As those of you who attended this week’s staff webchat will know, a great deal of work is now underway to put plans in place to respond to the Government announcement earlier this week.
You will no doubt be aware that students on practical or practice-based courses can return to campus from 8 March. This means that the majority of students will continue to be taught online until the end of term. As a result, we will be reviewing our position on rent rebates and communicating this when we are able.
Although some staff will be coming back to campus to support the March return, staff who are already working at home as part of an agreed pattern of work should continue to do so until 21 June at the earliest in line with Government guidance. Meanwhile, any return to campus for staff will remain subject to health and safety procedures.
Following the next Government review of restrictions in mid-April, we are hoping to offer on-campus events for the summer term including a range of extra-curricular activities. It is unlikely that we will offer our ‘traditional’ graduation ceremonies at Canterbury and Rochester Cathedrals this summer but, together with Kent Union and GKSU, we are looking at how we can hold a series of small-scale celebratory events.
We would also like to hold an event – or a series of events – to thank staff for all their hard work over the past year and to mark the start of a return to a more normal way of working. We will update you on this as our thinking develops.
Work has also begun on plans for the next academic year. It is likely that we will retain a remote study option, as we believe that international students in particular may benefit from this due to travel restrictions. In addition, we will be prioritising first year students as they will have had several years of interrupted education and our aim will be to give them a clear and understandable offer which concentrates on the delivery of core modules.
As we continue to make our plans for the coming months, I would like to reassure you that the wellbeing and safety of staff and students will stay at heart of all our decision-making. We are keen to ensure that all staff are able to receive their Covid vaccinations as quickly as possible and have been working with line managers to ensure that staff are able to take time out in order to do this.
I know that many of us – staff and students alike – were hoping for more certainty for the university sector from the Prime Minister’s announcement on Covid. While I share this sense of frustration, the national roadmap does provide us with a strong direction of travel and will enable us to consolidate our plans for the summer and a return to some form of normality.
However, we now need to consider what the ‘new normal’ will look like for the University. Work is beginning on a review of our institutional strategy to ensure we are well-positioned to respond to the requirements of a post-Covid world both for the University and the wider world.
Over the next few months, the Executive Group will work with colleagues across the University as we move through this process and we will continue to keep staff up to date.
With my very best wishes to you and your families,
Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President