Questions from Working Together: Autumn Term 2020

Catch up on many of the most popular questions put to our speakers if you missed our all staff sessions.

Parkinson building with covid-19 signage

If you missed our sessions on the steps we’re taking to welcome back students and deliver a high quality education in the coming academic year, we’ve rounded up and summarised many of the most frequently asked questions and those that received the greatest number of ‘thumbs up’ in the chat bar. A recording of the presentation from our third session is also available to watch.

As there were so many, varied questions asked, we’ll have more to publish here soon.

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Future staff events

Will there be more sessions like this?

​In our feedback survey 97% of colleagues that responded said they would like to see more of this type of event. We’re already planning for how we will deliver these and subject areas we’ll cover. We’ll be sharing more on this soon.

Covid testing and track and trace

Will there be private testing facilities for staff and students?

We currently have no plans to introduce private testing, however there is a NHS testing centre on campus (in the Gryphon Sports Centre) which has been open for a number of weeks. The centre is on the western edge of campus, on Woodsley Road, and is open to the community as well as students and staff. Appointments must be made through the NHS national test-booking website

Are there venue check-in QR codes on campus? I've noticed some faculties/schools are using their own local track and trace solutions?

There are QR code scanning points across campus and in some areas we are using our own systems (including timetabling information) to collect data to support the test and trace approach.

We have introduced NHS Test and Trace QR codes and we are moving towards using only these and also paper records where required, for example in catering outlets, when customers are not using the NHS COVID-19 app.

Are there any plans to provide information on the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in staff and students?

On 7 October we began publishing weekly data on the number of covid-19 cases among students and staff along with answers to key questions you may have. We update these numbers weekly on a Wednesday and share them through @UniLeedsComms and our Friday editions of eNews extra.


How much support is there for staff to learn the new digital education systems?

There has been a rapid expansion in the number of digital education systems available to help you support student learning, and there is extensive training, guidance and support available to help use these tools effectively. You can get support in a variety of ways, including traditional training courses, interaction with support teams via helpdesks, and live support from a buddy when using a new virtual classroom.

Visit the Digital Practice website for more information, guidance and resources.

Can a single office be used for a 1:1 tutorial given the required distancing?

Making office space available is the next priority in the phased reopening of campus and has already begun in some areas. This is being carried out under leadership of the head of school or service. However, there is no guarantee or expectation that staff will have access to the same offices they used to have before lockdown. We do recognise that staff need access to office space and in so doing will allow them to have 1:1 tutorials.

If students disregard signage/requests to comply with rules, what should we do?

Online guidance on safety measures for teaching is available to help colleagues understand the safety measures implemented for the protection of both staff and students when they need to deliver face-to-face teaching. You can download the key points in a handy poster format, which will also be located in all central teaching spaces. We’ve also updated the same webpage with practical strategies on ‘how to say when it’s not okay’ if you see someone not following safety guidelines.

Working from home or on campus

I’d like to work on campus, but I get the impression that it isn’t an option for the foreseeable future?  

The default position (between 1 September until after the Christmas break) is that people should continue to work from home. The priorities for re-entry have been and still are research spaces; central teaching space, and specialist teaching spaces such as teaching laboratories and studios.

Members of school staff familiar with the spaces have been carrying out the re-configuration work, under the leadership and direction of the head of school and with the assistance and guidance of Health & Safety, facilities management and others where this is required.

The onus is also on heads of school to determine who can use office space and when, i.e. the expectation initially is that staff will only require use of office space when on campus for research or face-to-face teaching activity or in support of the student experience.

Heads of school and services may also determine that staff with poor or unsafe home-working environments should be prioritised to work on campus. HR coordinates a process to enable this – please speak to your line manager or HR contact as soon as possible if this applies to you.

What financial support is available for colleagues working from home? 

See our information on working from home equipment and expenses and remote working tax relief on the coronavirus website.

Future ways of working

Will the future of teaching be blended learning? 

Yes, our future strategy is to deliver a blended learning experience for our students who have enrolled on an on-campus degree. But we need to ensure blended learning is evidence based, the best way to teach our students and that it also gives students the skills they need.

Even if covid-19 hadn’t hit, we would still be focusing on online digital transformation. Some of what we are doing now is in ‘crisis mode’ - but we have learnt a lot during this period and we will take forward the best practice into our future strategy. We will still have face-to-face teaching but blended learning is the way forward and part of our future strategy. 

What is digital transformation and why do we need it? Read more in this Inside Track from DVC Digital Transformation, Professor Neil Morris

For colleagues who prefer working from home, do you foresee a more flexible approach to working arrangements in the future? 

The future will look very different to pre-pandemic times and we are changing our approach to flexible working. We have seen and heard how many colleagues have found benefits in the ways of working we’ve had to adopt this year.  We haven’t made any decisions yet but we are considering what the future looks like in terms of flexible working. At the moment the flexible working policy on the HR website remains in operation.

Do we have a group that is looking at the new ways of working, developed during his period, and the opportunities this could create? 

There is a group looking at lessons learnt and future opportunities. At the moment it is across several different areas, for example in HR we are looking at flexible working, but in other areas the nature of work will drive decisions. This work will take a little while as we are trying to look at new ways of working while also supporting people dealing with the current challenges.  

When will we know where we are financially and be able to re-plan accordingly? 

Our former Vice-Chancellor, Alan Langlands, communicated in an email to all staff in May, that we won’t know the extent of our financial risk until we:

  • complete the 2020 student recruitment and admissions cycle;
  • hear more about whether or not the Government is likely to fund delayed research projects; and
  • assess the very significant effects on other income streams, including residences and commercial activity.

We are modelling a range of scenarios taking into account latest information, but registration of international students always works to a later timetable than the UK recruitment cycle. We have also introduced a January entry option for a significant number of our postgraduate programmes so we will not be clear about our student recruitment outcome until early 2021.

So for now, as we continue to face significant financial risks and uncertainty resulting from covid-19, we need to continue to operate within the stricter financial regime that was introduced earlier this year. At present the steps to mitigate the possibility of this unprecedented shortfall in income are:

  • pausing significant capital expenditure on projects where construction contracts have not been awarded or avoidable costs incurred;
  • limiting new appointments to essential posts only; and
  • putting a tight rein on all non-staff costs.

We expect to understand the impact on 2020/21 by February 2021.

Diversity and inclusion

Decolonising the curriculum is one thing; decolonising the University is another. What are the VC's views on this? 

We recognise that bias and discrimination still exist both in society and in higher education, and that there are disadvantages and inequalities in accessing education, new opportunities and experiences, and positive outcomes for some students and staff. This is not acceptable and we remain committed to achieving an equal and inclusive environment for all, and taking action to deliver this. 

The University's Equality and Inclusion Framework 2020-25, published in July will help ensure that every member of our community is treated with dignity and mutual respect.  

The University’s Equality and Inclusion Board (EIB) agreed that race equality and inclusion should be our first priority for action, underlying its importance as an essential part of every facet of University life. 

On Wednesday 24 June, the Board received and approved a progress report on the Race Equality Action Plan, and confirmed our commitment as a signatory of the Race at Work Charter. See also, Inside Track - Sir Alan Langlands: Taking action on equality and inclusion

Student support

What support is there for students who are isolating? 

We are committed to ensuring students receive all the support they need if they are required to self-isolate. We have clear plans in place for this, including ensuring they have adequate food supplies. We have robust and effective processes for looking after our students, in particular in our own residences.

Every student who is in self-isolation in University accommodation is contacted frequently through the welfare team to ensure they have everything they need, including delivery of food where necessary, but also access to other services and advice. Where we know about them, we are also contacting self-isolating students in private residences. Read more about self-isolation guidance and support for students


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