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Heads of Department Update 16 November


As promised (but a bit later than I’d planned), some updates for you on where we are with a range of things. Expect to see many of these confirmed more formally through official communications. And hopefully most of this will be to reassure you about what’s happening rather than any nasty surprises!

End of term teaching

In light of the Government guidance released last week and our various discussions, the plan for the end of term is that teaching will continue in the current format until the end of week 9 and then we move fully online for week 10. There will be some exceptions to this – primarily for those courses where there are lab classes that are considered essential for students to be prepared for term 2.

Communications Plans

This is really to give you a sense of what is planned in terms of communications over the coming weeks. Key priorities for student communications for the end of term (weeks 6-10, Christmas vacation, return for term 2) are:

  • That students are made aware of the extracurricular programme of activity giving them the opportunity to engage and make friends
  • That students feel supported and able to return home for Christmas in a safe and compliant manner– that plans for mass testing and interventions are clearly communicated in a timely manner
  • Remind students that we need them to stay here (on campus) until the end of week 10
  • Those students who are unable to return home for the Christmas break are supported and we have a programme of activity to safeguard wellbeing
  • That students are supported in terms of the return to campus in 2021, and given a compelling set of reasons to do so and the process for doing this is clearly communicated
  • That students who are currently studying remotely are aware of the policy decision to allow them to continue to do so for term 2, and we support STEM students unable to continue with their studies
  • That we continue to remind student of the appropriate (safe/legal) way to behave and the consequences for not doing so
  • That we continue to communicate BAU and provide a programme of opportunity regardless of the current situation

Government Guidance on Departures

We’re busy working on the logistic for this (including defining departure slots for students on campus) and of course, we’re waiting to hear about our participation in the mass testing programme (this is not guaranteed but we have requested that we participate). In summary the guidelines for departure are:

  • In order to travel home safely, students in England will be required to follow the current national restrictions in place until 2 December, completing this four-week period in their term-time accommodation. 
  • From 3 December to 9 December, which will be known as the ‘student travel window’, students will be allowed to travel home on staggered departure dates set by universities, who will be asked to work with other institutions in the region to manage pressure on transport infrastructure. It is thought that doing so after the period of national restrictions reduces the risk of transmission to family and friends at home.
  • Universities should move learning online by 9 December, and the guidance references the Government’s powers under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to direct HE providers, including to take specified steps in connection with the provision of education if necessary and proportionate to do so (9/12 is mid-week, so our general movement online will be from 7/12).
  • Healthcare students who are on placements are considered essential workers and should therefore remain in their placements until the end of term.
  • Universities will need to make arrangements to support students who need to self-isolate (after a positive test or if symptomatic) beyond 9 December, and to provide support for students – including international students, care experienced students and those with no alternative home address – who choose to stay over the festive period. (see above – plans in place)
  • Testing will be part of the end of term approach for some universities, but availability of tests will be targeted based on a range of factors, including local prevalence rates, whether testing is available already and the percentage of high-risk students in each institution. (We should hear whether we’re included early this week).
  • Universities are expected to make plans to ensure students can travel home safely at the end of term, working with local public health officials and transport operators, and there will be a strong emphasis on behavioural messaging for students – including on wearing face coverings unless exempt, avoiding busy routes and times, and limiting car sharing with only their household or bubble where possible.  


I’d be grateful if you could draw colleagues attention to EUTOPIA Week which is running from 23-27 Nov – the text below and the attached summary could simply be circulated to your Dept. I know everyone is really busy at the moment, but there are some interesting events and they might serve as a welcome break from the immediate pressures that we’re all facing!

"EUTOPIA is a European alliance of six entrepreneurial universities committed to delivering open, innovative, and inclusive higher education in Europe. Join us for EWeek; an online events programme hosted by the University of Warwick running from 23-27 November with high profile expert speakers from across our networks. The full programme is attached!"

Finally for those who’ve offered feedback following Tuesday’s ARC with HoDs (around how we might ease some of the burdens on you), I will follow these up and still happy to receive suggestions. There’s no guarantee that we can take all suggestions forward but I will certainly try!



Professor Christine Ennew OBE