Clearing 2021

University COVID-19 action


In a period of additional protection and health and safety risk assessments for our students, staff and wider community, we want to make sure we are doing all that we can to keep you up to date with our response to COVID-19.

The health and wellbeing of our students is our priority. This means we are constantly monitoring advice from the UK Government, Public Health England, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the World Health Organisation.

Keeping our community safe

Throughout our responses to the pandemic, we have made the health and wellbeing of our community a priority. We expect that in academic year 2021-22 we will begin to return to business as usual, as we apply the learning and experiences we have gained in the pedagogy of blended learning since spring 2020 to enhance our teaching programmes. However, in planning for next year, we need to be ready to adapt to any disruption we might face, for example, as a result of new variants.

The current UK Government timeline for coming out of lockdown states that, if circumstances allow, from 21 June most COVID restrictions will no longer be required. Nevertheless, our approach means that we need to ensure that our planning for next year continues to take into account the possibilities of:

  • new and variant strains of COVID
  • possible further waves of COVID during winter months
  • further or reintroduced COVID secure campus restrictions, including social distancing, limited occupancy and room restrictions
  • shorter periods of localised lockdowns which might restrict our ability to work on our campuses
  • travel restrictions which prevent students from some countries coming to the UK, or that require expensive hotel quarantine.

While we want and expect all our students to return to campus next year, we want to continue to offer a reasonable level of flexibility for those of our students who are unable to arrive at our campuses for the start of term due to COVID-19 restrictions (perhaps due to travel restrictions or the pace of vaccine roll out in their home countries).

Departments will be asked to confirm whether they are able to allow any delay in arrival dates for students who are unable to travel from overseas (for example, due to travel restrictions), and to specify the latest date by which they require students to arrive for on-campus learning. DDEs will support departments to specify the reasonable level of flexibility they are able to offer. DDEs will make recommendations to the PVC(E), who is the decision-maker.

Our planning for 2021-22 is based on the following elements:

  • an expectation that all students will be physically present on our campuses. Teaching programmes will be delivered through a blended-learning model. The majority of learning opportunities will be available in-person as long as it remains safe to do so, and we are not constrained by UK Government restrictions
  • embedding blended learning, based on what has worked well this year and further developing new pedagogical practices using blended learning
  • the ability to move to ‘online only’ at any point during the academic year, if required – for example, if there is a further Government lockdown
  • providing reasonable flexibility for students who are, for reasons that are outside their control, unable to arrive at our campuses at the start of term, for example those located overseas
  • in cases where a course is approved for on-campus study only, communication will need to be clear to applicants and returning students that remote study is not an option
  • in cases where a course is approved for a time-limited ‘remote learning’ option, communication will need to be clear to applicants and returning students about the latest date we expect them to arrive on campus

We anticipate that most areas of campus life and activity will be reintroduced as Government restrictions are lifted further. This will include opening of social and sporting facilities alongside our wider range of individual and group learning spaces.

University Business Continuity Plan

The University’s Business Continuity Plan sets out four different levels of protection – Advanced (the most stringent), Enhanced, Sustained and Targeted. The University is currently in the Targeted Protection phase. Each phase recognises that the University’s campuses will need to remain open at all times to support students residing in University accommodation. 

We’ve set out what each phase means in our University Business Continuity Plan (.pdf) and Business Continuity Plan Action Table (.pdf), which set out the steps needed to be taken to bring our University community back onto our campuses. 

Mental Health Risk Assessment

Our Strategic Mental Health Risk Assessment - COVID-19 has been created to enable the University to identify potential mental health related hazards arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and who might be affected and the steps being taken to eliminate or reduce these hazards. It will help to:

  • Identify any potential stressors that might be experienced by those working on our campuses, from their homes or other locations aboard or in the UK (field work, in external companies, hospitals etc) during the pandemic.
  • Take into consideration the impact of lockdown on our mental health and the continuing need to socially distance and self-isolate – (GOV requirements) that would previously have been advised as a practice hazardous to mental wellbeing.
  • With respect to good emotional wellbeing, identify what measures can be put in place to support a member of staff’s mental health, ensuring that pressures from work remain a motivator not a stressor.

Strategic Mental Health Risk Assessment (.docx)

Keeping you updated

Situations can change at a very fast pace and we will update our advice regularly through:

  • Information on our website
  • Communications via your Essex email address, highlighting specific updates and changes.
  • Regular newsletters sent to your Essex email address
  • New information and updates through Social media - follow the University on Twitter and Facebook to access these updates.

Updates from the Vice-Chancellor

Read the latest updates from our Vice-Chancellor and senior members of staff on our Vice-Chancellor's blog.

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