Student and Staff Wellbeing

Covid-19 Update - 25 March 2020

Covid-19 Update Message to taught and research students - 25 March 2020

Lucy Backhurst, Academic Registrar shares the latest updates with taught and research students.

Dear taught and research students,

Over the past few days, I am very aware that I have sent you a lot of information to digest about practical matters and issues of concern, reflecting the need for us to respond quickly to this ever-changing situation. 

Today I thought I would lighten things up a bit, and highlight some more positive stories that are coming out of this situation which illustrate the adaptability, compassion and resilience of our University community, in the face of this unprecedented event.

I also want to include a poem chosen by Professor Julie Sanders, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor that will hopefully allow you to escape from it all for a moment. Selected poems, submitted by members of our community, will become a weekly feature for the duration of this lock down period.

Students supporting each other

As you know, our Sabbatical Officers have created a Facebook Community group called ‘Newcastle University: Covid-19 Community.’ Join now if you can – 950 students already have, and, if you haven’t, you’re missing out on film nights, dance classes and the focus of today’s activities, advice from Sara Elkhawad, Welfare & Equality Officer, on maintaining your wellbeing.


Staff and students are all doing their bit to help the wider community through volunteering. We have set up a volunteering register and, working with the Students’ Union and other partners, we’re linking volunteers to those most in need (while complying with social distancing guidelines).

We have seen some brilliant examples, from students volunteering to support health care workers with their daily shop, to staff acting as chat buddies for students in Newcastle, many of whom are international students unable to travel home. We have staff offering to support local schools, voluntary organisations and help co-ordinate food deliveries for the most vulnerable.

Our list of ideas for how our volunteers can help is constantly growing. If you have more to add, let us know on

Supporting NHS staff and volunteers

Our medical students are doing all they can and giving NHS staff a helping hand during the Covid-19 outbreak.  A team of fourth and final year students have set up the North East group of Medical Students Helping Hands – a national initiative to give practical help with childcare, assist with shopping, and in some cases animal care, for health workers in the region who need free, flexible assistance during this taxing period.

Since the number of University staff on campus has reduced significantly this week, we’ve been able to offer the campus car parks to NHS staff working in the RVI, reducing the need for them to travel by public transport or pay for parking.  The Director of Estates at the NHS Trust was very grateful for our support.

The NUSU Coop in the Students’ Union has also introduced a special shopping hour for NHS staff and student volunteers helping out at the RVI.

Poem of the week

Our first poem of the week is chosen by our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Julie Sanders.

“I chose this one as toads are just starting to appear in Northumberland for the springtime and it is about hope even in challenging, housebound days …”


Stop looking like a purse. How could a purse

Squeeze under the rickety door and sit,

full of satisfaction, in a man’s house?

You clamber towards me on your four corners –

right hand, left foot, left hand, right foot.

I love you for being a toad,

For crawling like a Japanese wrestler,

And for not being frightened.

I put you in my purse hand, not shutting it,

And set you down outside directly under star.

A jewel in your head? Toad,

You’ve put one in mine,

A tiny radiance in a dark place.


Norman MacCaig


Remember, if you have any questions, get in touch at

Look after yourselves,

Lucy Backhurst

Academic Registrar