Our Academic Registrar, Richard Stock, tells us more about our plans for enabling you to continue your studies in the 2020-21 academic year.

As the main summer assessment period draws to a close, I wanted to update you on our plans for enabling you to continue your studies in the 2020-21 academic year. I know this remains a difficult time for everyone – especially our students. I hope you and your friends and family are staying safe. Please remember we are here for you and will continue to do all we can to support you.

We understand that your University experience is an important period in your life. We really care about keeping you safe and making sure your remaining time with us is amazing. Essex has always been a home for ground-breakers and change-makers; free thinkers and people who challenge established conventions, who find solutions to complex problems and who want to make a difference in the world around them.

We are not going to let the pandemic stop you from succeeding in your studies. Our Essex students and graduates are doing fantastic things to make the world a better place, wherever they are. We are proud of our brilliant Essex community, and look forward to welcoming you back next year to continue to be part of it. The world needs you now, more than ever: your ideas and talents, your creativity and courage. We will be here for you in October, ready to help you every step of the way.

What can you expect next year?

Over the last few weeks, we have been working hard to plan for next year. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world but we remain absolutely determined to provide you with the best Essex education and student experience we can while safeguarding your health and wellbeing. Our commitment to enabling you to continue and complete your studies is stronger than ever.

The uncertainty created by the pandemic means we are focusing on flexibility to fit your circumstances. We are redesigning how we teach, deliver your learning and enable you to undertake research to make sure that you continue to have a great Essex experience next year.

The approach we are adopting puts you at the heart of our thinking. It is based on ‘dual delivery’ to provide flexibility for you and to reduce uncertainty so you can plan with confidence. We want and expect you to return to your campus at the start of the year. If you are unable to due to restrictions created by COVID-19, our dual delivery plan means you can register and resume your studies on time wherever you are and can then join us when you are able.

Our approach has a number of core elements at its heart, which I have set out below:

  • The academic year will start on time in October. Courses will be taught in a way that blends face-to-face learning with a range of virtual lectures and other learning activities. We want and are planning for this to be on our campuses from the start of term. We will protect your health and wellbeing by managing the size of face-to-face activities and ensuring that we are using all our available space to support physical distancing when you are face-to-face. The flexibility we are building into our ‘dual-delivery’ teaching programme will mean that you can and should plan to return this October with confidence. This offers the best of both worlds: great face-to-face teaching whenever safe, including classes, tutorials and group work, supported by the latest digital learning tools and techniques. Our postgraduate research community will also continue to benefit from research support and supervision on campus whenever safe and through using a range of digital tools.
  • Minimising any disruption during the whole academic year. Our dual delivery approach will mean that, if necessary, we can move to off-campus delivery at any point during the academic year. This will ensure you can continue your studies uninterrupted, whatever the circumstances.
  • Ensuring the best student experience – because you are still Essex. We know that your time at Essex is not just about your learning. We know you want to have fun; to meet your friends and to get the absolute most from your time with us. We are working with our Departments, clubs and societies and with our Students’ Union to make sure that, even if you join us physically later on and things are a bit different this autumn, your experience will still be as good as it possibly can be.
  • Welcoming you back to your home from home. We know you may have many questions about travel to, and life on, our campuses this autumn. If you were planning to book University accommodation and, for any reason, you do not move into the accommodation that we offer to you, please be assured we won’t charge you any accommodation costs. If you need to book private accommodation, please do so as normal while seeking advice from your landlord or agent about their plans for managing your booking.

Your safety, and that of our staff, is paramount to us and you should not be concerned about life on our campuses. Over 1,500 students who were not able to return home throughout this pandemic have safely lived and learned on campus over the last few months. We have looked after them and they have looked after each other, so – whether you are studying with us on-campus or off-campus – you can be confident that Essex cares and we will always look after you, at your home from home.

Arrangements about teaching, learning and supervision will differ between Departments. In the coming weeks, your Department (or Departments if you are studying a joint Degree) will be providing more information for you about your course next year. Module enrolment will open on 25 June 2020. Your Department or School will be in contact with you very soon to help you with your choices and with details of the opportunities you and your fellow students will have to raise any questions and hear from your lecturers.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about your course or modules, please contact the professional services team in your Department or School. They are there for you so please do make the most of them. They have a wealth of knowledge and can help if you’re not sure how to contact somebody in the Department.

Our Student Services Hubs for Colchester, Southend and Loughton are operating phone, email and live chat facilities and can provide information on our range of mental health and emotional support services. The Students’ Union Advice service is available and operating remotely.

Finally, we know you will have many questions about your course and your plans for next year, which my email today will not have answered. Please do not worry, we understand. When we know more, we will share the answers with you as soon as we can. We will provide regular updates over the summer, including more information about student life next year. We will continue to publish information online through our dedicated COVID-19 webpages to support you as the answers become available. We are working with the Students’ Union to ensure the information we provide responds to the questions you have and the issues that are of most concern to you.

We are looking forward to welcoming you back to the Essex community next year.