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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for students - 8 January 2021

Dear Students,

Key points

  • The start to 2021 has been difficult for all of us, with a huge amount of change. Please reach out for support if you need it, and continue to be mindful of the wellbeing of those around you
  • Students currently in Exeter or Cornwall are asked to complete a short form so we can ensure you are supported
  • We are committed to protecting the value of your University of Exeter degree, both in this year and for the longer term
  • We are waiving accommodation fees during this lockdown period, for those students who are living in University or FX Plus accommodation, or whose contracts were arranged through the University with a nominated partner, and who do not return to their accommodation
  • Advice, guidance and hardship support is available for those who have been affected by the national lockdown or who have additional caring responsibilities
  • COVID-19 testing is critical to reduce the risk of infection within our community. Students in Exeter or Penryn must arrange to take two tests as a matter of urgency as soon as they have returned
  • Please take extra care in your cleaning routines
  • The Digital Hub Online is available to help you work, study and teach from home
  • Devon and Cornwall Police have some advice for those students who need to register as a condition of their visa
  • From next week we plan to move to one COVID-19 update each week

Full message

The new national UK lockdown has meant a difficult start to 2021 for all of us but particularly for those of you in the middle of exams or nearing deadlines for coursework and it’s really important to look after your wellbeing at this time. Everyone is struggling to adapt and it’s made even harder when we don’t know how long this situation will last, so please understand it’s normal to feel all sorts of different emotions. Wherever you may be, our wellbeing services are still open and ready to support you and you can find out more information on our web pages.

There is also an opportunity to take part in new wellbeing research, which aims to help you stay well. It’s open to students aged 16-24 and you can learn about your emotions, improve your wellbeing, help others, earn rewards and support cutting-edge science. Find out further details on how to take part.

I know that there has been a huge amount of change over the last few weeks, and that the Spring term is not beginning in the way any of us would have wanted. We have had a lot of important information to share with you in a short space of time, and some of you have told me that you have found our recent communications to be heavy on updated guidelines instead of acknowledging the impact these restrictions are having on us all.

We are always focussed on giving you the information you need as quickly and clearly as we can, but we know we may not get every word right every time. Please know that we listen to feedback and we are always trying to improve the ways in which we support you.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt all of us in many different ways. I believe that when we show compassion and understanding, our University community stands strong together and we help to beat back the virus. Our kindness and support for each other is a vital part of our response.

Students currently in Exeter or Cornwall

It will help us to further support those students who are currently in Exeter or Cornwall if you could complete this short form. This will help us to plan the appropriate provision for students on and around our campuses and ensure that the right support is in place for you at this time. Please do not complete this form if you are not currently in either Exeter or Cornwall.

Our commitment to protecting your academic outcomes

The news of a new national UK lockdown coupled with concerns about rising COVID-19 cases, right at the start of exam week and nearing deadlines for coursework, has been incredibly tough. We completely understand that it has caused a lot of anxiety about your marks, ability to progress as you would hope, and the on-going challenges of this academic year, on top of individual concerns caused by the pandemic itself.

We are totally committed to enabling you to succeed and to the lasting value of your University of Exeter degree. Since the first national lockdown colleagues right across the University have worked tirelessly to redesign their teaching and learning, to develop digital resources ready to be accessed anywhere and to allow us to continue with live teaching online when in-person teaching is not possible.

We know from what you have told us that many of you would wish to be receiving more in-person teaching and we will address that just as soon as we can, within the constraints of Government policy and campus capacity. In the meantime, please do continue to reach out to your academic tutors for support, to make use of the digital resources available and to make the most of the live online teaching sessions when they start again next week.

We know that this new way of working can be hard and we have created resources to help you with this if you need them. More importantly, please do talk to friends and peers and reach out for help from them, from your tutors or from our support services. Do let us know what more we can do to help and support you and to make the most of this year, notwithstanding the strange times in which we are all working and studying.

We sent you a message on 19 November, outlining the way that we are protecting your academic outcomes and ensuring the enduring value of your Exeter degree. A number of you have questioned why it is not possible to offer the same ‘No Detriment’ policy as last year and it is clear that you are looking for more reassurance. We have continued to discuss best practice in this regard with the other members of the Russell Group and can assure you all that the robust mechanisms that we set out in November are consistent with those adopted by our peers, and will ensure that, as a group, your results will be similar to previous years. We are confident that as you engage with the supported online and blended learning you are achieving the intended learning outcomes of our modules and programmes and that in the adjusted assessments you will demonstrate the same or better levels of attainment than previous cohorts.

We know that many of you are worried and we are continuing to listen to your concerns and respond to them. We have had helpful conversations with the Officers of the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union and academic representatives over recent days. We will write to you again next week to explain in more detail the measures we have put in place and I hope this will give you further assurance and confidence.

Postgraduate Research (PGR) Students

We are reviewing lab, field and office-based research to ensure critical research activity can continue safely in line with Government guidelines.  

Where possible, PGR students should work from home.  In the meantime, if you cannot work from home for any reason, you can continue to access specialist facilities, campus offices and study spaces. All students should arrange to get tested prior to working on campus. 

We know these are difficult times. Please do talk to friends and peers as well as your supervisors or our PGR support teams and reach out for help from them whenever you need it.

University accommodation fees

Yesterday I wrote to you to explain our policy on University accommodation fees, confirming that for those students who are living in University or FX Plus accommodation, or whose contracts were arranged through the University with a nominated partner, we will waive the rent charges that would be payable during this lockdown period, for those who do not return to their accommodation. 

The national lockdown is also directly affecting students who are not in University-managed or nominated rooms. The Students’ Union Advice Service and the Students’ Guild Advice Service are available to offer guidance to students in Cornwall and Exeter respectively on matters including accommodation and finance. Working with the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union we have doubled the financial support available through our ‘Success for All’ Hardship Fund. If you need additional financial support then please reach out and apply to the fund. We continue to work with our partners in the Russell Group and UUK to make the case to Government for additional financial support for students and universities.

Support for parents and carers

The Department for Education has confirmed that Universities are considered essential services during this lockdown, and that students and staff should be supported to be able to continue studying or working wherever possible. We know that many of our students have caring responsibilities which may have been affected by the current restrictions, and if this has impacted you, you may be eligible for additional support. Students in specific circumstances may be able to come to campus to work if necessary.

Again, the Students’ Union Advice Service in Cornwall and the Students’ Guild Advice Service in Exeter are available to offer advice to students with caring responsibilities. Please contact them if you need help with your situation and they will be able to advise you on where to go for further support.

COVID-19 testing

We have all worked incredibly hard to control the transmission of COVID-19 within our University community and we want to continue to reduce the risk of infection following households mixing over the winter break. Testing is a key part of this and we are strongly recommending that all students who are already in Exeter or Penryn, and those arriving, arrange to get two tests (3 days apart) as a matter of urgency, regardless of whether they are taking part in any on-campus teaching or study. 

If you feel unwell you should delay your travel until you have had a negative test result.

If you do not take a test when you return to University, Government guidance is that you should self-isolate for ten days from the point you return to University.

You can book your test via the following links:

Please remain isolated from others between tests even if your first result is negative. You will then need to remain in your household bubble and ensure you follow hygiene and cleaning measures.

Cleaning routines

In order to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 it is really vital that we all strive to keep areas where we live and study clean, particularly touch-points. Touch-points include surfaces like doors, fridge/freezer doors, cooker and microwave handles, kitchen sides, taps, kettle handles, switches, remotes and other appliances which are used frequently by multiple people.

You may be new to cleaning! If so, here are some helpful tips.

The Digital Hub Online is here to support you

The Digital Hub is now available online to help you study, work and teach from home.

The Digital Hub Online offers 24/7 guidance and support for remote study and work and colleagues and students can discover, and learn how to use and master, the digital tools that we all use daily.

  • Search for illustrated ‘How to’ Guides that take you through initial set ups, as well as keeping you up to date with new features, on Teams, Office 365 and Zoom
  • Dip in and out of micro-learning Espresso sessions to quickly learn about new and existing tools and software when you are short of time
  • Don’t know how to do something? Book 1-2-1 expert training sessions to fit around your timetable and work commitments

Take a look at what’s available on the Digital Hub Online now

The Digital Transformation Team are continually updating and adding content to the Digital Hub Online and we recommend ‘bookmarking’ the site so that you can quickly come back and visit again.

Police Registration for visa holders

Devon & Cornwall Police have advised that, during the lockdown, international students should not travel to their offices to complete police registration. The usual seven day deadline for police registration does not currently apply. If your visa requires you to register with the police you should therefore not travel to the police enquiry office at this time but await further announcements by checking the information on our website. If you are an Exeter based student, we are hoping that the police will come onto campus later in the term – please continue to check our Immigration updates webpage for further information.

Communications from next week

Finally, next week we plan to move to one update email per week, on a Wednesday, so please look out for that. If the situation changes or we have urgent updates for you, we will of course contact you sooner. You can always find previous updates on our COVID-19 communications page.

I hope you have a restful weekend and wish you the very best for the start of the Spring term next week and please remember to reach out for help or support if you need to.

Best wishes

Mike

 

Mike Shore-Nye 
Registrar and Secretary