Weekly update from the Vice-Chancellor - 12/02/2021

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Dear colleague,

Preparing for post-lockdown guidance

I am pleased of course that campus is open for a range of permitted activities including for research and study, and meeting a significant demand even though we are unable to offer in-person teaching apart from the MPharm degree course. However, we believe that we may receive more information about in-person teaching in the next few weeks from the UK Government and so we have been planning a number of blended learning options. We believe that approval to start laboratory or practical based work not long after 8 March will enable us to complete all requirements within our existing Semester. However, contingency plans have been developed for June and September for some accredited courses, in case we need to put on some additional sessions to enable particular cohorts of students to complete these elements of their courses. Additionally, we continue to explore what extra-curricular activities we may be able to facilitate for students, in partnership with the SU.

I am most grateful to all who have been involved in this planning, but recognise that this degree of uncertainty is a real challenge. I greatly appreciate the continuing patience and tenacity demonstrated across our community.

New travel rules

Colleagues may have seen, earlier this week, announcements on new rules on international travel coming into force on Monday 15 February, including:

  • Requirements to provide a negative PCR test result taken no earlier than three days before arrival in the UK
  • Rules relating to travel to England from overseas including special guidance on travel from countries on the UK’s ‘red list’ and requirements for self-isolation, following earlier news that travel corridors have been suspended
  • Mandatory testing during quarantine
  • Much tougher enforcement measures and penalties

You can find further details on the Government webpages, including the announcement by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Covid testing

Covid cases remain very low at the University, as you can see from our daily statistics, and of course we want to keep them low, which makes testing important.

We are encouraging those staff working in University buildings and on campus to book twice-weekly Covid tests; more information can be found via our online Q&A and booking system. Students are also being encouraged to book twice-weekly tests, with numbers taking this up increasing over the last week and into next week.

Campus operations: co-designing new spaces 

As we are aware that there will be new requirements for the campus after the University comes out of the pandemic, Jane Loveys is kindly leading a project to look at redesigning some new, pilot work spaces on campus, particularly for Departments which vacated their spaces last year. My thanks to all those colleagues who took part in workshops to think through what new types of hybrid working space we may need, and how these could function. We hope to provide further updates as this work progresses.

Staff ‘Work and Wellbeing Survey’

Next week, we’re launching the latest ‘Work and Wellbeing Survey’. We aim to run these surveys throughout the year, so we can better understand the impact of evolving circumstances on your work and wellbeing and to help us plan for the time when restrictions ease. I would encourage you to share your thoughts when you receive the survey, to help us plan effectively for the future.

Research and recognition

Finally, despite the current challenges, I have been impressed at the range of academic work continuing in relation to the pandemic, including Professor Paul Stallard’s recent research into ‘post traumatic growth’. I was also heartened to read about Professor Christos Vasilakis, in the School of Management’s Centre for Healthcare Innovation and Improvement, supporting the design and processes for Bristol’s Mass Vaccination Centre.

My warmest congratulations also to two colleagues on recent achievements: to Professor Asel Sartbaeva for being appointed as a UN Goodwill Ambassador on Girls in Science for UNICEF Kyrgyzstan and being selected as a finalist for the 2021 FDM everywoman in Technology awards, and to Professor Gilbert Laporte for winning the prestigious Canada Council Killam Prize.

With warm good wishes,

Professor Ian White
Vice-Chancellor and President

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