In line with all universities, in September 2020 we returned to working and education, with the health, safety and wellbeing of our whole community – students, staff, city residents and visitors – uppermost in our minds.
The return of students reignited the social, cultural and economic benefits they bring to our Ocean City, and for many businesses, and the array of community initiatives that our students support, we know their return was welcomed.
We planned carefully for this academic year with a stringent safety-first approach to ensure our campuses are ‘covid-secure’, including a blended learning approach (mix of face-to-face and online), adapting our timetables and adjusting our buildings to enable social distancing and additional cleaning, and redesigning many of our normal events to operate virtually.
We continue to fully adhere to evolving government guidance for the safety of our community.
With the latest (January 2021) national lockdown we delayed the return to covid-secure face-to-face teaching for the majority of students. Only those students on a small number of government prescribed courses to prepare ‘future critical workers’ returned to face-to-face learning in January 2021. They were then joined after 8 March by students studying on practical or practice-based courses that require access to specialist equipment or facilities. All other students are now permitted to return from 17 May. In line with government guidance, all returning students have been asked to take a test before travelling back; to undertake three supervised tests (3-4 days apart) on arrival; and then test twice a week, either using home test kits or at our on-site testing facility.
Any member of staff or student testing positive is asked to immediately inform the University so that it can support these individuals accordingly and continue to maintain a covid-secure environment.
Indeed, the University’s rates have been some of the lowest thus far in comparison with other comparably-sized higher education establishments across the country.
The University continues to work closely with relevant local and national agencies spanning government, public health and emergency services to ensure its risk assessments and contingency measures are robust; with clear and concise plans linking to the Local Outbreak Management Plan including working closely to support the test and trace system both nationally and locally.
Our University-managed accommodation has appropriate risk assessments and health and safety monitoring measures in place to protect all residents. This includes quarantine accommodation for any international students who arrive and need to self-isolate.
Inevitably, students will be excited to return to their degree programmes after yet another period of social and academic abnormality. The University continues to engage strongly with all students on what they can expect from us and our expectations of them and their conduct.
We ask any member of the local community to report concerns through the official channels as appropriate – emergency services (police/fire service/ambulance) for serious or urgent matters; Plymouth City Council for matters like antisocial behaviour or litter. We have close relationships with all the authorities and work with them accordingly.
The University of Plymouth is proud of its heritage and location within the City and understands fully its civic role within the wider community. Covid-19 has and continues to test the whole country to respond in ways not previously experienced. We are committed to the education of our students and we are following all government guidance to ensure that we are operating in the safest and responsible manner possible.