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Heads of Department Message 13 May


I know you’re keen to get some more detail on the shape of the academic year and while there is still work going on, I wanted to share some information on where we currently are and also indicate what sort of messages we are looking to get out to students and offer holders. It’s worth being aware that alongside the workstream that I’m chairing on SoAY, there are linked groups working on Online Delivery Capacity, Timetabling and Social Distancing (and many more). The workstream on online delivery (led by Will Curtis) will be contacting you separately to ask for feedback on your thinking around this issue and the support that can be offered centrally – and we are trying to co-ordinate!

The current position with respect to planning for the Shape of the Academic Year is as outlined below. You’ll appreciate that there is considerable uncertainty about what will happen, what may be allowed and what will be possible; in that context, this represents a starting position and will require a range of contingencies.. Can I also stress that we are sensitive to the equality dimensions of this work and the challenges that may face some colleagues (eg those with significant caring responsibilities, with certain disabilities) and will be working on how best to manage these.

  1. We start the academic year predominantly on campus with social distancing (and with a essentially virtual welcome week). Teaching expected to start on October 5th We currently expect to work to the term dates broadly as planned.
  2. Our strength lies in f2f delivery. We should not plan to try to move all modules and all delivery online. But we will be in a socially distanced environment and therefore we must embed some online delivery into our teaching programmes now (that might be large group lectures, it may be other types of delivery)
  3. We will need Programme Teams to be prepared to flip to wholly online for some periods of time should this be necessary (whether due to travel restrictions or a 2nd spike). This could be at the start of term but equally it could be later;
  4. We will need to be flexible around delivery, (what might work online, what will be better f2f, timing of lab-based teaching, smaller classes);
  5. We will need to flexible around timings – noting that there may be equality issues to manage (for example longer teaching days, use of Wednesday afternoons, greater use of term 3, more time between sessions, shorter sessions); (Please let me know if there are strong views on what wold/would not work for your Dept)
  6. We may need to consider reducing the number of optional modules to ease pressure on time tables and to ease pressure on staff time; (Please could you give this some thought?)
  7. We anticipate that all UG programmes will be delivered with normal structures/timetables – but we recognise there may need to be flexibility for lab based delivery (and we are consulting with FSEM);
  8. We are also expecting that PGT programmes will run in line with a normal academic year; but with large international student numbers then we may need (on an exceptional basis) to consider either dual streaming and/or January starts. Such arrangements will be an exception (because it brings significant additional complexity), but we would like to know if this would be something that you think you would consider. (Please could you let me know if you would wish to consider different planned starts for your PGT?)
  9. Communications to students and offer holders will go shortly to outline at a high level, the plans for teaching next year (so basically the messages here, but appropriately tailored ). We will tell them that there will be more detail from Departments in due course (and we’ll try to discourage any immediate requests for more information). We will also stress the issue of safety and the benefits of the campus environment.

Just for the avoidance of doubt, this message can be shared as necessary (either as it stands or in your own communications).

Many thanks


Professor Christine Ennew OBE