Safely returning to campus in March 2021
As students will be aware, last Monday the Prime Minister outlined his roadmap out of the Covid-19 pandemic. There is much to be optimistic about following this announcement and since then, UCEN Mancheser has been assessing how we respond to this in a managed and measured way whilst continuing to keep your safety and that of our students firmly as our number one priority.
Part of the Prime Minister’s announcement signalled that educational settings will reopen from Monday 8 March. Having received the government guidance for how this should be managed late last Monday night we have now completed the process of working through it and how it applies to UCEN Manchester.
- in-person teaching and learning for undergraduate students who are studying practical or practice-based (including creative arts) subjects and require specialist equipment and facilities can resume from 8 March but that providers should avoid large volumes of students returning at once
- providers should not ask students to return if their course can reasonably be continued online
- the government will review, by the end of the Easter holidays, the options for timing of the return of remaining students. This review will take account of the latest data and will be a key part of the wider roadmap steps. Students and providers will be given a week’s notice ahead of any further return.
What this means for you
In light of this we are now reviewing which courses can reasonably continue online and which courses need to resume an element of face-to-face delivery.
In some circumstances where it is deemed essential for an element of face-to-face delivery to resume for our UCEN Manchester students from 8 March 2021 (on a phased approach, to avoid large numbers of students returning at once), some students/classes will be invited to attend on-campus sessions. This decision will be taken following our professional assessment and is likely to be the case where, for example: specialist equipment is required; where there is a practical element to the course; where specific assessments are required as part of a licence to practice course or where not undertaking the assessment would disadvantage your achievement of your qualification; or where a lack of device at home is a barrier to learning.
Any return from the 8 March 2021, will be communicated to students on an individual/course basis early next week and unless contacted you should continue to follow your timetable fully online and remotely until the Easter break at the earliest.
Continuing your studies
We understand that everyone is now eager to get back to some sense of normality, but you will understand why we are continuing to take a measured approach whilst following the Government advice and managing the return of students on a phased basis as, ultimately, we must continue to make the health, safety and wellbeing of our students and staff our number one priority.
While we are desperate to be able to welcome you back to campus as soon as it is safe to do so, our processes for delivering a fully remote timetable are well established and will enable you to continue to progress your studies.
After the Easter break and providing government guidelines permit, we would intend to revert to the blended delivery model for all students that we had in place prior to Christmas with some parts of your timetable taking place on campus and others taking place online. We will write to students closer to the time to confirm this and any details you will need for safely returning to campus. As mentioned above, the Government has indicated that they will review, by the end of the Easter holidays, the options for timing of the return of remaining students.
Asymptomatic Covid-19 testing
The government has committed to providing all returning higher education students with asymptomatic Covid-19 testing prior to their return to campus:
- You should arrange to take a Covid-19 test via the NHS prior to leaving your home address (if you live away from home during term-time)
- You will be offered two tests on your return. As with the arrangements prior to Christmas, we are intending for this testing to be provided by the University of Manchester
- Following this, we are awaiting for confirmation from the DFE as to whether we are able to provide you with two self-tests kits to take at home each week, as we have been asked to do for our further education students.
While it is strongly recommended that you take up this offer it is entirely voluntary and is not compulsory. We will communicate more details on testing next week when we know more.
Support for you
We fully appreciate that many of you may be finding things difficult in the current circumstances. However, all the support that has been in place since the start of lockdown in January will remain in place right through until you return to campus and beyond.
As a reminder available support includes:
- A wide range of free welfare support available via our Future U student support service. Future U can support you with any queries, concerns or issues you have with accommodation, finance and general welfare. You can contact them via email - firstname.lastname@example.org - or phone 03333 222 444 and request to speak to them. This service will reopen on 4 January 2021. However, a range of resources are available on the UCEN Manchester website and our #InThisTogether Hub where you’ll find a range of resources to help you look after yourself and stay motivated as well as further information on managing stress and links to external resources you may find useful.
- Access to our PAM Assist service. PAM Assist is a free and confidential life management and personal support service that is available to you on an entirely self-referral basis and will remain available to you over the Christmas period. There is no need to sign up or register or seek approval first, just call 0808 196 3533 or email www.pamassist.co.uk. This is a 24/7 helpline. Username: Student. Password: Student1.
Should you have any concerns or challenges associated with this change to the delivery of your course, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Future U team or your course tutor and we will endeavor to take every possible step to help.
We understand that these are challenging and worrying times but please rest assured that we are taking every step possible to maintain a welcoming and safe learning environment when you return – either prior to or following Easter, while keeping the health and wellbeing of our students and our staff, our number one priority.
We look forward to welcoming you back to campus as soon as it is safe to do so.