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Heads of Department Update 03 September


This week’s update for you – I think there may be a lot that is familiar (apologies for the repletion), but I have consolidated a number of points here in case its helpful. And just a reminder – all of this is sharable within your Depts.

General advice around return to campus and safety on campus for staff and students

You’ve probably all see the statements made by UCU nationally and locally about their view that Universities should switch to wholly on line teaching for the first Term. And I can imagine that many of you will pick up queries and concerns from staff, so I thought it might be helpful to summarise the University’s position on these issues. I may be repeating things that you already know, so apologies but I thought a summary might be useful. (There’s a lot more detail on safety measures in last week’s update). Key points to note:

  • We are doing all that we can to ensure that we create an environment on campus that is as safe as it can be and we are going beyond the standard Govt guidelines in England. We expect revised Government guidelines next week and will be responding as appropriate. We are also taking advice from our own epidemiologists to ensure that we are reflecting, systematically, the latest research recommendations. And of course we can draw on the experience of those organisations who have already reopened and restarted – and indeed those that have continued to operate throughout lockdown.
  • Risk assessments will be completed for spaces and activities and I know you’ve all been working hard on these – and thanks for all of that work. It is much appreciated. All of the risk assessments you complete have been/will be reviewed through Health and Safety and they are underpinned by specialist advice from a range of teams across campus.
  • We remain committed to the delivery of a blended model for teaching and learning and the broader student experience. We’ve been explicit that we are a campus University; we’re expecting students to be on campus and we’re doing all that’s practical to ensure that our campus will be a safe and secure environment. And we believe that this will be better for the students as opposed to requiring them to continue to study in an independent and more isolated mode, particularly given the disruption they have experienced to date.
  • A key message is that we are only moving back to campus working because we are confident that we can deliver a Covid-19 safe working environment. We need to bring back to campus those staff whose duties require them to be on campus – and that does mean many research staff, it does mean staff delivering teaching, and it does mean professional services staff who support teaching and learning and support students (whether in Depts or in central services). There are many staff who deliver campus services who are already back and working and more who will return along with the students.
  • Where individuals are being asked to continue to work from home, that is because we need to manage capacity on campus. Those whose role requires them to be on campus to deliver business critical activity must be prioritised for return to campus followed by those who struggle to work from home.. Those who can work from home and do not need to be on campus should continue to work from home in the interest of managing capacity.
  • I realise that this puts you in a difficult position because you will have to ask people to work on campus even though they would prefer to remain working from home. Everyone’s experiences of the pandemic have been different and I am sure that there will be many colleagues who are nervous about coming back to campus. The flow chart that HR are making available provides a structure for you to use for conversations with colleagues and HR will help with this. And of course, in most cases you will be asking people to be on campus for a limited number of days each week and not necessarily every day. In addition, if there are health concerns then clearly Occupational Health can also advise.
  • We will continue to advise students that we are expecting them to come back to campus but that we can make special arrangements where a return to campus may be delayed whether that’s due to travel issues (only likely to apply to non-UK based students in the absence of local lockdowns) or due to significant clinical vulnerabilities.

I’d be happy to chat further about any particular concerns that you may have, but it will be important that we are consistent across departments in terms of our expectations of staff. And that means we will all need to ask all of those who are needed on campus for business critical delivery/support to return to campus unless there are very compelling reasons why that’s not possible.

Enrolment Progress

As you’ll probably be aware, arrangements are in place for students to start enrolling and many students have already started this process (it doesn’t mean they will definitely arrive but it’s the best indicator we have). I’ve recently had the latest forecasts from SPA and thought it might be helpful to update you on progress with respect to new students:

  • FT-UG – looks to be following normal patterns of enrolment and we look to be on track to get the sort of numbers we are expecting for Home and EU students. International numbers are moving rather more slowly but not worryingly so at this point (at least not relevant to planning assumptions).
  • PGT numbers are worrying – they look to be a long way below target and significantly behind where we were at this time last year for both HEU and International. But its early days for this group;
  • PGR numbers are also behind where we’d like to be although this is mainly for Home students and consistent with the acceptance numbers we’ve been seeing.

It is genuinely early days so I think we need to be careful not to read too much into these figures. The UG numbers are reassuring but the PG numbers concerning. However, the PG side remains the most uncertain and we still have some time to go so we may simply be seeing some delayed decision making.

Dealing with cases where a member of staff/student tests positive for Covid-19

I’m aware that some of you are keen to know a bit more about your responsibilities should you be informed about a member of staff or a student testing positive for Covid-19. There will be more information coming your way – soon-ish. The communications plan is as follows:

  • Monday 7th – T&T web pages go live, which will have lots of detail about the service, and scenario based FAQ’s for students and staff testing positive
  • Tuesday 8th – Message on Insite for staff
  • Wednesday 8th - communication of service in students newsletter
  • Warwick Leaders Forum (or separately organised T&T HoDs forum) – For service overview and questions – this has not been confirmed yet

I think the key message is that the Track and Trace service will lead on action in relation to individuals (staff and students) and so HoDs will not be expected to take lead responsibility . And there is also the University Covid-19 Hotline for any urgent issues

Current thinking is that we’d identify most cases through our own testing system and therefore the notification would come through you from that along with advice on what needs to be done in terms of contacts – and that obviously will vary according to the individuals, where they have been working etc. But the key point is that you’d get guidance as part of the process of informing you.

With regards to a positive test result done elsewhere, the contact trace service would inform the individual to self-isolate for 14 days as per the guidance, and request the details of those they have recently been in close proximity to. For staff we would then expect them to notify the HOD / Line Manager and report on Success Factors. There are a number of options on success factors that cover the different self-isolation situations, e.g. working, not working, sick etc.

Those who have been in close proximity to an individual with a positive test result, will then be contacted by trace workers, either through our internal track and trace, or by the external track and trace teams, and asked to self-isolate. Staff will be asked to report on Success Factors which will trigger internal notification and management responses. And we will have separate guidance for students. Full details to follow.

Financials and release of additional posts currently on hold.

Many of you have posts that you identified as “Business Critical” but which were put on hold during the preparation of Plan 5b. We will need to look at these posts to see what might be released, but realistically, I can’t see that happening until late October when we have a clearer idea of what student numbers looks like.

Promotions- Reminder

Can you just make sure that your colleagues are aware that we have restarted the promotions process if you haven’t already done so. I’m still waiting for confirmation on timetable but this should come our directly to colleagues

If you’ve made it to the bottom of this – well done – it’s a bit of a monster email. I’m not expecting to send an update next week – I have a few days leave planned and I’m sure that there will be no shortage of information to keep you reading in my absence.



Professor Christine Ennew OBE