I hope this message finds you well. May I start by thanking all you for the continuing commitment that you are showing in ensuring that our University continues to operate in the best possible way within Government guidelines. It really makes a difference.
My heart goes out to the family, friends and colleagues of IT Supporter, Andrew Pendrey, who sadly passed away earlier this week. He was a kind and compassionate colleague, who loved his job and his time at the University. I know that Alex Butler, Chief Information Officer, has been supporting colleagues in the Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) team and sources of support have also been put on our homepages for any staff member or student who needs it at this time.
Government updates, including testing
Yesterday, we received a letter from the Minister of State for Universities, confirming that we will be able to continue lateral flow testing for students and staff without symptoms, beyond 5 February.
Colleagues who are delivering or supporting teaching or research, or providing facilities and services on campus will be able to access twice weekly Covid tests from the week commencing 25 January. Students living in Bath and on campus will also be able to access the same frequency of testing. Whilst no testing regime is perfect, including lateral flow, every positive asymptomatic case that is identified helps to prevent the onward spread of the virus. Therefore, although Covid cases are now coming down in Bath and North East Somerset, testing remains an important tool in helping to combat Covid-19. Our testing Q&A and booking system are both on available via our website and we would encourage colleagues working in University buildings and on campus to book these tests.
Please also be aware that we have updated our guidance on when and where you are required to use face coverings, so please read this carefully if you’re working in University buildings and on campus.
The Minister’s letter also confirmed we would be receiving further guidance about student return in the coming weeks. In preparation for this, we are planning for various scenarios so we can respond to the new guidance effectively, supporting colleagues and reducing pressures wherever possible.
The future of the UK’s relationship with the EU
As you will be aware, following extended negotiations, the UK and EU reached a Trade and Cooperation Agreement at the end of 2020. The agreement consists of three main pillars: a free trade agreement, a partnership on citizens' security and an agreement on governance.
We have been examining what these developments mean for our staff and our students as well as our future University strategy. Two changes that are immediately apparent are in the areas of research and learning and teaching.
One of our major concerns during negotiations was how the changes would affect access to EU research funding. Under the Agreement, the UK will no longer benefit from certain programmes but will take part in five EU programmes including the EU’s R&I funding programme, Horizon Europe. The UK will now negotiate the detail with the Commission, with the intention that our researchers are able to submit their proposals into Horizon 2020 and the other programmes as soon as possible.
The UK will continue to participate in EU programmes, including Horizon 2020, that are financed by the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework for the lifetime of the grants. For more information see the Brexit advice for staff involved in research.
The other area where the government has already announced change is the UK’s withdrawal from Erasmus+ Scheme and the establishment of the Turing scheme to support students to study and work abroad, to be initially funded for one year, starting in September this year.
Both students and staff will be able to access Erasmus+ funding until May 2023. Colleagues have already contacted all students on Erasmus+ programmes and published new guidance on Erasmus+ based on their questions.
I understand there are still questions over data sharing, particularly within our research community and that a four month data transfer bridge is now in place. We will publish news of any developments in this area.
Our best wishes to Tom Britten, Commercial Director
I would like most warmly to congratulate Tom Britten, our Commercial Director, who is taking up the role of Chief Operating Officer at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (part of UKRI). I would like to thank Tom for all he has done for the University and wish him all the best in this important and exciting appointment in the world of Government research. Tom will bring great expertise to their senior team as they explore new opportunities.
Our Shared Future: further progress
Approximately one year ago, a number of us gathered in the Guildhall to launch ‘Our Shared Future’, a collaboration with Bath & North East Somerset Council. This initiative aims to bring together skills, knowledge and expertise from the University, B&NES and across the city to explore and address major challenges in Bath and the region. Since then, our partnership with the local authority and a number of other local institutions has deepened and strengthened. This week, we have shared the progress made so far in joint projects under the themes of tackling climate change and cohesion and inclusivity. My sincere congratulations and thanks to colleagues for making such strides in these important collaborations, despite the challenges of the last year, and we look forward to further updates as they progress.
Finally, as the national lockdown in England continues, I am acutely aware of the strain it can put on us all as a community and as individuals. In particular, I hope those of you who are juggling work commitments and caring responsibilities, and those who are worried about loved ones who are ill or isolated, have been able to find sources of support in these difficult circumstances. To you and all others in our University community, please accept my warm good wishes,
Professor Ian White
Vice-Chancellor and President