Image Credit: Annie Watson
A recent message from Charlie Jeffery, Vice-Chancellor at the University of York, updates students on the university's plans for the Spring Term.
The Vice-Chancellor introduced his message on a positive note, stating his hopes to see "good progress" in the Covid-19 pandemic with the "promising news about the development of vaccines". Through close participation with the City of York and the local NHS, the University is participating in the new mass testing programmes that are being introduced. Jeffery is optimistic that these developments will enable the university to introduce "more and more in-person activities on campus", in accordance with "general government guidance, the local Covid situation in York, and […] health and safety assessments".
Plans to start the Spring term on the 11 January 2021 remain in place, as does the continuation of mixed online and in-person teaching. However, the teaching situation will be under review throughout the term, with hopes to increase in-person learning when possible.
The Vice-Chancellor recognises that "this has been an incredibly tough year" for many students, and has released an "an expanded package of measures" to support students from January. Throughout the message, Jeffery is keen to state the dependency of his plans upon the Covid-19 situation and government guidance.
The package has a focus on student wellbeing, and includes measures that attempt to accommodate the increased needs students may be facing in this respect. The University plans to ensure that students have "safe space to spend time out of [their] own homes" through the continuation of funding for The Forest (an outdoor venue on campus) and other social spaces. Jeffery acknowledges that "sport, societies and activities have an important impact on students’ mental and physical wellbeing", thus government and Sport England guidance is being closely monitored so that activities on campus can be resumed as soon as it is safe to do so.
The package also focuses on the financial hardships facing many students in the wake of the pandemic. The University plans to continue their Emergency Student Support Fund to help students in need of "immediate financial support", and alongside Patrick O'Donnell (YUSU) and Purnur Altay (GSA), the university is "lobbying the government for more [financial] support for students".
In attempts to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 restrictions on student learning, the university has plans to support any off-campus students dealing with broadband issues, and is looking into providing spaces for students to take online exams in quieter places outside of shared accommodation.
Finally, Jeffery claims that the university is "very focused" on supporting student mental health. He recognises that "social distancing and self-isolation are challenging" and urges students to turn to resources such as the Open Door team and Togetherall, to combat the mental health impacts of the pandemic.