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Update from MRT: impact of new national lockdown 

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This message is sent on behalf of Julian Park and Dominik Zaum, co-Chairs of the Major Recovery Team

Dear colleagues, 

Further to our update earlier this week, we are writing with further information about our university activities this term. This follows consultation with a range of colleagues as well as our review of the legal regulations received on Tuesday for the current UK government lockdown and specific guidance for universities from the Department for Education (DfE) received today.  

As part of the current lockdown restrictions, colleagues must work from home where possible. The government has indicated that the current lockdown arrangements will be reviewed in mid-February. The Major Recovery Team is developing plans for the resumption of face-to-face teaching if permitted from 22 February, although we are also actively planning for different scenarios if the current restrictions are extended.  

This email provides further information about our university activities under lockdown in the coming weeks. This similar update will shortly be sent to all students.  

Teaching and assessment 

As outlined in our email earlier this week, with a very small number of exceptions, all teaching will be online only until at least Monday 22 February, subject to confirmation from government that face-to-face teaching can resume then. This includes teaching at Greenlands. 

Our colleagues in Timetabling are working to update online timetables for students and colleagues to reflect these changes, which should be completed by Saturday 9 January. We are encouraging students to check their timetable at least once a week, in case of any changes, and refer to alerts in their Outlook calendar. 

Students studying online during the current lockdown restrictions do not need to change their status to ‘at a distance’ on RISIS. 

In the autumn, we liaised with Schools to identify programmes where it would be difficult for students to meet their programme learning outcomes without being on campus for face-to-face teaching in the spring term. We wrote to students on these affected programmes and asked them to let us know if they were facing challenges with being on campus. We are now working with those Schools directly to respond to students who contacted us, to provide further advice.  

The University Board for Teaching, Learning & Student Experience (UBTLSE) recently reviewed proposals for mitigation measures with regards to exams and assessments this year and further information will shortly be shared with Schools. We will be writing to students as soon as we can with further information about our plans for assessment and any update on our mitigation policy for spring/summer 2021 and we will share a copy of this with colleagues in advance.  

Research 

In line with legal regulations and government guidance, we must work from home where possible, and that includes research. Some research activities require access to specialist facilities and, in these cases, researchers (both staff and doctoral students) can come to campus to use these facilities if required for their research, subject to the approval of their Head of School. 

To ensure that facilities can be used in a COVID-secure manner, Heads of School might have to prioritise access for some colleagues. MRT is finalising criteria for access and prioritisation for this and will share these early next week. 

Any research activities that involve the public or bring members of the public onto campus must be postponed, as should any activities involving travel other than to the campus, unless authorised by MRT. 

Health & Safety 

The new variant of the virus is more transmissible and now more than ever it is vital that we play our part in keeping our community safe. Please remember: 

  • all colleagues must work from home unless it is absolutely essential for you to be on campus and this has been agreed by your line manager;  
  • if you need to work on campus, please make sure you have completed the two COVID-19 Health & Safety modules on UoR Learn, as well as having  the appropriate permissions and risk assessment completed;   
  • the basic precautions continue to be the best way to minimise the risk of spreading the virus – washing your hands regularly, wearing a face covering (unless you are exempt), and maintaining a distance from other people.  

As with the previous lockdown in March 2020, most buildings on campus will now be accessible by Campus Card only. There are some exceptions, predominantly where students need access to buildings. Any colleagues who need access to buildings that are not currently enabled on their Campus Card should speak to their line manager in the first instance and, if approved by the Head of School or Function, this can be arranged locally as normal. We will shortly share more information with the Leadership Group about the process for this.  

Testing 

Please remember that if you need to be on campus for your role, you can book a Lateral Flow Test to provide reassurance that you do not currently have the virus.  

Student travel 

All students should adhere to the current ‘stay at home’ lockdown guidance and the government has asked students who travelled away for Christmas to stay in their vacation residence wherever possible until face-to-face teaching resumes for their programme.  Those students who have already travelled back to university are asked by the government to remain in their term-time accommodation during the national lockdown. 

The legal regulations and the DfE guidance make clear that students can travel back to campus from their holiday accommodation, but they can only do this once and then cannot move back and forth between addresses during the lockdown. We would, however, encourage students to stay at their current address if they can, and only return if absolutely necessary (for example, international students who cannot amend their travel plans, those who do not have facilities to re-commence their studies online at their vacation address, or those who need to return for health or safety reasons). We will provide support to those on campus as outlined below.  

Library, study space, museums and collections 

We strongly encourage students to study from their current residence and only use the Library and other study facilities on campus if it is necessary to do so or they do not have access to suitable study space. Students will continue to have access to all online Library resources and remote support from our Study Advice team. 

The Library will remain open for study space and Click & Collect during the following hours: 

  • Monday to Thursday:  8:30 - 19:00 
  • Friday, Saturday & Sunday:  8:30 - 17:00 

In addition to the Library, RUSU’s The Study is open for non-bookable study space and is accessible 24/7 by Campus Card.  Given the reduced number of students on campus, Study@URS is closed, although we will monitor study space demand and keep this under review.   

Our PC Labs in the Palmer and Agriculture buildings are also open 24/7. These are accessible by Campus Card and do not need to be booked.  

Our special collections will be available for scan on demand. The MERL Reading Room and museums will be closed.  

Student support 

Our full range of specialist advice and support services are available remotely, including Support Centres and the Henley Helpdesk, the ISLI Administration team and the Graduate School. 

The Student Services Reception in the Carrington Building remains open for drop-in queries. 

Food, sport and recreation 

The following catering services are currently open on campus for takeaway service: 

  • The Library café (9.00 - 16.00, Monday to Friday) 
  • Park Eat (8.00 – 22.00, 7 days a week) 
  • The Dairy (8.00 – 16.00, Monday to Friday) 
  • Wantage and St Patrick’s Hall – for residents only (8.00 – 22.00, 7 days a week)  

The Marketplace at Park Eat is also open from 8.00 – 22.00, 7 days a week, to buy food and other household essentials.  

The SportsPark will remain closed and outdoor group exercise, including the sports fields and grass pitches, is also prohibited under the current lockdown. 

Students and colleagues are permitted to exercise outside on their own, with members of their household, or one other person from outside their household, including on our campus. If you are meeting someone from outside your household, this must be for exercise and not simply for social purposes (for example, you should not meet outside for a coffee). 

Halls 

Our Halls are open for students who need to be here and students have access to their rooms and our Halls Welfare Team.  

The University Executive Board is reviewing a rent waiver for students in University Halls of Residence, and the outcome of this work will be announced early next week. 

RUSU 

The Students' Union has moved all support services online, and clubs and societies will continue remotely as much as possible. The Seoul Plaza and Mailbox shops are open, as well as the Bagelman for takeaway. Under government guidance, the nursery will remain open. 

We are working to update our Staff Portal COVID-19 FAQs and student Essentials pages as soon as possible with these latest developments so please bear with us. If you have any queries or need support, please do not hesitate to speak to your line manager and make use of the resources available on our wellbeing pages. Our COVID-19 support line remains open on 0118 214 7813 from 9.15am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday and the team is there to help. 

Best wishes, 

Julian and Dominik 

Professor Julian Park (Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education and Student Experience) and Professor Dominik Zaum (Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation) 

Co-Chairs, University of Reading Major Recovery Team

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