Students Staff
University of Essex

February 28, 2020

A message about COVID-19 (coronavirus)

COVID-19 is affecting people across the globe and there are now cases in every continent except Antarctica. The World Health Organisation has said that it is a now a sensible precaution to prepare for a possible pandemic. This is a human tragedy on a global scale.

Talking to staff and students, I know that it is a source of real concern and I want to provide reassurance that at Essex we are preparing for a full range of impacts on the University. This work is being led by our Registrar and Secretary, Bryn Morris, supported by a group of colleagues that is meeting regularly and we are constantly monitoring advice from Public Health England, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the World Health Organisation.

A range of information and support is available on our Staff Directory. This covers actions being taken by the University, risk of infection and travel advice. Should any member of staff be worried about their own health or think that they may have contracted the virus, we have plans in place to support you. If you have any concerns please contact Occupational Health. We will also be updating staff and students regularly and we will continue to work in very close partnership with the Students’ Union.

We are also accelerating our work to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on student recruitment. The impact on our ability to meet our student number targets in October 2020 is severe. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony, is leading a Task Force focused on doing all that we can to minimise the impact of the virus on recruitment. It is important that we recognise the urgency of the issue and that we take decisive action. I have therefore asked University Steering Group members to re-prioritise their work, stopping or deferring non-essential work, to focus on a range of steps, including: deferred start dates; the use of online learning; new product development; enhanced conversion activities and an additional focus on retention of our current students.

An exceptional meeting of the Monday Management Meeting senior leadership group (USG, Deans and Deputy Deans, Heads of Department and Heads of Section) has been called for Monday 2 March, to provide a briefing on the challenges that we face and the actions we are taking to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on student recruitment for October 2020. We have also invited the leadership of the three campus trades’ unions of the University to attend. We recognise that the date of the meeting is on a day on which industrial action will take place and we are sorry about having to take this decision. The timing reflects the urgency of the issues that we need to cover. Reflecting this, we have said that if anyone is unable to attend, we fully understand and have asked that a deputy or another senior member of the department or section is identified to attend, participate and provide feedback. Should we need to convene exceptional meetings of Senate and Council over the coming weeks and months, then we will do so.

Our three campuses are places where you can find the world in one place. The virus does not recognise nationalities and anyone who experiences any kind of discriminatory behaviour should report a concern or incident to the University. We will respond to that robustly and ensure victims have our support. Our advice and support services are here for you if you have any concerns.