The University of Cumbria has begun working on its plans to reopen its campus services, where it is safe to do so, and the reintroduction of some face-to-face teaching from September 2020.
Stressing that the health, safety and wellbeing of its staff and students continues to be the main priority, the university said it will continue to follow and be guided by Government and Public Health England advice on how and when a safe return to working on campus is feasible.
Acknowledging that current and prospective students – along with their parents, carers and teachers – want to know much more about what their university experience will look like in the autumn, University of Cumbria Pro-Vice Chancellor, Professor Brian Webster-Henderson said: “The way the world will look by then is not completely clear to any of us, but we would like to reassure our staff, students and applicants that we are working hard on our plans and will keep people updated as our strategies for 2020/21 take shape.
“At this point in time, we continue to plan for the new academic year and look forward to welcoming existing and new students to our university.
“It’s an exciting time to be starting university. We will be playing a major role in helping to drive economic recovery as we move out of the pandemic and our students will be part of this.
“We are following advice from the UK Government, and planning for a range of scenarios to ensure our academic year can start in September 2020.
“Our plans include looking at new approaches to providing practical sessions to exploring the use of ‘bubble’ groups within courses – we know most students want a face-to-face experience and we are working hard to get the balance right.
“Our top priority is how to give students the best possible experience while protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of students, our staff and the wider community.”
The university has confirmed it intends to run induction weeks and start teaching for courses as originally planned, though much of the induction activity will be online.
Teaching and assessment will be delivered through a blended learning approach, with all students undertaking a significant amount of their study online and coming onto campus only for those learning activities which are essential to the course and which cannot be taught and/or assessed remotely.
“Blended learning is not a new concept. Gone are the days where students spend hours sitting in lecture theatres being talked at.
“Today’s learning is all about innovation and providing our students with a rich and varied experience.
“Our new and returning students can be confident that we will be providing a high-quality, engaging and positive experience which is accessible to all this autumn so they can continue towards their career and life goals.” Professor Webster-Henderson added.
Students will also have access to study space, the libraries and IT labs, and face to face support on the days when they are scheduled to have on campus programme sessions.
The university is keen to stress that all on-campus activity will be subject to social distancing measures and timetabling will reflect the need to ensure that total numbers of students and staff on each campus, each day, are within the limits that will permit safe practice.
Students who cannot attend for medical reasons (e.g. those required to continue shielding) will be supported on an individual basis using the university’s existing provisions for sickness absence and intercalation.