A message from the Vice-Chancellor: update on health and safety arrangements

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, has written to all colleagues today (Wednesday 13 January).

Dear colleagues,

I appreciate that these continue to be exceptionally challenging circumstances for you, professionally and personally, and I thank you for the huge effort and commitment you demonstrate daily. The University Executive Group met yesterday and agreed that the key to coming through this most difficult of periods is to continue to pull together as one community. This involves recognising the interdependencies between different parts of our community and doing what we can to support each other, while being sensitive to each other’s needs and concerns.

To this end, it is important to stress again that there are a number of students who are eligible to be on campus under the national lockdown guidelines. We know, for example, that there are at least 2,000 students currently living in University accommodation. Inevitably, therefore, there are a number of colleagues who need to be on campus to provide support services and facilities for these students, as well as colleagues providing face-to-face teaching for identified courses and those conducting research that cannot be done remotely.

I recognise that we cannot give the students that are with us in person, or the many thousands currently working remotely, the same experience they would have enjoyed if there were no pandemic. I am confident that most of our students understand and accept this, and I am sure that you do too. But nonetheless, it is essential that we have their wellbeing at the forefront of our plans and activities. I also recognise that we all have concerns about our own safety and wellbeing, particularly when we have to come on to site.

I want to reassure you that we will continue to prioritise your health, safety, and wellbeing. To this end, we continually review our arrangements, taking advice from public health bodies and working very closely with our academic experts, some of whom are members of government scientific advisory committees. We are determined to help prevent the spread of the virus.

I thought it might therefore be helpful to provide an update on health and safety arrangements.

First, a reminder that we all need do our bit: it’s everyone’s responsibility to remember hands, face, space:

  • Hands: soap or hand sanitiser should be used regularly
  • Face: wear a face covering while moving around all indoor areas (corridors, walkways, open-plan offices) and while seated in teaching spaces, libraries and study spaces
  • Space: 2m social distancing is crucial (unless extra control measures are assessed, agreed and put in place.)

To keep our campus safe, our University is:

  • Restricting people and activities on campus by:
    • Limiting numbers of staff on campus to those carrying out essential work in teaching, research, student support and support services to keep the campus going.
    • Seeking to control the number of students on campus.
    • Setting strict guidelines for click and collect at the library and pre-booking study spaces.
    • Closing buildings not currently seen as ‘essential’, while maintaining key services (e.g. water hygiene) so they can be reopened quickly when appropriate.
    • Supporting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable or shielding not to come onto campus. 
    • Reviewing local risk assessments with heads of school/service so only ‘essential’ activities occur on campus.
  • Providing free car parking on campus for staff and students to minimise the need for public transport.
  • Maintaining the need to wear face coverings while moving around all indoor areas (corridors, walkways, open-plan offices) and while seated in teaching spaces, libraries and study spaces.
  • Continuing to provide free face coverings for staff and students who need them on campus.
  • Increasing the number of cleaning materials available and expanding our cleaning frequency – especially in common areas like toilets, libraries, entrances and exits etc. 
  • Providing lateral flow testing for University staff and students who have remained on, or are coming back to campus, followed by ongoing weekly tests, to ensure we can identify asymptomatic cases quickly and effectively. Since the start of the January, we’ve carried out more than 6,000 tests already and this service continues – book an asymptomatic test
  • Closing our sports facilities.
  • Offering takeaway only at University cafes apart from the refectory, which will remain open only for sit down meals for our catered residents.
  • Continuing to review and monitor our ventilation measures across the campus.
  • Increasing campus signage to remind everyone to follow ‘Hands-face-space’ advice.
  • Carrying out daily monitoring to support these measures being put in place.

Remote workers 

For those of you working remotely, including from home, I understand how difficult it is balancing all the requirements placed on you. We are enhancing the support we offer and will share more detail with you in the coming weeks. Actions include:

  • Revising how best to meet your remote working DSE and IT needs.
  • Training for managers to help maintain a sense of belonging for teams and individuals, while working remotely.
  • Classes, social groups and other relaxed opportunities for staff to connect remotely with others through the Logik Centre.
  • For those with caring responsibilities, the carer’s leave allowance has been increased to 10 days within a 12 month period to support you during lockdown.
  • Providing more training and support through digital learning resources that can help supplement your classes and support your students to study remotely.  

Support available for all colleagues

We are still working through your valuable and honest feedback to the November wellbeing survey and will share our response with you in the coming weeks.

 .In the meantime, I’d like to remind all colleagues about the support available if you feel you are struggling now or are concerned that you may do so in the future. We can help by:

  • Providing one-to-one support through confidential wellbeing chats (with Occupational Health practitioners), confidential counselling with Staff Counselling, and external support around workplace mental health (from the Department of Work and Pensions).
  • Facilitating ad hoc access to campus for health reasons, arranged through your line manager on an individual basis, if this becomes important.
  • Sharing details of online wellbeing resources to support good mental health including information and exercises etc.
  • Offering workouts, exercises and articles on staying healthy at home, recipes, quit smoking support, and sleep advice through the Healthy body wellbeing webpages

If you are finding this time particularly difficult, or have concerns about health and safety, please do speak to your manager about it. We will always try to be flexible wherever possible.

Let me close by reiterating our thanks to you all for your continued constructive response to the pandemic, and for your ongoing efforts in what remains a very challenging time.

With best wishes,


Professor Simone Buitendijk


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