My thanks to everyone who joined the virtual town hall earlier this week. I am particularly grateful to the SU President, Francesco, for joining us at the start of the meeting and for his kind words of thanks to all our staff for supporting our students so well this year. As I said on Monday, our partnership with The SU team has been more important than ever this year, and we are so thankful for their insight and hard work.
Brexit – advice and support
Our aim over the past year has been to give as clear advice as possible on preparations in advance of Brexit. However, as you will be aware, negotiations about our trade and other arrangements are ongoing and we await the final outcome of these discussions in the coming days.
Supporting our community remains of the utmost importance, and I am most grateful for the work of our HR and Student Immigration teams for providing advice and support to those most affected by forthcoming changes.
Our webpages on the UK’s exit from the EU contain a number of important updates, including support available for current and prospective EU, EEA and Swiss staff and students. You will also be able to find information on data, procurement, travel and advice for line managers, and I would encourage you to take a look at these updates.
We will, of course, be monitoring the situation carefully over the coming days and have plans in place to respond to developments if we need to do so.
Winter break activities for students
Campus is now much quieter, with most of our students having travelled elsewhere for the winter break and with the first phase of the lateral flow testing project now completed.
However, we know that some 400 students are remaining with us here in Bath, either on campus or in the city. Our invitation to those students living in private accommodation to move onto campus for the winter break to be closer to support and activities has been taken up by a small number and I hope this will improve their experience.
As you are no doubt aware, colleagues have arranged a wide range of festive activities and meals open for booking and our wellbeing services remain open to support our students, wherever they are in the world.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to all those colleagues working over the next few weeks, including those who are generously volunteering additional help, whether to support our students, look after our campus and buildings or to maintain essential services.
Plans for early 2021, including Covid testing
In line with recent Government advice, we will be facilitating a ‘staggered’ return for students after the winter break as outlined to departments and students earlier this week.
We will be continuing to offer asymptomatic lateral flow tests for both staff and students from 4 January to 5 February 2021 and you can find a Q&A on our webpages as well as the booking form which is now open.
We will, of course, continue to work hard to ensure that campus is safe. A completed study has just shown that there have been no cases of student to staff transmission of Covid on campus at all. In addition, there was no evidence of transmission from staff member to staff member on campus itself. I would like to pay tribute to those who have worked so hard to achieve this level of Covid-safety and also to all those who abided by the rules so carefully, including in the provision of Covid-safe IPT.
Looking ahead to 2021
Although none of us can predict the exact shape of next year, with better mass testing and the vaccination programmes rolling out, many of you will be turning your thoughts to changing working patterns and coming back to campus if you have not done so already. We will be outlining our plans about how we can best facilitate this, safely and in line with prevailing Covid regulations, in the first few weeks of 2021.
We all know there will be new obstacles to overcome next year, but the collective response of our community in 2020 is a real source of pride and should give us confidence in our ability to rise to meet the challenges ahead.
Finally, I would like to congratulate our students for their continuing volunteering work in the local community. I mentioned in my last message to you the wonderful work of The SU, our students and colleagues here at the University in partnership with the Compassionate Christmas project, and I was touched to listen to this video with Gold Scholar Hannah about her project co-ordinating letter writing to care home residents. Also spreading some festive cheer, our very talented group of musicians, Aquapella, have recently released this song for Christmas, which I thought you may enjoy.
I will be taking a pause in my weekly messages to you, and will next write in the week commencing 4 January. Until then, I hope you will get a real chance to rest, recuperate and spend time with loved ones. Thank you to every single one of you for your unique contribution in 2020, have a Merry Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year.
With warm good wishes,
Professor Ian White
Vice-Chancellor and President