COVID-19 update

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Message from the University Secretary: COVID-19 update on the new semester

Dear Student

I hope you have had a safe and enjoyable break over the festive period – and are looking forward to returning to your studies in the coming weeks.

As you may be aware, on Monday 4 January 2021, Scotland’s First Minister announced a tightening of restrictions in response to the new, highly transmissible strain of COVID-19. The latest restrictions – similar to those implemented last March – are required to reduce and control transmission of the virus ahead of the rollout of the planned national vaccination programme. Please familiarise yourself with the latest restrictions.

I understand that this continues to be an uncertain time for you and your loved-ones, therefore, I want to outline how the newly imposed restrictions may affect you and our on-campus services over the coming weeks. We are continuing to work through the detail of the latest measures and will provide further updates whenever there is new government guidance or advice.  

Spring semester: overview

Please be reassured that, for the majority of students, the spring semester will begin as planned – for undergraduates on 18 January, and postgraduates on 1 February (see further details below under the ‘Learning, teaching and research’ section).

While the Scottish Government has made it clear that everyone should stay at home, it  has also confirmed that the guidance for universities and the travel exemptions for higher education students, which accompanied the pre-Christmas Level 4 restrictions, will continue at this time.

While the government is keeping guidance for universities under review, currently the following is permitted: essential research, in-person teaching on undergraduate vocational courses, postgraduate teaching and staggered returns to University accommodation for students up until 25 January. Please note, however, that the government has advised that any students set to return to University accommodation after 25 January should expect their return to be delayed and I will communicate with you further as soon as more details are available. 

 

Students should remain in their current household if they are able to do so. However, this may not be possible in all cases and, should you have to return to your University accommodation from anywhere in the UK or overseas – or commute to campus for educational reasons – please be assured that this is permitted as essential travel.

It is also worth noting that, in the last 24 hours, there have been reports that the UK Government is considering making it a requirement for anyone arriving into the UK from overseas to provide evidence of having received a negative COVID-19 test within the previous 72 hours. Before travelling, you are advised to check with your airline or other passenger carrier about UK entry requirements.

Learning, teaching and research

As outlined in my message on 22 December, the majority of undergraduate students will start spring semester on Monday 18 January. This remains unchanged and all learning and teaching will be delivered online until at least early February, with the exception of those studying vocational courses – faculties will continue to communicate directly with those students, including in relation to placement learning.

For postgraduate taught students, the semester remains scheduled to begin on Monday 1 February with both online and in-person teaching planned. Further details will be shared ahead of the semester, as the level of in-person teaching permitted by the Scottish Government remains subject to change.

Postgraduate research students are permitted to continue their research activity, where essential, in line with Scottish Government legislation and guidance. Postgraduate research students should follow the protocols and guidance, for both laboratory and fieldwork, which were previously communicated during the December Level 4 restriction period. All access to buildings, including laboratories, needs to be approved by your faculty Dean.

We understand that the closure of schools and nurseries may present childcare issues for some of our students. If you find yourself in this situation, please be reassured that we will work with you and offer flexibility to support you in your studies during this time. If you have any concerns or questions please contact your faculty for advice as soon as possible.

Accommodation and COVID-19 testing

In line with Scottish Government legislation, students should remain in their current household if they are able to do so. However, government guidance for universities associated with the Level 4 restrictions recognises that this may not be possible or practical for all students. Should you need to return to your University accommodation – for example, for wellbeing reasons or to access WiFi to support online learning – please be reassured that you are allowed to do so, and we will fully support your safe return to campus.

The University is operating a safe, phased return to campus for students in University accommodation. If you are planning on returning to campus, please book your return slot – further information and booking is available on the accommodation webpages.

We also ask that you book two COVID-19 tests, three days apart, at the on-campus No-Symptoms Test Centre, to coincide with your return. See the University website for more information and booking details.

We understand that some students will be unable to return to University accommodation during this period of lockdown. For those impacted, we will issue a credit to your accommodation account for each day that you have been unable to return to your accommodation during this lockdown period. Full details will be communicated directly to University accommodation residents. Centro House accommodation is a private owner and this credit process does not automatically apply to residents of that building; however if you have exceptional circumstances that you wish the owner to be aware of, we will represent your case to the owner for their consideration. Please contact: accommodation@stir.ac.uk

Support is also available to students who are facing financial difficulties during this period. A range of Student Hardship Funds are available – to find out more, or to apply, please visit the dedicated webpages.

On-campus services

  • The Library remains open, with restricted hours in place from Thursday (January 7): 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday; 10am-5pm, Saturday and Sunday. A ‘click and collect’ service is in operation for print materials and study spaces must be booked online or via the University of Stirling app.
  • Catering: Scran and Refresh are open for takeaways and deliveries only. Opening times and details are available on the website. The Pod in Pathfoot and Nourish, in the Sports Centre, are closed.
  • Airthrey Park Medical Centre and Right Medicine Pharmacy are open. Opening times and contact details are available on their websites.
  • Co-op, located in the Atrium, remains open 8am – 10pm daily.
  • The Atrium study space is closed.
  • The Sports Centre is closed.
  • The Students’ Union services and Officers remain available for all students remotely. You can contact the Union at theunion@stir.ac.uk or visit their website.
  • The Students’ Union shop in the Atrium, including its online service, is currently closed.

Student support

Please remember that your lecturers and tutors remain on hand to provide support during this challenging period. You can also contact our Student Support Services team for access to a wide range of other support services and can access the anonymous online wellbeing platform togetherall, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

While I realise that this is not the beginning to 2021 that we had all hoped for, I do take confidence from the fact that vaccines are now being rolled out across the UK. I hope we will begin our transition back towards normality over the coming semester.

As the new semester gets under way, and as and when new guidelines are published, we will provide further updates. If you have any immediate concerns you should contact your programme director or faculty office.

Please continue to follow the Scottish Government’s general public health advice and guidance, look after one another and stay safe.

Best wishes for the new semester and a safe and healthy 2021.

 

Eileen Schofield

University Secretary and Chief Operating Officer

COVID-19 Response Lead

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