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Vice-Chancellor's start of term message

Vice-Chancellor Robert van der Noort

Dear colleagues,

I hope you are well and managed some rest and hopefully a bit of fun over the festive season. While it was necessarily different from past Christmas celebrations, I was personally grateful to spend some quiet time with my immediate family and to catch up with other family and friends, albeit on screen.

We are at the start of another lockdown as I write this message, but one for which we are much better prepared given all our work over the past 10 months. The COVID-19 Major Recovery Team has been keeping you updated on plans for this term and the latest information, including frequently asked questions, is available on the University website.

The key points to highlight are:

  • the new term starts as planned on Monday 11 January
  • most teaching will be online only until at least Monday 22 February
  • face-to-face teaching as part of the blended learning model will take place for Education (Initial Teaching Training), Physician Associates, Speech & Language Therapy and Pharmacy programmes
  • researchers (both staff and doctoral students) requiring access to specialist facilities can come to campus, subject to the approval of their Head of School. 
  • teaching and support staff involved in delivering education are considered ‘critical workers', including where they are working from home
  • work from home if you are not delivering on-campus teaching or critical campus services
  • book a Lateral Flow Test if you are required to be on the campus.

Whether you are working on our campuses or from home, please take care of yourself and other members of our community. Tighter restrictions continue to mean that many of us have not seen our families and friends for a while. Given that these restrictions will continue for some time, it is important that we regularly take stock of our health and wellbeing.

A new year generally marks the beginning of one of the busiest terms of the academic year, where you would be surrounded by colleagues whose support you could call upon. Even though 2021 has started with us working from our dispersed locations, that support is still available just an audio or video call away. So please do not hesitate to speak to your line manager, your colleagues or the Wellbeing Peer Support Network if you need support. You can also use the tools and resources available on our Wellbeing pages

The closure of schools means that a lot of colleagues are juggling work with home-schooling and caring responsibilities. Your understanding of these challenges  has been fantastic in the past, so please continue to offer flexibility  and support to such colleagues in your team, department and School or Function.

I will continue to host the fortnightly sessions to share information with you about key initiatives and issues, but, more importantly, listen to your questions, concerns and suggestions. The dates for this term are:

  • Thursday 14 January, 14:00-15:00
  • Friday 29 January, 10:00-11:00
  • Friday 12 February, 14:00-15:00
  • Thursday 25 February, 15:00-16:00
  • Tuesday 9  March, 14:00-15:00

Our first session on 14 January will focus on COVID-19 and our plans for this term. Beyond that, we are keeping the content flexible at this stage, so that we can respond to the most pressing issues at the time and so we'll let you know the topics of future sessions closer to the time.

You will receive an Outlook invite for all these sessions and do not need to book your place. I would urge you to make time to attend these sessions, though, as they are a really important opportunity for me and my University Executive Board colleagues to hear directly from you.

As I said before Christmas, the wide availability of COVID-19 testing - including on our own campuses - and the rollout of the vaccines bring hope that we can look forward to a more normal life later this year and again direct all our collective efforts on our core purposes of research and education and on strategic plans and projects for the future of our institution. The next few weeks and months will be tough, but with the support of our community we will be able to manage this without a major adverse impact on our community.

Stay safe and healthy,

Robert

Professor Robert Van de Noort

Vice-Chancellor, University of Reading

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