COVID-19 Update to colleagues - 30 December 2020
We hope that you are enjoying the break and have had some time to rest after the past term.
We are writing to update you on our work to ensure safe return for the new term in January. As you know, the UK government has introduced a new Tier 4 of COVID-19 safety regulations in London and much of England. This mandates additional restrictions on some activities and businesses, but education remains a government priority.
Today, the government has asked universities to stagger their return in January further, in order to reduce the probability for infection to spread. For the majority of courses in-person teaching will not start until 18 January at the earliest. The exceptions include some medical programmes and other courses where there are regulatory requirements for certification. Departments will inform you of these cases.
Thanks to the advanced planning and preparations you have already undertaken we are well able to adapt to this new situation. The Education Strategy and Operations Group will be working closely with Departments to ensure all courses and programmes can continue to meet their learning objectives. Our Vice Provost Education and Student Experience, Emma McCoy, sent our students a brief message today and will be communicating with them again tomorrow after we receive further guidance from DfE. Departments will be in touch with their students directly to inform them of specific changes to their teaching.
Research will continue as planned and our MRes and PhD students who need to come to campus will be able to do so.
Of course, safety remains the highest priority. For this reason, we are enhancing testing for both staff and students. Testing through the College’s own service is available to book 15 days in advance, and we strongly recommend that you take a test before returning to campus. Our PCR tests are able to detect all variants of COVID-19.
Everyone who returns to our campuses will be able to have a free COVID-19 test before they begin in-person learning, research or support activities. It will also be important that we all continue to follow the safety protocols, which have proven instrumental in keeping the number of positive cases at College among the lowest of UK universities. In addition, we will continue with our environmental surveillance programme which tests air and surfaces across our campuses. To date, this has found no evidence of the virus in any of our teaching facilities or the Central Library.
Most of our community will need to continue to work from home for the foreseeable future. Thank you for your continued patience and resilience. We remind you of our resources for home working.
We will keep you informed if the government’s guidance around COVID changes again and we recommend that you keep an eye on the College’s website for up-to-date information about COVID-19. It may be that further restrictions will be imposed later this week that affect teaching.
While managing the College’s work through the pandemic remains at the centre of our attention, we were pleased that the Brexit negotiations point towards association with Horizon Europe. We thank the many of you who helped advocate for this outcome, and we will support our colleagues in government to ensure that it comes to pass. The withdrawal from Erasmus programmes is a blow, and we will continue to push for meaningful student exchanges with our partners around the world, ensuring the government follows up on its pledges for a replacement programme.
In the meantime, we wish you a happy new year.
Alice and Ian
Professor Alice P. Gast, President
Professor Ian Walmsley, Provost