We are required to review our DfE Tier status if the city’s position on national risk levels changes. We have plans for each DfE Tier, across teaching and learning, research activities and wider campus activities, including students’ social and recreational activity. We have taken the decision following this review to move to DfE Tier 2.

  • We will have a transition week from 26 October to 30 October, and officially move to DfE Tier 2 from Monday 2 November.

Below are more details about what this will mean, but our main message to you is that we are here to support you, and we are committed to helping students on campus enjoy and benefit from the face-to-face learning and social interactions we are planning throughout this whole term and beyond.

If you have any questions or feel that you need further support, please contact your Department or the Student Hub team.

What does Department for Education (DfE) Tier 2 mean?

Moving to DfE Tier 2 will mean increasing the proportion of online learning for most programmes. Face-to-face teaching will be mainly focused on those learning activities that require students to be in the same room as each other, or required to conduct practical learning - for example in laboratories and performance spaces. We recognise that some staff and students have felt uncomfortable with our current ‘1m+’ physical distancing in classrooms. So we will also be transitioning to 2m physical distancing in most classroom settings.

We know from the feedback gathered through conversations at the recent student webinar, and the new ‘Tell us’ student survey, that the majority of you have a preference for a blend of online and face-to-face teaching. For this reason we are committed to giving all students here in York the option of regular face-to-face learning opportunities.

We are now reviewing our plans for face-to-face teaching under DfE Tier 2 with your Departments, and your Departments will be in touch with further details soon.

How and when we will transition?

In our transition teaching week (26 October to 30 October), most teaching will move to online, with the exception of teaching that cannot be delivered online, such as sessions involving laboratories, performance studios and clinical activities, and a small number of other exceptions that will be confirmed by your Departments.

This means we can have access to buildings and rooms to adapt teaching spaces to reconfigure them to a 2 metres distancing arrangement. Teaching laboratories, clinical teaching settings and performance spaces will continue to operate at 1m+ because there are additional risk assessments and mitigating measures already in place. The transition week will also allow time for departments to review timetabling and online teaching arrangements.

We will then move to DfE Tier 2 officially from Monday 2 November.

What will campus be like under DfE Tier 2?

Our campus and student accommodation will remain open and you will still be able to access facilities including the Library buildings and other study spaces, the campus supermarkets, and cafes and restaurants. There may be some changes to the services that they offer - details will be available on their websites.

Bookable study spaces on campus will be increased. You can already book space in the Library, King’s Manor, the Library@Piazza and Heslington Hall. We're adding further spaces in the Spring Lane Building on Campus West, and the Piazza Building on Campus East.

Social and sporting activities are a vital part of your University experience and contribute to your overall wellbeing. With this in mind, sporting and social activities will continue, within the health and safety requirements of the Government’s Level 2 restrictions.

Outdoor social spaces such as the Forest will continue to operate as normal, and indoor venues will remain open but subject to new rules; YUSU have provided details of how their venues will operate under the City of York local restrictions. The YUSU events team are already offering activities like quizzes that take place in their venues and online simultaneously, and are planning to launch more online activities for all students. YUSU's societies are staying active too, and you can still sign up to any that interest you.

The GSA's postgraduate community is built around an active set of networks, each offering regular events that you can join. GSA also offers opportunities to take part in free sporting activities - in person and online.

We want to support you to continue enjoying and benefiting from safe social and face-to-face interactions, so we're working hard with YUSU and GSA to explore additional ways for you to engage with other students, whether you're living on campus, in the city or elsewhere. Keep an eye on the YUSU and GSA websites and social media for updates.

What does DfE Tier 2 mean for our students joining us remotely?

For our students who are currently unable to join us on campus, you may find underDfE Tier 2 teaching and learning that you get to meet more students from your cohort as they appear in your virtual teaching sessions.

You may also see more opportunities to join in with YUSU and GSA social activities through their digital platforms. Please look out for news of events and activities that you can join. You are important to our community at York, so we want to get to know you. We look forward very much to welcoming you to our campus and our City as soon as you are able to join us. Please continue to make your travel plans - York remains a safe and welcoming place for all students.

How long will this be for?

A formal trigger point to review our DfE Tier 2 position will be any further changes to the City of York’s national Level (Medium/High/Very high) status, or any new or developing public health requirements within the University or our local area. We will continue to review this position, working closely with our partners in the City.

We appreciate your patience - thank you

We are facing more changes to the way we do things which is unsettling for all of our staff and students. We will need to adjust timetables, teaching methods, ways of communicating and engaging - we will try to make it all happen as smoothly as possible, but please be patient if we hit bumps in the road on our journey.

If you feel you need more support, don’t forget to contact the Student Hub and if you are living on campus you can also contact your College team who are dedicated to helping our students, look under ‘who’s who’ on your College page.

This is a challenging time for our University community and I very much hope we will be able to return to more face-to-face teaching, and that our students who aren’t in York will be able to join us soon. It is heartening how many of you have told me how being together for teaching and for fun is important to you. We are committed to doing everything we can to make the student experience as supportive as we can. As we continue to adapt to living with Covid-19, I would once more like to thank all our students for the commitment, resilience and flexibility all of you have shown in working together as a community.

Best wishes,


Professor Charlie Jeffery