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Vice-Chancellor's video message to our community 19-03-20

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Well, I think we can all agree that these are really quite extraordinary times, and a lot of people are are worried and fearful as the virus continues to grow.

As a university we worked really hard to connect with government policy and the advice of public health England but clearly now this is the point where we have to take four big new steps for bigger new commitments for what we should do and how we should be over the course of the next few weeks.

The first of those commitments the first of those steps is clearly about safeguarding, health; clearly it's important that we practice social distancing, clearly it's important that we are as thorough as we can be about washing our hands, but we need to take an additional step. And so from Friday night we're going to suspend all non-critical campus activities and move to remote and online working. It's a huge step, it's not closure - it's not closure because there will be some critical activities that we'll need to continue on campus. We have a number of students who will still be living on campus, and they need to be supported, and they will be supported. We have a number of issues around health and safety things that have to be maintained, and we will continue to do that. We'll need to continue to have security, you'll need to continue to do a number of other things as well, but if you're not in that critical worker group please do not come to work.

Secondly we need to commit and to deliver graduation for our students. As you'll probably know we have already said that there will be no face-to-face teaching, and even though we are out of regular term time, there have been teaching sessions that have been scheduled that we've had to alter. We need to move to more online teaching and we need to commit and deliver alternative methods of assessment for the summer period. I don't yet know whether we'll be able to deliver a graduation ceremony at the end. I certainly hope so, it's a highlight of our year, but we have to keep looking at advice and seeing what is possible.

The third really important commitment is protecting jobs. Probably all of us know somebody in some part of the economy who have lost their job this week, or have been put onto long-term unpaid leave, or whatever it might be. The risk to the finances of this university could be in the order of 30 million pounds this year. I don't use that number to worry people because I want to use that number as the basis that we need to improve from, and continue to commit to protect jobs wherever we can. We will not be laying people off.

The fourth part is, so what do we do in this next period of time, where many people are working from home but may have some spare time? When people are at home, but are not really able to work a great deal What we want in that period, please, is to ask you all to be a good neighbor. A fourth principle is we are a fantastic resource as a workforce to help around our region. In our towns, in our cities, in our communities, there are senior citizens homes that will need help and support; there are looked-after children in Coventry and Leamington and elsewhere that will desperately need help and support. Food banks - many of whom are running out of food, but are certainly running out of support from people who can deliver that food. Volunteer - please volunteer, and when you do so, please tell us about it. Please give us advice. Let us pass on good messages about what can be done to help make our region stronger through this period.

So there are four commitments: safeguarding health; making sure our students graduate; protecting jobs; and being a good neighbour.

We've established a structure so that we can deliver as much of this as we can - remotely very often. A traditional structure that most large organizations will use of a bronze group, a silver group, a gold group that I will chair, and there's also a subcommittee of our Governing Council so that we can make decisions quickly, pragmatically, and efficiently.

I just want to thank everybody for the great messages of support and encouragement at this time. And I just want to return that to as many of you as possible. I want to encourage everyone please to stay connected. It can be very isolating working at home. In my days as a researcher I would sit and work on my own for days on end it wasn't always the largest amount of fun. Talk to people; use social media; stay in touch; stay active - really important that we don't just sit at home, we've got to get as much exercise as we can. Stay healthy, wash your hands, practice social distancing. And do you know what? Before you know it we'll be back, and when we're back I can promise you one thing: we're gonna have a hell of a party.

Thanks ever so much; stay watching what we are doing; stay connected one to another; and stay watching for more information. Best wishes.