Student and Staff Wellbeing

Covid-19 Update - 27 March taught students

Covid-19 Update Message to taught students - 27 March 2020

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

Dear taught programme students,

Please find today’s update. In it, you’ll find new Government guidance for students remaining in University accommodation, more information on our assessment approach and details about our communication with you over the spring break.

Important change in advice for students still in University accommodation

Last night we received notification of an important change in the advice for students who remain in their University accommodation.  The Government now advises students remaining at university in England to stay where you are and do not attempt to travel. If you are living in student halls, or privately rented accommodation, you should remain there and stay indoors while current restrictions are in force.  This advice has been issued by Michelle Donelan MP, Minister of State for Universities. Full details of this guidance, and other information for all students, can be found in her letter to students, available on our Coronavirus webpages.

If you had been planning to leave your University accommodation this weekend but are now not able to do so, we will do everything we can to support you - whether you need emergency financial assistance from our Student Financial Support Team or support from our Student Health and Wellbeing support services.  Please do not feel as if you are on your own.

Guidance on assessment

In my message to you on 24 March, I set out our overarching approach to assessment. Details are also available in the Frequently Asked Questions.

We appreciate that you have many questions about what the Covid-19 situation means for your studies and we are finalizing our plans to support you during the remainder of the academic year. These include: 

  1. plans to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on your teaching, so you can continue your studies remotely
  2. plans to adjust assessments as per my email, so that you can complete your studies remotely
  3. providing additional support for those of you who are experiencing difficulties in accessing remote learning materials.

Listening to our students

Please be assured that we are listening carefully to all the issues you are raising with us. We are aware that this situation is affecting each student in a different way and we are putting in place a simple process for you to be able to tell us about your circumstances so that we can make appropriate adjustments. In addition, we know that some students will require more mitigation than others, for example, those who have Special Support Plans, are ill as a result of the virus, have caring responsibilities, poor access to IT or are challenged by the circumstances in which they are currently living. You will have the opportunity to tell us about the challenges affecting you personally and we will make the necessary mitigations. 

We received a letter yesterday from the Office for Students (OfS) – the independent regulator for Higher Education. The OfS will be writing to all universities next week with more guidance on the expected approach to maintaining quality and standards across the sector. This will cover teaching, continued learning and assessment during this difficult time.

Through our national networks, our own students, and our Students’ Union, we are aware of the range of approaches being taken across the UK university sector.  We know that a very small number of universities have introduced a “safety net policy” to ensure that students’ final academic year average is the same as, or higher than, the average they have attained to date. We will be considering this in light of the OfS guidance, and the range of options available, in our approach.

We will use the next two weeks to finalise the details of our plans ready to communicate to you on Tuesday 14 April.  We will try and communicate as clearly and openly as we can.    

Easter vacation and future messages

For now, we would strongly encourage you to take a rest from your studies. More than ever you need time to focus on adjusting to this new situation, keeping safe and supporting your family, friends and loved ones.

From next week, we will be reducing the frequency of these messages to once a week, normally on a Thursday. Separate communications will be sent if there is an urgent need to respond to any new Government advice, so please make sure you continue to check your University email address regularly.

And finally…

Please take care of yourself over this really difficult time.  Stay in, stay safe, and reach out to our Health and Wellbeing Support Services if you need to. Remember the NUSU Facebook Community group, Newcastle University: Covid-19 Community, which is helping our students have fun, feel connected and pass the time. 

We will continue to update our FAQs as things change and you can always contact us by email: covid19enquiries@ncl.ac.uk

With very best wishes,

Lucy
Academic Registrar