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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff and students - 15 December 2020

Dear colleagues and students,

Key Points

  • Details of how to book COVID-19 tests for students returning to our campuses in January will be shared on Friday 18 December
  • Our HALO testing facilities will close at the end of this week. Details of how to get a ‘pick up’ test for international travel, or for those who experience COVID-19 symptoms, are below
  • Details of services available for those staying at University over the winter closure are available on our website
  • Local restriction tiers have been updated across England. Devon and Cornwall are unchanged but we must all be aware of our own local restrictions, and also those in place in any areas we are traveling to
  • There’s a ‘thank you’ to University staff from the Students’ Guild
  • Remember to stay safe on our campuses during the break and to reach out for wellbeing support if you need it.
  • I will update you again on Friday 18 December which will be the last planned update until the week beginning 4 January 2021

Full message

Term ended last week and this week our campuses are relatively quiet, but work continues on the plans to welcome students back for the Spring Term.

For those who are staying with us over the winter break, the majority of services will be available until Wednesday 23 December, and will then close until Monday 4 January. Libraries and study spaces are open through most of the closure period. Opening times and details of how to access support between those dates can be found on our student web pages.

COVID-19 testing over the winter break

Because the ‘student travel window’ is now closed we are no longer offering Lateral Flow Device testing to enable undergraduate students to travel within the UK.  Our HALO PCR testing facilities will remain open until this Friday, 18 December, re-opening on 3 January.

If you need to take a test for international travel purposes between these dates you can arrange to ‘pick-up’ a test from the Streatham Test Centre before 18 December. Colleagues in Cornwall can arrange to 'pick up' a test from the Penryn Test Centre before 18 December. These tests can be used in the days before you travel and sent directly to the HALO labs for analysis. If you are using a ‘pick-up’ test in this way, please remember that there may be delays in the postal system over Christmas and plan accordingly (there are also several ‘no posting’ days over Christmas). The ‘Test and Rest’ service is also available if you would prefer to book an airport hotel stay and test in one package.

Full details on how to access testing during the winter break, including for those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, are on our winter break web pages:

Testing in January

We are working with government to expand our existing test centres on the Streatham and Penryn campuses to enable students to get tests when they return in the New Year. Timetables have now been updated to indicate when each student’s in-person teaching will begin. Bookings for tests in January will open on Friday 18 December (Exeter) and Wednesday 23 December (Penryn) and we encourage students to book two tests, as early as possible as part of your planning for when you arrive on campus. I will share more details on the arrangements for January testing on Friday.

Teaching in January

  • Examinations begin on 4 January. All exams will be online
  • Teaching begins for all students on 11 January. For many students this will initially be online-only
  • Timetables for next term have now been released
  • Students should plan to take two COVID-19 tests before beginning in-person teaching
  • Those degree programmes with placement or practical elements which cannot be delivered online will resume in-person teaching first, with most resuming from the week beginning 11 January. However, students should refer to their programme for individual arrangements
  • New postgraduate taught (PGT) students will also begin their in-person teaching from the week beginning 11 January. In some cases they will join modules with PGT students who started in October, in which case, those October PGT starters will also return to on-campus teaching in the week beginning 11 January
  • Other final year undergraduate students and returning postgraduate taught students will resume in-person teaching in the week beginning 25 January
  • All other Undergraduate students will resume in-person teaching in the week beginning 1 February
  • Postgraduate research students can resume their research from 4 January, and details of the facilities available during the winter break will be shared next week

Additional hardship support
In partnership with the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union we have doubled the support available through the ‘Success for All’ Hardship Fund. If you are suffering additional financial burdens then please reach out for support and apply to the fund. 

Changes to local restriction tiers

Yesterday the government announced some changes to the local restriction tiers in place across England. These come into force tomorrow. Although the level of restrictions have not changed for Devon (Tier 2) or Cornwall (Tier 1), many more people are now within Tier 3 – ‘very high alert’ areas around the country and several areas have seen sharp rises in infection rates. Wherever you are, in the UK or overseas, please make sure you are aware of the local restrictions and abide by them at all times. For those in England, these are set out on the Local restriction tiers: what you need to know web page. It is also critical for us to understand the requirements when travelling between areas in different tiers. These are set out on the Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer travel guidance for passengers web page.

We all need to work together to ensure that we do not suffer another surge in cases through the middle of the winter and the best way to do this is by following the basic COVID-19 hygiene guidelines – wash hands, cover your face, give space – and by reducing the amount of unnecessary contact we have with other people. As we prepare for a well-deserved break and look forward to spending time with people we love, this is a difficult thing to contemplate, but it is vitally important that we think about the long-term impact that our decisions and actions may have on those around us.

Thank you

Finally, the Students’ Guild’s Full-Time Officers have recorded a video to say a big ‘thank you’ to all University staff for all their hard work during a challenging year. You can watch the video here. The Guild and the Students’ Union will be closed for the winter break from 23 December and will be returning on 4 January. I would like to thank them once again for their invaluable support and the amazing work they have done for students this year.

I will write to you again on Friday. In the meantime please take care, remember to stay safe on our campuses during the winter break and reach out for wellbeing support if you need it.

Best wishes

Mike

Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary