We hope that you and your loved ones remain well in these challenging times. 

You currently hold an offer from us to commence study on the MSc Applied Genomics in October 2021 and we are very much looking forward to welcoming you to the Department at the start of the new academic year.  

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in order to ensure that your degree programme can be safely delivered, we are writing to update you on how the College is planning to support a safe return to study and on how we intend to deliver your programme in 2021-22. 

We will expect you to be in London from the start of the autumn term and for the whole of the 2021-22 academic year in order that you can attend on-campus activities. We plan to deliver your programme through a combination of on-campus and online teaching activities (multi-mode), with a strong emphasis on prioritising your time on our campuses.  

We are planning for the most crucial and engaging learning opportunities to be delivered in-person and without social distancing in place. We anticipate UK government guidelines will support this decision by the time you arrive for the new academic year.Some sessions will be hosted online when this method is considered to be educationally beneficial to students, and when it is clear that online mode will reduce the risk of sustained COVID-19 transmission as our community emerges from the pandemic. We will use our experience of our past academic years when deciding how best to timetable your teaching. 

It is important to recognise that, depending on official government guidance throughout the entirety of next academic year, the balance of on-campus and online teaching may be subject to change. However, we share students’ hopes that we will be able to offer on-campus learning activities consistently throughout the coming year. 

Further details on the mix of on-campus and online activities and support available to you in your department are provided in the programme delivery section of this letter. 

Institutional guarantees 

General 

Our priority is for you to experience everything our campuses and London has to offer.  However, you will be expected to adhere to the safety measures in place for the College. This may include requirements to undertake regular testing and to report the outcome of this testing to the College and strong expectations to have been vaccinated. The completion of the required safety measures will ensure that we can keep the College community safe and satisfy the UK government and UK Public Health Authorities that we can continue with in-person on-campus activities, wherever possible. 

Details for your programme are set out in this communication. 

Attendance and Delivery of Teaching 

As you can appreciate, it is not entirely clear what circumstances we will be working with for the coming academic year, but we are planning the delivery of your programme on the assumption of a phased return to substantial amounts of on-campus teaching over the 2021-22 academic year. To accommodate this, we plan to deliver your programme initially through a combination of on-campus and online activities (multi-mode), the balance of which will be reviewed and adjusted as circumstances change. This means you will be required to attend the College in-person from the start of your programme, unless you can demonstrate that you have been impacted by exceptional COVID-19 related circumstances. Therefore, in planning your arrival for the autumn, you should consider the government guidelines for entry in the UK (including possible quarantine times) and plan accordingly. This information is constantly changing, so we invite you to check frequently the College website (https://www.imperial.ac.uk/study/covid-19/) as well as the official government guidelines for travelling. 

We understand there are some reasons you may be prevented from being able to travel to London for the start of the academic year. In these circumstances you will not be disadvantaged in your learning experience, and you will be temporarily provided with a remote alternative of any on-campus activities which you might miss. You should contact the programme administrator, Deborah Jones (Deborah.jones@imperial.ac.uk), if you anticipate not being able to travel to London for the start of term and would like to discuss your options with us. 

As a community, we have learnt a lot from this past year. Our combination of cutting-edge technology and academic excellence resulted in some new and creative ways of learning and engaging with each other on campus and remotely. Many of the changes made to the learning experience have worked well, and therefore your department may retain some of these approaches in the new academic year to enhance your overall experience on campus, and these are specified in this communication. 

In the event of a suspension of on-campus activity due to an escalation of the pandemic, we will deliver some content online and, if necessary, reschedule activities which cannot be delivered online later in the 2021-22 academic year. Depending on the length and severity of any such scenario, if we are unable to deliver content remotely or re-schedule activities requiring in-person attendance [e.g. labs/practicalsetc.] within the 2021-22 academic year to meet the learning outcomes of the programme, we may have to extend the length of your programme, with no extra fees being charged. You will also be given the option to exit the programme and provided with a transcript of the credits achieved together with an exit award, where appropriate. 

Assessment 

For assessments that take place in the Autumn Term, or at the start of the Spring Term of the 2021/22 academic year, where there was to be an in-person on-campus written examination, these will be assessed by timed remote assessments, irrespective of whether there are restrictions in place or not.  We may continue to deliver examinations by timed remote assessments where these are deemed the most appropriate method of assessment. 

Safety 

You will be required to follow the safety requirements put in place on campus and in all College buildings (including halls) to ensure we keep the campuses and the Imperial community safe and to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, particularly in our ability to deliver your degree programme and to offer you a full student experience.  

There will be requirements and expectations placed on you and other members of the College community to follow the safety measures put in place by the UK government and national and local public health authorities. You can view our current guidance for our community on our website. This may vary once we begin the academic year, but is likely to include undertaking regular testing for COVID-19 and to report the results of this testing to the College. There is also the strong expectation that you will have been vaccinated against COVID-19  or that you will take up the opportunity once in the UK, if vaccination is not available in your home country. Failure to follow the safety measures and report them to College may result in restrictions being imposed on the delivery of your degree programme and on your access to the wider student experience. 

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 Students’ Union to ensure that we are able to provide, enhance and facilitate all areas of your student experience in 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 and College-wide induction arrangements, considering current social distancing restrictions, as well as a full lockdown, are set out on our COVID 19 pages.  

Delivery of your Programme of Study 

Departmental induction 

The core departmental induction activities for your programme will take place on-campus. These activities will be supplemented by some online activities. 

Further details will be provided nearer to the start of your programme. 

Content of the programme  

No changes to the programme or module learning outcomes have been made as a consequence of delivering a multi-mode format. Multi-mode teaching means that all our students will have an on-campus experience as well as remote teaching; a considerable proportion of our Autumn term will be delivered online. This will require you to have access to a computer and a reliable internet signal for most days of the term. All learning materials will be accessible through our Virtual Learning Environment (Blackboard Learn) and Microsoft Teams. Digital literacy skills will be required for online study, however we do not expect these skills to be more complex than in previous years, for example by using Blackboard Learn. Indeed, our programme was originally designed for blended delivery and many learning activities were taking place online “pre-COVID”. 

Support for online learning 

To access the content of the programme online you will be expected to have access to a computer (comparable to the laptop we offer for loan; HP EliteBook 840 G7, i5-10310U processor, 16Gb RAM, 256Gb solid state disk, 14” HD screen, Windows 10 Pro 64, webcam; see https://www8.hp.com/h20195/v2/GetDocument.aspx?docname=4AA7-6811ENUC), reliable internet connection with a minimum of sustained 10 MBps down/upload speed  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 is available at https://www.imperial.ac.uk/admin-services/ict/self-service/connect-communicate/office-365/apps/microsoft-teams/. 

If you require further guidance such as using Microsoft Teams for class discussion, we will direct you to the relevant College student support resources and will also run a test call in week one to identify any issues. Further College learning resources are available, and details will be provided in the Adapt to Postgrad course (see below). As Imperial students, you will have free access to these platforms as well as induction sessions. 

Scheduling  

We are not anticipating changing the term of when modules will be taught or assessed. 

Programme Delivery 2021-22 

Induction Week and Social Cohesion 

The programme will start on the 4th of October 2021 and we have planned on-campus and online induction sessions during this week for you to meet us, your fellow students on the programme, and your tutors. These induction sessions will also be an opportunity for you to familiarise yourselves with the online platforms and tools we will be using in the year, and for all of us to set expectations around the programme and online/on-campus learning and teaching. We will also include a (on-campus or online, tbc) career development session and you will have access to two new short courses developed by students and staff from our Faculty aimed to help you transition into Master’s study in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London (Adapt to Postgrad course https://www.imperial.ac.uk/medicine/study/postgraduate/atp/and to support you to decide on, and plan for whatever you want your professional future to be (Attributes and Aspirations course https://www.imperial.ac.uk/medicine/study/postgraduate/attributes-aspirations/).  

Throughout the year, we will continue to offer you opportunities to socialise and feel part of our MSc cohort. To this effect, we will organise several group work sessions, some with your group tutors, as well as regular social events. The two weeks in the teaching laboratories on campus (see below) will be great opportunity to strengthen these bonds amongst you and with us 

Introduction to Multi-Omics Research (Module 1), 11th Oct19th Nov 2021 

Our first theoretical module will be delivered in a blended mode, starting the second week of October 2021. The MSc team has prepared an exciting programme for you to explore different ‘omics’ research approaches, with a particular focus on medical genomics. There will be guided activities that each of you will need to do outside of the classroom, individually or in groups, (asynchronous) to prepare for the live face-to-face (synchronous) interactive sessions with our academics. We have timetabled these activities along the week to help you organise your work effectively, with most, albeit not all, face-to-face sessions taking place in the mornings. On average, each week will have around 20 hours of timetabled asynchronous and synchronous activities which you will have to complement with additional individual work/studyThis approach will provide you with opportunities to develop your human disease multi-omics knowledge and skills, individually and in teams.  

Importantly, assessments will remain unchanged but will take place online via MS Teams platform and a virtual platform specially designed for online team-based learning activities (InteDashboard). A formative, remote team-based learning assessment will take place at the beginning of the module to allow you to familiarize yourself with this type of assessment.  

Non-coding RNAs, Gene Editing and In vitro Modelling (Module 2), 20th Nov-10th Dec 2021 

We are currently planning for this module to be also delivered as blended mode, starting in November 2021, combining online and limited face-to-face sessions.  

Importantly, assessments will remain unchanged but will take place online via MS Teams and InteDashboard platforms, as for Module 1. 

In vivo Modelling and Use of Human Material and Data (Module 3), 10th-28th January 2022 

We are currently planning for this module to be delivered on campus, starting in January 2021. Should access to campus be limited in the Spring term, the module will be delivered in a blended way, combining online and limited face-to-face sessions. As for the other modules, assessments will remain unchanged but might take place online via MS Teams (tbc) 

Core and Professional Skills (Module 4), 31st Jan - 18th February 2022  

Besides the non-assessed career development sessions taking place in week 1, the core of Module 4 consists of a Mini-Research Project that will start with preparation in groups during 1-2 supervised background sessions that will take place during 13th-17th DecemberYou will undergo asynchronous and synchronous tutorials, pair work, and submission of various activities on which we will provide you with feedback that will support your learning. The two weeks of laboratory work of Module 4 will be delivered at our Hammersmith campus on the 31st Jan -11th February. Time to work in your project report and relevant assessments has been allocated on the week of the 14th-18th February. All assessments will remain unchanged though some might take place remotely (tbc)Though we expect the research labs to be accessible in the spring term, should campus be completely closed due to government advice, this module will be delivered at a later time, if possible. If we are not able to run the module at all due to closures in both the Autumn and Spring terms, we will provide you with remote alternatives to meet slightly revised module learning outcomes.  

Systematic Review (Module 5), 13th – 17th Dec 202121st Feb 2022 - 4th March 2022 

We are currently anticipating no major changes to Module 5. You will attend 3 introductory sessions in the Autumn term (concomitantly with Modules 1/2) and 2 further sessions during 13th-17th December, as well as a final one on 22nd February (tbc) in order to get feedback on the progression of the written project report and undergo mock poster presentations. We are planning these sessions to take place on campus, but some might take place online. Poster presentation assessments will take place remotely via Teams platform on the 28th of February (tbc) and your literature review report should be submitted via our Virtual Learning Environment, Blackboard, by the 4th March.  

Please note that it may be necessary to amend the dates and delivery mode of Modules 1, 2, 3 and 5 if further COVID-related restrictions are applied; we are fully prepared to be deliverer all remotely if necessary. 

Experimental/Computational Disease Modelling Research Project (Module 6), March-September 2022 

We are currently anticipating no major changes to Module 6 (Disease Modelling Research Project). As usual, we plan to provide you with a list of available wet lab and computational research projects which will be delivered in our research laboratories on-campus between March and September 2021. Should physical access to laboratories be limited, we will provide wet research projects to be conducted in teams, additional choices of computational/dry research projects and alternative projects consisting on extensive research literature reviews, analysis of already available data and/or PhD proposalsThe two latter options (computational and alternative projects) will also be offered in the case that access to research laboratories is impossible due to a lockdown. These projects will be an added opportunity for you to strengthen skills such as communication, organisation and negotiation. Besides the above, should the campus be significantly affected by further lockdown during your research project, we will work towards offering a short (2-3 month) extension to your programme duration in order to complete your project and offer a PG Diploma or a PG Certificate as an exit award if you are otherwise successful but unable to complete Module 6. 

Assessments of module 6 will remain unchanged, though they might take place remotely via MS Teams (Oral presentation and VIVA) and submission via our Virtual Learning Environment, Blackboard (Project Report). 

Length of the programme 

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

Additional costs 

You will be expected to have access to a computer, webcam, microphone and to a reliable internet connection, and you will need to cover any associated costs for these. There are no other expected additional costs (beyond those previously advertised) to participate in the programme if you choose to study remotely. 

Location 

Almost all of the sessions taught on campus will be delivered at the Hammersmith Campus. We advise you should try to find accommodation within walking/cycling distance of this campus, to avoid using public transport whenever possible.  

Visas and Immigration  

If you require a visa to study in the UK, it is important that you have read the guidance provided by the International Student Support Team at the College at http://www.imperial.ac.uk/study/international- students/visas-and-immigration/covid-19-and-your-immigration-status/.      

Imperial has a team of specialist immigration advisers who can provide specific advice on your immigration situation and on the best options for you. They can be reached by email on international@imperial.ac.ukIt is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct immigration permission for your studies in the UK. 

How we can answer your questions 

As always, should you have any questions, please contact us and we will be delighted to talk to you and clarify any points that might still lack clarity. 

Thank you for choosing Imperial as the institution to undertake your postgraduate studies. We are enthusiastic about you joining our outstanding student body and look forward to welcoming you in the Autumn. 

 

With all good wishes, 

Prof Mark Thursz, Dr Alejandra Tomas & Dr Aida Martinez-Sanchez 

Head of Department & Programme Directors 

MSc Applied Genomics in the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction