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Heads of Department Update 15-16 October


Just a few updates for you and I’ll keep it brief as I know most of you have had some exceptionally challenging weeks and probably don’t want to wade through lots of detail!

And I don’t think there is anything here than needs action (a bit of thinking perhaps but hopefully that’s all).

Test and Trace

I’ve had a query about what to do if a Dept is notified of a student testing positive ahead of our own T&T being notified. It shouldn’t happen, but it already has – (because of a delay in results being fed through to us). So, if you get notified of a positive test ahead of the T&T service then the advice would be:

  • Contact our T&T service first for advice and hopefully this will generate an immediate response;
  • If you aren’t able to get a prompt response, then, if the student has attended a seminar in the 48 hours prior to them feeling symptomatic, you can flip that seminar group online for 2 weeks and you will have to explain that an (unnamed) member of the group has tested positive;
  • Tell students/staff they will be contacted by T&T and given advice around self-isolating but reassure them that contact based transmission is not common and the routine arrangements for managing teaching rooms – including sanitising and cleaning - should mean that risks to other users of the room are low;
  • Other arrangements (eg cleaning, informing others) will be managed by T&T;

Travel and the General Tiers

There have been a few queries about the University position on individuals who travel to work from areas in Tier 2 and Tier 3. We have taken the view that it makes more sense to simply follow the Govt advice (trying to put in place different advice just causes greater confusion). So in summary, the position is:

  • In High Tier 2 - you can continue to travel to venues or amenities that are open, for work or to access education, but should look to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible.
  • In Very High Tier 3 - you should try to avoid travelling outside the very-high alert level area you are in or entering a very-high alert level area, other than for things like work, education or youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if you are travelling through as part of a longer journey

Education Tiers

Just a point of clarification as again, there has been a bit of confusion. In the context of the DfE operating Tiers – which primarily focus on our educational activities – we remain in Tier 1. This has been reviewed this past week at UEB and will remain under regular review. A number of Depts have moved seminars online because more than 50% of students are self-isolating and this is in line with the guidance issued earlier this week. But incase you are asked, we are not in Tier 2 – we remain in Tier 1.

Term 2

It feels like a like a long time away but we are starting to think about what this might mean in terms of the approach to delivering teaching and learning activity. Although it’s too early to take a definitive position we do need to start thinking about this – especially in the context of those students currently studying online and expecting to arrive in January. Naturally that aim would be to retain at least the blended model that we’ve committed to, but its difficult to predict what things will look like and so we need to keep our options open for now. I would like to suggest that when we have the next ARC with HoDs (Nov 10th) we take that opportunity to talk through some of the issues here.

I think that’s all from me – apart from another big thank you for doing one of the most difficult jobs we have in the academy and a wish for you to have some down time over the coming weekend. Take care all, and as ever, any questions, just let me know!



Further update 16 October 2020:


Sorry to add to your mail boxes but there are a couple of really important messages that I do need to highlight again to you as my earlier communications may have been misunderstood. And these relate to the points about self-isolating students and Tiers.

  • The “Tiers” framework is an institutional descriptor – we are in Tier 1; we keep the matter under review but we are not currently considering a review to Tier 2;
  • However, if over 50% of any face-to-face teaching session attendees are self-isolating, Departments are permitted to flip that specific teaching online for 2 weeks (subject to disciplinary and PSRB requirements). (The implication of this is that if the proportion of self-isolators is less than 50%, then you should not move the specific teaching online).

Sorry to sound as though this comes across as a nag but its really important in terms of both fairness and equity that we take as consistent an approach as possible across academic departments.



Professor Christine Ennew OBE