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Heads of Department Update 10 July


Updates on some of the developments this week and clarifications on some of the issues you may have raised with your VP/CoFs. As ever, if there are queries about any of this, do let me know.

Business Recovery and Campus Re-opening

Aspects of business recovery and campus re-opening have been picked up at both FPSC and Council this week. Many of you will be familiar with a lot of what is planned but just in case you’ve missed some of the current thinking, here’s a reminder (and a lot of this work continues to benefit from input by our own epidemiologists and others, many of whom have been providing advice to government via SAGE):

  • Face covering will be procured for the use of staff and students (and we are looking at options for some transparent coverings for those who may be working with those with hearing or communications differences);
  • We’re planning to acquire thermal screening facilities for installation in a number of key locations around campus and we’re looking to procure digital thermometers for individual use;
  • Hand sanitiser stations will be installed at key building access points (and serviced by the Estates Team);
  • We have agreed a more intensive cleaning regime during term time;
  • There will be Moodle training available on public health matters (relevant to campus life) for students and staff;
  • We continue to explore the options for a campus-based track and trace service (both with the NHS and with private partners) and the Business Recovery Team are working closely with academic colleagues with expertise in this area.

And just as a reminder, we’ve increased the academic membership of both the Business Continuity & Recovery Programme Board and the Campus Re-opening Working Group and those involved have been providing some really helpful inputs.

Preferred Model for Blended Delivery

You’ll recall that last week I stressed that the 75:25 (f2f:online) split that has been discussed so extensively was indicative only and there was scope for flexibility where this was appropriate. Well, if you’ve been reading the web pages closely you will have noticed that the advice has changed to give even more flexibility. And if you haven’t be reading them closely, the material changes are below (yellow highlights).

“Currently, we advise that large modules on first year undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses (ie. with 60 or more students) offer 25% of their seminars online – so a module with 60 students might be divided into 4 seminars – 3 face-to-face and 1 online seminar. For honours level undergraduate modules, we advise a minimum of 60% seminars are delivered face-to-face. Please note – these proportions are indicative and we may need to revise them as we go through timetabling iterations.”



“Tier 1: Departmental approval

Departments will have devolved authority to approve the majority of changes for the next academic year. In particular, Departmental Education Committees will approve any programme-level proposed changes that:

  • correspond with the University’s strongly preferred approach (as outlined in the initial guidance)
  • impact on students within that department only (not core on joint)
  • programme level changes that only relate to the next academic year
  • running parallel and rotating face-to-face and online seminar groups

Any changes at the module level will also be considered and approved at the department level. This includes all changes to modules – including to delivery modes and patterns, fully online modules, optionality and assessment – whether they are temporary changes for the next academic year or permanent. As an indication, we advise that departments model year 1 undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses at 75% of seminars face-to-face. For honours level undergraduate courses, we advise a minimum of 60% seminars are offered face-to-face. Where departmental proposals across programmes vary considerably from these preferred proportions, we ask that part 5 of the Curriculum Changes Log is completed – so that these proposals can be considered at tier 2 faculty level. For changes to modules, departments are asked to use the online module approval system – so that all changes are reflected in the University’s Module Catalogue.”

So the revised guidance is essentially being a bit more explicit about the extent of flexibility (and while the preferred split hasn’t changed for Yr 1 students, there is greater flexibility for other UG students and also for PGT)s. Last week’s message still applies – these proportions remain indicative rather than mandatory.

The flexibility around year 2 and year 3 is significant because it will ease the pressure on the public transport system – we’ve largely concluded discussions with the bus operators and there will be some real pinchpoints. But the transport team are working on this.

Online Teaching Materials

I know that a number of you have had questions about IP and the use of online materials developed for teaching during the coming year. UCU has raised a similar issue and while there has been a response, many of you may not have seen this. So below is perhaps the most material component of the University’s letter to UCU. The highlighted bit is perhaps the one that might be most relevant to some of the questions I think you’ve been asked.

“Performance and Intellectual Property Rights / Usage of Online Materials

We recognise that many colleagues and departments have concerns regarding Intellectual Property (IP) rights for content produced for online learning. Given the need to prioritise student learning and student experience, we ask departments to make full use of online tools. The University commits not to use materials developed for online teaching during industrial action.

The Legal and Compliance team have confirmed that the University is the owner of all creative output produced by staff (academic or otherwise) in the course of their duties. Creative output is defined by a long, non-exhaustive list in Reg 28, para 2. It includes course materials but excludes teaching materials and scholarly works. The position will be slightly different for ‘Other Creators’ (for instance, those on sabbatical to the University, visiting professors, honorary staff, secondees, sessional lecturers) and further guidance on copyright will be available in due course.

The University’s approach to these and other queries raised by the production of online teaching content is to prioritise the student experience and ensure all students have the opportunity to meet their programme learning outcomes.”

As a more general observation on this issue, the material that is being developed currently has the potential to be of real benefit to students in subsequent years and (given the good online material is an investment) we would hope that colleagues will use it again and perhaps even share with other colleagues. I hope this might be some reassurance, but please do let me know if there are other related issues that you need to address.

Messaging for Students Arriving Late

I’ve had a few queries about the approach to messaging international students likely to arrive late and queries about the potential for those students to study wholly online in term 1. So, I thought it might be helpful to share the generic response to these queries in case it’s of use to you. So here is the text that I have previously shared with some of you:

We have, on an exceptional basis, approved a model for WMG in which students start online in Term 1 and arrive on campus in term 2. This is a genuine exception based on the scale of their activity (1200 PGT). In their case , there are undertaking a major curriculum restructure to support this change structure. We’ve also agree some different delivery structures in Term 1 for a couple of distinctive programmes.

Our current position would be that the 5 week extension should accommodate most genuine delays (visa or ELT related) and we are trying to discourage “anxiety-related” delays because of course there is no certainty that the students will come and I think we are keen that there is a strong message that our courses are predicated on being on campus.

I think we do recognise that there might be very genuine reasons why a student cannot arrive in time for the 5 week cut off and I think you would be able to put in arrangements to allow them to study the standard curriculum remotely (as they would have been doing in the period up to the normal enrolment deadline. But I think this has to be on the basis of genuine cases who can’t get here rather than simple preferences to delay arrival.

So, in terms of communications to your offer holders you probably need to say something that explains that we have extended the deadline for enrolment for students who are unable to travel because of delays in receiving qualifications, visas, government rules. So they have 5 weeks and during that time you will ensure that they can participate in normal study activities but online (and you should ask that they start the registration process as they will need to be registered to do this). If they think the delay will be more that 5 weeks, then they should contact you and provided they think they will have a date for travel, you can continue to support their learning. [But I would advise not to say anything about a deadline, but rather to address on a case by case basis.

The Savings Target

You’ve possibly heard that Council have approved the draft budget for next year (Plan 5b) and this reflects that we have managed to find the full £50m savings (and a little more). We’ve budgeted for it but we’ll still have to deliver that £50m and the expectation is that the pressure is likely to continue into the following year – so the pressure to save will be with us for a while.

Sorry – that sounds like a rather glum note to close on. It wasn’t meant to be. Its great news that we have been able to get to the savings target and I know that Depts have done a huge amount of work on this. So thank you very much for all of your help in getting to this point – its very much appreciated; it puts us in a good position as an institution. I know the financial conversations will necessarily continue, but perhaps not for a little while!

Meanwhile, the weekend is heading our way and it’s looking like we might just get some nice weather to help us all enjoy it.

Have a good one everyone!



Professor Christine Ennew OBE