Having spoken to many colleagues this week, I think a number of us have been reflecting on the nights drawing in and autumn turning to winter. It has felt, this week more than most, like a very long year and one which, I know, has added pressures to so many of us across our University community in different ways.
However, I know many of us have also been heartened by the early, positive news around vaccines for Covid-19. There are, of course, safety and regulatory hurdles to overcome, but if these vaccines become available it at least gives us a potential pathway back to some sort of normality, even if it is one somewhat altered from our lives before.
This has reenergised our focus on medium term planning to be able to open up the campus more widely next year, in line with Covid-secure rules, so we can begin to restore and recreate the vibrant campus community so many of us miss greatly. We will be working on these plans in the weeks to come and hope to share initial thoughts early next year.
Planning arrangements for Semester 1 break
As I said last week, we will all need opportunities for rest and recuperation ahead of our second Semester. Some colleagues have been asking, understandably, about arrangements for the winter break and Christmas. We are committed to making the best possible decision for staff and students, acknowledging it is not a straightforward matter, given the wide variety of working patterns we have within the University and the clear need to support our students very well over the winter break.
Richard Brooks, our HR Director, has been liaising with Heads of Department and others in different parts of our community. I'd like to thank him in advance for his efforts to propose arrangements that respect the diverse mix of staff experiences and working patterns. We hope to share more information at the town hall and via e-mail early next week.
Covid-19 testing and travel window
As you know, colleagues have been working hard to prepare to take part in the Government’s Covid testing programme for students who are planning to travel away from Bath for the winter break.
We have now been told by Government that we will be receiving a supply of lateral flow tests, although we await final confirmation of the details. Thanks to Stephen Baddeley and the cross-departmental project team planning logistics, we are making preparations for a booking system to open next week, with test sites at The Edge building on campus and in our newly-leased Dartmouth Avenue site in Oldfield Park. The Government is asking students to travel between 3-9 December, having received two negative tests, taken three days apart. We have published a Q&A which addresses the key issues our students have raised.
Following this initial phase of testing for our students, we are also exploring how we might offer tests to others who may need them in the following days.
University of Sanctuary
I am delighted that our University has been awarded ‘University of Sanctuary’ status, in recognition of our work supporting students from refugee and asylum backgrounds, and our research and education initiatives in this area.
What makes this award particularly pleasing is the way in which members of the University have come together to progress this work, including staff in academic and professional services, campus trade unions and The SU and student groups. My sincere thanks to Professor Peter Lambert for co-ordinating these efforts so ably, and to every colleague and student who has contributed to this achievement.
We are one of fewer than 20 UK universities to have received this award, and I think it is a wonderful example of the culture of care and the value placed on community here at Bath that colleagues have worked so hard to create an environment where students who are refugees or seeking asylum feel welcomed and valued.
I would also like to pay tribute to Dr Rachid Hourizi, Alicia McEwan and all our colleagues at the Institute of Coding who have received no fewer than six awards in recent weeks for their diversity and inclusion campaign. The ‘CTRL Your Future’ campaign has succeeded in reaching a wide and diverse group of learners to inspire them to consider digital skills education and careers. My congratulations to everyone in the team who has worked on this important initiative.
With warm good wishes,
Professor Ian White
Vice-Chancellor and President