Weekly update from the Vice-Chancellor - 12/06/2020

Posted in: Weekly Update

Dear colleague,

This week marks the end of the assessment period, and I would therefore like to pay very great tribute to all those who have been involved in online assessment, teaching and tutorial support which have been so important in ensuring that our students can gain the learning outcomes required for their degrees. I recognise that this has been the result of very hard work and am most grateful to colleagues whether in academic departments, Centre for Learning and Teaching (CLT), Digital, Data & Technology Group (DD&T), Library professional services or elsewhere for all that they have done. The delivery of high quality online learning is, of course, critical to our success this year and to our viability in 2020/21 and beyond.

I am delighted to say that the engagement of our students with the examinations and assessments has been as strong as in past years, and it is excellent to hear that to date 28,561 pieces of work have been submitted online. This is an outstanding achievement for all concerned, and I would particularly like to thank Professor Peter Lambert, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching), Dr Cassie Wilson, Vice-President (Student Experience), and their colleagues for their very hard work.

University “Rest Day”

I recognise that the level of demand and commitment has been great and as a result University Executive Board (UEB) has decided that the University mark this by designating Friday 19 June as a “Rest Day”.

On this day, we would ask that if at all possible we refrain from sending emails, having meetings by Teams or equivalent. Although I recognise that there is much work to do this summer and some will have commitments, if you can, please take rest, do not generate work for others or arrange meetings on that day. Formally the day will not be a University ‘discretionary day’ but we hope that you can use it to spend time relaxing if at all possible. You may of course also take leave on that day if you wish. While this day may not be suitable for all, I would encourage local managers to follow this initiative and encourage their teams to take this rest day when possible to help ensure they remain healthy and safe.

Virtual Town Hall meetings

Over the last two weeks, we held our first virtual Town Hall meetings. Nearly 800 of you joined us to hear updates and ask questions, and I would like to thank you for making the time and giving us such positive feedback.

From these events, it was clear that colleagues want to hear a little more about how we are planning for the next academic year. Therefore, this week I want to outline the different groups involved in this activity.

Our next academic year

As you can imagine, a great deal of thinking and planning has already taken place about the challenges of delivering our core mission next year, and the range of possible solutions. I would like to thank all those colleagues from across the University who joined a special workshop held at the end of May which started to bring this thinking together.

We are establishing a Programme Board to oversee all activity relating to delivery of academic and core activities next year. In addition to the Resilient Curriculum Project Team already announced, two other project teams will lead on specific aspects of our planning.

  • The Student Experience Response Team, led by Dr Cassie Wilson, is working on mapping activity beyond the formal curriculum so we can plan how to deliver the best possible experience for new and returning students in the next academic year.
  • The Campus Carrying Capacity Project Team, led by Keith Zimmerman, Chief Operating Officer, will work on mapping the capacity of our campus for teaching and other core activity, assuming social distancing measures, and developing solutions in order to maximise capacity safely.

We are likely also to set up ‘task and finish’ groups to help solve specific challenges identified by these project teams.

A range of new ideas have already begun to be developed. For example, as part of the Student Living initiative developed earlier this academic year by Jane Loveys within Accommodation and Hospitality Services, 24 Returning Undergraduate Student Living Ambassadors have been appointed to date. These students will work closely with Student Services and the Student Union to develop a sense of community and belonging, to provide peer to peer support, and to help connect resident students with key services through outreach campaign work, events and activities. In preparation for Induction and Welcome 2020 led by Dr Cassie Wilson, the Ambassadors will blend online and in person “meet and greets” for all new undergraduates living in University accommodation.

As the work of these groups progresses, they will be reaching out to members of our community to check ideas and ask for input to their plans. We will be updating you on a regular basis about decisions made as a result.

Actions over the summer

In the meantime, Dr Nicky Kemp, Director of Policy, Planning and Compliance, and Professor Jonathan Knight, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), continue to manage all near-term matters related to opening the campus up for research and other academic-related activities. So far, this has focussed on very detailed work around risk assessments, rotas and guidance enabling specific research groups to resume their work. This is being done in accordance with Government guidelines and in a phased way to ensure the safety of all involved. Lessons learned from these pilots will be fed into wider guidance for our community for the 2020/2021 academic year.

I must thank colleagues involved with these groups, and in particular the Silver Emergency Management Team (EMT), who have put in significant and sustained hard work since February of this year in the most remarkable way.

May I conclude by reiterating my thanks to all of you for the way in which the community has pulled together and achieved so much during this very demanding time. The commitment has been evident and has made a huge difference. This period has demonstrated in full measure what it means to work as a team, and that includes those who have worked on campus during this time, those who have worked remotely, and indeed those who have been on furlough; each has played their part in the continuing success of the University: thank you.

I look forward so much to when we will be able to greet each other in person again, but meanwhile please accept my warm good wishes to you and those you love.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Ian White
Vice-Chancellor and President

Posted in: Weekly Update


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