Latest updates

Update to staff - 23 March at 6.30pm

Dear Colleagues,

I thought it helpful to provide a brief update.

First and most importantly, I and the Vice-Chancellor remain hugely grateful for the contributions colleagues are making. At this difficult time, the University only operates effectively because of the goodwill and commitment of colleagues. Thank you.

Remote working as default

The University has moved to a minimal operational presence on our campuses. The default position is that colleagues should work remotely. Colleagues in some roles will still need to attend campus to support essential work, such as supporting research to combat Covid-19, aspects of cleaning to keep us safe, and caring for the significant number of students who are unable to return home.

Because some colleagues have to come to campus, it is important that those of us who can remote work, do so, to ensure the campus is as safe as possible for them.

IT services

The University’s IT infrastructure is holding up well. Our colleagues in IT Services have been doing excellent work to maintain services at a time of unprecedented levels of demand and traffic.

Some helpful points are:

  • The VPN is only needed when accessing systems that are solely available on campus, for example Agresso, iTrent and LUSI, as well as Group Workspaces. The VPN is not required for Cisco Jabber, email or general internet use – please disconnect from the VPN when it is not required as this will free up capacity and speeds for other users.
  • Although our IT infrastructure is designed to be highly resilient, it is advisable at this time for managers to maintain up-to-date mobile phone contacts for key staff, in case of any interruption to local broadband, University connectivity or the national JANET network.
  • There are numerous reports that criminals are seeking to take advantage of the current situation by increasing phishing attacks or directing people to websites masquerading as official resources. Please be extra vigilant at this time when following links in texts and emails or when opening attachments.

Learning and teaching

Professor Thomson has asked me to thank all colleagues who continue to support their students’ learning by delivering teaching remotely, and has asked me to pass on the following information. If you need assistance, including recording lectures, the web page is being kept up to date with the latest information. The helpline remains open. This is the last week of the spring term (Week 8), and therefore I am very grateful to you for engaging with your students in whatever manner is appropriate for your module this week. As you know, amongst students completing their studies this year (finalists and taught Master’s students), there is a heightened state of anxiety, particularly relating to projects and dissertations. Please can I ask that all supervisors continue to proactively reach out to their students, including doctoral students, arranging where appropriate supportive virtual meetings.

A major communication is planned to go to taught students on Friday, detailing adjustments to module assessment. We will not be able to hold face-to-face examinations as normal in May/June. It is therefore particularly important that you input into this when approached.

Mental health matters

The personal challenge we are all facing as individuals at this time is unprecedented. I know that pointing to a few web resources is insufficient to mitigate those challenges. All I can ask is that colleagues do their very best to support each other at this difficult time. Staying connected to each other is particularly important. Please take the time in your day to do this with colleagues as well as those close to you.

Do make use of the University’s Employee Assistance Programme if needed. They can be contacted on 0800 111 6387. And, having said they inevitably will be insufficient, colleagues from different teams will be making support and resources available later this week.

Please take care of yourselves and each other.

Richard Taylor
Chief Operating Officer