I hope this e-mail finds you well and hope you had a good Easter break, with some time for rest and relaxation.
Latest Government announcement
On Tuesday this week, the UK Government issued further information for Higher Education, particularly in relation to in-person teaching. It states that the existing guidance on in-person teaching at universities will not change before Monday 17 May.
Therefore, we will continue to work within the guidelines with all our online teaching provision, and with the in-person teaching that we were previously able to resume for specified practical and practice-based courses.
It will remain vital that we continue to do all we can within these guidelines to give our students the best possible experience and access to facilities, not least as we know how important in-person activity is to their wellbeing and mental health.
We do have a significant number of students in University accommodation and in Bath, and I’m grateful to colleagues for their continued support through teaching, personal tutoring, and through the range of available student services, sports, accommodation and hospitality.
Further campus reopening since 12 April
As the Government’s roadmap further eases restrictions, it is wonderful to see the additional activity this makes possible on campus.
Our Sports Training Village is getting busier, with the gym, swimming pool and indoor sports now open for individual use, in line with the guidelines.
In terms of hospitality, in addition to the takeaway options available from the 4 West Café, Sports Café, Lime Tree and Hut by the Lake, we are now able to operate table service at outdoor venues. Colleagues may be interested to know that the seated, outdoor spaces outside the Lime Tree and on the Sports Terrace are available for use by staff as well as students, in groups of up to six people. They are certainly proving popular as a safe environment to enjoy food and drink and reconnect with one another and the warm weather is also helping to create a really vibrant atmosphere once again.
Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme valuation consultation
As you will be aware, the USS Trustee last month published the 31 March 2020 valuation of the Universities Superannuation Scheme, the workplace pension scheme of which many of you are members. The USS Trustee, which runs the scheme, estimates there is a large deficit and so it believes there is a need for a large increase in contributions from universities and staff to keep the current pension benefits at the same level.
As I said last month, we shared the concerns of UUK about this valuation and supported their plan to hold further discussions with USS and The Pensions Regulator.
As part of the next stage of the process, UUK, which represents universities, is asking for our views.
If you are a member of USS, or eligible to join, we want to understand your views on the scheme, so that these can be represented at national negotiations.
What you think will form an important part of our response to UUK, so please take part in the survey which will open on Monday 19 April. There will also be a virtual staff meeting to provide additional information and clarification and to discuss your questions at 1.15pm on Thursday 22 April. An invitation will be circulated at the same time as the survey.
As restrictions continue to ease, I’d like to remind colleagues who would like to work on campus, either for practical reasons or for wellbeing reasons, but who haven’t felt able to before, that we’re making this possible wherever we can. Heads of Department and their teams have been asked to keep risk assessments updated where spaces are being used. Colleagues are asked to book regular Covid tests when using campus facilities; I’m pleased to say we continue to have no staff cases on campus but testing will help us in our efforts to keep everyone safe.
In my last e-mail to you, I discussed the important work colleagues have put in to developing a new anti-harassment initiative. Given the deeply distressing news this week about the testimonies of abuse and assault from university students throughout the UK, action on this issue is more vital than ever. You can read more about the initiative, due to launch in the coming weeks, in a statement on our webpages.
Finally, my congratulations to colleagues in the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering on the news that the Bath VSimulators platform has been nominated in the Education category of the 2021 Inavate Awards, which celebrate outstanding audio-visual design.
With warm good wishes,
Professor Ian White
Vice-Chancellor and President