Dear Returning Final Year Undergraduates, Year 3 Placement Students, 

We are writing to update you on our plans for the academic year 2020-21.  We want to provide you with information to guide and reassure you as you prepare to return to your studies in October.  

This letter is relevant to all students who will enter the final year of their degree programme in October 2020 as well as students who are currently planning to be on placement next academic year, in case your placement plans are not possible and you have to return to studies at Imperial in October.  There is specific information on placements towards the end of the letter. 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in order to ensure that your programme of study can be delivered safely, we will be making some amendments to your programme. For autumn term in the 2020/2021 academic year we plan to deliver your education in a multi-mode format.  This means that if you are unable to travel to campus you will not be disadvantaged in your learning experience over the course of your programme.  Using our teaching and digital learning expertise, including what we learnt from your valuable feedback on the online programme we delivered in summer 2020, we will provide a rich and stimulating undergraduate experience for the new academic year. 

For the Easter and Summer Terms in 2021 your attendance at our campus will be required. We have contingency plans in place in case of further disruption as a result of COVID-19 and associated restrictions. 

 

Institutional guarantees 

All on campus provision will be subject to the requirements of the current Public Health advice from the UK Government, College guidelines on social distancing and any additional health and safety measures. In the event that there is an escalation of the current outbreak or a new outbreak of COVID-19 during your programme then, in line with Public Health Advice from the UK Government, we may be forced to suspend on-campus activity. This may be in connection with either national or local requirements. In the event of a suspension of on-campus activity all teaching activities will be delivered remotely. 

The College and the Department of Life Sciences will deliver your programme to ensure the approved learning outcomes are met and will take steps to make alternative arrangements in any extreme circumstances where this is not possible. The College and the Department of Life Sciences are also developing community building activities to support the multi-mode experience for students, including making use of our new undergraduate common room.  

 

Inductions 

College-wide induction and enrolment activities will operate in a remote format at the start of the academic year and there will be no requirement to visit the campus in-person to begin your studies. The Life Sciences departmental induction activities for your programme will take place online, but these may be supplemented with some in-person induction activities which you may choose to attend. Further details will be provided nearer to the start of the programme. 

Content and scheduling of the programme 

The College has reviewed the learning outcomes for your programme to ensure these can be taught and assessed in a multi-mode format.  No changes to the module learning outcomes have been made as a consequence of moving to the multi-mode delivery format. We are not anticipating changing the outline schedule of when particular modules will be taught. 

 

Programme delivery 

Teaching activities in Autumn term – coming to campus: If you are able to come to campus in the Autumn term, your experience will be a mix of in-person and online tuition. Lectures and tutorials will be delivered remotely. Most labs/practicals will be available in person, but some may be delivered as remote alternatives that will deliver the same learning outcomes.  Typically, there will be about 25 hours of lab and computer practical hours that will be possible in-person, but exact hours will vary depending on the elective modules that you study.  In the event of a suspension of on-campus activity during the autumn term all teaching activities will be delivered remotely.   

If you are unable to come to campus in the autumn term, tutorials and non-lab/practical activities will be delivered remotely, and you will also be given a remote alternative to the lab/practical activities that delivers the same learning outcomes. 

Teaching activities from January 2021: From January 2021 your attendance at our campus is required. In order to assist with social distancing, some content will continue to be delivered remotely for all students on your programme, but there will be elements of your programme requiring in-person attendance. Students who are unable to come to campus for healthcare reasons related to Covid-19 will be invited to submit a mitigation circumstances form for review by our departmental mitigation panel. 

In the event of a suspension of on-campus activity during the term due to an escalation of the current outbreak or a new outbreak of COVID-19, then we will continue to deliver content remotely and online wherever possible. The final year projects programme is scheduled to start at the beginning of March 2021.  Most final year project options on this programme require in-person work in our laboratories or other specialist spaces. In the event of a suspension of on-campus activity at this time due to an escalation of the current outbreak or a new outbreak of COVID-19, if your project is computational it may be possible to complete this remotely. If your project requires in-person presence on campus, then your project will transition to a different format capable of being completed remotely. 

 

IT Resources 

To access the content of the programme remotely you will be expected to have access to a computer, a reliable internet connection and be able to use Microsoft Teams. Your College IT account will provide you with free access to the Office365 suite of tools, and further information about how to use Microsoft Teams will be made available. Training and support for how to use other systems and software will be provided during the programme induction and through specific modules.  

 

Year abroad and placement programmes  

Those of you on year abroad and  placement programmes will have been in contact with your programme organisers and may now  have a clearer view as to whether your placements will be possible in 2020-21. However, please note the guidance that follows. 

Your year abroad (or partial year abroad) may be cancelled or rescheduled.  The College will need to adhere to partner institution’s requirements as well as to UK travel advice during the period of your year abroad. You will be entitled to transfer to the version of your programme without the year abroad option. If necessary, rescheduling may include the option of moving the year abroad to the fourth year of your degree, starting in academic year 2021-22. 

Your placement may be cancelled or rescheduled.  The College will need to adhere to your placement provider’s requirements, as well as to UK travel advice during the period of your placement. You will be offered replacement provision by the College, or will be offered the opportunity to change to the version of your programme without the placement element If necessary, rescheduling may include the option of moving the placement to the fourth year of your degree, starting in academic year 2021-22. 

Please note: If you are an international student and require a Tier 4 / Student visa in order to study in the UK, you will be responsible for any visa application fees which may be incurred should your programme length be extended. Full support and guidance on visa and immigration issues is provided by our International Student Support Team.  

 

Field trips 

Some planned field trips may be cancelled, postponed, rescheduled or amended, or delivered remotely in an online format.  

 

Programme assessment 

The College has agreed that the default alternative arrangement for any on-campus formal written examinations is to provide a timed remote assessment. These were successfully evaluated and executed in the academic year 2019–20 for all our year groups. For other types of assessment, the method may be amended to accommodate the multi-mode arrangements. All students participating in a piece of assessment will do this in the same way, whether they choose to come to campus or study remotely. For the Autumn term 2020-21 all assessment will be completed in a remote format.  Vivas, presentations and poster sessions will be carried out online or face-to-face according to guidelines in place at the time; these mechanisms were used successfully following the College’s move to remote teaching and assessment at the end of 2019–20 spring term. Details of individual assessments will be provided in the Programme Handbook.  

 

Length of the programme 

We anticipate you will be able to complete the programme within the timescale previously advertised.  

 

Additional costs 

To study remotely you will be expected to have access to a computer and to a reliable internet connection, and you will need to cover any associated costs for these. Please contact the Department for advice if you anticipate that this will cause you any difficulties.  There are no other expected additional costs (beyond those previously advertised) to participate in the programme if you choose to study remotely. 

 

Location 

On site in-person teaching will still be delivered at the South Kensington campus, at the Silwood Park Campus or in accommodation within the South Kensington neighbourhood. 

 

Student experience 

Your experience at Imperial goes beyond just your academic studies. With the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19), Imperial has been working with your Union to ensure that we are able to provide, enhance and facilitate all areas of your student experience under all eventualities.  We identified key pillars of the wider student experience:  academic experience; research culture and environment; amenities and accommodation; student community; wellbeing support; co-curricular activities and extra-curricular activities.   Information on how we will deliver these, along with information on our Library Services, considering current social distancing restrictions, as well as a full lockdown, are set out in the COVID-19 FAQs on our website

We are looking forward to welcoming all Life Sciences students back to campus for the start of the Autumn term.   We fully appreciate that everyone’s circumstances are different and that this may not be possible for you.  Therefore, if you find that you are unable to travel to campus for Autumn term, we have made plans so that you will not be disadvantaged in your learning experience over the course of your programme. If you still have questions you would like answered before deciding, we will be happy to help you.  

We believe that even in the current difficult circumstances we will offer you an outstanding curriculum designed to develop you into independent, articulate Life Scientists ready to take on challenges across the spectrum of life sciences. 

  

Best regards, 

Dr. Huw Williams, Director of Undergraduate Studies 

Professor Anne Dell, Head of Department of Life Sciences