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Heads of Department Update 11 August


Depending on perspective this is either later than normal or earlier than normal but its time sensitive because of the first item – many of you have raised this issue over the past weeks and we’ve now reached a point where we have decided that we need to change our position and I did not want to delay this message.

Deadline for Students to Arrive on Campus

As those of you who have been raising queries will know, we have been holding a firm line on our 9th Nov deadline for students to arrive on campus and only allowing any longer in genuinely exception circumstances. Well, as has proved to be the case throughout the pandemic, the exceptions are increasingly becoming the norm!

In the last week or so it has become increasingly apparent that flights out of certain key markets (China and India in particular) are likely to be a significant and substantial constraint on student arrivals in the autumn. And we are seeing many Russell Group competitors moving to a more flexible approach to arrivals (study online until you can get here…..arrival deadline in Jan). Although we have tried to retain a strong message about wanting all students on campus in term 1 it has become increasingly apparent that we will need to be more flexible if we want to be able to secure reasonable numbers of international students. As a consequence, UEB has now agreed that:

  • In recognition of the increasing difficulties around flights into and out of a range of key markets, uncertainties around quarantine arrangements and other structural barriers to travel, our deadline for arrival on campus should shift to the start of term 2 for all international students (UG, PGT, PGR) based on domicile;
  • This will apply to new and continuing students;
  • We retain a strong message about our dominant delivery approach being blended but we are making special arrangements for international students who find that they cannot get to campus to study online only for term 1 only
  • students who are unable to get to campus by their course start date, need to inform us of their intended date of arrival by XXXXX (process to be confirmed);
  • Students will still be required to register at the start of term 1 and pay fees – the enrolment deadline will remain at Nov 9th;
  • We will be able to assure students about accommodation but we cannot guarantee en-suite/on campus accommodation;
  • Latest acceptable date for arrival on campus will be the first Monday of Term 2.
  • We believe that for most programmes we will still be able to meet PSRB attendance requirements provided students arrive at the start of term 2.

This change in policy is motivated by structural barriers to arrival in the UK (essentially travel but possibly also visa/qualifications issues) and so applies to international students only (based on domicile*).

Communications around this are being finalised in the next day or so to be ready for results day on Thursday, although the message will also need to go to PG offer holders and returning UGs. This will be co-ordinated centrally in the first instance and there will be updates in due course about approaches to gathering information on student arrival plans. But if you need to respond to specific queries I think you can give a general indication that we do now have that added flexibility.

This change will mean that some of you may need to plan for a bit more small group teaching online (where you have significant international student numbers); its also worth noting that while we are not providing this option to home students, there may be small numbers of home students who may also need to student online initially because they are clinically vulnerable.

[* Please note – because we are talking about barriers to travel we are defining “international” based on domicile rather than nationality and while the two are very highly correlated there may be very small numbers of home students who are domiciled internationally and vice versa.]

Confirmation and Clearing

I know many of you will be closely involved with this at the moment; there is, as ever, a huge amount of work involved so thanks to all for your contribution especially in these more difficult circumstances. It is still very early in the process, but I thought it might be interesting to know that currently our auto accepts are higher for most Depts (as was the case with IB); the pattern is pretty much as expected across departments although some of the anticipate overshoots are much smaller than expected so we have a bit of work to do to get to our target SNC. We will need to look very closely at middles across many Departments to try to improve home and oversea student numbers overall. And we will be in clearing in a small number of areas, although we suspect that strong middles will be the best route to securing the additional numbers we need. Our Polar 1 accepts look to be on a par with last year but we are keen to look flexibly at WP students because we are aware that many are likely to have been particularly disadvantaged by the method of awarding grades this year. I’ll pass on further detail when I have it.

Alumni Scholarship Scheme

You will recall that we put in place an alumni scholarship scheme to encourage more alumni to consider PGT student. We hoped that this would impact on both applications and conversion. We received 242 applications for the scholarships and made 129 awards. The awards were made on academic merit as measured by degree performance and the award were ,made to a mix of HEU and international across most Departments in the University.

Communications with the Local Community

As we prepare to welcome significant numbers of students back to campus, we do need to pay particular attention to managing relationships with our various communities. UEB has now approved an outline communications plan which includes key messages for students (those living off-campus and those who might visit local communities), residents, and student landlords. This plan will be delivered in partnership with our local authorities, public health teams, local police forces and our Students’ Union. It will also be shared and, where appropriate aligned, with communications planning by Coventry University (for Coventry residents). The plan covers August 2020 – December 2020. The situation is fluid and we will monitor closely to highlight any further action or support required through terms 2 and 3.

Work is currently underway to develop a COVID-19 Code of Conduct for staff and students; this will be relevant for students living on and off campus. This is being led by the Student Discipline Team and HR and we aim for this to be in place for the beginning of September and will be communicated through our plan to students and residents. The University’s regulatory processes will support the code of conduct to encourage and ensure students adhere. Our usual process will be followed on receiving complaints about student behaviour in local communities, any students identified will be contacted by the Senior Warden and appropriate action will be taken, depending on the incident and evidence provided following our University Disciplinary Regulations. The Community Engagement Team will support with the liaison with the complainant.

As ever, any queries, let me know. And I will continue to update as appropriate.



Professor Christine Ennew OBE