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Follow up: Important update following the raising of COVID-19 alert level - 22 September 2020

Dear Students,

Following the decision by the UK’s four chief medical officers to raise the national Covid-19 alert level to 4 we have been reviewing the impact on University activities and services. In response we have agreed a number of changes, which are listed below.

On teaching

  • We have deliberately begun the academic year at a low level of face-to-face in person teaching on our Exeter campuses, planning to build up to approximately 30% of all live teaching delivered face-to-face on our Exeter campuses over the first three weeks, as part of our blended model, whilst teaching on our Cornwall campus is currently at 30% face-to-face.
  • On this basis, we are content that the teaching planned for this week is aligned to the new risk level and only modest changes are required. Therefore, tomorrow’s teaching (Wednesday 23 September) will proceed as planned. This will also give us time to consider the new guidance and to communicate changes to timetables in a planned way.
  • The only significant adjustment this week will be that from Thursday (24 September) we will move to online all planned on-campus teaching for groups larger than 30 that is not scheduled in a specialist space such as labs and performance spaces.
  • As a result of the new guidance we will limit our levels of in-person teaching to a level below that initially planned for week 3 and beyond. We will review this on a weekly basis, and making sure that staff and students are prioritised in specialist facilities such as labs and performance spaces, and noting that it may be possible to maintain higher levels of face to face activity on some of our campuses.
  • We will be asking Directors of Education to undertake an exercise to identify which teaching sessions should be prioritised for face-to-face teaching as we progress through Term 1. This will enable us to ensure that we can sustain blended delivery for all our programmes and students for as long as the current guidance and situation pertains.

On research

  • Those researchers that are already working on campus can continue with their work on campus.
  • We will review all planned off-site research activity and only that which is deemed essential will be approved.
  • Research with human participants will adopt further digital mitigations where necessary.

On working on campus

  • Only essential employees will be working on campus. It is important to note that with the designation of university education as ‘essential’ and the message that we should remain open, then this will include those involved in delivering and supporting teaching and related student support.
  • All university meetings will now take place online, unless they are deemed essential to be in person, and can be held with all social distancing measures in place.

On safety measures

  • We will review our current policy on face coverings in line with changing policy. Face coverings must now be worn in retail settings, except by seated customers.
  • You should also note that the fines for those found to be breaching self-isolation, or disregarding the rules, including not wearing a face covering where required, have been increased significantly.

On events

  • We will retain our current approach but will continue to work with the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union to review ways in which student society events may be introduced safely where possible.

On travel

  • No travel within the UK for work purposes will be permitted, unless essential and approved by a line manager. Note that travel to and from campuses to support University operation where required is deemed ‘essential’.

On sports

  • Sports facilities will remain open, but with new restrictions limiting indoor team sports to groups no larger than six.

On cafés and shops

  • Cafes and shops will remain open, but must close by 10pm.
  • Staff in all retail settings must wear face coverings, as well as non-seated customers.

On visitors and members of the public

  • Our campuses remain open to visitors and members of the public so long as social distancing measures are adhered to at all times.

It is important to note that we await further detailed guidance from Government on how they expect the new alert level will affect universities. It is clear however that university education will be classed as ‘Essential’, in line with schools and further education colleges. The Government has set a clear expectation that universities will stay open and continue to deliver blended degree programmes, due to the importance of education and the health and wellbeing of young people and we must respect and support that expectation.

Accepting that we will need to be flexible as further guidance is published, we are trying to balance government requirements, the safety of our community and our commitments to provide high quality education and research. We are listening to the views of students and colleagues and we have agreed to make these initial changes having considered everything discussed above.

I know that these measures represent a range of changes across many areas of our operation, being brought in at short notice. With further guidance expected we will keep these decisions under regular review and I will keep you updated as and when I am able to.

Please be assured that the measures we have in place mean that we can deliver our teaching, research and support, all activities which are deemed essential by the Government, safely and in a COVID-secure way. The health and wellbeing or our staff and students has been and will remain our highest priority.

Best

Mike

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary