Students Staff
University of Essex

May 7, 2020

Planning for our return to campus-based working

Dear colleagues and students,

Talking to colleagues, I know that many of us are anxious about returning to work on our campuses and keen to know how we are going to manage a process of phased return, that prioritises the safety, health and well-being of our staff and students. You may also have seen reports in the national press over the last 24 hours that the Prime Minister will make an announcement about the Government’s “roadmap” for lifting the lockdown on Sunday 10th May. The key headline I want to share is that other than essential staff currently working on our campuses, you should continue to work from home until, as a University community, we are confident that we can manage a phased return to campus-based working, that keeps our students and staff safe.

First and foremost, whilst we will always take UK Government advice into account in shaping the actions of the University, our approach goes beyond merely obeying the law of the land. We are absolutely committed to doing all that we can to safeguard the health and well-being of staff and students. This is why, despite some criticism, we implemented our ‘Enhanced Protection’ measures on 16th March, suspending all face-to-face delivery of teaching and supervision, in advance of the Government’s lockdown of the UK on 23rd March. Whatever the Government says over the weekend, we will not be announcing a phased return to campus based working next week (11th – 15th May).

Second, we know that the trust and confidence that our community have in our plans to return to campus-based work and study will play a key role in ensuring that, when the time is right for a phased return, people feel willing and able to return to campus-based working. This is true for those of us who continue to work on our campuses in an environment where only 1,500 staff and students are currently on the Colchester campus – as well as for staff and students who have been off campus working from home. A key feature of our approach is to publish detailed plans to managing our campuses during the pandemic. Our ‘Enhanced’ and ‘Advanced’ Protection Plans are available on our website, so that everyone can clearly see the actions we are taking to protect the safety of our community, and so that we can benefit from your feedback on our approach. We will continue to adopt this approach: we will publish the next set of detailed plans for a phased return to campus-based working as soon as these are ready. We will also continue to work very closely with all three of our campus trades unions, noting TUC and sector-based union advice and other sector guidance from bodies such as Universities UK and the Society of College, National and University Libraries. We are also working with the S10 Group, a group of 10 campus-based universities in the south of England and we will also draw on experiences of return-to-work planning from organisations and sectors outside Higher Education when we meet with our external Council members at our Council Away Day next Monday. We haven’t got all the answers and we want your views on what you would like to see included – and on how we can best provide assurance to you. Please feel free to email us at covid19@essex.ac.uk if you have views that you would like to share.

Our approach will recognise the personal circumstances of staff and students. This includes specific consideration of health risks for our staff, including a colleague’s own underlying medical conditions and for those of us who live with people who may be shielding, self-isolating or, themselves, have underlying conditions. Our approach also includes us ensuring that we will protect your health in a variety of physical locations, such as teaching rooms, offices, accommodation, retail and catering outlets and entry and exiting of physical spaces. Equality, diversity and inclusion issues will be at the forefront of our minds and our plans subject to an equality impact assessment/COVID-19 risk assessment. We will also consult with health and safety representatives of our three campus trades unions, before finalising our plans.

It is most likely that the Government will adopt an approach of progressively loosening of lockdown restrictions. I want to assure you that we will begin to implement our plans for phased return to our campuses only when we can do so safely. Instead of my weekly email next week, Bryn Morris, our Registrar and Secretary will send an all staff email to share our draft plans and seek your feedback.

Finally, we are also reviewing all aspects of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needs across the various environments in which we may need to work and to ensure PPE matches the personal circumstances that each of us might have. This includes: the adequate provision of PPE such as face masks/gloves; ensuring that we embrace sustainable solutions; and that, in looking after our needs, we do not take vital equipment away from the NHS, health and social care sectors and other emergency services. In addition, we are looking at the layout of facilities, how our staff and students can work safely in shared offices and navigate around campus with minimum congestion; and how we can best highlight our community’s expectations of individual staff and students in terms of social distancing, hand washing, the use of hand sanitizers and so on. We are also looking at a wide range of issues related to travel to and from our places of work.

In advance of any Government announcement, I hope this provides an update on our general approach and reassurance that, whilst we all want to return to campus-based working, it has to be in circumstances where risks are managed carefully and our staff and students have confidence that you will be safe.

I hope you have a good break over the early May Bank Holiday and that you and your families stay safe and well.

Anthony Forster

Vice-Chancellor



May 6, 2020

Supporting you to succeed

Our Academic Registrar, Richard Stock, tells us more about all the support we can offer our students to help them to prepare and to succeed. 

I hope you are settling into the new term after the Easter vacation. I know this remains a difficult time for everyone, and especially for our students. We have all had to adapt very quickly to working remotely. I know that for you this has meant new ways of learning at the same time as managing significant upheaval in your day-to-day lives. I understand how difficult this is. Our primary concern has and will always be the health and wellbeing of our students and staff. Everything we are doing is designed to enable you to continue and complete your programme of study while staying safe.

As we prepare for the start of our main summer exam period next week, I am keen to share with you information on how to access all the support we can offer to help you prepare and to succeed. In the run up to the exam period, please remember to:

In my previous updates to you, I have explained why we are continuing with the exams during the summer term. We are committed to safeguarding your success and we believe it is important that we provide you with opportunities to demonstrate your learning. Our alternative assessments have been adapted to the circumstances of the pandemic and will enable you to continue and complete your programmes of study through this uncertain time.

Our aim is to support you to undertake the assessment set out in your timetable in the same way that you would have been expected to sit the exams that were planned before the COVID-19 pandemic started. At the same time, we do recognise the difficult circumstances that you may be facing and that this means you might not be able to give of your best.

We understand that you may have caring or childcare responsibilities, other personal commitments, or may find it difficult to access IT facilities, all of which might affect your academic performance. The pandemic itself may be causing you to worry as you continue to deal with the implications of social distancing and protecting yourself and your family and friends.

Our approach to alternative assessment takes these factors into account, to ensure that you have a fair opportunity to demonstrate your learning. You will only be assessed on the content of your modules that you have been taught, and the methods of assessment have been adapted to recognise the disruption in your learning as well as the new circumstances in which you are completing them.

How we can support you
If you have any questions about your assessment or your course or modules, please contact the professional services team in your Department or School. They are there for you so please do make the most of them. They have a wealth of knowledge on all the support available in your Department or School and can help if you’re not sure how to contact somebody in the Department.

Please remember to contact your Personal Tutor if you need them. You can talk to them if you have any questions about your course or if you’re having any difficulties with your studies.

We provide a wide range of academic skills support. There are webinars and individual support sessions provided by the Skills for Success team. Events are bookable via CareerHub and more information about the support available can be found on our academic skills pages. Please book a place, or if you have a specific inquiry, please ask: we are here to help.

The Library team is also available to provide you with additional advice and help. The team are working hard every day, responding to emails and providing advice through live chats. Subject Librarians are providing one to one support via Zoom. Please remember to access our online Library resources, you can find information on these pages about how to book a session with your Subject Librarian. The Library team can live chat via the website or you can email them enquiries at libline@essex.ac.uk.

Whatever your circumstances, you will not be disadvantaged
We have taken a number of actions to support you to succeed so that you can progress to the next stage of your studies or graduate this summer. I want to stress that, whatever your circumstances, you will not be disadvantaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I wrote to you on 16 April to set out the main elements of our ‘No Detriment’ approach. We have responded to the exceptional circumstances we are all facing together, while recognising your needs as individual students and the different requirements of your modules and courses. The full details of our no detriment approach are available on our website, which will continue to be updated. Our approach will be applied for all taught students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, and all assessment you have or will undertake in this academic year, including coursework and dissertations, as well as the alternative assessment.

We have streamlined the extenuating circumstances and exam absence notification processes to ensure that we capture and support all students who have experienced difficulties in successfully completing assessments. More information and guidance is now available online so please do take time to read it.

If you can’t take your alternative assessment right now, for whatever reason, we will offer you another opportunity with no penalty. All decisions by the Board of Examiners will take into account the impact of the pandemic and you will not be disadvantaged by the difficulties created by COVID-19.

Student Support Services
Your academic success matters to us as does your wider experience and wellbeing as a member of the Essex community, whichever campus you are on and wherever you are studying now.

Our Student Services Hubs for ColchesterSouthend and Loughton are operating phone, email and live chat facilities and can provide information on our range of mental health and emotional support services.

We are offering online activities to help our community to continue to come together, even if we can’t meet in person. We know some of you are facing financial hardship. We have adapted our student hardship fund, opening it up to all students experiencing hardship and making it as easy and straightforward as possible to apply for support. We are working hard to increase the total amount of funding available through this route.

The Students’ Union Advice service is available and operating remotely. They are able to book Zoom or telephone appointments and can be contacted using the following details:

Or via telephone between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Friday:

  • 07395 955656
  • 07511 303169

For specific queries relating to COVID-19, please email our dedicated team at covid19@essex.ac.uk. Our COVID-19 webpages continue to provide a wealth of information on support available.

I understand that this continues to be a tough time for you and I want you to remember that we are always here to help. Please keep an eye on your Essex email but also Facebook, Twitter, Moodle and MyEssex for updates and support. I wish you all the best as you prepare for the summer assessment period and remainder of this academic year. Stay safe and keep in touch. We are here to support you in any way we can.



May 1, 2020

An update on research spend

In light of the restrictions that COVID-19 has placed on our budgets a number of questions have arisen about spending for research. Our Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research), Professor Christine Raines, tells us more.

Can I spend funds from external research grants?
Yes, there is no change to spend on external research grants and this should continue as normal, all approved costs on grants are available including, for example, appointment of research and professional services staff or externally funded extensions to contracts (these require financial and HR approvals), purchase of equipment and consumables and attendance at conferences (virtual while travel not permitted). The REF census date for spend on research grants is still 31 July 2020 and it would helpful to maximise legitimate spend on grants before 31July. This in turn will also help with Indirect Costs Returned (ICR) generation.

Can I advertise posts funded by external grants during the pandemic and throughout next academic year?
Yes, externally funded posts on research grants can be advertised as per the funding application. To ensure this process runs smoothly, colleagues need to include the text “EXTERNAL FUNDING” and the FUNDER’S NAME, in block capitals in the “Case for Position” section of the “Request to Recruit – Grant Funded (REO)” form found in Unit 4. This will enable our colleagues in People and Culture to identify the roles that can still be recruited to and will prevent any potential delays in the recruitment process.

The University has an established redeployment process to support staff who are at risk of redundancy in applying for other roles that become available within the University. Staff on the redeployment register will be notified of external grant-funded posts when they are advertised. All offers must be approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (academic) or Registrar and Secretary (professional service).

Can funds obtained for teaching buy out be drawn on?
a. Yes, if the research funds obtained have a specified budget line for staff buy-out from teaching as per the request in the application.

b. If the funds obtained are to cover Academic time on a research grant to undertake or manage research, a case should be made upon notification of grant success based on the revised teaching programme, areas to be covered and available existing resource. Any requests for teaching backfill in these circumstances should be made by the Head of Department to the Executive Dean for approval by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor. Requests should be based on the lowest cost option for delivering essential teaching. We remain committed to ensuring Principal Investigators are able to fulfil the research time commitments detailed in the research bid and that departments are able to manage any subsequent teaching need.

Can I continue to spend the funds in my Education and Research Incentive Account (ERIA)?
Yes, any funds held in ERIA accounts will continue to be available to support excellence in research, but should be restricted for essential, time sensitive activities. For example, costs of carrying out time-sensitive pandemic-related research during the period from now until the 31 July 2020. ERIA funds roll over from one financial year into the next and any funds not spent during 2019-20 are guaranteed to remain available during 2020-21. There is no need to spend up these funds before 31 July 2020. Furthermore, as the Vice-Chancellor explained in his email about securing our future, moving expenditure into next academic year wherever possible will help us to avoid returning an accounting deficit in 2019-20. For this reason, wherever possible, it would be better to move this spend to 2020-21, but it will remain available for staff to use in support of time sensitive research activities if needed.

Can my department continue to spend Department Operating Budget on research activities in 2019-20?
Spend from Departmental Operating Budgets has been restricted since the 13 April, with only essential purchases that are mission critical for the sustainability of the University being possible. The pressure we are facing to avoid an accounting deficit in 2019-20 means that we have to limit all spending against operating budgets except where these relate to essential needs. The process for Heads of Department to make requests to meet essential needs is through the faculty accountants with approval by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor. We are asking that those making requests set a high threshold on their definition of essential. The Vice-Chancellor has set out the reasons why this really matters between now and 31 July 2020.

Are internal funds available for COVID-19 research?
Yes. There are 4 potential routes to support essential COVID-19 research

a. Staff who hold external research funds should continue to draw down on these as usual.

b. Staff with access to ERIA funds should continue to use these as you have in the past, noting that where possible it would be better for spend to be accrued in 2020-21 rather than 2019-20.

c. Funding remains available for projects that could fit under either the Impact Acceleration Account (IAA), Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) or Enabling Innovation: Research to Application (EIRA) funds.

d. If no other funding is available, and the project is time-sensitive, please contact me, providing a brief outline of the proposed research and summary of costs.

NB. ECR and junior staff who have no ERIA funds should be prioritised for alternative funding sources (provided the quality and importance of the research is competitive).



April 22, 2020

Principles of our ‘no detriment’ approach

As we enter the summer assessment period, we have been thinking hard about how we can support you at a very difficult time and we have agreed and launched a ‘no detriment’ approach. Madeline Eacott, our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), tells us more.

Some students have told me you are anxious about what this might mean for you and your circumstances. So I wanted to provide you with reassurance that whatever your circumstances, whatever your course, you are in our thinking and the approach applies to you. I want to start by outlining the principles of our approach and the values that underlie our thinking. This means that if we have a circumstance that is not completely covered in our guidance or FAQs, you can be sure that we will apply our principles to ensure the fairest outcome for you.

Principles of our ‘no detriment’ approach

Principle 1: Student success is at the heart of our thinking

We understand that these have been difficult times for you and we want to support you to succeed to the best of your ability. We recognise the difficult circumstances and know that you may not be at your best at the moment. We will take this into account to give you every opportunity to fulfil your potential to succeed.

Principle 2: Our courses offer a high quality transformative education

We want to recognise your achievements by providing you with opportunities to demonstrate your learning so that you can graduate with pride. But if now is not the right time for you to demonstrate your learning, we understand and we will provide you with other opportunities when the time is right, without any penalty.

Our no detriment approach applies to everyone on a taught course at Essex, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, whether you are in your first year of study with us or final year. We may not yet have the answer to every question you may have at the moment but you can rely on these principles to be confident that we are seeking the best outcome for you.

What no detriment means for everyone:

  1. If you can’t take your alternative assessment as timetabled, for any reason, no detriment: we will offer you another opportunity with no penalty.
  2. If you take an assessment but feel that under the current circumstances, you are not at your best, no detriment: we will offer you another opportunity with no penalty.
  3. If your year group as a whole perform more poorly on your module than we would expect based on the last three years of students on that module, no detriment: we will consider the marks to ensure that you are not disadvantaged.
  4. The Board of Examiners will consider the situation of every student based on their results and ensure that the pandemic situation does not disadvantage them, no detriment.

Not yet having met the learning outcomes

We know that some of you are concerned because you have not taken, or passed, assessments in your modules earlier in the year, that have allowed you to demonstrate the full range of your learning. We describe this as not yet having met the learning outcomes. If this is you, the opportunity to take the assessments during the summer term enables you to demonstrate your achievements and to meet the learning outcomes. I want to assure you that our no detriment approach also applies to you. While we want you to take assessments to demonstrate your learning, we will apply the no detriment approach above, particularly point 3. In this way, we will ensure that undertaking assessment during this difficult situation does not disadavantage you and you will achieve as well as previous year groups who did not face the difficulties you have had. If you feel that the current situation has impacted you beyond those experienced by your year group as a whole, you can submit an extenuating circumstances form to explain, and the Board of Examiners will take this into account for your individual marks as well as any adjustment they may make to marks of the whole year group.

Help and support for you

We know this is a difficult time for you but although we cannot be together at our campuses, we are still here to help and support you. If you have any other questions about your assessments, please check our FAQs online or contact the professional services team in your Department or School. We have created a dedicated set of COVID-19 webpages, which provide information on the support available and they are updated regularly. For specific queries relating to COVID-19, please email our team at covid19@essex.ac.uk.

Our Student Services Hubs for ColchesterSouthend and Loughton campuses can be contacted by phone, email and live chat facilities; and our Library team can live chat via the website or you can email them enquiries at libline@essex.ac.uk.

Remember that we want you to succeed and are here to support you.

Madeline Eacott

PVC Education



April 16, 2020

Whatever your circumstances, you will not be disadvantaged

Our Academic Registrar, Richard Stock, tells us more about the measures we’re taking to support you to succeed, to progress to the next stage of your studies or graduate this summer. Whatever your circumstances, you will not be disadvantaged in this by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In previous updates, I have explained why we are continuing with assessment during the summer term. We are committed to our students’ success and want to provide you with opportunities to demonstrate your learning and to continue and complete your programmes of study. While the methods of assessment may have changed, you will still only be assessed on the content of your modules that you have been able to study this year.

The revised examination timetable was published on Monday 6 April. While you are expected to undertake the assessment set out in your timetable in the same way that you would have been expected to sit the exams that were planned before the COVID-19 pandemic started, we genuinely recognise the difficult circumstances that you are facing. We want to enable you to demonstrate your learning, but we also recognise that you might have been significantly affected by the pandemic and you might not be able to give of your best. You may have caring or childcare responsibilities, other personal commitments, or may find it difficult to access IT facilities, all of which might affect your academic performance. The pandemic itself may be causing you to worry as you adjust to the implications of social distancing and protecting yourself and your family and friends. We have a range of services available to you, including to support your mental health and wellbeing.

No detriment policy

Many of you have been asking about the University’s position on a ‘No Detriment’ Policy. We want to support you to succeed in these difficult times. We care about you and your future and I want to stress that we are fully committed to ensuring that the COVID-19 pandemic does not affect your academic performance unfairly. We have agreed an approach to ‘No Detriment’ that responds to the exceptional circumstances we are all facing together while recognising your needs as individual students and the different requirements of your modules and courses.

I want to use my update to highlight the main elements of our ‘No Detriment’ approach for you. Please read the full details of our alternative assessment and no detriment approach on our website, which will continue to be updated regularly.

Our approach will be applied for all taught students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, and all assessment you have or will undertake in this academic year, including coursework and dissertations, as well as the alternative assessment.

The ‘No Detriment’ policy applies to all departments and schools without exception and our policies will be applied, as they normally do, through the Board of Examiners to all taught students and all programmes of study.

If you can’t take your alternative assessment right now, for whatever reason, we will offer you another opportunity with no penalty.

If your module cohort as a whole performs more poorly than we would expect based on the last 3 years of students taking that module, the Board of Examiners will consider the marks and take action to ensure that you are not disadvantaged.

Many of you will have already completed a number of pieces of assessed work and coursework during your modules. These will be used by the Board of Examiners to determine if you have already met the learning outcomes for the module. Where this is the case, the alternative assessment that you undertake during the summer term cannot reduce your overall module mark. You do not need to check whether you have met the learning outcomes and you are not required to provide evidence. This will be determined by the Board of Examiners, as a result of the assessment you have or will undertake.

Some of you may be concerned because you have not taken or passed assessments in your modules earlier in the year that have allowed you to demonstrate the full range of your learning (the “learning outcomes”). While you do need to take the alternative assessment to demonstrate your achievements, I want to assure you that our ‘no detriment’ approach also applies to you. If you take an assessment but feel that under the current circumstances, you are not at your best, we will offer you another opportunity with no penalty. We have strengthened and streamlined our extenuating circumstances processes to ensure that we identify and support all students who experience or have experienced difficulties this year with assessment. More information on the process is being finalised now and will be published very soon.

All decisions by the Board of Examiners will take into account the impact of the pandemic and you will not be disadvantaged by the difficulties created by COVID-19.

Student Support Services

We continue to be focused on ensuring your success remains our priority and we want to support you. If you have any questions about your course or modules, please contact the professional services team in your Department or School.

For specific queries relating to COVID-19, please email our dedicated team at covid19@essex.ac.uk.

We have created a dedicated set of COVID-19 webpages, which provide a wealth of information on support available and they are updated very regularly.

Our Student Services Hubs for ColchesterSouthend and Loughton are operating phone, email and live chat facilities; and our Library team can live chat via the website or you can email them enquiries at libline@essex.ac.uk.

We know this continues to be a tough time for you and we are always here to help. I will ensure you are updated regularly, but please keep an eye on your Essex email and all our usual communication channels. As ever, support each other as much as you can and do not hesitate to get in touch if you need us.



April 3, 2020

Supporting you to succeed

Our Academic Registrar, Richard Stock, tells us more about how we’re planning to keep you informed throughout the vacation and how we’re doing everything we can to help you succeed. 

I know this is a difficult time for everyone – especially our students and I wanted to provide you with the latest information and to say that I will keep you informed throughout the vacation period. We want to do everything we can to help you succeed and below I set out some key pieces of information related to:

  • Facilities on our campuses during the vacation
  • How we can support you
  • An update on summer assessment and exams
  • Postponement of Graduation 2020
  • University accommodation
  • Changes affecting international students and international travel
  • The new NHS volunteering scheme
  • Access to our support services

In addition, we have created a dedicated set of COVID-19 webpages, which provide a wealth of information on support available and they are updated very regularly.

Staying on our campuses during the vacation 

For our students staying on our campuses, they remain open and we are working hard to ensure they continue to be the welcoming, inclusive communities that you can call home. We have food outlets that are open and study spaces are available for use. On the Colchester Campus, our Information Office is staffed 24 hours a day to provide support to you.

How we can support you

  • I know this is a difficult time and we have a range of wellbeing services available to support you. We have also created some great online activities to minimise social isolation.
  • The Government have confirmed that eligible students will continue to receive maintenance payments on the scheduled dates, but I know that some of you will face financial hardship over the coming weeks and months as a result of the pandemic. To respond to this, we have quickly revised the ways in which our hardship fund operates, opening it up to all students experiencing hardship and making it as easy and straightforward as possible to apply for support.

Summer Assessment and Exams

I wrote to you on 16 March with details of changes to our exams and assessment this summer. Since then, we have worked hard behind the scenes to confirm the new arrangements and the new exams timetable will be published by 4pm on Monday 6 April.

  • I know that many of our students are anxious about the forthcoming assessment period. You may have caring or childcare responsibilities, other personal commitments, or worries about access to IT facilities that you believe will affect your academic performance. The pandemic itself may be causing you to worry as you adjust to the implications of social distancing and protecting yourself and your family and friends. If you have any questions about the assessment methods for your modules, please could you contact your Department/School. They can also advise you on revision or other academic support.
  • You may want to access our academic skills support. There are webinars and individual support sessions provided by the Skills for Success team. Events are bookable via CareerHub and more information about the support available can be found on our academic skills pages. We are here to help.
  • We want to support you to succeed and have agreed that, where your marks achieved during your modules this year demonstrate that the learning outcomes have been met, undertaking the alternative assessment can only improve your module mark and there will be no disadvantage to your marks. We have agreed a number of changes to our assessment policies that are designed to safeguard academic standards while providing flexibility to respond to the exceptional circumstances that you are facing this year in undertaking your assessments, including for those of you whose circumstances mean you are unable to undertake the assessment at the moment. We are therefore streamlining the extenuating circumstances and exam absence notification processes to ensure that we capture and support all students who have struggled. More information and guidance will be published with the exams timetable.

Graduation

On 30 March, I wrote to all students who are expecting to graduate in 2020 with news that we have taken the very painful decision to postpone our summer 2020 graduation ceremonies. We know that our graduation ceremonies are the highlight of the University’s academic year – and even more importantly, the culmination of our graduates’ hard work and an important opportunity to celebrate with friends and family. Please be assured we will provide our graduates with an opportunity to celebrate as soon as we can but we are not currently in a position to confirm new dates. All those of you eligible to graduate this summer will have your awards conferred as expected and access to your certificates and transcripts this summer. Please could you contact graduation@essex.ac.uk if you have any questions.

Accommodation

For our students who are living on campus, the UK Government’s advice is that you should stay where you are and not attempt to travel. Our campuses remain open but some of you will continue your teaching and assessment remotely for the Summer Term and may not choose to return to your University accommodation after the Easter break. Even if you have already left, you can be released from your accommodation contract from 1 April 2020. Please could you complete this online form and we have published guidance on our website.

International Students and International travel

The Home Office has updated their visa guidance to provide greater certainty for international students currently unable to return home due to COVID-19. If your visa is due to expire or has already expired but you cannot leave because of travel restrictions related to COVID-19, you will not be regarded as an overstayer or suffer any detriment in the future. If you cannot leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation and wish to stay in the UK over the long term, you are not currently required to return to your country of residence to apply for a future visa in a different category. Due to the current exceptional circumstances, the Home Office have also confirmed that distance learning is possible for existing Tier 4 students in the UK or those of you who have chosen to return overseas but wish to continue your current studies. Please could you contact our international services team for advice and guidance.

The Government has also issued guidance advising British nationals against all non-essential international travel. All UK students currently studying on programmes involving terms or a year abroad or working temporarily overseas are strongly advised to return to the UK now and we are here to help. The Essex Abroad team are available to answer any questions and provide support where needed: essexabroad@essex.ac.uk. Please do book a Skype call should you wish to contact the team in person.

National Health Service Volunteering

The Government have set up the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme to support the NHS and the care sector during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are interested in volunteering, you must be 18 or over and fit and well with no symptoms. The majority of tasks can be undertaken while social distancing and via telephone.

Student Support Services

We are focused on ensuring your student experience remains our priority and for specific queries relating to COVID-19, please email our dedicated team at covid19@essex.ac.uk. Our Student Services Hubs for ColchesterSouthend and Loughton are operating phone, email and live chat facilities; and our Library team can live chat via the website or you can email them enquiries at libline@essex.ac.uk.

We know this is a tough time and we are here to help. I will ensure you are updated regularly, but please keep an eye on your Essex email and all our usual communication channels. Support each other as much as you can and do not hesitate to get in touch if you need us.



March 30, 2020

Research Information for Staff and Postgraduate Research Students

Professor Christine Raines, our PVC Research, offers guidance and support for our research staff and students, during this challenging time.

The COVID-19 pandemic is posing significant challenges for our research and researchers and to provide support we have put together information, links and contacts where you can obtain further guidance. If you have any concerns or questions not addressed below please contact your Head of Department.

Research grants

Research funding bodies are in the process of issuing guidance to universities and grant holders about delays and changes resulting from Covid-19. The general trend is an indication that no-cost extensions should be available. If you think that your funded research will be delayed and need to contact the funder then please copy post-award into the correspondence. The best way to approach this is to propose a solution (e.g. request for a no cost extension). This will be of highest priority for grants that are due to finish soon. The ongoing situation regarding coronavirus is affecting the research community and will continue to evolve and increase over time. Please check the latest guidance from research funders for applicants (British Academy, Leverhulme Trust, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) – please also see their Q&A on the impact of COVID-19 on NIHR funded and supported research, Royal Society, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Wellcome Trust).

If you have questions about your current funding please contact Sue Hanshaw in the REO.

For our internal GCRF QR funded projects, no extension is available currently.  Beate Knight in the Research Development team will be in touch with PI’s to discuss options.

Postgraduate Research Students

As part of our commitment to create enabling environments for postgraduate research and education, we have made arrangements for remote supervision and a series of support mechanisms and processes that mitigate against research interruption as much as possible and enable flexibility in the progression of research goals.

Our regulations and practices have been updated enabling supervisory panels via video link, research away from campus, electronic thesis submission, and vivas held via video link and setting up of PGR Covid-19 FAQs. All available on our corona virus webpage.

Resources to support postgraduate research activities off site include off-campus access to necessary software and databases (STATA, Bloomberg and others), loanable laptops for PGRs, and subject librarians are available to continue to provide live advice. Our aim is to enable PGRs research to progress, but we also understand that there may be situations (e.g., lab-based research, practice-as-research, or research placements) where uninterrupted progress is impossible. In such instances we will work with colleagues to reconsider research schedules and extended deadlines for their supervisees. UKRI has issued a statement in support of one such approach to doctoral study, highlighting that no penalties will be applied to Research Organisations as a result of COVID-19 extensions, and some doctoral training partnerships have confirmed funding for the periods of extension. More information on this is available on the UKRI website.

Access to research facilities

Following the announcement on Monday 23 March by the Prime Minister, the University has now moved to ‘Advanced Protection’ Phase in response to the COVID-19 challenge. It is with a heavy heart that we took the decision to restrict access to research laboratories and facilities in order to protect the safety of staff. Access will only be allowed for essential activities (eg. to protect the viability of equipment and or materials), restricted to appropriately trained, individual members of staff, authorised by the Head of Department. No new experimental work should be initiated unless it is COVID-19 related and has been given consent by me. I understand that this will be a difficult time and if you have any concerns about the consequences of these changes to access for your research please contact your Head of Department.

Advice on preparing research grants during the pandemic.

Throughout this period of uncertainty, the REO remains open, with teams working remotely and the normal support for preparing and submitting grant applications is available.  Funding calls are still active at this stage. Research ethics review and monitoring processes will continue remotely via the ERAMs and zoom for sub-committee meetings. The enterprise team are continuing links with external partners remotely. Innovate UK have approved use of video conferencing for regular KTP meetings in place of face to face.

REF2021 COVID-19 Contingency Planning

The submission deadline for REF2021 has been postponed and will no longer take place on 27 November 2020, a new submission deadline will be announced no later than eight months prior to the deadline. The REF staff census date (31 July 2020) remains unchanged. We will advise staff of any further changes to REF2021 as soon as information becomes available.

The full announcement is available on the REF website.

Professor Christine Raines

PVC Research



March 24, 2020

Advanced Protection Phase

Following the very stringent measures announced by the Prime Minister last night, the Chair of University Council and I have taken the decision that the University move into the ‘Advanced Protection’ Phase of our response to COVID-19. We have set out what this means on our web site in our University of Essex Business Continuity Plan. Further details of the strict curbs to our lives announced by the Prime Minister are explained in full detail on the Government’s website.

As a consequence of moving to ‘Advanced Protection’, we are now putting in place measures to deliver essential services. Staff working on our campuses will be focused on supporting residential and essential operational services – supported by staff working remotely. For University staff, please could you contact your line manager if you are unsure about how you should be working during this period of ‘Advanced Protection’. For students we have provided more information about ‘Advanced Protection’ in our University of Essex Business Continuity Plan.

I know these measures present an unprecedented challenge to our community and if you have any questions please speak directly to your line manager or Head of Department. Students can contact us at: askthehub@essex.ac.uk

Anthony Forster

Vice-Chancellor

 



March 20, 2020

Stay safe and well over the Easter vacation

Our Academic Registrar, Richard Stock, tells us more about how you can stay in touch, keep informed and continue succeeding despite the current circumstances.

As we go into the Easter Vacation, I  want to reassure you that despite current circumstances and an ever changing landscape you remain our valued University of Essex students and we will continue to do all we can to stay in touch, to keep you informed and to ensure that you are able, not just to continue learning, but to continue succeeding with us.

It is now the end of term and many of you will have left campus already or will be preparing to do so imminently.

Over the Easter break we want you to rest and recuperate as much as you can and to continue with your studies. Your departments will have been in touch about accessing lectures through Listen Again and our libraries are offering a wide range of resources online to support your learning.

For those of you staying on campus across the break, our campuses will remain open and will continue to be the welcoming, inclusive communities that you can call home.

We have changed the arrangements for many of our food outlets and will ensure all opening times are clearly communicated. Study spaces will be available on campus and we will continue to offer as many facilities as we can.  We do need you to play your part by practising social distancing while working and socialising in spaces with others.

Our teams are continuing to work to support you and while many of our staff are now working from home, they are contactable and are able to ensure your student experience remains our priority.

Our Student Services Hubs for Colchester, Southend and Loughton are operating phone, email and live chat facilities.

Our Library team can live chat via the website or you can email them enquiries at libline@essex.ac.uk.

For specific queries relating to COVID-19, email our dedicated team at covid19@essex.ac.uk.

I wrote to you on Monday with details of changes to exams and assessment. Details can be found on my blog and again in handy Q&A format on our COVID19 webpage for students.

Our COVID-19 page for students is being updated regularly. Do keep checking this page for the latest news on everything from travel guidance to Tier 4 and immigration news.

We will ensure you are updated regularly. Please keep an eye on your Essex email and all our usual communication channels.

If you’re going home and your parents, family or friends would like to receive updates from the University, they can sign up to our Friends@essex newsletter – simply email friends@essex.ac.uk with their email address.

We know this is an uncertain time for everyone but as a University with students at its heart, I want to assure you that you continue to be our priority. Support each other as much as you can and do not hesitate to get in touch if you need us.



March 16, 2020

COVID-19 Enhanced Protection – Safeguarding our community

As the virus spreads in the UK, with direct impacts on both our work and home lives and to our health and wellbeing, I want to assure you that we are taking all necessary steps to ensure that we safeguard educational outcomes for our students, while ensuring that the wellbeing and health of our staff, students and wider community remains our first priority.

As well as following Public Health England and UK Government advice, we are taking our own pre-emptive, protective action to safeguard the welfare of our community when we consider this the right thing to do. On 13 March I emailed all staff and students to set out a range of ‘Enhanced Protection’ measures that we are taking to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our community. If we need to take further steps, we will implement a range of ‘Advanced Protection’ measures. We have published these Business Continuity plans for staff and students to access on our COVID-19 information pages online.

I want to reiterate that whilst most teaching, supervision and academic support will be delivered online from Monday 16 March, our campuses remain open. Our campuses will continue to be environments where we follow the latest medical guidance to ensure that staff and students on campus remain protected, safe and supported. For some students, the safest and most secure place may well be on campus.

Our Four Work Streams

In addition to existing work on Business Continuity (led by the Registrar and Secretary); Student Recruitment (led by the DVC); and Financial Security (led by the Director of Finance, Planning and Data Insight), I have launched a ‘People’ work stream, led by Susie Morgan, our Director of People and Culture. The People work stream will ensure that we maintain an enhanced focus on our people and our community throughout the pandemic.

There are a number of strands to this work, including:

  • Focusing on staff and students who are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 (for example because of age, long-term health problems or for any other reason) – and those of us supporting people in our families who are at higher risk.
  • Avoiding any sense of staff and students having to choose between looking after family members and their work commitments.
  • Providing reassurance to staff, including on demand staff such as GTAs/GLAs about arrangements for pay if they become ill or are required to self-isolate.
  • Reviewing travel and other guidance to staff and students.
  • Supporting staff and students who are home working or self-isolating, recognising and addressing the health and wellbeing issues that this raises and addressing the equality implications for staff and students.
  • Re-doubling our efforts to ensure that our three campuses remain safe for everyone who lives and works on them, including enhanced cleaning, social distancing and limiting gatherings of people.

Following the start of a period of ‘Enhanced Protection’ from Monday 16 March, Susie Morgan has emailed with additional information on what this will mean for staff in relation to working from home and working on our campuses. Each member of staff, whatever our working arrangements during the period of ‘Enhanced Protection’, will be making an important contribution to keeping our campuses safe and looking out for each other. I want to give special recognition to the contributions of colleagues who provide essential services on our campuses and have specific responsibilities for ensuring their safety, security, food, cleanliness and smooth operation as home to thousands of our students.

Updates will be part of our regular communications over the coming weeks and months and available on the website, on our pages for staff and for students. If there is anything more we can do to respond to any concerns that you have, please do get in contact at covid19@essex.ac.uk.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges for all of us. I want to assure you that the health and wellbeing of our students and staff will remain my first priority in the weeks and months ahead. This crisis is requiring us to embrace new ways of thinking, different ways of working, and to respond to considerable disruption. Thank you to everyone for your support in meeting these challenges.


 

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