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Covid-19 update – 18 February 2021

Students’ return to campus

The Government is expected to publish its latest guidance on 22 February 2021 concerning students’ return to face-to-face teaching. We anticipate that the guidance will cover how institutions should prioritise particular students’ return and how the regular testing programme should be managed on campus. At this stage, we know that the Government is likely to recommend a phased return which may centre on those subjects needing access to specialist equipment and final year students.

We know that many of our students are keen to return to campus. However, it is important that we manage expectations and ensure they do not make firm travel plans until all information is available to them. This is particularly important for any students needing to travel from other countries as the Government has announced strict new regulations concerning travel into the UK.

Our priority has been, and will continue to be, the safety of our community and ensuring we can adhere to social distancing regulations on campus. Divisions are currently working on their plans for teaching for the remainder of the academic year; these plans include requesting timetabled events where students require access to specialist equipment or spaces. Further information will be available once the Government guidance has been published.

Update on the Covid-19 Hardship Fund

The University has received £588,000 of hardship funding from the Office for Students to support students disadvantaged through the effects of Covid-19. Most of the funding is to be prioritised for “rent related hardship” and must be dispersed to students by the end of March 2021. Working in partnership with Kent Union, we have launched a scheme to support disadvantaged students who can apply to the Covid-19 Hardship Fund for a one-off payment. In phase 1, students can apply for a £500 award using a simple online form and, if successful, will receive their money in 10 working days. As of 17 February, over 1,000 students have applied to the scheme, a large percentage of the 1,200 applications that it will be possible to fund. Once that funding has been allocated, a second phase will open later in the term.

The University continues to support students in hardship in a variety of different ways, with 271 laptops distributed and 41 currently on loan to students needing technical support to study effectively. Any students needing financial support can contact the Financial Aid team, or Kent Union’s Advice Service (Canterbury) or GKSU’s Advice Centre (Medway) for more information.