Update for students - 25 September
I am delighted to welcome you or to welcome you back to the University.
There have been many challenges for all of us over the last six months or so.
For many of our Freshers this has been studying away from school or college, coping with the worry of A-level and other qualification results and whether or not they would get in to Loughborough. I am pleased to say that we were able to confirm places with everyone who achieved the grades that we offered. I am sure returning students will want to join me in welcoming our new students to the Loughborough Family.
Those of you who are returning students coped tremendously well, in difficult circumstances, with online learning and assessment, demonstrating adaptability and tenacity. The Loughborough spirit shone through: many congratulations. I am sure that you will want to join me in thanking staff for all their hard work, both during lockdown but also in preparing for your return and the new academic year.
Many returning students are already back in Loughborough and I am impressed with the responsible behaviour I am seeing. We are all wearing face coverings inside buildings. I have started to watch sport matches again and have seen student spectators maintain appropriate social distancing. Everyone is being careful to follow the new rules when using spaces such as the Pilkington Library, Powerbase or Holywell Fitness Centre.
There has been very a small number of students showing a lack of respect and care to the rest of the University community by holding house parties. As I outlined in my previous email to returning students, where this has occurred the students are now excluded from the campus for fourteen days, and if they show the same disregard again I shall terminate their registration for the 2020/21 academic year. Let me very quickly add that these students are in the minority. Almost everyone I come across is behaving responsibly and in a way that makes me proud to be a member of the University.
We now face a challenge.
What we all have to do for the foreseeable future is conduct our lives in a way that allows us to keep the University open and minimises the risk of a repeat lockdown. My colleagues and I want to do our utmost to keep the campus operating but we need your help to achieve this.
What does this mean for each and every one of us in our day-to-day lives?
In simple terms it means making sure that in all of our activities we follow the Golden Covid Rules, conduct ourselves in a way that will protect the University community and minimise the risk of a Covid-19 outbreak. Let me be honest with you. There will be members of the University that contract the virus in the weeks ahead. We know this from seeing what is going on in Scotland, where students returned to university a fortnight ago. What we all have to do is go about day-to-day activities in a way that will keep infection risks to an absolute minimum.
This is about balancing three things – 1) learning and teaching using a blended approach of in person and online curriculum delivery; 2) socialising in ways that allow us to see friends within national guidelines but without putting them and others at risk; 3) following the Golden Covid Rules at all times.
Learning and teaching
For the foreseeable 2020/21 academic year, all of our degree programmes will be delivered using different approaches. We all want as much in-person learning and teaching as possible, but it is inevitable that parts of the curriculum will be delivered online. How much in person vs online we can deliver will, in no small part, be a consequence of Government guidelines in operation at any point in time and the local situation in terms of any outbreak. What I am saying is that things are bound to vary during the academic year and you will have to keep a close eye on information that is relevant to your particular programme of study.
The one principle that will underpin whatever we do is to create the best possible learning environment and offer high-quality teaching. We shall work closely with Loughborough Students’ Union (LSU), School Presidents and Course Reps in pursuit of this.
We have upgraded our teaching technologies over the summer. We plan a different and enhanced online experience where we need to do so. Please do familiarise yourself with the resources that we have developed for student learning in 2020/21. We shall prioritise making the in-person sessions as impactful as possible, so that where relevant you can still undertake practicals, labs and studio work. We may have to juggle the timing of any in-person activities but we will make best efforts to deliver them at a later point in the academic year.
We shall advise you immediately if we have to modify what we are doing. Please do bear in mind that Government guidance changes rapidly and also our staff may find their personal circumstances change very quickly. Please accept our apologies in advance if we have to let you know of changes at short notice. Your online timetable will always have the very latest information so check this frequently. We plan to increase the amount of in-person teaching over the first two weeks as everyone familiarises themselves with the new ways of moving around campus.
Two important points: please read all communications carefully and ignore rumour.
All of the evidence elsewhere points to increases in infection rates being associated with social activities that bring us too close together with others that carry the virus, in particular individuals that are asymptomatic and therefore showing no signs of illness.
We will need to accept that some things that are usually part of the Loughborough student social scene will be far too risky for the foreseeable future. LSU, for example, has had to reduce its activities significantly and many of the large activities returning students will have been used to will not be able to take place.
The University, jointly with LSU, is going to make social spaces available to all students on the campus. We are hiring large marquees for places like Shirley Pearce Square, for example. I have been impressed with the ingenuity of student groups such as Hall Committees and Sport Clubs in coming up with ideas for social activities that are both enjoyable, sensible and Covid-secure. A key point to remember is that it is not just the activity itself but also maintaining good practice. We all know that alcohol reduces social inhibition, for example, so now more than ever the maxim ‘moderation in all things’ must be the watchword.
Follow the Golden Covid Rules at all times
If you or your friends show any of the symptoms of Covid-19 there are two things that you must do immediately.
The first is to self-isolate. This may also include your friends such as those that you live with if you are in a private, rented house is town.
The single biggest risk to the wider University community is not an individual becoming infected with Covid-19 but one person passing the illness on to others and the rapid multiplication of that across the University community.
Throughout the term we shall all have to be vigilant and constantly aware of our actions and their impact on the wider University community. If you follow the Golden Covid Rules, in return for your support my colleagues and I will do our utmost to repay that in the following ways.
- We shall keep the University campus open to students for both academic and other activities, in particular those that contribute to your Personal Best.
- We shall maintain access to facilities such as the Pilkington Library, IT rooms, laboratories and facilities for sport .
- We shall deliver as much in-person teaching as possible including lectures, seminars, studio and laboratory classes where practical to do so.
- We shall work jointly with LSU, Loughborough Sport, Hall Committees and student societies to deliver as much daytime and evening social activity as we can.
My greatest disappointment in recent months has been to see the University with so few people around. At long last the campus is coming back to life: I have been heartened by opportunities to recently meet members from many student groups such as the Afro-Caribbean Society, Hockey Clubs and Hall committees.
Loughborough will shortly be the vibrant and secure place that we all know and love. All I ask is that we are focused on keeping it that way in the weeks and months to come.
Professor Robert J. Allison