Some updates for you – and there are signs of a few things becoming a bit more certain after the release of more information from Government around end of term testing arrangements. As ever, the information here is shareable.
Communications – end of T1 and T2
The general message for students around T2 arrangements was sent at the end of last week and I believe that templates for Departments to communicate more specific detail to their own students should be ready very shortly. These will be segmented by UK domiciled and non-UK domiciled students as was the case with the equivalent messages in September. If it hasn’t already gone there should be information going out shortly with more detail about the end of T1 and arrangements for asymptomatic testing ahead of departures. Most of the underlying facilities for testing are now in place and we’re recruiting volunteers to help with this process.
UCU and Ballot on Industrial Action
I know some of you will be aware that UCU locally are now balloting for industrial action and I know some of you were concerned about the disruption that might occur should the ballot support industrial action. UEB is also very concerned and at the moment the position remains uncertain. The ballot opens on 23 November and closes on 21 December; we had hoped not to get to this position and had started a process with UCU of trying to resolve the dispute through the agreed dispute resolution process. We had the first meeting on 11 November (which I chaired) and the second meeting (which UCU will chair) is scheduled for 26 November (although as you’ll notice this after the launch of the ballot).
The first meeting focused on understanding the basis on which UCU considered itself in dispute with the University, drawing particularly on the operating principles agreed by UCEA/UCU. The second meeting was due to discuss areas of compromise and what the University might do in response to UCU demands as outlined at the first meeting. We were in the process of identifying mechanisms that might address some of the issues that UCU raised, particularly in relation to their involvement in discussions relating to teaching planning and workload issues. But we were/are intending to hold our position on the shape of the academic year and the blended delivery model. Following last week’s all student vote and the very strong support (with a record turnout) for the University’s approach to teaching and learning, I think our view is that we should continue to deliver teaching in the blended format while continuing to support those who are clinically highly vulnerable. We will still need to recognise (as we have been doing) that we may need to adapt in response to government guidance, and/or PHE advice, and /or deteriorating conditions that require us to move through our internally defined tiers.
In case you haven’t seen it, the presentation here gives some detail on the events being planned to keep campus, as active and lively as it can be given the need to remain as covid-secure is possible. Work continues to ensure that there is appropriate provision for those students who will remain on campus over the Christmas vacation.
Just a reminder that Study Leave for 2021-22 has been reinstated but we are not expecting to extend study leave offers at this point. So it is simply a roll forward for those colleagues whose study leave was suspended for the current year. Although there remains some uncertainty about what next academic year will look like and we have put a caveat in place about this decision (see my earlier update). Can I just stress that, by reinstating Study Leave, we are anticipating that we might be moving back to something more recognisable and familiar in terms of patterns of working and workloads. The news around vaccines does reinforce the grounds for optimism about a more familiar pattern of work for next academic year.
HoDs resource web page
We’ve simplified and refreshed our HoDs resource page and you can now find this here. This page was primarily developed for use by new HoDs but it might be helpful for you as well. The page provides links to the essential pages, resources and contacts that a HoD needs. We’ll also post the slides from our new HoDs development sessions in case these are of interest.
Wishing you all a good weekend when it comes; we’re getting closer to the point when everyone can have a proper and very well-earned break. And as always, any queries, let me know.
Professor Christine Ennew OBE