Arrangements for our students next term

Email issued: Friday 6 November 2020
From: Internal Communications
Subject: Arrangements for our students next term

Dear colleagues,

Yesterday the University Executive Group (UEG) met to discuss teaching arrangements for the next term, both for current students and those joining us in January.

Given the current trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic, it is clear that next term the student experience will continue to be significantly different from the experience a year ago. In particular, a significant amount of their teaching will continue to be delivered online.

My UEG colleagues and I are aware that, in defining the best approach, we need to consider the student experience in the round, including not just teaching elements, but also co-curricular, extra-curricular and social opportunities, and available support and infrastructure.

From this perspective, it is clear there are many benefits to our students from being physically located in Leeds. These include not just access to a hybrid learning experience (in instances where face-to-face teaching is appropriate and possible); but interaction with their peers; access to campus services, including libraries, study spaces and high-quality Wi-Fi; alongside wider student opportunities, within the parameters of restrictions that are in place at the time.

On this basis we will therefore be encouraging our students to join us in Leeds next term and, depending on their area of study, in some instances they will need to be physically present in order to be able to meet their learning objectives (see below).

In saying this, we will nonetheless ensure that students who are unable to join us in person at the start of next term will be able to study remotely, receiving a high quality of online education and support. We are particularly sensitive to the requirements and circumstances of our international students. While it is preferable for them to be in Leeds from the start of term, we need to give them the opportunity to join us when they are able to do so. If students want to qualify for the post-study work visa, they are required to have entered the country before 6 April 2021.

We recognise the challenge of supporting cohorts of students attending teaching activities remotely and in-person simultaneously, and we are preparing the infrastructure and support to enable colleagues to do this, where required.

In relation to teaching specifically, UEG has agreed that, subject to any further restrictions that might be placed on us in the future, our current approach will continue. That is, where it is safe, practicable, and pedagogically advantageous or necessary, teaching will continue to be delivered face to face, rather than online. However, in instances where those criteria cannot be met, we will continue to recommend that teaching is moved online.

As is currently the case, in some disciplines, physical attendance will be necessary, for example, areas such as clinical practice that have an essential practical element, or where this is required for professional accreditation. This will be the case for both home and international students.

As now, it will be for schools to make the ultimate decision about the most appropriate or necessary arrangements, including the need for students to be physically present in Leeds, and to communicate these to their students. However, we will be asking all schools to receive confirmation from their students about whether they plan to study in person or remotely.

Colleagues in the Communications team are planning a series of templates for schools to use to communicate with January starters to enable this to take place in a consistent manner. The first of these templates will be shared with school leads for induction and copied to Pro-Deans on Tuesday 10 November. A version of this email will be sent to all current students on the same date. Please await these materials before communicating further with students and January starters.

In making their decisions, we will expect schools to consider how close students are to graduating. It goes without saying that for final year undergraduate students there is likely to be a greater need for face-to-face teaching and a physical presence in Leeds than for those at an earlier stage of their studies.

I reiterate that, if for any reason students are unable to join us on campus, we will continue to deliver teaching and support activities remotely to the best of our ability.

I fully understand that these continue to be challenging circumstances both for our staff and for our students, and I reiterate that the health, safety and well-being of our entire community continues to be our absolute priority. To this end we continue to take all necessary steps to keep our campus covid-secure, and further information about this continues to be available and updated on our dedicated coronavirus website.

Thank you once again for your continued commitment and ingenuity, both during this term and the lead up to it. I am confident that as a community we will harness that same commitment and ingenuity to make the next term equally successful, however challenging the circumstances.

With best wishes,

Simone Buitendijk