The Government yesterday announced new COVID ‘Plan B’ rules and the Department for Education has today also published updated guidance for higher education providers (.pdf).  I am writing to let you know the steps the University will be taking as we enter this further period of national restrictions in the run up to Christmas.

What does this mean for me?

The Department for Education guidance states that teaching and learning should not be moved online as a result of the general work from home guidance, and that staff can continue to attend work as necessary to deliver this. In-person teaching and learning will therefore continue in line with our published timetable. Staff needed to support the continuation of in-person teaching and learning are also exempt from the working from home order.

We will be continuing face-to-face teaching until the end of the Autumn term 2021 and on-campus research activities will also be continuing. 

For other areas, activities will fall into one of three main groups:

  • Facilities on our campuses, including our libraries, research laboratories, sports facilities, food outlets and shops, will continue to operate as currently, subject to the protective measures the University has in place (such as our requirements for mask wearing) and new requirements being introduced by Government, such as the need for COVID vaccine certification for entry to nightclubs
  • Student-facing services in Departments, Faculties and Sections will continue to be delivered both on-campus and from home on a rota basis as has been the case in many areas so far this term.  Your Head of Department or Section will confirm the arrangements relevant to you
  • Where it is possible to do so, work which does not need direct interaction with students or does not need to be delivered on campus should be undertaken from home.  Where work cannot be delivered from home, this should continue to be undertaken on-campus.  Your Head of Department or Section will confirm how this applies to you.   

There will be colleagues whose personal circumstances mean either that they need to continue to work on campus, or that they cannot continue to work on campus.

There may also be staff who are required to continue to work on one of our campuses, but feel unable to do so. In all these situations, staff should discuss their concerns with their line manager and we want to be as flexible as we can be. Our Occupational Health Team, led by Lara Carmel, is available to provide support and advice to managers. I am also very happy to be contacted directly for further support or advice. 

What else do I need to know?

  • The University requires the use of face coverings in student teaching spaces, study spaces, library, all circulation areas, toilets and kitchens unless you are medically exempt or exempted through specific agreed risk assessment. Masks are available from dispensers around our campuses. 
  • Vaccine certification does not apply to teaching and learning but does apply to large events that meet the attendance thresholds and venues (like nightclubs) that are covered by the regulations.
  • Until now international students have had to isolate if they were identified as having been in close contact with a positive Covid case even if they were fully vaccinated. From now, any student whose vaccine is recognised at the UK border will now be in the same position as anyone vaccinated in the UK.
  • Self-isolating for Omicron contacts has been replaced by daily LFT testing for those who are fully vaccinated which should reduce the number of students having to self-isolate.
  • Students should take a test before they travel home for the Christmas break, and before they travel back to term-time accommodation in January.

The additional measures that we put in place last week also remain in place.   

In addition to the requirement to wear face-coverings set out above, these also include, social distancing where possible and testing twice a week or if you have any COVID or cold symptoms. Anyone not able to wear a mask should be asked to socially distance. If you able to, please get vaccinated including taking up early boosters.  You can check the number of cases on campus on our live tracker.

Thank you for everything that you are doing to keep us all safe. I do appreciate that the introduction of these additional measures at this time of the year is especially challenging.  I will keep in touch to update you as soon as I can as circumstances change, including with our plans for the Spring Term (17 January to 25 March 2022).