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Heads of Department Message 21 May


Thanks to those who have sent feedback/questions on the issues relating to the “Shape of the Academic Year” – and if I haven’t yet responded to you, I will do soon.

I think everyone has seen that we have sent a message to both offer holders and current students about the current thinking on the broad shape of the academic year – and as ever, these messages prompt further requests for information. The whole issue has attracted quite a bit of press coverage recently – especially following the Cambridge leak and the Manchester announcement. I think most of the Russell Group is taking a position similar to ours and we’re keen to maintain a strong and positive message around the quality of education that we can offer through a blended and personalised experience on campus. And I think there really is a strong argument that, for our students, learning how to learn and how to operate professionally in a digital environment will augment the quality of what we offer to them.

I thought it might be helpful to say a bit more about what we think this might look like (without trying to be overly prescriptive):

We want our students to have a “campus” experience – to be on campus, to have access to facilities and to have the opportunity for both face to face and digital engagement as part of their Warwick experience, if we can do so safely and sensibly. (more on that below)

  1. Realistically, we will struggle to deliver large group lecture classes in a f2f setting (but small lecture may be feasible)
  2. Seminars/tutorials/workshops will be more suitable for f2f delivery
  3. Lab provision will vary – some may be digital, some socially distanced and some shifted to Term 2 – dependent on the need of the discipline/curriculum
  4. This will allow for some variety across module and it may be feasible for some module to be wholly online, but we are committing to a blended experience and we need to make sure that there is enough that is delivered F2f to justify this;
  5. Term 2 and Term 3 may be easier and give more opportunities for f2f (but……)
  6. The key message is that in planning next year’s teaching, we’d like you to plan for a model in which all students will get a mix of f2f and digital and in which there is real value to our students from physically being on campus (especially the 1st years);
  7. And of course, this is our current planning given reasonable assumptions about the progression of the pandemic and we will need to be prepared to adapt if needed.
  8. Finally there is work going on between the SU and Student Opportunity to explore what we can provide in terms of extra-curricular activity as part of the broader student experience.

Moving on to the “safely and sensibly” bit. This was discussed at some length at the last Shape of the Academic Year meeting and following might be helpful information;

  1. Estates and timetabling have been modelling “available capacity” for teaching. Estates have looked at room capacity with 2m social distancing – and many of you will have already heard about the drastic impacts that this would have on capacity (reductions by a factor of 10-15). The impacts are less drastic in some of our seminar rooms, but many small rooms will be too small to be useable.
  2. But, (and this is a big but) we may not be required to operate with 2m social distancing – we may be able to work to smaller distances with different infection control mechanisms. At this stage we don’t know and that’s why we’re working on the principle that large lectures will be difficult, if not impossible in term 1.
  3. Estates and Space Management are also looking at circulation routes, availability of study/dwell spaces, library use, transport capacity for students to get to campus
  4. Timetabling are modelling a range of scenarios to understand our capacity of f2f teaching assuming longer days, Wednesday afternoons and also Saturdays – this is simply to get a sense of the capacity we will have available;
  5. And of course the campus environment will be one that is safe than a city environment and we hope that this will reassure students.

Finally, on to communications, and you’ve probably seen some of the press discussion mentioned earlier but also some of the comments from the OfS about the importance of students know what they will be receiving. Our initial message to offer holders has gone and we have said that we will provide them with more information about what they can expect. These messages will depend on departmental input about the approach that is being adopted. And we will need to say something ahead of the UCAS decision deadline which is 18th June. This does not need to be a detailed plan, but it needs to be enough information so that offer holders can have the best information we can provide at the point at which they have to confirm their decisions. We’ll try not to make this too burdensome and I suspect that once you’ve been able to pull together the information recently requested by the Online Teaching Workstream, you might have much of what you’ll need. For now, though I just want to alert you that we will need to do some follow-up coms and we will be in touch shortly about how to make this work.



 Professor Christine Ennew OBE