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Universities Minister visits Reading

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan with Robert Van de Noort and Parveen Yaqoob

The Government’s Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan MP, visited the University of Reading today to see covid-19 preparations for the new academic year.

In a guided tour around Whiteknights, Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Van de Noort and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Parveen Yaqoob showed the Minister new measures put in place to help staff and students remain safe and socially distanced, to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The measures include new one-way systems and signs around campus, more than 600 hand sanitisers, and redesigned spaces in buildings such as the library.

The Vice-Chancellor spoke to the Minister, who had requested the visit, about the considerable efforts that colleagues have made to support students over the past six months and the preparations for the autumn term. The Minister was shown how staff were preparing ‘blended’ online and in-person teaching, saw how RUSU has created socially distanced spaces for safer socialising, and met Director of Student Services Dr Paddy Woodman to learn about how student welfare is being supported.

As well as seeing many of the measures that the University has already put in place, the Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor also put concerns of colleagues to the Minister, including the need for additional testing provision, and the financial impacts facing the University as a result of the covid crisis.

Professor Van de Noort said: “We were pleased to welcome a member of the Government to Reading at her request, and took the opportunity to show the Minister how colleagues have gone above and beyond the call of duty to prepare for the start of the academic year.

“During the visit, we were able to express the challenges in getting our teaching and learning, campus and facilities ready in uncertain times, and the additional impact that this has on our staff. For example, we were able to show the Minister how we’ve redesigned teaching spaces, with one classroom being used ten times more often than usual to ensure that social distancing can be maintained.

“The Minister also heard about the ingenuity and capacity of our community to adapt to these changes, including how 300 staff have volunteered to support students, including providing care parcels for those needing to quarantine. We were able to show the Minister ways in which our teaching and learning has been reimagined including using virtual laboratory systems, which we are confident will maintain a high-quality learning environment.”


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