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Heads of Department Message 1 May


Just a few more updates for you as we go into what I hope will be an enjoyable weekend with an opportunity for everyone to get a bit of down-time.

Shape of the Academic Year (SoAY)

The Project Board for this has had its initial meeting. The academic membership is from WMG, WBS and SLS (and me!). Chris Twine, Delyth Chambers and Wendy Roberts form Accommodation are also part of the group. We will review all of the feedback that you have provided (and there is still time if anyone else has views that the would like to feed in. The initial discussion looked at the broad model which I outlined last week (aim to start on campus, in early October, preparation for social distancing and potential need to flip to online and the possibility of additional intakes in January in some areas).

The work of this SoAY group will need to link to a number of other strands of activity in the business recovery programme (Penny Roberts is part of the overall Business Recovery Project Board which will play a key co-ordinating role). While recognising that need to bring multiple strands of activity together, key points from our discussions were:

  • The likely need to extend the teaching day and make use of Wednesday afternoons for timetabling;
  • The importance of PGT and the need to scope the extent to which we can be more flexible with models for PGT delivery;
  • Options for simplification with the number of modules offered and the extent to which Depts may be able to withdraw some optional models (especially if take up is low). This would be acceptable in CMA/OfS terms provided we still deliver the programme learning outcomes. More significantly it would free up resources for priority areas and simplify timetabling;
  • The need to understand the extent to which lab based subjects may be able to rebalance (some) lab teaching into term 2 or offer online “lab masterclasses; (Many of you have given feedback on this but if you want to say more, do please get in touch)
  • The need to be much clearer about contingency plans and the potential flip to online delivery (I know this is urgent and will update as soon as I can);
  • The potential challenges around use of student accommodation with shared facilities in a social distancing context – this may require some reduction in capacity;
  • The importance of communicating (and listening).

Alumni PG Bursary

Just a quick update – this work is progressing – and the initial offer will be up to 200 bursaries in the range 30-50% of fees (for most courses, it will be 30% but for our more expensive programmes it will be 50%); I think we will simply consider that all alumni who have applied or do apply are eligible (to minmise processing overhead) and decisions will be based simply on academic performance. There is a project group working up the detail here and I will share this as soon as I can. Communications to current finalists and alumni will be a priority and these materials are being developed.

Govt Support Package for HE

The latest on this from UUK and other sources across the sector is that cross-government discussions on an initial package of interventions and support measures for universities are progressing well, though lots still to be determined.

UUK is anticipating that any package will include a number of initial measures to support universities that align with some of the key challenges that have been highlighted. It’s reasonable to assume that any announcement is likely to be quite general with further detail to follow. UUK has argued for a balanced package of support that reflects the variety of different pressures on universities as a consequence of the diversity of the sector.

As yet, we don’t know whether the moratorium on unconditional offers will be extended, but its seems reasonably likely.

CV19 Student Hardship Fundraising Campaign and Alumni Engagement

I thought you might wish to be aware that the Development Team are launching a fundraising campaign next week, focused on student hardship. Other Universities have been running such campaigns and are reporting very positive responses. We’ve decided that our campaign will be launched to coincide with “Giving Tuesday” - I’ve got the following update from Matt Ferguson which I hope will be of interest.

  • Earlier in the lockdown, we had the largest open rate ever of Alumni who wanted to read the Vice Chancellor’s update on Warwick’s response to the coronavirus – 13% higher than normal. This is a strong indication of alumni interest in Warwick’s activity in this area
  • Warwick is launching a student hardship appeal on Tuesday 5 May (Giving Tuesday) to coincide with an international giving day in support of coronavirus-related giving. The Warwick campaign will run for several weeks, and we would be delighted if you share the link on how to give: Hashtags for using when sharing on social media: #warwickcovidappeal #lovewarwick #warwickuni #givingtuesday. This will include e-appeals, and a student calling campaign, with students undertaking the calls from their homes – a Warwick first!
  • The team has developed a longer-term giving appeal around an Institute for Global Pandemic Planning, which combines Epidemiological Modelling, Public Health and Behavioural Economics.
  • The team is planning some online talks for alumni to ensure that we are sharing Warwick’s expertise with our alumni community at such a sensitive time

Financial Planning

This work is still progressing as we explore different scenarios around income and costs. We’re still hoping to report break-even (and possible a modest surplus) at the end of the current financial year. You’ll be aware from other emails and general discussions that the following year will be a major challenge. Even with the possibility of government support, we will face tremendous pressure; we can access funding from the Government borrowing support scheme and will seek to do so. But there will be a lot more needed in terms of savings – and more information will be shared as soon as we can. There are a range of options being looked at currently.

I said a few updates back that we approach the crisis from a position of some strength (financially and otherwise). I still think that’s the case. And this means we will be better placed than many to come through an exceptionally difficult year and we remain optimistic that we can do so and be able to bounce back and take advantage of the opportunities that the medium term will present.

Finally, just a big thank you from me and from UEB more generally – to you and to all of your colleagues. I know you’re very much at the sharp end of things and that’s difficult, stressful and tiring. We have done amazingly well over this past 6 weeks –that’s a massive collective effort, but your leadership has been really important and has made the difference. So thank you – and have a wonderful weekend.

Stay well, stay safe and get some relaxation time…..



Professor Christine Ennew OBE