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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for students – 12 May 2021

Dear Students

Key Points

  • Government have announced that all remaining students will be able to return to on-campus activities from 17 May
  • Other restrictions are also easing, but we must continue to abide by the basic safety, social distancing and hygiene measures, and remain sensitive to those around us at all times
  • Students returning to campus for the first time must get tested as soon as possible and then twice a week, every week
  • Our Festival of Discovery will take place from 24 May – 4 June
  • If you feel exceptional circumstances as a result of COVID-19 have impacted your examinations or other assessments, you can now apply for this to be considered
  • COVID-19 case numbers on our campuses remain low, with no cases reported in the last 7 days
  • This is Mental Health Awareness Week, and we have links to resources for you to join in

Full message

This week saw the announcement from Government that, from 17 May, all remaining students will be allowed to return to on-campus activities. We have been asked to share a letter from the Minister, Michelle Donelan, which details these changes.

Most of our students remain engaged in online exams and assessments, but those of you who have timetabled activities on our campuses taking place from 17 May will begin to see physical locations revealed in your timetable.

Access for PGR students to lab and study space continues through booking and rota systems. We are now reviewing our policies around on-site, fieldwork and human participant research and will publish updated guidance soon on any changes to our approach in light of the latest easing of restrictions.

We are pleased that this long phase of the roadmap to easing restrictions is now coming to an end, and I want to pay tribute once again to the enormous efforts you have all made to keep our community safe and to reduce the number of cases of COVID-19, which has enabled this return to campuses.

We know that for many of you, returning at this stage in the academic year will mean that there are few timetabled in-person educational activities for you to engage with. However, we have created the Festival of Discovery to enable educational opportunities and for you to connect with your fellow students on our campuses, and I hope you will join us between 24 May and 4 June. Further details are below.

17 May - further easing of COVID-19 restrictions

Government has confirmed that from 17 May there will be a further easing of the current COVID-19 restrictions, including permission for all students to return to on-campus activities.

There are a number of other important changes that we should all be aware of, and restrictions which remain in place which we must all abide by. These include:

  • People will be able to meet indoors in groups of up to six, or as two households
  • People will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30 people
  • If you meet friends or loved ones you can make a personal choice as to whether to keep your distance from them, but you should still be cautious and be respectful of their personal wishes at all times
  • Social distancing remains important with people who are not in your household or support bubble. The more distance you can keep from other people, and the less time you spend in close contact with them, the less likely you are to catch COVID-19 and pass it on to others.
  • Hospitality venues such as pubs, bars and restaurants will be able to reopen indoors
  • Most forms of indoor entertainment, such as cinemas and museums, will also be able to resume, where social distancing is possible
  • Hotels, hostels and B&Bs will allow overnight stays in groups of up to six, or two households.

At the University, fitness classes will resume from Monday 17 May, and student sports club activity will continue.

Please note however that our COVID-19 safety policies remain in place, including face-coverings which must be worn inside University buildings and outdoors where social distancing is not possible.

The locations of new ‘face covering stations’, which have a stock of free 3 ply face coverings, can be found in our FAQs (‘What is the policy on face coverings?’) along with a video showing how to use face coverings effectively. Transparent face coverings can be requested from the ‘Here to Help’ team as can sunflower lanyards which are used to indicate to others you are exempt from wearing a face covering.

There have been no relaxations to the social distancing and safety measures in place across our campuses, and it is vital that we continue to abide by these, alongside observing the basic COVID-19 hygiene measures: HANDS. FACE. SPACE. FRESH AIR.

It remains important to use the cleaning products available in teaching and study spaces to reduce the spread of any infection. Remember to use the QR codes to check in and note the room occupancy limits on the spaces you are using. Avoid congested areas as much as you can.

Students returning to our campuses for the first time are expected to get tested as soon as possible after returning and then regularly twice a week, every week. This is critically important now as we have all worked so hard to reduce transmission in our University community.

Safe travel advice can be found here and advice and government requirements for those arriving from overseas is also available.

These additional freedoms are very welcome, and have been hard-won. We must all do everything we can to ensure they can be retained.

I urge everyone to remain cautious, to meet outdoors wherever possible, and to be very mindful of those around you at all times. Many of us are feeling anxiety about the transition out of lockdown, some of those around us are more vulnerable than others and, for many, seeing groups of up to 30 will cause concern. Please be a considerate member of our community and be sensitive to the impact you may have on those around you. This includes being careful not to crowd public spaces, including pavements, being mindful of the noise you are making, and always clearing up after yourselves and leaving public spaces as you found them.

Keep testing for COVID-19 part of your routine

As more students return to University and more activities are now able to restart, it’s important to keep testing for COVID-19 as part of your regular routine. Whether you’re testing at home or at one of our test centres, if you get a positive result you’ll need a confirmatory HALO/PCR test – contact our Rapid Response Hub and we can book this for you. You’ll have the results within 24 hours and if it’s negative, you’ll be out of isolation quickly. More information and FAQs on testing can be found on the website.

Remember if you develop COVID-19 symptoms – self isolate and contact the Rapid Response Hub

If you experience any COVID-19 symptoms, including high temperature, new continuous cough or a loss of taste/smell, you must self-isolate immediately and request a HALO PCR test through our Rapid Response Hub.

Festival of Discovery

After the exams period, I hope you will join us for our Festival of Discovery, being heldon our campuses from Monday 24 May – Friday 4June. The Festival has been organised with your Students’ Guild and Students’ Union and will offer engaging academic and social events for you to attend including keynote speakers, sports activities, career support, society-led events, food stalls and entertainment, as well as providing the chance to reconnect with your friends and academic departments. 

Updates will be available on our webpage including details of which events are available to join online, so you can get involved even if you’re not able to come to campus.

Exceptional Circumstances application deadline

If you feel exceptional circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted on your examinations and/or other academic assessments during this academic year, you can now apply for this to be considered. The deadline for applications is Friday 21 May.

Exceptional Circumstances differ from Mitigation because either the situation has continued over a longer period of time and/or has been more severe, which has caused a cumulative impact on academic studies. In other words, students applying under this policy will have had exceptional circumstances and for a significant period of time (four weeks or more in total, which can be across the academic year), and believe these have potentially had an impact on a number of examinations and/or other assessments.

If you think this applies to you, you can now submit evidence and an application to be considered by the Exceptional Circumstances Committee.

Students may only apply once. There will be a subsequent opportunity to apply for Exceptional Circumstances later in the year for the August Referral/Deferral period, near to the PGT programme end date, and for January Starters. Further information on subsequent application windows will be made available via the Frequently Asked Questions in due course.

The process does not apply to Postgraduate Research Students (e.g. those on PhD and other research degrees), who should continue to access the support services and advice provided by the Doctoral College.

This policy is known as ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ and is one of the individual student adjustment elements of our No-Disadvantage Guarantee.

Full details are available within the FAQs, including a link to the application form.

COVID-19 case numbers

The overall rate of positive results on our campuses and across the region remains very low, with no positive cases on our campuses over the last 7 days. The daily numbers of confirmed positive cases for students and staff can be found on our COVID-19 statistics web page. Data is available up to 9 May, at which time the 7-day rolling daily average of positive cases was 0.0.


It’s always important to look after your wellbeing but this week there’s a particular focus because it’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. There are posts across our social media channels and that of the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union with lots of information and links for you to explore. Our Instagram account, @ExeterUniLife, features weekly student takeovers and this week second year student Sophie is sharing her experiences and talking about the support that’s available to you at Exeter. 

The Mind Over Natter talk on at 12.45pm this lunchtime (Wednesday) is with Wellbeing Consultant Kathy O’Connor, who’ll be giving an introduction to mindfulness and demonstrate how anyone and everyone can reap its benefits. This online event is free and open to everyone in our community – you can sign up here.

Remember, you can find a range of support and resources via our wellbeing service for students based on our Devon campuses and via student support for Cornwall.




Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary