Our Academic Registrar, Richard Stock, tells us more about how we’re planning to keep you informed throughout the vacation and how we’re doing everything we can to help you succeed.
I know this is a difficult time for everyone – especially our students and I wanted to provide you with the latest information and to say that I will keep you informed throughout the vacation period. We want to do everything we can to help you succeed and below I set out some key pieces of information related to:
- Facilities on our campuses during the vacation
- How we can support you
- An update on summer assessment and exams
- Postponement of Graduation 2020
- University accommodation
- Changes affecting international students and international travel
- The new NHS volunteering scheme
- Access to our support services
In addition, we have created a dedicated set of COVID-19 webpages, which provide a wealth of information on support available and they are updated very regularly.
Staying on our campuses during the vacation
For our students staying on our campuses, they remain open and we are working hard to ensure they continue to be the welcoming, inclusive communities that you can call home. We have food outlets that are open and study spaces are available for use. On the Colchester Campus, our Information Office is staffed 24 hours a day to provide support to you.
How we can support you
- I know this is a difficult time and we have a range of wellbeing services available to support you. We have also created some great online activities to minimise social isolation.
- The Government have confirmed that eligible students will continue to receive maintenance payments on the scheduled dates, but I know that some of you will face financial hardship over the coming weeks and months as a result of the pandemic. To respond to this, we have quickly revised the ways in which our hardship fund operates, opening it up to all students experiencing hardship and making it as easy and straightforward as possible to apply for support.
Summer Assessment and Exams
I wrote to you on 16 March with details of changes to our exams and assessment this summer. Since then, we have worked hard behind the scenes to confirm the new arrangements and the new exams timetable will be published by 4pm on Monday 6 April.
- I know that many of our students are anxious about the forthcoming assessment period. You may have caring or childcare responsibilities, other personal commitments, or worries about access to IT facilities that you believe will affect your academic performance. The pandemic itself may be causing you to worry as you adjust to the implications of social distancing and protecting yourself and your family and friends. If you have any questions about the assessment methods for your modules, please could you contact your Department/School. They can also advise you on revision or other academic support.
- You may want to access our academic skills support. There are webinars and individual support sessions provided by the Skills for Success team. Events are bookable via CareerHub and more information about the support available can be found on our academic skills pages. We are here to help.
- We want to support you to succeed and have agreed that, where your marks achieved during your modules this year demonstrate that the learning outcomes have been met, undertaking the alternative assessment can only improve your module mark and there will be no disadvantage to your marks. We have agreed a number of changes to our assessment policies that are designed to safeguard academic standards while providing flexibility to respond to the exceptional circumstances that you are facing this year in undertaking your assessments, including for those of you whose circumstances mean you are unable to undertake the assessment at the moment. We are therefore streamlining the extenuating circumstances and exam absence notification processes to ensure that we capture and support all students who have struggled. More information and guidance will be published with the exams timetable.
On 30 March, I wrote to all students who are expecting to graduate in 2020 with news that we have taken the very painful decision to postpone our summer 2020 graduation ceremonies. We know that our graduation ceremonies are the highlight of the University’s academic year – and even more importantly, the culmination of our graduates’ hard work and an important opportunity to celebrate with friends and family. Please be assured we will provide our graduates with an opportunity to celebrate as soon as we can but we are not currently in a position to confirm new dates. All those of you eligible to graduate this summer will have your awards conferred as expected and access to your certificates and transcripts this summer. Please could you contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
For our students who are living on campus, the UK Government’s advice is that you should stay where you are and not attempt to travel. Our campuses remain open but some of you will continue your teaching and assessment remotely for the Summer Term and may not choose to return to your University accommodation after the Easter break. Even if you have already left, you can be released from your accommodation contract from 1 April 2020. Please could you complete this online form and we have published guidance on our website.
International Students and International travel
The Home Office has updated their visa guidance to provide greater certainty for international students currently unable to return home due to COVID-19. If your visa is due to expire or has already expired but you cannot leave because of travel restrictions related to COVID-19, you will not be regarded as an overstayer or suffer any detriment in the future. If you cannot leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation and wish to stay in the UK over the long term, you are not currently required to return to your country of residence to apply for a future visa in a different category. Due to the current exceptional circumstances, the Home Office have also confirmed that distance learning is possible for existing Tier 4 students in the UK or those of you who have chosen to return overseas but wish to continue your current studies. Please could you contact our international services team for advice and guidance.
The Government has also issued guidance advising British nationals against all non-essential international travel. All UK students currently studying on programmes involving terms or a year abroad or working temporarily overseas are strongly advised to return to the UK now and we are here to help. The Essex Abroad team are available to answer any questions and provide support where needed: email@example.com. Please do book a Skype call should you wish to contact the team in person.
National Health Service Volunteering
The Government have set up the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme to support the NHS and the care sector during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are interested in volunteering, you must be 18 or over and fit and well with no symptoms. The majority of tasks can be undertaken while social distancing and via telephone.
Student Support Services
We are focused on ensuring your student experience remains our priority and for specific queries relating to COVID-19, please email our dedicated team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Student Services Hubs for Colchester, Southend and Loughton are operating phone, email and live chat facilities; and our Library team can live chat via the website or you can email them enquiries at email@example.com.
We know this is a tough time and we are here to help. I will ensure you are updated regularly, but please keep an eye on your Essex email and all our usual communication channels. Support each other as much as you can and do not hesitate to get in touch if you need us.