I am writing to keep you updated with the changes we are making in the University in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
I have recently taken on the role of Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students (you can read more about my role here) and it has been a busy few months doing everything I can to ensure that we put your safety and wellbeing first, whilst continuing to put in place measures to allow you to continue your learning at Cardiff.
Thank you for your positive engagement while we made a rapid shift to remote teaching in recent months. We know that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty for you, both in terms of the immediate changes to your education but also to the plans and aspirations you may have for the years ahead.
So firstly, I want to reassure you that our plan is to open our campus in September 2020, and we are actively working to make the campus and our student residences meet government guidelines. I will tell you a bit more about how this may be different from when you were last on campus.
Planning underway to reopen campus buildings
Our focus is on creating a safe environment for you to study and learn, and we are taking part in discussions with government on how to re-open universities safely. At Cardiff we are currently considering how we could reopen each academic building, identifying the social distancing and hygiene measures required for reopening with staff, students and visitor safety as the main focus. This plan also extends to library, laboratories, IT services, and wider social and study space. We will update you in due course on our plans, and the safety and hygiene measures we are putting in place.
If you are a final year undergraduate student you may be wondering about your degree outcome and graduation. As part of our Safety Net Policy, you will soon be able to view your ‘B Average’ mark in SIMS on your Academic Record. All ‘B Averages’ will be provisional until ratification through your Schools Examining Board, where they will consider this alongside your Degree Average to ensure that no student is disadvantaged by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We will provide you with more information in Student News when it is available.
The Graduation Team are also working through various options to celebrate your graduation, and this includes the opportunity for a virtual celebration this summer, you will receive an announcement of arrangements for this in mid-June.
Next academic year
We know that one of your main concerns is what your student experience will be like from September and I have already outlined how we are looking to re-open the campus and have your health and safety at the centre of every decision we make on this.
It will also be necessary to look at new and innovative ways to deliver the Cardiff University experience without compromising our public health requirements. Our approach to learning and teaching therefore needs to be flexible and adaptable to ensure that you continue to receive the high-quality learning experience that will help you succeed.
Large lectures will not take place on campus so we will continue with engaging and enhanced online learning activities and classes, together with on-campus teaching and learning. Where social distancing requirements can be met, we are exploring some small-group teaching on campus, such as tutorials or clinical, studio and laboratory sessions. A dedicated team is currently reworking our buildings to maximise the space given over to teaching so that we can deliver as much learning on-site as possible.
We are also considering how to open our libraries to allow students and researchers to access resources that are not available online – where we can provide safe study space we will.
Through this process, we are consulting with students about their experience of this way of studying and building on their feedback in the course materials that are being prepared now. You will soon receive an invitation to complete a short survey so we can receive your input and you can contribute directly to shaping our education provision in the new academic session. We are also working with the Cardiff University Students’ Union looking at other aspects of student life for 2020/21.
Of course, there are other aspects of study that may have to change. We are working with our academic schools and support services to consider the feasibility of study trips, years abroad and work placements in response to the government guidelines in place across the UK and internationally. Where these activities cannot be delivered or there are changes to delivery we will be open and honest with you, and share information with you as soon as we have it. This will also extend to changes to the curriculum that we may need to make in response to coronavirus (COVID-19). Our plan is to contact you in mid-August to confirm all arrangements to help you prepare for the start of the new year.
Finally, we know that the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and any ensuing government guidelines are changing rapidly, so although I may not be able to answer all queries you may have now, as information and planning become more certain, I will endeavour to keep you regularly updated.
We continue to update our information regarding changes due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, so please check in regularly.
If you are in your assessment period, I hope it is going well and I look forward to sharing more developments with you shortly.
Pro Vice-Chancellor, Education and Students