Message from the Vice-Chancellor following announcement of national lockdown

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, has written to all colleagues today (Tuesday 5 January).

Dear colleagues,

As you will be aware, last night the Prime Minister announced that England is being placed into a further period of lockdown until at least mid-February in response to the escalating rate of COVID infection across the country.

I know that after enduring close to a full year of varying restrictions that have presented you all with very significant personal and professional challenges, this will be the last news you will have wanted to receive at the start of a new year.

So, first, I want to reassure you as Vice-Chancellor that I understand that this ongoing situation has a significant human and emotional dimension and I am committed to working with colleagues to do everything we can to support you, including continuing to take steps to ensure your safety, health and welfare.

From my first four months at the University I have seen first-hand what a supportive, collaborative and understanding community we are. I am sure that if we harness the same spirit that has served us so well up until now, we can together get through to the other side of this in the best possible shape.

At the time of writing we await further Government guidance on what this new period of lockdown specifically means for universities. However, our general principle remains that those who can work effectively from home (in the UK unless otherwise agreed) will continue to do so, coming onto campus only where that is necessary to deliver or support research, student education or the student experience, or because of another agreed reason to work on site.

It might be helpful to summarise our approach at this time in a few key specific areas:

Student education

We are working on the basis that arrangements for student education will continue as set out in Roger Gair’s email to you on 31 December. That is, except for those taking a select number of specified subjects (which at Leeds means Clinical and Social Work programmes), or those who need to return to Leeds for other specific reasons, students should not return to university until further notice. Latest Government guidance suggests this will not be before mid-February at the very earliest. Regardless of when students do return, and in line with the guidance from the Government, they must be tested for COVID – and found negative – before they can interact with others or use facilities on campus. 

The headline position is that until further notice (and at least until mid-February) teaching and assessment will be online except for a very small number of exemptions.


We are keen to ensure that as far as is practical and safe, where necessary, research that needs to be carried out on campus continues. Those of you carrying out research on campus should therefore continue to do so, unless advised otherwise.

Student support

We currently have a significant number of students in Leeds in a combination of University-owned and private accommodation. We will continue to provide essential support services to these students, including access to appropriate study space on campus.

Safety on campus and lateral flow testing

We continue to be confident that our campus remains a safe environment, and it is important to stress that no evidence has emerged to suggest transmission of the virus through work or educational (as opposed to social) activities at Leeds. However, we will of course keep arrangements under review and adjust them if the evidence suggests this is necessary or we are required to do so to ensure our community’s health and safety. Specifically, lateral flow testing will be available for staff who are displaying no symptoms of COVID, tests are now available to book

Caring responsibilities

Finally, I am very aware that for those of you with caring responsibilities, the closure of schools will add a further additional burden on you and that you will understandably want to do everything you can to support your children’s education and wellbeing during this difficult time. As with the initial period of lockdown last year, we recognise that you’re unlikely to be able to work exactly as you would from campus. 

Please speak to your line manager and have an open and pragmatic conversation to explore and agree what is possible to help you balance childcare and work, recognising that working patterns may be different and it may not be possible to work as we did if we are also caring for children. Line managers are empowered to agree and support ways of working that may differ to the usual working routines.

To complement the help and support provided by line managers we provide carer’s leave. Please remember that the standard entitlement of paid carer’s leave has been increased from 5 days to 10 days until the end of March 2021 (pro rata for part-time staff). This 10 days includes any carer’s leave already taken within the past 12 month period. View carer’s leave guidance

We will ensure that we keep you updated as Government guidance is issued and as the situation develops, but in the meantime I thank you for your continued commitment, hard work and perseverance.

I know this may seem like a particularly bleak moment in the pandemic, but the prospect of widespread vaccination over the coming months may offer a route out of this situation in the not too distant future and I am confident that if we take the right steps now we will be able to prosper when life returns to normal.

In the meantime, look after yourself and those close to you.

With best wishes,

Simone Buitendijk


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