13 January: Message from the University Secretary – spring semester
Happy new year — I hope you had a safe and enjoyable break and got to spend time with loved ones.
First Minister’s update and spring semester
Before Christmas, there was some uncertainty as to whether the Omicron strain of COVID-19 would significantly, further impact on our way of life. In Parliament earlier this week, the First Minister updated that while the situation for the NHS remains challenging, there is reason to be optimistic – given protective measures, behavioural change and vaccination has mitigated, to some extent, the spread of Omicron.
She confirmed that some restrictions will begin to be eased from Monday 17 January, including lifting the attendance limit of 500 at large scale outdoor events. Also from Monday, the requirement of being fully vaccinated for certification purposes will include having a booster (if the second dose was more than four months ago.)
The booster jab - which significantly reduces the risk of hospitalisation due to COVID-19 – is available to anyone who had their second dose at least three months ago. More information can be found on the NHS Inform website.
If you are eligible to have a booster jab, this can be booked via NHS Inform and NHS Forth Valley continue to run drop-in clinics in our Pathfoot Building.
Spring semester and timetable
As things stand, and fully informed by the latest public health guidance and risk assessments, I am pleased to confirm we are continuing with our plans to deliver more in-person teaching in the spring semester – which begins for most students on 24 January.
Your teaching timetable is available via the ‘Timetable’ tile on the University of Stirling app and through My Module Timetable Checker. Please continue to check regularly for any updates to personal timetables.
Travel and testing
The First Minister continues to emphasise the importance of all university and college students, including those based in Scotland and other parts of the UK, to test immediately before travelling from home to term time accommodation. Once at Stirling, you should test at least twice weekly and before socialising with other households. This also applies before attending classes on campus and is a critical step to keeping yourself, other students and our staff safe. Even if you don’t have symptoms, taking regular lateral flow tests – available on campus, from pharmacies and online – especially before mixing with other people, is important to containing the spread of COVID-19.
International students: travel and visa holders
As you may be aware, travel rules have changed over the last couple of weeks. Anyone travelling to Scotland from a country outside the UK and the Common Travel Area, and who is fully vaccinated or under the age of 18, no longer needs to take a pre-departure PCR test – but must book in advance a private provider LFD test or PCR test to be taken within 48hrs of arrival.
Where COVID-related travel restrictions, including issues with visas, might temporarily prevent students from attending classes in person, arrangements can be made to support those students to study online during that period.
However, please ensure you are aware of the sponsorship and attendance requirements for UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), noting that the UK government’s distance learning concession for student visa holders who are overseas expires on 6 April 2022. This is important for any student who progresses with their studies, and then wishes to apply for a post-study work visa once they have successfully completed their course and been granted an academic award. If you are a student visa holder and are unable to meet UKVI attendance requirements, you will have the option to defer your studies. Faculties and student support services will be able to assist with specific queries.
To celebrate the beginning of semester, the University and Students’ Union have produced a fantastic programme of in-person and online welcome activities. New students can find information on the welcome pages of the website. The calendar of events includes opportunities for students to join the Union’s clubs and societies and sports teams and to make new friends. Our hugely successful Be Connected programme – with social and community building activities, and a strong focus on health and wellbeing – will also run all year.
The Students’ Union will also be offering additional in-person and online events, so keep an eye on their website and social media platforms for the most up-to-date information.
Important protective measures remain in place across campus – including hand hygiene, cleaning, wearing face coverings and ventilation. Please remember to follow the Stirling Campus Pledge and respect each other’s space and personal circumstances.
The Scottish Government has now adapted the self-isolation and testing rules. For those with symptoms of COVID-19, the advice remains to book a PCR test. However, a positive lateral flow test for those with no symptoms should now be treated as confirmation of infection – a follow-up PCR test is no longer required – and requires immediate isolation and reporting of the result online to Test and Protect and to the University.
Anyone who has tested positive, or is isolating, can now end isolation on day seven rather than on day 10, subject to no fever and two negative lateral flow tests, taken no earlier than day six after testing positive and another at least 24 hours later. All students should report if they are experiencing symptoms or self-isolating by using this form, and should let the University know the results of PCR tests by emailing ECSRptCovidInfo@stir.ac.uk. By informing us we can support you during your period of isolation.
Everyone is encouraged to take a LFD test before they meet with anyone from outside their household and before attending in-person classes. Free LFD test kits can be collected at various locations on campus – go to the University website for collection points.
Scottish Government intends to review the data next week and we will continue to monitor the updates on an ongoing basis and keep you informed about any important information, so please continue to check your university emails regularly.
We look forward to seeing you soon.
Best wishes for the semester ahead.
University Secretary and Chief Operating Officer
COVID Response Lead