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Update for staff - 14 July at 4pm

Dear Colleagues and Doctoral Researchers

It has been a while since I updated you on operational considerations regarding our campuses. Given the diversity of roles on campus (such as the different job families, doctoral researchers etc) and differing personal circumstances, it is difficult to provide absolute certainty in a message such as this, for every individual situation. Therefore this message is intended to provide a sense of the general direction of the University ahead of the new academic year, and importantly, reassurance. Please read it with this caveat in mind and discuss locally with your managers, supervisors and colleagues to work through what this may mean specifically in your areas or for you personally.

In his email of 26th June the Vice-Chancellor described how for most colleagues, next academic year will involve a fusion of home working and on campus activity. Through this approach we will manage our response to the pandemic carefully, mitigating risks in balance with our significant operational needs and commitments.

We have shown that remote working can be effective, but also where it has its limitations. The most effective way to work differs across roles and contexts. It is important that colleagues speak with managers over the coming weeks to discuss their own circumstances regarding the right balance of remote and campus working. Guidance for managers has been issued to support this process.

By the end of July I anticipate that all buildings on our campuses will be in a position where colleagues and doctoral researchers can work from them (most are available now). This is not a signal for a general return, but guidance that those who need to work from campus can do so. Those not already working from campus should use the weeks over the summer to familiarise themselves with the social distancing protocols in place, and the physical changes to building layout and access, by coming onto campus to visit or work for a short period. Before coming onto campus, everyone must complete this short course on social distancing. Whilst the default position remains to work from home if you can, we all need to be familiar and comfortable with arrangements on our campuses before the busy period of the early autumn when our taught students will return.

I want to particularly acknowledge colleagues and doctoral researchers in the local lockdown area in Leicester. From family, friends and colleagues in the area, I know how deeply frustrating and concerning the last few days have been. You have our support. For clarity, you must work from home if you can and delay any return to campus until the completion of the local lockdown arrangements.

Professor Rachel Thomson, the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, will write to colleagues over coming days with a detailed briefing of how the University intends to deliver the 2020/21 academic year, from a learning and teaching perspective. This will not signal a wholescale return to ‘normal’ teaching. Instead it will fuse online and in person delivery, whilst ensuring that we are able to offer some in person teaching for all our students, and retain the flexibility to respond as the Alert Levels change. It is important that this is read with the knowledge and reassurance that detailed and extensive mitigation activity is being developed. This is being led by the University’s Health and Safety team, to ensure the risks of Covid-19 are minimised and the health, safety and wellbeing of staff and students is at the core of all decisions. Weekly meetings are taking place with campus unions to progress these measures. Mitigations will include, protocols for ensuring social distancing, protocols for requiring face coverings in some situations, Perspex screening in reception areas and some teaching facilities, temperature checks for arriving taught students, a revised and fit-for-purpose freshers programme, and a detect and protect protocol deployed in the event of any local cases, to supplement the NHS’ test and trace programme. These will be published over the coming weeks.

The University’s planning assumes the current Government Alert Level 3 as its base scenario (Level 3 means the virus is in general circulation but transmission is not high or exponential), but our plans can adjust if that scenario escalates or reduces, at a national or a local level. It is still over two months until our new and returning students will arrive, and one thing we can be certain of is that our plans will need to adapt to developing situations. An example of how this escalation/de-escalation approach operates is given here for Learning and Teaching.

Professor Steve Rothberg, the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, will also shortly write to colleagues with details of how research activity has adapted to Covid-19 and the associated lockdown, and our plans to continue to reintroduce research activities back to campus safely. Professor Rothberg will unambiguously restate our commitments as a research-intensive university.

The biggest risk to the occurrence of local Covid-19 cases is poor adherence to social distancing and other health and safety protocols such as regular hand washing. We will shortly launch a campaign to make these socially unacceptable in our community and I ask for your support and positively encourage you to challenge any poor behaviours where you observe them.

The University will later this week relaunch its Covid-19 FAQ website, with new content covering the approach to the new academic year. In the meantime, the current site is available here.

Support for colleagues continues to be available, including online here.

Finally, please can I once again repeat my thanks to all colleagues for the support they have given each other and our students. Please continue to take care and look out for other messages over the coming days.

Richard Taylor
Chief Operating Officer