Message from the Principal – COVID-19 new restrictions
Message date: Friday 25 September, 2020
Dear Students and Colleagues
The UK’s COVID-19 threat level has been escalated to ‘level four’, meaning that transmission of the virus is now growing or rising exponentially. Recognising this, the Scottish Government has introduced new nationwide restrictions which come into force today around socialising and visiting households, which are aimed at supressing the spread of infection. We recognise that this is unsettling for everyone, including our students whose university experience has just begun, or those who may be living away from family and friends. As the First Minister said at her lunchtime briefing today, this is not the start to university life any of us would have wanted for students. We recognise how hard life is just now but the sooner we can bring the virus under control, the quicker a more normal life can resume for us all.
Whilst we have only a small number of confirmed and isolated cases at Stirling at this time, in recent days the university sector has been the focus of intense scrutiny, as a number of significant COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred at institutions across Scotland.
The existing health and safety measures in place across our campus have been developed in close liaison with the Scottish Government and relevant public health organisations. They are effective – but only if respected by everybody. We all have a responsibility to play our part in suppressing this virus for the health, safety, and wellbeing of ourselves, our University community and wider society.
Enhanced safety measures
In light of the significant outbreaks at universities across Scotland, all 19 Scottish higher education institutions have collectively agreed to strengthen existing measures where we can and to directly ask our students to support these measures and to take some additional actions to help safeguard public health.
We understand this is a further ask of students at what is already a challenging and unsettling time but we stand at a crucial point in the battle against this virus, and the threat it poses to us all. The start of the new university term is, under normal circumstances, a social time when people come together. The current Scottish Government regulations are clear nevertheless: socialising may only take place within already-formed households and house parties must not take place.
In addition to the new restrictions which come into force today for everyone in Scotland, each Scottish university is being explicit in asking their students to take an immediate action: this weekend, whether you live on campus or in the local community, we are asking that you do not socialise outside of your own household, or go out to socialise in bars or hospitality venues – but instead use click and collect and home-delivery options. By taking these steps we can help reduce the spread of the disease over the next few weeks and bring down transmission rates. These actions – as difficult as they are – will demonstrate that students are making a positive difference in Stirling, and in every university town and city across Scotland, in contributing to the ongoing effort to suppress the virus.
In the interests of reducing transmission of COVID-19 at Stirling and protecting our students, staff and the wider community from the virus, we are also putting in place further enhanced preventative measures over the weekend for the safety of our community, including an enhanced presence of our security team and COVID- ambassador team who will be available to provide support and guidance.
Access to facilities – book online
The campus remains open over the weekend and you can access, by booking online, our sports facilities, the cinema at the Macrobert Arts Centre and library study spaces – the Atrium study space will reopen on Monday. Refresh will be offering a full range of sit-in meals for designated households, who book a table in advance and Scran will be operating a takeaway and delivery service. In support of the additional weekend measures, the Students’ Union bar will be closed.
If you haven’t already done so, we would encourage you to download the University of Stirling App from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store to access the suite of University apps which will give you quick access to the online booking services for food, sport, study spaces, library books etc.
The marked increase in positive cases across Scotland, including at universities, has prompted these necessary steps, alongside the responsibility we have as an institution to do everything we can to ensure we keep safe our students and staff and the local communities of which we are a part.
We are incredibly proud of the positive way that the University community, including the vast majority of students, have responded to this immense challenge. It isn’t easy but thankfully most people are doing the right thing.
Additional resources and support
However, whether on campus or off, none of us can afford to let down our guard and it’s essential that we follow the latest regulations, including the new nationwide ban on household guests, and observe the key elements of the FACTS campaign. The new Protect Scotland app, which can also be accessed via the University App suite, provides an additional tool to help tackle the spread of infection – please download and use it if you have not yet done so.
It’s up to all of us to play our part in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure that, after experiencing months of disruption, university students get the chance to continue their education. The sooner the prevalence of the virus is reduced, the sooner we can return to a more normal way of life. In the meantime, we have a responsibility to each other to act with consideration, care and kindness.
This is an unprecedented situation and it is natural that some of you will feel anxious, concerned, or in need of additional emotional support. Don’t forget that help is at hand via our online Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), and student focused togetherall platform, as well through Student Support Services, and the wider mix of resources that the University has in place to support your wellbeing.
Thank you for your continued efforts to make sure our campus remains a safe and welcoming environment for everyone. The First Minister indicated that further guidance from the Scottish Government would be issued over the weekend. We will continue to communicate and keep you informed.
Professor Gerry McCormac
Principal and Vice-Chancellor