Student and Staff Wellbeing

Covid-19 Update - 2 April - taught students

Covid-19 Update Message to taught students - 2 April 2020

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

Dear taught programme students,

Please find below this week’s update which includes important information for those of you struggling with IT access, information about refunds for members of our Sport Centre, advice on who to contact if you are experiencing financial difficulties and an update on the outcome of our work with partner accommodation providers to encourage them to release students who have vacated their room from their Term 3 contract liabilities.

Before I begin, I want to mention assessment. We know from your emails and petitions that this is a cause of great anxiety for many of you just now, and we are listening. This week, we have developed a Safety Net proposal which will be considered by our Academic Governing body, Senate, and the outcome will be communicated to taught programme students on Tuesday. 

IT support for students

Following the University’s move to remote teaching and assessment, we recognise that some of you may find yourselves in a position of having no or very limited access to IT facilities that are essential to continue your studies over this period.

If you do not have a computer, laptop or other device you can use for studying right now, or have no or very limited access to an internet connection and are currently in receipt of financial hardship support, you may be eligible for support with IT equipment.  The University currently has a limited number of laptops available to loan to Newcastle University students.  These will be distributed on a case-by-case basis but I urge you to consider your own needs carefully before making a request; if you take one and don’t need it then it may deprive someone who does.

To request support for IT equipment, you must complete the following online Student IT request form. The form helps us to gather the information we need from you to process your request and to help us fully understand your requirements. Please be assured we will do all that we can to support your studies.  We will endeavour to keep you up to date with the progress of your request.

If your request is successful, at present, the University will be able to provide:

  • A short-term loan of a University-issued laptop until September 2020, to students currently residing in the UK OR an I.T. grant to non-UK based students to purchase a suitable device
  • An I.T. grant up to £200 to purchase short-term internet access.

If your request is for software which is essential for you to be able to complete an assessment but you are unable to download and install it, or it won’t run on your device, please log a request via our IT service desk at https://nuservice.ncl.ac.uk/.

For advice on the software provision that is available to you as a student, visit http://go.ncl.ac.uk/itservice/softwareforstudents

Please be aware that there are global supply problems with IT devices (laptops, tablets etc.) and priority in the UK is currently being given to the NHS which may lead to some delay in providing resources if your request is approved. We will do everything that we can to get kit to you as quickly as possible, but as I’m sure you will understand in this situation, there are some factors which are outside of our control.

Support for Students Experiencing Financial Difficulties

We are aware too that many students may have lost their part time jobs or other sources of income as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.  I’d like to remind you that if you are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the current disruption, you may eligible for support from the University’s Hardship Fund.  Further information can be found on the Student Financial Support website.  As I’m sure you can appreciate, the team are receiving a high number of applications but they are aiming to respond within 5 working days. 

Sports Centre Membership Refunds

All students who are members of the Sports Centre, will receive a refund for the remaining months of the academic year. Sport Services will send further information directly to members in the next 14 days.  Students with an accommodation package sports centre membership will receive a refund alongside their adjusted accommodation contract.

Students still in University Accommodation

Following last Friday’s Government announcement that any students still living in halls or privately rented accommodation must now stay where they are and not attempt to travel, I wanted to take the opportunity to reach out to any of you who have not been in contact with us already to check that you have the support you need to get through the next few weeks in lockdown.

Many of our students have gone home already, but we know a significant number of you are still in Newcastle.  We have contacted all students in our halls of residence and, as we approach the Easter break we want to make sure that those of you living in private accommodation have everything you need to keep safe and well and be able to continue with your studies. 

To help with this, we’ve put together this handy support guide setting out the support available to you, but we would also like to hear from you and I’d be grateful if you could take the time to fill in this online form and let us know where you are and how you are doing.  Remember, wherever you are living you should stay there, and only go out in line with government advice to keep yourselves and others safe.

Accommodation Contracts

We have been working closely with our accommodation partner providers to encourage them to follow the University’s approach and release from contracts those of you who have followed both University and government advice to return home. 

Unite Students, which now incorporate Liberty Living, have followed the University’s approach.

We are continuing to negotiate with both Abodus Students (Portland Green Student Village) and Downing.  Conversations with Abodus have been extremely positive and we’re hoping for some good news later this week.  We are still in discussion with Downing about their approach and will keep you updated on progress.

Other purpose-built student accommodation providers are also considering their approach, with some already making the decision to release students from their contractual liability.

For those of you living in privately owned houses of multiple occupation we would encourage you to liaise with your landlord or letting agent.  We remind you to monitor government guidance about the support that is available to protect you and, if you are at risk of eviction or in hardship please contact our financial support team via their webpage.

University Accommodation Reception Services

Our face-to-face reception services remain suspended in order to protect the health of our residents and staff, but we’re continuing to support our residents via telephone and email as follows:

  • Bowsden Court and St Mary’s College 08.00 – 12.00
  • Park View, Castle Leazes and Kensington Terrace 10.00 – 16.00
  • For emergencies outside of these times, please contact Estate Security Service on 0191 208 6817

We will keep residents updated of any changes to the above times by email.

Accommodation Health and Safety

Accommodation Services are continuing vital health and safety checks across our residences.  These checks are in line with usual procedures throughout the year.

Social distancing in accommodation and ResLife support

Accommodation Services have received a lot of questions about how to maintain social distancing in University accommodation.  Please remember that you should:

  • Remain in your room to distance yourself from others and when using common areas maintain a safe distance of 2m between you and others
  • Avoid gatherings of more than 2 people
  • Only leave your accommodation to go shopping for essential groceries and/or medication or to exercise once per day and, whilst you are out, you should maintain the minimum distance of 2 metres from other people.

The ResLife Team is available to answer any questions you might have. Please contact the Team via: ResLife@newcastle.ac.uk.

Email Scams

Times of crisis and confusion are an ideal opportunity for email scammers to catch people off-guard. We know that scammers are targeting medical research facilities with Covid-19 themed phishing emails, fake apps and web advertising. There is also a phishing email circulating which suggests “You have a new document from OneDrive”. It may appear to be from a friend or colleague, but it is not genuine and should just be deleted. If you’ve deleted it, there’s no need to tell us. If you’re unsure, contact the IT Service Desk

Industrial Action Impact Form Deadline

Following a number of requests from students and in recognition of the fact that many of you may not have had an opportunity to complete the form as a result of the recent disruption, the deadline for completing the Industrial Action Impact Form has been extended to 5pm on Friday 10 April (Good Friday).  Please use this form to advise us of disruption due to industrial action only.  Separate arrangements will be put in place for you to advise us of disruption caused by Covid-19.

Community Update and Further Information

Finally I just want to say how proud we are of the many ways our student and colleague community has been coming together, stepping up and showing support for one another over the past couple of weeks. Please take a minute or two to visit Newcastle University Community Combats Covid-19 #WeAreNCL

Remember, the situation around the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic continues to change rapidly.  The latest advice is available on the Public Health England website, guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK has been provided on GOV.UK and our Frequently Asked Questions are updated regularly with information for students and staff.  If you can’t find the answer to your questions via these sources, please email Covid19enquiries@ncl.ac.uk.

Best wishes,
Lucy