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Heads of Department Update 03 June


Sorry if this is looking rather lengthy – it was intended to be somewhat briefer but I think there is quite a bit of uncertainty around a number of aspects of the planning for next year and I thought it would be helpful to try to clarify some of the issues that I think have been causing concern. So apologies for the extra length, but hopefully it will be of use!

Timetables, Teaching days and the split between virtual and online

I’ve been picking up a bit of email traffic and concerns around issues related to timetable capacity, teaching capacity and the split between virtual and face-to-face (in person) delivery. So I thought it might be helpful just to clarify a few things – with as much certainty as is possible given the current situation.

  1. Timetable – you will have seen the figures circulated last month around timetable capacities under different assumption around teaching days. The feedback I had from a number of HoDs was that there was no enthusiasm for Saturday teaching, so we committed to an extended teaching day (8am start to 9pm finish) and the use of Wednesday afternoons. This does raise a number of concerns, especially for those with caring responsibilities and can I ask you to be sensitive to this issue when allocating teaching slots. We are also spreading out teaching over a much longer period and again, we will have to be sensitive to this issue in order to try to ensure that we are not asking people to attend at the start and end of the timetabled day.

If we can work to these hours (and there are still some technical issues that we need to address around timetabling an 8am start!) then we believe that it will be possible to accommodate 70-75% of last year’s small group teaching. This is broadly in line with what is happening elsewhere in the sector, although we are probably at the higher end of the distribution.


  1. Seminars and group sizes - with this profile for the teaching week (and with some additional spaces available for teaching and reductions in options) we anticipate that we can accommodate 70-75% of last year’s small group teaching – that’s recognising that we will need to be using larger rooms for the same group sizes. So, on the whole, we are not expecting you to reduce group size for small group teaching – the aim is to allocate rooms large enough to accommodate the sort of group sizes that you had last year.
  2. Online and f2f - SoAY recommendations were that we should offer a significant amount of face-to-face (in-person) teaching consistent with giving our students a credible campus experience. The online teaching workstream has put forward a split of 75% face-to-face (in person) and 25% online for non-lecture teaching as a rule of thumb. It will inform the approvals process but it’s essentially an indicator of the level of face-to-face (in person) teaching that would allow us to say we are delivering a credible experience.
  3. Approvals - as a reminder, this is what the guidance on approvals for new teaching arrangements says (on the intranet):

“There is an expectation that modules with more than 60 enrolled students will run 25% of the seminars online (ie. 3 face-to-face seminars and 1 online seminar each week or equivalent). Departments are asked to use the online module approval system – so that all changes are reflected in the University’s Module Catalogue.” (

– this isn’t an attempt to make “one-size fit all” – its trying to set some parameters, to give some indicators and to ensure that we’ve got the right QA approvals for all of the changes we make. The split isn’t mandated, it’s simply “strongly preferred” and that the message from Ed Exec is simply that if you are likely to deviate significantly from this sort of model, you need to go through the relevant (and light touch) approvals process (and I think its worth bearing in mind that the approvals process is partly about ensuring that there is QA oversight of big changes but its also about ensuring that there is an understanding of what is changing and why). So if there are good reasons for going to 60:40 or possibly even 55:45 then as long as these can be properly justified and they still provide a sufficient quantum of face-to-face (in-person) delivery, they should be ok.

  1. Flexibility – there will be different pedagogical needs across discipline areas and so some of this process is going to be iterative, but we will have to accommodate a range of variations:
    1. Lab based subjects may still be able to deliver significant amounts of face-to-face (in person) teaching although they may fall below that 75% figure. I don’t think that will be a problem provided its explained and provided its clear that the students continue to get a reasonable amount of face-to-face delivery;
    2. There may need to be a different profile for small group teaching – some disciplines may rely on smaller groups; others may rely on larger groups. This should be captured because Timetabling are working with last year’s profiles. But if you are concerned that your timetabling needs might be atypical and might not be captured, ask your timetabling rep to contact If this is causing concern around timetabling capacity, get your timetable contact to get in touch with the central team.
    3. There may be some students who can’t return to campus and whose experience will be wholly online at least for a term or so. This will be acceptable because we will be responding to their particular needs and circumstances.
    4. There may be staff who cannot return to campus because they are clinically vulnerable and this may result in their modules having a much larger portion of online delivery.
    5. There is an awareness that some Depts make use of offices for small group sessions and this will not be feasible at either 1 or 2 metres. Nevertheless, there is likely to be sufficient capacity in the smaller central and local teaching rooms for these activities. Central Timetabling are completing further analysis to identify how best to allocate this space and will be in touch with more detail in the coming weeks.
  1. WoLC – you do not have to deliver WoLC to your students (although you might find it helpful to do so); but you are encouraged to use the components of WoLC to help your students adjust to the online learning environment at University.

VLS and Time Buy Back Benefits

The first ARC panel meeting was held yesterday and we have processed the first set of applications. You’ll be getting a formal notification shortly but if you are keen to know asap, then your VP/CoF would be able to give you an informal update.

A couple of issues emerged that it may simply be helpful to bear in mind. On VLS, we would not expect to approve applications from individuals who have already planned to leave the University (so those who have already secured employment elsewhere or have well developed retirement plans). Of course there is inevitably a grey area in here (someone may have indicated an intention but not enacted it), so your advice on the situation will be very helpful in such cases. It’s probably also worth noting that we’re expecting at VLS vacancies will be frozen for a couple of years; that doesn’t formally apply to normal vacancies (although even these are under considerable scrutiny as you know, so no guarantees that even a standard departure will be replaced).

And on TBB – can you be mindful of any REF implications associated with the timing of such requests.

Campus Capacity

I think everyone is aware, but again, this is just to help support a common understanding. We have decided to continue much of our planning around capacity and spaces on the basis of 2m distancing and that’s because it gives us greater flexibility and its relatively easy to then switch to 1m in September if that’s still appropriate. And we’re progressing with the procurement of face coverings for use on campus – especially recognising that we will struggle to maintain 2m on circulation routes.

Based on feedback from a number of Depts, we’re aware that there are some specialist teaching spaces where 2m will present real challenges. Where it is operationally necessary (so the space cannot sensibly be used for teaching/research with 2m distancing) and a risk assessment has been undertaken which demonstrates that the risks of closer proximity can be managed, then it will feasible to use such spaces at 1m distancing (even if the institutional position is 2m).

If you have such spaces, you don’t need to do anything now – you’ll be prompted when an action is needed. Risk Assessments will be completed as and when buildings and activities come up on the campus re-opening schedule (and we will have to do this as a sequential process). Furthermore, for common activities eg small group teaching, open plan office working, we will develop a series of generic RA templates to make the process easier.

I know you might want to have an answer sooner for the purposes of planning teaching. My advice would be to assume that we will be able to risk manage most spaces and most of the associated activities – either through design considerations or through the installation of additional barriers – unless it’s a very unusual activity or space.

Update on Launch of Virtual Open Day


1st July saw us go live with our newly built Virtual Open Day using the Bizzabo platform, the link to the site is here - it's now also being featured on the main University webpage It's a an evergreen site with the ability for us to add additional content as and when we develop it - we really want to have students recording from the key areas across campus and also increase the amount of footage we have inside buildings - we know from insight this is what students want to see.

Over the course of 6 weeks we have also built a 360 degree tour to sit on this platform, which is a stand-alone feature on the site for prospective students to access at any time, and forms the basis of the virtual campus tour hosted by our student ambassadors - so far they have proven to be the most popular session. We also have 701 sessions for students to book onto covering the main institutional sessions and a host of innovative sessions being run by academic departments.

Update on bookings

Since yesterday we’ve emailed approx. 20,000 prospective students, 12, 000 of whom had pre-registered to attend the physical on campus June events. As of 5pm today (2 July) we've had 4,180 registrations across the two weeks and we plan to continue to use our channels (email and social media) to increase this number of participants.

If there is anything that isn’t clear, do please let me know – I know we can’t remove the current uncertainty but we can certainly try to reduce it.

Have a great weekend everyone.



Professor Christine Ennew OBE