Here, you will find all the latest updates regarding COVID-19 from QMU.

27th November 2020 

STUDENTS

Our Asymptomatic Testing Centre will open on Monday 30 November. We are offering voluntary testing for those students who are not currently displaying any COVID symptoms, and who are planning to move home or to a different household over the winter break period. There has been a great uptake so far. For more information on testing or to book, please visit our testing website. Thank you to all the students who will be supporting the operation of the centre under the supervision of Senior Nursing Lecturer, Ruth Magowan.

You might be interested in accessing the recording of the student questions and answers on the subject of testing (link to the Q&A recording).

You will have seen the Moderator message of Tuesday (24 November) with information on Christmas closure and hand-in arrangements. As soon as we can, we will issue a message confirming the facilities and support services that will remain available to you over the festive break. In the meantime, you can find outline information in our coronavirus FAQs. We continue to update the FAQs more generally as and when we have updated information to share.

The Scottish Government has issued updated guidance on home visits, including returning home at the end of semester. Included in this information is guidance on travelling safely. Again, we are reflecting this information in our FAQs.

Thanks again to all of you who have downloaded the Protect Scotland app. A study by the Office for National Statistics across four sample universities (not including QMU) indicates that 67% of students have downloaded either this or the app used in England. These tracing apps are a really useful tool in reducing the spread of the virus.

Looking ahead to the start of next semester, the Scottish Government has indicated that student testing is likely to form part of its plan for the return to campus in the new year. We await further details on this, and will let you know as soon as we know more.

As we move towards the end of the semester and the shortest days of the year, tiredness and lack of daylight can take their toll on your wellbeing. Don’t forget the wellbeing resources available to you at the University. Our Counselling and Wellbeing teams are providing both face-to-face support sessions and online/phone support. You can book an appointment either through Student Central or by sending us an email. You can also contact your Personal Academic Tutor (names on the Student Portal). You might also want to sign up for Togetherall which is available to you through the University. This is a digital mental health support service which is available online, 24/7, and is completely anonymous so you can express yourself freely and openly.

Staff

Our Asymptomatic Testing Centre will open on Monday. We are offering voluntary testing for those students who are not currently displaying any Covid symptoms, and who are planning to move home or to a different household over the winter break period. Pleasingly, there has been a great uptake so far. Many thanks indeed to everyone involved in setting up this centre at very short notice. It has been a huge undertaking, but, through everyone’s efforts, we are all set to go live.

In our COVID update to students today, we confirmed that we will soon issue a message confirming the facilities and support services that will remain available to them over the festive break. In the meantime, they (and you) can find outline information on our plans in our coronavirus FAQs. We continue to update the FAQS more generally as and when we have updated information to share.

We have also shared with students updated guidance from the Scottish Government on home visits, including returning home at the end of semester. Included in this information is guidance on travelling safely.

We have also updated the section of the coronavirus website aimed at applicants and offer-holders, so that the information is more focused on January starts. Included in the new content are updates of the videos we launched in September on our campus adaptations and on the steps students need to take to keep safe.

Looking ahead to the start of next semester, the Scottish Government has indicated that student testing is likely to form part of its plan for the return to campus in the new year. We await further details on this, and will let you know as soon as we know more.

Thank you again for your contribution to the University at this time.

20 November

STUDENTS

We are making good progress on developing our COVID-19 testing site for asymptomatic students, which will be based in 1875 (food court) on campus. We will share more information on the arrangements shortly, including a number of job opportunities for students over the period of testing. In the meantime, a message for international students who are being asked to take a COVID test before they fly home for the Christmas break: please be aware that your airline might require a PCR test (available privately through a number of local pharmacies) rather than the lateral flow test variant being used for the student asymptomatic testing scheme.

Alongside this, I will remind you of the request in the recent letter to you from the Scottish Government Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science that, if you are changing household over Christmas, you should voluntarily reduce your social mixing for two weeks before going home or changing household. This means going out only for essential reasons, such as for classes, shopping for food, and exercise. This is the advice for all of us in Scotland at this time, but it is most vital to those of you changing residence from a high COVID protection level area to a lower level, and those who are returning to households with vulnerable family members. The minister’s letter also highlighted the Scottish Government’s guidance on visiting home. We are expecting “questions and answers” from the government on safe travel home for students, which we will of course share with you.

I will also take this opportunity to highlight an amendment to the information on modes of delivery for next semester. The amendment is that IGHD courses will be delivered by blended learning, rather than fully face to face.

We will be in touch as soon as we have more information on testing on campus. In the meantime, thank you for your continued patience.

STAFF

Dear colleagues

We are making good progress on developing our COVID-19 testing site for asymptomatic students, which will be based in 1875 (food court) on campus. The University Secretary, Irene Hynd, is leading a rapid action task force, with clinical support from Ruth Magowan, that is working at pace through all the legal, logistical, communication and compliance and staff resourcing issues. We will share more information on the arrangements shortly, including a number of job opportunities for students over the period of testing.

Earlier this week, we shared with students a letter to them from the Scottish Government Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science. The letter provided a summary of the Scottish Government’s strategic approach to higher education at this time, a reminder of the guidance for students on visiting home, and advice to them on how to avoid spreading the risk if they are changing households over the winter break, with reference to the plans for offering COVID testing to students.

I will also take this opportunity to highlight an amendment to the information on modes of delivery for next semester. The amendment is that IGHD courses will be delivered by blended learning rather than purely face to face.

It has been some time since I highlighted the opportunity for staff to request equipment to enable safe working at home. You can find information on the process for requesting equipment here. If you think you need equipment not available from the campus, please speak to your line manager or the Health and Safety Adviser (mkennedy1@qmu.ac.uk) for advice, as there is a process to enable such purchases. Please don’t order equipment yourself because we may not be able to refund you.

We will be in touch as soon as we have more information on student testing on campus. In the meantime, thank you for your continued patience.

17 November 2020

FOR STUDENTS AND STAFF 

Update on coronavirus protection levels

Today, the First Minister gave an update on the coronavirus protection levels.

The City of Edinburgh will remain in level 3. East Lothian and Midlothian will move down from level 3 to level 2 from Tuesday 24 November.

A number of central belt council areas, including West Lothian, will move up to level 4 (ie tighter restrictions) this Friday because infection rates there remain worryingly high, but schools will remain open in level 4 areas. Whilst the requirement that people do not travel out of level 3 or 4 areas except for essential purposes will come into law on Friday, travel for work and education purposes is still permitted. 

With restrictions in East Lothian easing a little, we will consider the implications for the campus, particularly our catering services and Students’ Union activities, whilst being mindful of the need not to do anything to risk an increase in cases. 

The First Minister briefly touched on planning for vaccine implementation and for mass asymptomatic testing saying that the end of the pandemic is ‘now within our grasp’. In the meantime, she urged us to remember FACTS.

Plans for COVID testing on campus

Following the Scottish Government’s announcement of measures to support students changing household for the winter break, we can confirm that the University will be participating in the national scheme for COVID testing of asymptomatic students.  We are working at a very rapid pace to ensure that testing of asymptomatic students is available from 30 November for those students who wish to take up the opportunity to be tested. Full information, including how to book a test, will be published just as soon as we have final confirmation of all the important safeguards we need to put in place to deliver the testing, and we will update you as soon as we have finalised details. In the meantime, thank you for your patience and co-operation.

 

13 November 2020

13 November

FOR STUDENTS

Dear students

Following Wednesday’s announcement from the Scottish Government on measures to support students changing household for the winter break, we are making good progress on our response, including provision of voluntary testing, and support for students who choose not to return home or change household. We will share more information as soon as we can, including the Q&A’s for students that the government plan to issue.

As you will know from our update of 6th November, we are planning on maintaining our current approach to learning and teaching into semester two.  Personalised timetables for students in the School of Arts, Social Sciences and Management will be available on December 9th, while programme level timetables will be available for students in the School of Health Sciences on December 16th, with fuller details to follow.  This difference between the two schools is due to the additional complexity of managing the safe delivery of pre-placement essential skills sessions, and programme specific practical sessions, but we apologise for this delay nonetheless. 

In advance of the provision of that timetable information, we can confirm the following modes of delivery for programmes in semester two: 

All Arts, Social Sciences and Management undergraduate and postgraduate programmes 

Blended learning – a mixture of face to face teaching (and practical sessions, where applicable) and online learning 

All Health Sciences undergraduate programmes 

Blended learning – a mixture of face to face practical sessions and online learning 

All IGHD postgraduate programmes  

Blended learning  

All pre-registration postgraduate Health Sciences programmes (1st & 2nd years) 

Blended learning – a mixture of face to face practical and some theory and online learning 

All post-registration postgraduate Health Sciences programmes 

 Fully online

 

Please note that for those students with blended learning programmes, while some of your individual modules may be entirely online, your programme will nonetheless be delivered through a mix of face to face and online learning.

On Tuesday, the First Minister announced an update to COVID protection levels. Three council areas moved up a level (to level 3). Edinburgh City and East Lothian remain in level 3.

We will update you as soon as we have more information to share.  In the meantime, thank you for your continued support, and I hope you feel supported as we work towards preparing for the winter break and the return in the New Year.   As ever, please don’t hesitate to call on the support services available in the University if you need any particular help.

FOR STAFF

Following Wednesday’s announcement from the Scottish Government on measures to support students changing household for the winter break, we are making good progress on our response, including provision of voluntary testing, and support for students who choose not to return home or change household. We will share more information as soon as we can, including the Q&A’s for students that the government plan to issue.

As you will know from our update of 6th November, we are planning on maintaining our current blended approach to learning and teaching into semester two. Personalised timetables for students in the School of Arts, Social Sciences and Management will be available on December 9th, while programme level timetables will be available for students in the School of Health Sciences on December 16th, with fuller details to follow.  This difference between the two schools is due to the additional complexity of managing the safe delivery of pre-placement essential skills sessions, and programme specific practical sessions. On Tuesday, the First Minister announced an update to COVID protection levels. Three council areas moved up a level (to level 3). Edinburgh City and East Lothian remain in level 3. 

We will update you as soon as we have more information to share.  In the meantime, thank you for your continued support, which really is appreciated.

11 November 2020: Ministerial statement on Supporting Students to Return Home Safely at the End of Semester

Ministerial statement on Supporting Students to Return Home Safely at the End of Semester

Dear students and staff

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, today made a statement in the Scottish Parliament on supporting students to return home safely at the end of this semester.

After expressing his thanks to University students and staff for all their efforts so far to enable teaching and learning to continue this semester and to protect our communities, Mr Lochhead set out measures to support students to return home safely or change household for the winter break, with such measures being designed to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.  

The measures are:

  • Staggered departures of students, to be achieved through variation in term end dates between Scottish universities. This measure is in place already, and there will be no change to the University’s published session dates.
  • Asking students to voluntarily reduce their contact with others for two weeks before they return home or change household. This is line with what we are all being asked to do at this time.
  • Offering (voluntary) testing to all students who are planning to move from their term time address. This will be administered by universities, and we are in early discussion about potential arrangements at QMU. The test kits used will be ‘lateral flow devices’ which deliver a result within an hour. Students who take part will be tested twice over five days if they have a negative result.  Those who return a positive result will be asked to self-isolate, with the testing exercise timed to enable any students who need to self-isolate to return home or change household before Christmas. Students with a negative test result will still be asked to continue to limit their social contacts, of course.
  • Provision of guidance on safe travel, to be published soon.
  • Provision of “questions and answers” for students in the near future.

Mr Lochhead also emphasised that universities will provide support for students who choose not to return home or change household, and I can confirm we are making such provision at QMU.

Mr Lochhead confirmed further that work is ongoing in terms of planning for the safe return of students to campus in the New Year. You can read the full wording of the minister’s speech on the Scottish Government website

Having been involved in sector-wide discussions, the University is well prepared to deliver what the minister has asked for, and we are currently finalising our response.  We will update you with further details as soon as we can. In the meantime, I encourage you to remember FACTS: face coverings, avoid crowded places, clean hands regularly, two metre social distancing and self isolate, and book a test if you have symptoms.

I will take this opportunity to address a question that some of you have been asking recently, and that is whether staff and students should wear face coverings in classrooms, now that this is a requirement in school classrooms in level 3 COVID protection areas. The answer is that face coverings are not required in our classrooms, unless physical distancing is compromised for some reason. The position with physical distancing differs within schools.

 

Malcolm G Cutt

Director of Operations and Finance

 

 

6 November 2020

 

FOR STUDENTS

The Scottish Government’s system of COVID protection levels has now been implemented.  Some students going on placements outside the local authority area in which they live have been asking if they can go on these placements if either area has been assigned coronavirus protection level 3. The answer is yes, they can attend their placements. Whatever the coronavirus (COVID-19) protection level for your area, you can travel into or out of level 3 and 4 local authority areas, or to or from other parts of the UK, for study, essential work or placements.

SU survey on learning and teaching

Thank you to all the students who completed the Students’ Union survey on learning and teaching. There were over 1,000 responses in total, with many comments, all of which provide valuable insight into the experience of our students so far this semester. The comments highlight a whole spectrum of opinions around face to face and online learning, with a number of positive comments giving support and respect for lecturers who are managing this new way of working and supporting students. It also seems that the majority of students feel well supported with their chosen option of teaching method. If you would like to see the full results, please contact Chiara, the Students’ Union President at cmenozzi@qmu.ac.uk

Timetable for next semester

As you will be aware from previous updates, we are planning on maintaining our current blended approach to learning and teaching into semester two. Semester two timetable information will be provided for all students by Wednesday 16th December at the latest, if not slightly earlier.

Technology support fund

The University has received funding from the Scottish Government to support students who find themselves in ‘Digital Poverty’, meaning that they do not have the funds to buy a device that allows them to study online. Under this scheme the University has purchased laptops that can be lent to students for the duration of their course. We realise that some students face particular financial difficulties and priority will be given to the same group that are a priority for the Discretionary (Hardship) Funds. These will be students who are care experienced, young carers, estranged, single parents, young students in receipt of the young student bursary, and mature students in receipt of the mature student bursary. Applications are not limited to these students however and will be looked at on a case by case basis.

Please email technologysupportfund@qmu.ac.uk if you wish to apply for the loan of a laptop, giving a short explanation of your circumstances. You will then be sent the link to the application along with information about the evidence you will need to submit to support your application.

Students who are not eligible to apply for a laptop through this initiative are those that have chosen not to take the maximum student funding available to them, research students, students from the EU and international students. If EU or international students find themselves in difficulty then they can apply to the International Hardship fund.

 

FOR STAFF

The Scottish Government’s system of COVID protection levels has now been implemented.  Some students going on placements outside the local authority area in which they live have been asking if they can go on these placements if either area has been assigned coronavirus protection level 3. The answer is yes, they can attend their placements. Whatever the coronavirus (COVID-19) protection level for your area, one can travel into or out of level 3 and 4 local authority areas, or to or from other parts of the UK, for study, essential work or placements.

We have updated the University-wide risk assessment to take account of recent developments, and it will be updated on a monthly basis (or more frequently if required) from now on.  You can find the updated risk assessment on the intranet.  If you have a localised risk assessment, please ensure that you review and update it in line with the updated University-wide risk assessment.

SU survey on learning and teaching

We now have the results from the Students’ Union survey on learning and teaching. There were over 1,000 responses in total, with many comments, all of which provide valuable insight into the experience of our students so far this semester. The comments highlight a whole spectrum of opinions around face to face and online learning, with a number of positive comments giving support and respect for lecturers who are managing this new way of working and supporting students. It also seems that the majority of students feel well supported with their chosen option of teaching method. More information on the survey is available on the intranet.

Timetable for next semester

As you will be aware from previous updates, we are planning on maintaining our current blended approach to learning and teaching into semester two. Semester two timetable information will be provided for all students by Wednesday 16th December at the latest, if not slightly earlier.

IT update

The demonstration of new camera and microphone equipment in teaching spaces has now been completed with over 40 members of staff viewing the equipment.  Feedback has generally been very positive, and a recommendations report is now being prepared.

The TEL team are finalising their staff training programme for December onwards.  Their programme is based on feedback they have had from previous training, and evidenced by support calls that are coming to them.

At this point, they are opening up the conversation to capture anything they've missed, and would appreciate your views, which you can provide by completing their short survey. The survey will inform the future training programme. 

Technology support fund

The University has received funding from the Scottish Government to support students who find themselves in ‘Digital Poverty’, meaning they do not have the funds to buy a device that allows them to study online. Under this scheme the University has purchased laptops that can be lent to students for the duration of their course. We realise that some students face particular financial difficulties and priority will be given to the same group that are a priority for the Discretionary (Hardship) Funds. These will be students that are care experienced, young carers, estranged, single parents, young students in receipt of the young student bursary, and mature students in receipt of the mature student bursary. Applications are not limited to these students however and will be looked at on a case by case basis.

If you are aware of students who might benefit from the loan of a laptop, do encourage them to email technologysupportfund@qmu.ac.uk. They will then be sent the link to the application along with information about the evidence they will need to submit to support their application.

Students who are not eligible to apply for a laptop through this initiative are those who have chosen not to take the maximum student funding available to them, research students, students from the EU and international students. If EU or international students find themselves in difficulty then they can apply to the International Hardship fund.

Call for applications for SFC Research funding to mitigate the effects COVID-19 on the research base

Queen Margaret University was allocated £374,518 of Scottish Government funding by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to contribute to the mitigation of effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Scottish university research base. The University launched an open call for applications for funding from University staff on November 3rd, full details of which are available on the intranet.

30 October 2020

Travelling to/from the University from an area in another tier

Yesterday, the Scottish Government officially unveiled Scotland’s new five-tier coronavirus restrictions system. Similar to the restrictions that are currently in place, the central belt (including East Lothian) has been placed into level 3. Much of the rest of the country, including neighbouring regions such as Fife, has been placed into the level 2 tier.

Although government guidance states that travelling between tiers should be avoided unless it is essential, please be assured that travelling to and from university is permitted (please see the ‘Travel’ section, which outlines what is considered essential).

Staying safe on Halloween and Bonfire Night 

As we approach both Halloween and Bonfire Night, we’d like to remind students that the restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings are still in place and that this, unfortunately, means that traditional activities such as Halloween parties, trick or treating/guising and firework displays cannot take place due to the significant threat to public health that the virus still poses. Students are reminded that they can still mark Halloween by dressing up and celebrating within their household.

We realise how disappointing this will be, particularly for new students who have so far not been able to engage in the first year of university life in the way they would have envisaged prior to the pandemic. It is crucial, however, that our collective efforts to limit the spread of the virus continue. We’d like to thank everyone for their continued patience and understanding.

Academic writing and wellbeing support

University staff understand that the current situation is very hard for you and, if you are feeling anxious or have concerns, do remember that we are here to help you. Contact Student Services or the Students’ Union if you need support, or email our dedicated COVID email address at CovidHelp@qmu.ac.uk. You might also want to sign up for Togetherall, which is available to you through the University. This is a digital mental health support service which is available online, 24/7, and is completely anonymous so you can express yourself freely and openly.

As you are preparing for and working on your assignments, please remember that, in addition to the discipline specific guidance from your programme team, on campus and online academic writing support is also available from the University’s Effective Learning Service and, for level one students, from our 24/7 online academic writing support partners Studiosity.

27 October 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update – 27 October 2020 

Updates from government

Following the update from the First Minister on Wednesday 21 October, it has been confirmed that the current restrictions throughout the central belt will continue to be in place until 6am on Monday 2 November. We would like to thank everyone who has continued to follow government guidance – we know that this has not been easy, but government data suggests thathese restrictions are already making a difference. 

In her update on Friday 23 October, the First Minister unveiled the Scottish Government’s five-tier strategic framework for possible levels of intervention. Parliament will vote on the framework later today, consulting with local authorities and public health bodies. If passed by Parliament, different levels will be applied to different areas across the country, depending on case numbers. 

The five levels of possible intervention are as follows 

  • Level zero is the closest to normality. Comparable to how things were in August. Up to eight people will be able to meet indoors from three different households. 

  • Level one allows up to six people from two households to meet indoors, similar to how things were in September.  

  • Level two restrictions will be similar to those currently in place outside the central belt.  

  • Level three will be similar to the restrictions currently in place inside the central belt, although restaurants may be able to open with some limitations.  

  • Level four is closest to a full lockdown. Non-essential shops will have to close, but up to six people from two households would still be able to meet outside and in public places. People will also be able to continue to exercise outdoors. 

The Scottish Government plans to keep schools, colleges and universities open at all levels, though the different levels may have implications for the nature and volume of activity permitted on campus. It is also considering a number of options to support students to continue to protect themselves around Christmas vacation period. These include asking students to adopt a precautionary approach to limiting their contact with others before they go home and on return, to help them safely make a temporary change of households over the holiday period, exploring the scope for additional testing, and supporting students to travel home safely. It is expected that further information on these measures will be made available shortly. 

Public Health Scotland student survey 

Public Health Scotland (PHS) is inviting students who have experienced quarantine or self-isolation since starting university in September to take part in an online focus group to help with an important piece of research. 

The focus groups will each be comprised of a small group of students, not necessarily from the same university as each other. PHS’s research is being run independently of government and Scotland’s universities, and any personal student data will be anonymised. This data includes who has taken part in the survey and will not be shared with universities. 

To sign up and take part in the survey, please visit https://surveys.publichealthscotland.scot/index.php/394914/lang-en. Those who wish to participate should also read the participant information sheet and sign the consent form at https://publichealthscotland.scot/our-areas-of-work/covid-19-student-self-isolation-and-wellbeing-study.  

Tidying rooms on campus after use  

Although all teaching spaces are cleaned each time after use, it would be appreciated if you could please help cleaning staff by taking all litter – pieces of paper, coffee cups etc. - with you after classes and disposing of them in the bins provided elsewhere on campus. This will allow the cleaning team to do their jobs more efficiently.  

Reading weeks 

Classes have now resumed for students in the School of Health Sciences, following last week’s reading week. The School of Arts, Social Sciences and Management’s reading week began yesterday – classes resume on Monday 2 November. 

Students are reminded that they can still get in touch with their Personal Academic Tutor (PAT) during this time.  

QMUSU Teaching and Learning Survey 

Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out the Teaching and Learning Survey conducted by the Students’ Union. The information you have provided is important for helping us shape our plans for next semester. Please keep an eye out for a summary of the findings in a future update.

16 October 2020

16 October 2020

Students

A short update this week:

With many of you embarking on reading weeks over the next 10 days or so, I will take this opportunity to remind you of the current guidance from the Scottish Government on what we can and can’t do at this time, particularly the section for students. Thank you for everything you are doing to stick to the rules, for yourself, your loved ones and everyone in our community.

Linked to this, the Scottish Government has launched a campaign aimed at students, focused on the fact that we all have something or someone that we want to protect from COVID, for example university life, our health, or seeing friends. I am sure you will see the campaign on social media in the next few days. The campaign highlights the advice on managing mental health and wellbeing that you can find on the Clear Your Head website, and we have added a link to this site on our coronavirus website.

As we approach the middle of the semester, the Students’ Union is running a survey on learning. I hope that you’ve seen it already, but if you haven’t, you still have a couple of days to complete it before it closes. Thank you to all you who have already taken the time to fill it in, as your opinions could shape next semester and are very much valued. It only takes five minutes to complete.

Staff

A short update this week:

Thanks to everyone who attended either of the Chat with the Senior Leadership Team sessions this week. With well over 100 participants there were lots of interesting questions and chat.  You can access the recordings online under Documents on the COVID intranet landing page.

A couple of participants highlighted media coverage on Tuesday around the publication of recommendations made by the UK Government’s SAGE group back on 21 September. The media coverage reported that, on 21 September, before the return of most students across the UK, SAGE had recommended all university and college teaching should be carried out online "unless absolutely essential".  At the Chat with the SLT, the Principal was asked for the University’s position on this. 

The University’s position is that it will follow Scottish Government advice (and, of course, it is government’s role to decide which SAGE group recommendations to adopt).  Both the UK and Scottish Governments have indicated that delivery of higher education is a priority, and in line with government advice, we are committed to continuing with blended learning. All face to face activity is, of course, subject to rigorous risk assessment and appropriate adaptations to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff and students. This remains our top priority and our risk assessments will be regularly reviewed to ensure we continue to comply with the latest guidance. It is also worth noting that there is no evidence across the sector of transmission of COVID in a classroom setting. 

Along with the rest of the sector, we would highlight the value of (very carefully managed) face to face teaching to promote student engagement in their learning, the ability of students to build peer networks, and student mental health, as well as the fact that there are practical aspects of many of our programmes that simply can’t be delivered online.

Alongside this, some other participants at the Chat with the SLT session highlighted that they felt that students valued on campus teaching.

The only other thing to point out this week is the Students’ Union’s survey on learning, the results of which will help to inform our approach to learning and teaching next semester. The survey is open until Monday, and so if you have the opportunity to encourage your students to complete it, that would be really helpful. 

09 October 2020

Students 

Thank you again for the actions you are taking to help to control the virus. It really is making a difference, particularly in helping to contain any potential outbreaks in the student accommodation.

Temporary restrictions announced by the Scottish Government

But across the country and beyond the virus is spreading, and on Wednesday afternoon the First Minister announced further (temporary) restrictions to reduce the reinfection rate and avoid the need for a full lockdown. In her speech, she emphasised that universities remain open. The temporary restrictions - some of which are specific to the central belt region, which includes Edinburgh and the Lothians - focus mainly on hospitality, travel and public transport.

For 16 days, from 6pm this evening until at least Sunday 25 October, we are being advised not to travel outside our own health board area (Lothian) if we don’t need to. We are also being asked to minimise the use of public transport as much as possible, other than for purposes such as travel for education, or for work (where it is not possible to work from home). Here in Lothian, licensed pubs and restaurants (ie those with a licence to serve alcohol) will be required to close, with the exception of takeaway services. However, cafes will be allowed to remain open between 6am and 6pm, whether they are licensed or unlicensed, as long as they don’t serve alcohol. Gyms may remain open during this period, but there can be no group exercise classes. Adult contact sports and training are also prohibited.

On campus, this means that:

  • The 1875 food court will be open as usual.
  • Starbucks will be open Monday to Friday, from 8.30am until 6pm.
  • There will be a delivery service to the Starbucks spaces from Maggie’s, from 11am until 9pm, 7 days a week.
  • Maggie’s will operate as a café selling meals, coffees and non-alcoholic beverages from 11am until 6pm each day. From 6-9 pm, Maggie’s will also be available to students living on campus, on a pre-booking basis only, in line with an exemption in the temporary restrictions which allows on-site dining facilities for students in student accommodation.

You will find more details on catering arrangements at the foot of this message.

The government continues to consider that using public transport to travel to work or for the purposes of study is essential, including where that involves crossing Health Board boundaries within the central belt, and continues to support universities’ delivery of blended learning. We therefore very much encourage you to continue to attend face-to-face classes during the temporary restrictions, however you travel to the campus. However, if you feel you need to study online during this period, you can do so. Please tell the Registry (registry@qmu.ac.uk) if you need to take up this option. If you are considering driving to the campus, please note that parking restrictions remain suspended for the time being.

Support available to you

We recognise how tough all of this must be on you, though I emphasise that the additional restrictions are temporary. Beyond the University, civic leaders appreciate your efforts greatly too, and I would highlight the open letter to students from the Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh that was published this week.

If you need support, do call on our Student Services team or the Students’ Union. You can also email our dedicated COVID email address at CovidHelp@qmu.ac.uk (though we will be closing the associated telephone line at the end of the week, as the number of calls has reduced significantly). We all want to help.

As you would expect, staff across the University and Students’ Union have been working hard to support the small number of students in quarantine or self-isolation in our student accommodation, for example through the Students’ Union Quarantine Coffees and the Accommodation/ResLife team checking in regularly with self-isolating students. Along with the other Scottish higher education institutions, we have signed up to a package of measures to ensure consistent care for students who are self-isolating, and all students who are adjusting to a different model of study and wider student experience this semester. Our Principal, Sir Paul Grice, spoke about these issues on BBC TV’s Politics Scotland show last week (30 September episode). If you have been self-isolating, I do hope that you have felt supported by the University.

With tomorrow (Saturday) designated as World Mental Health Day, we are more conscious than ever of your mental health and wellbeing at this time. On Saturday, the SU are running fun activities in the Tent to help lift your spirits. You need to pre-book your place and information is available on the events section of the Students’ Union website.

A reminder

Finally, I’ll take this opportunity to remind you of two things:

1. The importance of swiping into classes. By doing so, you enable the Test and Protect team to identify if you might be a close contact of any COVID case.

2. The importance of adhering to the Scottish Government advice on when you need to self-isolate. The Scottish Government has produced a video, which explains the rules in a simple way.

Thank you for your support.

Catering opening hours

Starbucks

  • Open Monday – Friday 8.30am until 6pm selling usual Starbucks goodies & beverages.
  • Click & Collect will be available from Monday.
  • Delivery service to the Starbucks spaces from Maggie’s is available 11am - 9pm, 7 days a week. · Follow Maggie’s Facebook page for details of how to order.

1875

Open as normal, 8.30am – 3pm

Maggie’s

Staff

Updates on business continuity etc

I will begin this message by saying that number of students in accommodation affected by the virus or self-isolating remains small, which is very pleasing, though we are certainly not complacent. Given this, we have been able to pause our incident management group meetings, although we remain ready to step up the frequency again at very short notice if required. While our University Business Continuity Group continues to meet twice weekly, frequency of the Schools Business Continuity Group meetings has been reduced to fortnightly, as we have become more used to our new ways of teaching.

Supporting our students at this time

As I hope you know, staff across the University and Students’ Union have been working hard to support the small number of students in quarantine or self-isolation, for example through the Students’ Union’s Quarantine Coffees and through the Accommodation/ResLife team checking in regularly with self-isolating students. Along with the other Scottish higher education institutions, we have signed up to a package of measures to ensure consistent care for students who are self-isolating, and all students who are adjusting to a different model of study and wider student experience this semester. Colleagues throughout professional services areas have volunteered to field calls and e-mails from students to our dedicated phone line and e-mail inbox. While the inbox will remain open, the telephone line will close at the end of this week, as the number of calls has reduced significantly. Our Principal spoke about student support issues on BBC TV’s Politics Scotland show last week (30 September episode), and was able to give a good account of all of the measures we have put in place at QMU. Thank you to each and every one of you who is supporting students in one way or another at this time.

The temporary restrictions announced by the Scottish Government

As you will know, on Wednesday afternoon the First Minister announced further (temporary) restrictions to reduce the reinfection rate and avoid the need for a full lockdown. In her speech, she emphasised that universities remain open. The temporary restrictions - some of which are specific to the central belt region, which includes Edinburgh and the Lothians - focus mainly on hospitality, travel and public transport.

For 16 days, from 6pm this evening until at least Sunday 25 October, we are being advised not to travel outside our own health board area (Lothian) if we don’t need to. We are also being asked to minimise the use of public transport as much as possible, other than for purposes such as travel for education, or for work (where it is not possible to work from home). Here in Lothian, licensed pubs and restaurants (ie those with a licence to serve alcohol) will be required to close, with the exception of takeaway services. However, cafes will be allowed to remain open between 6am and 6pm, whether they are licensed or unlicensed, as long as they don’t serve alcohol. Gyms may remain open during this period, but there can be no group exercise classes. Adult contact sports and training are also prohibited.

On campus, this means that:

  • The 1875 food court will be open as usual.
  • Starbucks will be open Monday – Friday, from 8.30am until 6pm.
  • There will be a delivery service to the Starbucks spaces from Maggie’s, from 11am until 9pm, 7 days a week.
  • Maggie’s will operate as a café selling meals, coffees and non-alcoholic beverages from 11am until 6pm each day. From 6-9 pm, Maggie’s will also be available to students living on campus, on a pre-booking basis only, in line with an exemption in the temporary restrictions which allows on-site dining facilities for students in student accommodation.

You will find more details on catering arrangements at the foot of this message.

In our latest update to students, we have set out the impact of these restrictions on them. We have advised them that government continues to consider that using public transport to travel to work or for the purposes of study is essential, including where that involves crossing Health Board boundaries within the central belt. Accordingly, we have encouraged them to continue to attend face-to-face classes during the temporary restrictions, however they travel to the campus. Similarly, staff who are already attending campus delivering face-to-face teaching and providing direct support for students should continue to do this. We would also remind you that, if you are considering driving to the campus, parking restrictions remain suspended for the time being.

More on semester two

In my update of 25 September, I outlined our approach to teaching in semester two. We have now published an updated FAQ on that topic in the student and applicant coronavirus FAQS. Alongside this, we are making progress on timetabling planning.

Chat with the Senior Leadership Team

You will have seen the invitation to ‘Chat with the Senior Leadership Team’ online events taking place next week. The Principal has arranged these events, conscious that you may find it more difficult than usual to engage with the Senior Leadership Team at the moment, given that some colleagues continue to work remotely, and the practicalities of social distancing.

You will have seen the Moderator message issued by HR this week on wellbeing resources. I hope that you find this useful. That message, along with other COVID-related messages can be found on the COVID intranet site.

Thank you for your continued support.

Catering opening hours

Starbucks

  • Open Monday – Friday 8.30am until 6pm selling usual Starbucks goodies & beverages.
  • Click & Collect will be available from Monday.
  • Delivery service to the Starbucks spaces from Maggie’s is available 11am - 9pm, 7 days a week.
  • Follow Maggie’s Facebook page for details of how to order.

1875

Open as normal, 8.30am – 3pm

Maggie’s

  • Operating as a café selling meals, coffees & non-alcoholic beverages from 11am – 6pm.
  • Also available to students living on campus from 6pm – 9pm on a pre-booking only basis via the Maggie’s Facebook page. Proof of residence will be required.
  • From 11am – 10pm daily, we will be offering a full shop including essentials, treats and off license options, take-away options and delivery service.
  • Online and contactless ordering is available via the Round App - look for Maggie’s Shop on the App. Details of how to do this will be available on Maggie’s Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

30 September 2020 

For students

Reducing the spread of the virus

Since our last routine COVID update, we advised you that we have a small cluster of COVID-19 cases in the halls of residence. We confirmed that we are working with NHS Lothian’s Health Protection Team to address the situation. Thanks to your vigilance in following the advice and control measures in place - remembering FACTS - the cluster remains small. 

Thank you again for your actions over the weekend, in complying with government guidance not to visit other flats, and to avoid socialising outside of your household.  Everyone in the Senior Leadership Team appreciates the sacrifices that you are making just now to help keep people safe on campus and in the wider community.

COVID Q&A, helpline and inbox

At this challenging time, the Principal and other colleagues were really pleased to have the opportunity to engage with some of you directly at the COVID Q&A that took place on Friday afternoon, hosted by the Students’ Union. At the busiest point, 100 students were participating in this event. If you were not able to attend, you might like to access the recording.

We have also launched a COVID helpline and inbox to provide you with information about the actions the University is taking during the pandemic to protect you, and to answer any questions you may have. You can find details of these services on our coronavirus website.

Other useful information

With so many confusing stories in the media right now, it is pleasing that many of you have fed back, via your lecturers or through the Students’ Union, that you are appreciating the face-to-face learning that we are able to offer at this time. Working with the SU, we plan to carry out a short survey to hear more about your experience of blended learning this semester, partly so we can learn from that in preparing for semester two.  I can reaffirm our commitment to providing face-to-face teaching, as part of our blended model, throughout this academic year, so long as Government regulations allow. 

The Scottish Government has addressed confusion about visiting home, in advice released at the weekend. In short, the general advice is that you should not visit family at home (though there are some exceptions). This is to minimise the risk of spreading the virus. Whilst I appreciate it is not the same as visiting home, it is worth remembering that you can meet family members outdoors or in public indoor spaces such as cafes, pubs and restaurants, so long as you follow the ‘rule of six’.  

Getting support, and opportunities for recreation

As I have said before, University staff understand that the current situation is very hard for you.  If you are feeling anxious or need support, do remember that we are here to help you. Contact Student Services or the Students’ Union for support. You might also want to sign up for Togetherall, which is available to you through the University. This is a digital mental health support service which is available online, 24/7, and is completely anonymous so you can express yourself freely and openly.

At this time, most of us are treasuring more than ever opportunities to meet others and to get fresh air and exercise. Given this, I think you will glad to hear that our Students’ Union team is getting additional compliance advice on sports which we hope will enable us to get our sports teams and clubs back to (socially distanced) training as quickly as possible.

Reporting self-isolation, symptoms and positive test results

Finally, I will remind you that it is important to tell us straight away if you are self-isolating, have coronavirus symptoms or have a positive coronavirus test.  You need to: (1) tell Security (0131 474 0000 ext 2222) - and also Accommodation (0131 474 0000 x 4902) if you live on campus; (2) Contact the School Office - schooloffice@qmu.ac.uk. You will find more information on this, and many other issues, on our coronavirus FAQs.

Thank you again for all your efforts at this time.

 

For staff 

Since our last routine COVID update, we advised you that we have a small cluster of COVID-19 cases in the halls of residence. We confirmed that we are working with NHS Lothian’s Health Protection Team to address the situation. Thanks to the vigilance of staff and students in following the advice and control measures in place, the cluster remains small and the Health Protection Team have confirmed that they are content with the control measures that the University has in place and that they are being maintained.

Given the fast changing situation over the last couple of weeks, the Principal and other colleagues were really pleased to have the opportunity to engage with students directly at the COVID Q&A that took place on Friday afternoon, hosted by the Students’ Union. At the busiest point, 100 students were participating in this event. If you would like to know more, you can listen to a recording of the event. 

As you will be aware, we have also launched a COVID helpline and inbox to provide students with information about the actions the University is taking during the pandemic to protect them and to answer other COVID-related questions. You can find out more on our coronavirus website. Thank you very much indeed to all the staff who have volunteered to field helpline calls and emails.

We know that staff are also likely to have questions and concerns about COVID right now.  These can be raised with HR by contacting Neil Mackie, Head of HR (nmackie@qmu.ac.uk), Beth Doherty, Senior HR Partner (bdoherty@qmu.ac.uk) or the relevant HR partner for your department/school.

I will take this opportunity to say that we are receiving strong anecdotal evidence that students are appreciating the face-to-face teaching that we are offering at this time, and that we plan to seek more robust evidence on students’ experience of learning and teaching thus far this semester, partly to help inform our approach to semester two which, as you are aware, will follow the same blended model of delivery, so long as Government regulations allow.

Finally, and at risk of boring you, I will remind you to tell us straight away if you are self-isolating, have coronavirus symptoms or have had a positive coronavirus test.  You need to: (1) tell Security (0131 474 0000 ext 2222); (2) email the Head of Human Resources at nmackie@qmu.ac.uk; (3) advise your line manager. You will find more information on this and many other issues on our coronavirus FAQs.

Thank you for your continued support

25 September 2020: Important update

COVID-19 (coronavirus) – important update 

The University is aware of a small cluster of COVID-19 cases in the halls of residence. We are working with NHS Lothian’s Health Protection Team to address the situation. 

Thanks to the vigilance of students and staff, who have been following the advice and control measures in place, the cluster remains small. 

The University and the Health Protection Team are in contact with all of the close contacts and advising them to self-isolate for 14 days and providing all necessary guidance and advice. 

The campus remains open for business as usual, with sensible precautions in place. Unless you have been contacted or you know you have been in close contact with someone that has been symptomatic, e.g. through living in a household or socialising, you should continue to attend classes and work as normalWe would like to reassure staff and students that the risk of transmission in classrooms is low due to robust social distancing measures, the wearing of face coverings, regular hand washing and cleaning measures already in place. 

We understand that this news may cause concern but please rest assured that the University has a robust approach in place to monitor and mitigate the impact of coronavirus, as set out in our incident management plan. 

How you can help 

Each of us can help reduce the spread of the virus by:   

  • remaining vigilant and aware of the symptoms of COVID-19;
  • maintaining social distancing; 
  • regular handwashing; 
  • observing the rules prohibiting household visits and social gatherings; 
  • wearing a face covering in communal areas

What to do if you develop symptoms 

If you have developed symptoms (high temperature, a new continuous cough and/or a loss or change in sense of smell or taste) please follow these steps: 

  1. Self-isolate in your room, do not mix with others in your flat, sleep alone, and do not have any visitors
  2. Wear a face covering if you have to use the communal areas and ensure you are washing your hands frequently 
  3. You should inform the University (see below for details on how to do this)
  4. Arrange a COVID-19 test by going to the NHS Inform website. Students requiring assistance in arranging transport to a testing site should contact either Accommodation Services or Security for assistance.

 If you have any other concerns please visit the NHS Inform website or for non-clinical advice call 0800 028 2816.  

Remember to stay at home if anyone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19. 

Reporting if you are self-isolating, have symptoms or have a positive test result 

If they are self-isolating, have symptoms of coronavirus, or have coronavirus, students need to: (1) tell Security (0131 474 0000 ext 2222) - and also Accommodation (0131 474 0000 x 4902) if they live on campus; (2) Contact the School Office (schooloffice@qmu.ac.uk).  Staff should contact Security, tell their line manager and email the Head of HR (nmackie@qmu.ac.uk) 

Thank you for your support at this time. By working together and following government advice, we can help keep our community safe.

25 September 2020

25 September 2020

For students 

Government action to drive down infection rates 

On Tuesday, the First Minister announced new measures to drive down infection rates. The two key points were a 10pm closing time for hospitality settings and a requirement that we do not meet people from any other households in our homes. Although the tightening of the rules is hard for everyone, I am sure you will agree that we all need to continue to play our part to help avoid the virus get out of control again.

You will have seen the message from the Principal yesterday thanking you for your support so far in helping to reduce the spread of the virus, reiterating the importance of keeping up the effort, and asking you to take some additional short term steps. All of the senior leadership team are encouraged by the responsible way in which QMU students are responding to the restrictions we face. I know you will continue to do so, on campus, in our local neighbourhood, and across the city - particularly as there is real anxiety in our communities about the return of students to university campuses. I thank you sincerely for your support and I do understand how hard it is. And as well as behaving responsibly, as you are, I think each and every one of us can achieve so much simply by being kind and thoughtful towards one another at this time.

Quite naturally, some of you have been asking about the rights and wrongs of the university asking you not to visit bars or other hospitality venues off campus over the weekend. Ultimately, this is voluntary. Unlike the rules on meeting other households, this is not enforceable in law, but we appeal to you to respond to this ask.

Remembering to ask for help when you need it 

Alongside peer support, please remember that there are staff across the University who are here to help when you or your friends need it. Do draw on the support services around you as and when you need them, from your Personal Academic Tutor (PAT) (you can find your PAT on the student portal) to the wellbeing service and the Students’ Union as well as University student services. We are all here to help you.

Looking ahead to next semester 

Some of you may be wondering about the shape of learning and teaching for semester two. We are currently firming up the details of our plans in response to the latest government guidance. Given the likely requirement for social distancing and other COVID-19 health and safety restrictions for the next six months, we are planning on maintaining our current blended approach to learning and teaching into semester two. While it is disappointing for all of us to have to continue to offer a reduced amount of on-campus learning and teaching activity, you will appreciate that we are required, for the health and wellbeing of all of us, to follow the government guidance. Those restrictions also mean that, as for this semester, we will not be holding on-campus written examinations at the end of semester two. We will issue another update to you when further details for semester two, including the timetable, become finalised. 

More guidance on self-isolation and what to do if you have symptoms

As you will know from earlier communications, we have had our first COVID case on campus. As I said in my message on the subject, you can rest assured that the University has a robust approach in place to monitor and mitigate the impact of coronavirus, that the campus remains open for business as usual, and that the student is being supported along with their close contacts. 

If you need to book a COVID-19 test because you have developed symptoms (high temperature, a new continuous cough and/or a loss or change in sense of smell or taste) please visit the NHS Inform website, or for non-clinical advice call 0800 028 2816. In the event that you need assistance in arranging transport to a testing site, you should contact either Accommodation Services or Security for assistance. 

Remember to stay at home or in your University accommodation if anyone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19. If you are self-isolating, have symptoms of coronavirus, or have coronavirus, you also need to: (1) tell Security (0131 474 0000 ext. 2222) - and also Accommodation Services (0131 474 0000 x 4902) if you live on campus; (2) Contact the School Office (schooloffice@qmu.ac.uk). Please note that this process has been updated slightly from that communicated at the start of the semester. 

You might like to note that we have updated and expanded our advice on self-isolating in our coronavirus FAQs. It’s worth emphasising that, if you are self-isolating, you need to remain in your term-time residence rather than returning to your permanent home, given the risk of spreading the virus.

Other advice on reducing the spread of the virus 

On and around campus, all of us can help reduce the spread of the virus by wearing face coverings when moving around the campus and on public transport, by following good handwashing practice, and by observing the rules on social distancing and those relating to social gatherings. 

If you need to self-isolate, you must do so immediately, for the full period*, staying at home (and in your own room as much as possible). It can be difficult to remember all of the detail on how and when to self-isolate, but you can easily look it up on the Test and Protect website. If you do need to self-isolate, we will support you, and if you live on campus, we will help you access food and medicine. We will also ensure that you can keep up with your studies. If you are self-isolating, you should stay put, of course, rather than returning to your parental home potentially spreading the virus further.

Thank you again for your support at this time.

*Footnote

  • All positive cases need to isolate for 10 days from symptom onset date.
  • All household members/flatmates need to isolate for 14 days from the symptom start date of the first symptomatic case.
  • If any exposed household member/flatmates then subsequently become positive then they need to isolate for 10 days from their symptom start date.

 

For Staff 

Government action to drive down infection rates 

On Tuesday, the First Minister announced new measures to drive down infection rates. The two key points were a 10pm closing time for hospitality settings and a requirement that we do not meet people from any other households in our homes.

In the First Minister’s announcement, there was also a continued emphasis on working from home where possible. This announcement does not change the current pattern of working for any QMU staff.

The senior leadership team is very proud of the responsible way in which QMU students are acting in relation to COVID restrictions. Whilst we appreciate that there is concern in the community about the return to university and college campuses, we are keen to emphasise and nurture the socially responsible attitude of our students, and to promote a multi-generational, partnership approach to tacking the virus, avoiding blame. We are also grateful for the role that staff colleagues are playing in getting these messages through to students.

Looking ahead to next semester

While there have been some initial challenges, the delivery of teaching and student support services this semester has been running very smoothly, thanks to your great efforts.

As some of you will be aware from yesterday’s message regarding the timetable, in response to the latest government guidance and scientific advice we are now planning on maintaining a blended learning approach for semester 2. The Schools are beginning to look at some of the detail of this, but colleagues can assume that the same broad framework for adaptations that applied this semester will continue to apply in semester 2. This will include delivering the majority of lecture material online and designing assessments in a manner that ensures adherence to social distancing requirements, effectively again ruling out examinations with large cohorts of students that require physical co-presence. 

Business recovery planning

Now that most of the work of the business recovery work streams has been incorporated into normal business, we have paused meetings, with the exception of the Academic Delivery work stream. Recovery planning will now be managed through discussion at our twice weekly Business Continuity Group meetings, along with regular brief Senior Leadership Team catch ups on business continuity and business recovery.

COVID incident management

As you will know from earlier communications, we have had our first confirmed student COVID case at the University. As I said in my message on the subject, you can rest assured that the University has a robust approach in place to monitor and mitigate the impact of coronavirus, that the campus remains open for business as usual, and that the student and their close contacts are being supported. 

We are working in partnership with NHS Lothian’s Health Protection Team in handling this incident, and they are guiding us on communication and next steps, in accordance with our incident management plan

As for other universities, there appears to have been no evidence that the incident is linked to in-person teaching, which takes place in a very tightly controlled environment. So far, the tracing process suggests that, just as with the wider population, transmission at universities is occurring in domestic settings. 

More guidance on self-isolation and what to do if you have coronavirus symptoms 

Unless you have been contacted by Test and Protect, you should continue to attend campus as normal. 

If you need to book a COVID-19 test because you have developed symptoms (high temperature, a new continuous cough and/or a loss or change in sense of smell or taste) please visit the NHS Inform website or for non-clinical advice call 0800 028 2816. 

Remember to stay at home if anyone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19. If you are self-isolating, have symptoms of coronavirus, or have coronavirus, you also need to: (1) tell Security (0131 474 0000 ext. 2222) and email the Head of Human Resources at nmackie@qmu.ac.uk. Please also advise your line manager. 

You might like to note that we have updated and expanded our advice on self-isolating in our coronavirus FAQs

Thank you again for everything you are doing just now. 

17 September 2020

17 September 2020

For students

Welcome to the first week of the new semester. I hope that you have seen the welcome video our Principal recorded, but if not, you can view it on our YouTube channel. In addition, the Scottish university principals have issued a joint message, to mark the return to campuses.

Recordings of welcome talks

You may have already attended the University welcome talk for new or returning students, which included presentations from Student Services, the Students’ Union and the Deputy Principal, the final one of which takes place today (Thursday). If you have not been able to attend, you might like to note that we will shortly make available recordings of these talks on the Induction website. Responses to the various questions from students that have come up during the talks will be made available on the same site, including those that we were unable to answer during the session itself. We will contact you to let you know when these responses are available, with a reminder of the link.

Whether you are a new or a returning student, you may be feeling some anxiety as well as excitement at the start of the new semester. This is perfectly normal, even when things are normal. As the Principal said in his video welcome, do draw on the support services around you as and when you need them, from your PAT to the wellbeing service and including the Students’ Union as well as University student services.

New rules on the number of people who can gather together

As we all settle in to the new semester, it has been heartening to witness on campus how careful everyone is being to follow the rules about physical distancing, wearing of face coverings, hygiene etc. Thank you. As you meet and greet friends across campus, do remember the Scottish Government’s announcement that, as of last Monday, the number of people who can gather together, indoors or outdoors, is limited to two households and a maximum of six people in total.

For student households (on or off campus) the ‘rule of six’ means that a maximum of six people can be in in your flat at any one time, including you and your flatmates. While I really do appreciate how hard it is, I know you will understand how important it is that we all stick to this rule to help protect others.

Do remember that, even with the ‘rule of six’, you can still make use of our main atrium space so long as you remain socially distanced (at 1m+, as this is designated as a hospitality space), and we very much encourage you to do so. We have re-arranged seating to focus on small groupings and Starbucks is now open until 10pm at night from Monday to Friday each week. You might also like to note that we serve breakfast in 1875 (at the bottom of the stairs in the main atrium) from 8.30am on weekdays.

Protect Scotland app

I know that students and staff across QMU are very community spirited, and I know that many of you will have already downloaded the Scottish Government’s new tracing app, Protect Scotland. This is available from Apple’s App Store and Google Play. I have it installed on my phone, and it’s quite straightforward to do.

IT resources

When you are using laptops and other devices in classes on campus, please endeavour to bring them into the classroom fully charged. We ask this as there are health and safety risks associated with opening the floor boxes that house power points in classrooms, and with trailing cables. In any case, there are a limited number of power points in each space. Power points are available for use elsewhere on campus (e.g. in the LRC and Maggie's Bar and Cafe.)

Parking on campus

While we settle into the semester, our Campus Services team are monitoring car park use. During this time, there will be no charges for parking, and this will remain the case until after the middle of October as we assess demand for use and patterns of use. We hope that you find this helpful.

Two important reminders

With apologies for the repetition, I will reiterate two important messages from last week’s COVID update:

1. Stay at home if you have COVID symptoms. Not sure if you have COVID or a cold? See the guidance on the Scottish Government’s student information website.

2. If you are self-isolating, or suspect you have COVID, or are diagnosed with COVID, tell Security on 0131 474 0000 ext 2222 (and Accommodation reception if you live on campus – 0131 474 0000 ext 4902), then complete the normal absence form on the Student Portal and inform your Programme Leader by email.

Community Responsibility Agreement

Thank you to all of you who have signed the Student Community Responsibility Agreement so far. If you haven’t done so already, please do so, via the Student Portal. Your support really is appreciated.

And a small thank you gift

I will also remind you that as a thank you for your contribution to keeping us all safe, the University is providing students with a free reusable face covering. These are available on a first come first served basis and can be obtained from a range of locations in and around our campus. Students living on campus will have been handed one on arrival. These face coverings are also available from the reception at Student Services, and (in smaller quantities) at Maggie's and the Tent.

For Staff

We are now in the first week of teaching for the majority of programmes, with a successful induction week behind us. Thank you again for all your work getting us to this point.

You may have seen the welcome video our Principal recorded for students. If not, you can view it on our YouTube channel. In addition, the Scottish university principals have issued a joint message, to mark the return to campuses.

As we all settle in to the new semester, it has been heartening to witness on campus how careful everyone is being to follow the rules about physical distancing, wearing of face coverings, hygiene etc. Thank you. As you greet colleagues and students across campus, do remember Scottish Government’s announcement that, as of last Monday, the number of people who can gather together, indoors or outdoors, is limited to two households and a maximum of six people in total. I know you will understand how important it is that we all stick to this rule to help protect others.

Do remember that, even with the ‘rule of six’, you can still make use of our main atrium space so long as you remain socially distanced (at 1m+, as this is designated as a hospitality space) and we encourage you to do so. We have re-arranged seating to focus on small groupings and Starbucks is now open until 10pm at night from Monday to Friday each week.

Please also remember to wear a face covering when moving around the office areas. You don’t need to wear one when you are seated at your desk but you do need to be mindful of who is sitting around you - for more information, please see our guide to working in our offices at this time.

Most of you who are returning to campus have now read the PowerPoint induction and signed the Responsibility Agreement by clicking on the link on the last page of the PowerPoint. Thank you for that. If you haven’t, it would help greatly if you could do so very soon. It is mandatory for all staff returning to campus.

I know how hard staff across QMU work to foster the University’s strong community ethos even in our physically distanced new world. With that in mind, staff are warmly invited to take part in the student activities being offered by the Students’ Union. To find out what is going on, see the Students’ Union’s Facebook page.

Parking on campus

While we settle into the semester, our Campus Services team are monitoring car park use. During this time, there will be no charges for parking, and this will remain the case until after the middle of October as we assess demand for use and patterns of use. We hope that you find this helpful.

9 September 2020

For students

Dear students

Welcoming students on campus

With induction week now fully in swing, it is wonderful to see new students on campus. A very warm welcome to everyone starting their journey with us. On behalf of the Senior Leadership Team, I wish you every success and personal fulfilment.

Three things to remember

We know that those of you on campus will want to do your very best to stick to the safety guidelines that we have given you, to help avoid further COVID-related disruption to your lives, and to protect your health and that of your loved ones. If you need a reminder of the key things to remember, see our short video.

In particular, please remember:

  1. Stay at home if you have COVID symptoms. Not sure if you have COVID or a cold? The Scottish Government has provided a useful checklist.
  2. If you are self-isolating, or suspect you have COVID, or are diagnosed with COVID, tell Security on 0131 474 0000 ext 2222) (and Accommodation reception if you live on campus – 0131 474 0000 ext 4902), then complete the normal absence form on the Student Portal and inform your Programme Leader by email.
  3. Stick to the Scottish Government rules on social gatherings, whether you live on or off campus. (Currently, the rules are that up to 8 people from a maximum of 3 households can meet indoors and up to 15 people from a maximum of 5 households can meet outdoors. This means that in halls of residence there should be no more than 8 people in any flat at any one time - this number includes you and your flatmates and a maximum of 2 other households.)

Protecting the more vulnerable in our communities

I’ll also draw your attention to a message to students from the First Minister. Across Scotland, people are very keen to ensure that the return to campus goes well. Each of us has our part to play in that, by following the rules. We know it’s hard, particularly if you are young and healthy, but by doing the right thing, each and every one of us can help reduce the risk to our vulnerable family members, older staff and students, and those with underlying health conditions.

And as each of us learns the rules of the ‘new normal’, it is perfectly acceptable - and right - for you to encourage your friends to follow the one way systems, use the sanitiser stations and to follow the rules on meeting in groups.

As part of our role in protecting you, we have prepared a robust COVID-19 incident management plan for implementation in the event of any outbreak. As you might expect, this plan has been based on guidance from Health Protection Scotland.

A small thank you

As a thank you for your contribution to keeping us all safe, the University is providing students with a free reusable face covering. These are available on a first come first served basis and can be obtained from a range of locations in and around our campus. Students living on campus are being handed one on arrival. These face coverings are also available from the reception at Student Services, and (in smaller quantities) at Maggie's and the Tent.

Your timetable and on campus sessions

Finally, we appreciate that the timetable for this semester looks a bit different from previous years, with the majority of student timetables including ‘On-Campus Sessions’.  On-Campus sessions are primarily the standard learning and teaching activities you would expect on your programme (e.g. seminars, workshops, discussion groups etc.) though they can, at times, include other forms of learning and pastoral support.

For this semester we have timetabled our on-campus learning and teaching activity by programme rather than by module, with that activity scheduled into two to four hour blocks rather than the usual one to two hour individual sessions. One consequence of that is that the activity taking place within a block, which will often involve a number of different staff, is difficult to specify on the timetable because that activity may vary across any one block.  It is also why module codes are not shown on your timetable for on-campus sessions. Rest assured that these sessions are nonetheless a key part of your programme which you are expected to attend*. This different approach to the timetable is to facilitate adherence to COVID-19 health and safety guidelines (in terms of occupancy management, frequent cleaning of rooms and physical distancing).

Thank you for your support. It really is appreciated.

Malcolm G Cutt

Director of Operations and Finance

*While these sessions take place on campus in the room indicated on your timetable, those students who need to study remotely can join these sessions via the University’s virtual learning environment (Blackboard-Collaborate) unless advised of alternative arrangements by your programme leader.

9 September 2020

For staff

Dear colleagues

With induction week well underway, sincere thanks to all of you for your work in getting us to this point.   You might like to know that, at its meeting last week, the University Court praised the work of staff across the University for all their hard work in preparing for the return to campus.

Who to tell if you are self-isolating, or have coronavirus symptoms

As the numbers on campus increase, I will take this opportunity to remind you to tell Security, your line manager and the Head of HR (nmackie@qmu.ac.uk) if you are self-isolating or suspect you have coronavirus or are diagnosed with COVID.

It goes without saying that you should not come to campus if you have COVID symptoms, but with the cold season now upon us it can be hard to differentiate between the common cold and COVID. If you find yourself in this position, you will find the Scottish Government’s checklist useful.

Our preparedness for any outbreak

From previous communications, you will know that work has been going on to ensure that we are well prepared for any local COVID outbreak. Our COVID-19 incident management plan is complete and ready for implementation whenever necessary. This plan has been based on guidance from Health Protection Scotland.

Answering your questions

With many of you returning to work on campus, we expect that you will have an increasing number of questions about our COVID-related plans and procedures. Given this, we have just issued a checklist of 10 useful things to know. Beyond that, the staff FAQs on the website are the best first stop if you have a question, along with the associated COVID intranet site. If you can’t find the answer to your question, do ask your line manager, who in turn, should flag up any gaps to their Senior Leadership Team member, so that we can address them in our FAQs.

One question area that is cropping up quite a lot is access to office space (see FAQ on that topic) and guidance for staff using the office spaces. We have prepared a guide to office working, which you can access on the COVID intranet site and via the staff FAQS. Please note that, while regular cleaning of the office spaces continues to take place, in the current circumstances you need to clean your own desk before use. You will find cleaning wipes at tea points, and staff who hot-desk will be given their own pack of wipes on request to Assist. As you know, wherever possible you should continue to work from home rather than use the office spaces. (Academic staff can of course access the office spaces when they are on campus to deliver learning and teaching activity).

Last week, you will have seen the guidance issued on approaches to emails and meetings to minimise their negative impact on staff time. We encourage you to discuss the guidance within your teams. This guidance arose partly out of findings from the recent survey on staff wellbeing. We have now published a report on the survey outcomes.

Support with using Blackboard Collaborate across teaching rooms

Also last week, you will have seen that you can now access a  

Final words on health and safety

You might also like to know that Mike Kennedy, our Health and Safety Adviser, has attended a trade union meeting this week to answer member questions on our campus adaptations and other work to protect staff and students from COVID.

And as each of us learns the rules of the ‘new normal’, it is perfectly acceptable - and right - for you to encourage your colleagues and students to follow the new procedures. One hot spot has been catering outlets, where we have seen groups gathering. Please do bear in mind the rules about gathering in these spaces. See our Campus Life and Catering webpage for more information.

Thank you for your continued support at this very busy time.

Malcolm G. Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

2 September 2020

2 September 2020

For students

Dear students

Getting ready to welcome you on campus

With most of you due to re-join us from 14 September (see FAQs for exceptions), we hope you are excited about returning to campus. (As usual, new students will join a week before for induction week).

The video below sets out the key things you need to know to help ensure a safe return to campus for everyone. We hope you find this information helpful and reassuring.

Video: Keeping Safe on Campus: things you need to know

You will soon receive a PowerPoint presentation containing a more detailed induction on information that you need to know to keep us all safe. Via a ‘task’ on the Student Portal, you will be asked to confirm that you have read the information set out in the slides and that you agree to abide by the QMU Community Responsibility Agreement. Thank you for your support with this, which will do so much to help the whole QMU community.

In the PowerPoint, you will find links to further information. When you arrive on campus, you’ll find guidance on display screens to support our safety measures, with additional safety guidance being installed within individual rooms. There will also be architect drawings of campus adaptations on display around the building, which will help you find the location of your classrooms, along with one-way routes. You can also find this information on the website (see Academic Building Wayfinding document).

If you have any remaining unanswered questions - and if you can’t find the answer in our coronavirus FAQs - please don’t hesitate to ask the appropriate team within the University. You can find contact details of all the key staff teams on our contact page

Some changes to the campus

There is lots going on across campus to make the finishing touches as we prepare to welcome so many new students from this weekend. More seating will shortly be installed in the grassed areas outside the LRC and, over the arrivals weekend, the mobile catering ‘Chef Shack’ will support our other on campus facilities. You will now find The Students’ Union team are doing a wonderful job of dressing the marquee.

QMU Podcast: new episode

The latest episode of the QMU Podcast, which we have just released, looks at how the University and Students’ Union have risen to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and have adapted the ways in which services and activities are being delivered. Guests are Andy White, Vice President of the Students’ Union, and Jessica Lindohf, the University’s Head of Student Services. Listen to the podcast now 

Timetabling updates

I’ll take this opportunity to let you know that the increased student numbers arising from amended SQA and A Level grades means that we will need to make some late adjustments to the academic timetable to accommodate additional student numbers on various programmes. This might mean some changes to your currently published timetable over the next few weeks, and so we would ask you to check your timetable regularly via the Portal or the App and before you set out to the campus for any classes. Indeed, in general, it is always a good idea to check your timetable before leaving home in case of any unavoidable late changes (eg due to unexpected staff absence through illness).

Preparation of the semester two timetable will also be impacted by the increased student numbers. We plan to publish our Semester 2 timetable by 9th December.

Of course, the situation with amended school exam results is just one of many unusual events arising out of coronavirus. We know that the pandemic has affected each and every one of you in different ways over the last few months. We hope that you are looking forward to returning to University, or to joining us for the first time.

We are looking forward to welcoming all of you back on campus.

Malcolm G Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

 

For staff

Dear Colleagues

Safety on campus: information provided to students

As we prepare to welcome the bulk of our new and returning students over the next couple of weeks, you might like to see a simple video that we have prepared for them, setting out succinctly the key things they need to know to keep us all safe.

In addition students will soon receive a PowerPoint presentation with a more detailed induction, very similar to the one that staff received. Students are also being required to sign the QMU Community Responsibility Agreement. (If you haven’t signed up the Responsibility Agreement for staff yet, you can do so via our online form.

As you would expect, we are also promoting to our students the Government’s COVID advice, and responsible behaviour more generally, via our social media and other channels. Indeed, we are working with other Edinburgh institutions on joint communications.

The latest episode of the QMU Podcast, which we have just released, looks at how the University and Students’ Union have risen to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and have adapted the ways in which services and activities will be delivered. Guests are Andy White, Vice President of the Students’ Union, and Jessica Lindohf, the University’s Head of Student Services. Listen to the podcast now 

Preparing for any COVID outbreak

You will probably also find it reassuring to know that last week we completed a desktop exercise testing our readiness to handle any COVID outbreak. Trade union representatives observed the exercise, which went well. Other Edinburgh institutions have run their own desktop exercises and we are liaising with them, and City of Edinburgh Council, to share good practice, insights and experiences.

Alongside all this, the Scottish Government has issued further COVID-related guidance for universities. We are, of course, checking our plans against the detail of the new guidance, but are confident that our approach is well aligned. In addition, the Scottish Government has confirmed that universities will receive additional funding where they have ended up overall with additional student numbers as a result of the revised SQA grades.

Timetabling updates

I should also point out that the changes to the SQA and A Level results have necessitated a few late adjustments to the academic timetable to accommodate additional student numbers on various programmes. This might mean some changes to the currently published timetable over the next few weeks, and so we ask students to check their timetable regularly via the Portal or the App, and before they set out to the campus for any classes.

Preparation of the semester two timetable will also be impacted by the increased student numbers on the semester one timetable but we plan to publish our Semester two timetable by 9th December.

Work on campus

There is lots going on across campus to make the finishing touches as we prepare to welcome so many new students from this weekend. More seating will shortly be installed in the grassed areas outside the LRC and, over the arrivals weekend, the mobile catering ‘Chef Shack’ will support our other on campus facilities. You will now find guidance on display screens to support our safety measures, with additional safety guidance being installed within individual rooms. The Students’ Union team are doing a wonderful job of dressing the marquee. Our architect drawings of campus adaptations have recently been updated and these updates have been published on the intranet. We are also going to display these architect drawings around the building, which will help everyone find their timetabled classrooms easily

Reducing the negative impact of emails and meetings

Alongside this, the senior leadership team is continuing to consider how best to support our staff in the current situation. As part of this, we have published on the COVID intranet site some additional wellbeing resources () along with some hints and tips to help reduce the negative impact of emails and meetings on staff. We hope that teams discuss and collectively agree local arrangements, drawing on these hints and tips (such as email free or no meeting days), tailored to suit the team’s particular needs.

Advice to conduct research remotely where possible

If you are involved in research, do remember that research studies with ethical approval from QMU should continue to be conducted remotely where possible. For those studies where this is not feasible and the researchers need to have in-person contact with participants on campus, see the Moderator message of 31 August for guidance on the steps that you need to take. For those researchers that are carrying out research, or intend to carry out research, that involves the NHS please see the Chief Scientist Office statement on the Restart Framework.

Thank you for your continued support at this particularly busy time.

Malcolm G Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

26 August 2020

COVID-19 (coronavirus): update for students and staff: 26 August 2020

Although this message is specifically for staff, rather than both staff and students, we will post it on our website along with other coronavirus updates, for transparency. Our next update for students is likely to focus on the “do’s and don’ts” for campus life that we will all need to follow this semester to ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing.

As you know, Induction Week will begin for most students on 7th September, with teaching and learning beginning in week commencing 14th September (with a few exceptions which you can find at our coronavirus FAQS for applicants). One of the exceptions is our PGDE Secondary (Home Economics) course, which started this week. A very warm welcome to all new students on this course, and best wishes to all the staff involved.

Induction information

You will have received last Friday a message from the Principal, to which was attached a set of Powerpoint slides that provides important induction information for staff. The slides set out the approach that we have adopted in order to ensure that the campus can operate in a safe manner. Do remember that you need to click the link in the final slide to confirm that you have read the information set out in the slides and that you agree to abide by our Responsibility Agreement. This is a mandatory requirement for all staff returning to campus.

Updates from government

The Scottish Government has announced some further easing of restrictions, largely in line with our expectations. The announcement included bringing forward the date when gyms can open, to 31 August. Our gym opening date will be brought forward too.

More on quarantine

The Scottish Government has also updated the list of countries affected by quarantine. If you are affected by quarantine and you need to be on campus (eg to teach) please talk to your line manager. It is becoming increasingly clear that we will all need to bear in mind the risk of having to quarantine when considering travel for some months to come.

If quarantine affects the ability of any of your students to join their course in person on time, they should let us know at registry@qmu.ac.uk. On our coronavirus FAQS, we provide information on how we are supporting international students who need to quarantine.

Travel and parking

We know that some staff have been asking for more detail on our parking policy and charges as they start planning their commute to work. We will publish more information on this soon at http://www.qmu.ac.uk/location-and-getting-here/parking-on-campus/. If you are interested in cycling to work, you’ll find lots of information, including details of on-campus facilities for cyclists, at http://www.qmu.ac.uk/location-and-getting-here/get-to-qmu-by-bike-or-foot/

Meetings on campus

Now that restrictions on campus have loosened a little, we are seeing the number of face to face meetings increase. While you can have meetings on campus, within the parameters set out on our COVID-19 intranet site, meetings should still be held remotely if possible. Even if some of the participants in a meeting are on campus, the default should be to meet via Teams rather than in person.

If you are on campus and attending a meeting via Teams, you will be able to book a work room which will have the appropriate equipment in place. IT colleagues are currently sourcing new desktops for all the workrooms to replace the current thin client terminals. If you want to use a headset for the meeting, these are available via Assist. (Please ensure you do not share headsets).

Video guidance on using Collaborate

In the course of the next few days we will issue a video taking you step-by-step through the process of using Collaborate across multiple classrooms and with students attending remotely. Prepared by a multi-functional team including academic colleagues, this video should answer all of your key questions. We will also provide a flowchart confirming which of the teaching delivery tools you should use, along with links to training documentation.

All of us on the Senior Leadership Team have been really pleased to hear about some great examples of peer to peer teaching amongst colleagues on the use of online teaching technology.

Other updates

  • If you have been on campus, you will have noticed COVID-related signage, as well as some adjustments to the operation of the one-way system, following comments from colleagues. We will continue to develop and enhance our signage over the next few weeks.
  • We continue to update our coronavirus FAQs. For example, in the last few days, we updated the FAQ on research projects.

19 August 2020

As you will know, last Tuesday the Scottish Government announced the scrapping of this year’s downgraded SQA results, with teacher predictions to be used instead. This week, a similar decision was made in respect of A-level results. Where the new results now meet the conditions of an offer at QMU, we will guarantee applicants a place on the original course to which they applied. We are working with UCAS and the SQA to get the changes confirmed as soon as possible, and our Admissions team, academic staff and other colleagues are working through the implications for our student numbers. Although we won’t have a full picture on student numbers at programme level until the first week of September, it looks as though we will have significantly larger than expected numbers on certain courses. On behalf of all the senior leadership team, thank you very much indeed to everyone involved in all work associated with the revised SQA results. We do appreciate the impact on your workload.

Another government announcement of interest is the extension of the quarantine requirements to travellers from additional countries, including France and the Netherlands. If this development affects your ability to join your course in person on time, please let us know at registry@qmu.ac.uk. If you are a staff member due to teach on campus during your period of quarantine, please talk to your line manager. It is becoming increasingly clear that we will all need to bear in mind the risk of having to quarantine when considering travel for some months to come.

Students and staff might like to note that on the website we have recently brought together by theme information on aspects of life on campus from next semester: (1) teaching and learning; (2) student experience: (3) campus life, physical distancing and hygiene. You can access all of these pages at http://www.qmu.ac.uk/coronavirus/applicants/.

While we will do all we can to ensure that students unable to attend the campus at any point next semester receive an equivalent learning experience, we strongly encourage all students to make studying on campus their first choice if they are able to do so (if that is how their course is usually delivered). We’ve put together a little video setting out 10 reasons for studying on campus.

With the number of people on campus gradually increasing over the summer, we have been fine tuning our COVID adaptations (such as one way systems) so that they are operating in the best way possible at the start of the academic year.

Updates for staff

We continue to update our COVID intranet site. For example, we recently posted up architect’s drawings of the COVID related campus adaptations.

  • On the intranet site, you will also find more information associated with work to enable staff to return to campus, where their role involves face-to-face interaction with students, or if their presence on campus is required to enable that interaction. Specifically, you will find on the intranet: a checklist is to help managers identify members of their team who may need additional support for their transition back onto campus, a process flow chart for managers, and individualised risk assessments to use in particular circumstances. The information has also been emailed directly to line managers. Designed to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of staff as they return to work on campus, our documents and processes take full account of Scottish Government guidance.
  • We will soon be issuing risk assessment documentation associated with offices, to supplement the overarching institutional risk assessment and the individual risk assessments that are already published on the intranet. This will be used in conjunction with the Manager’s Return to Campus Checklist mentioned above. We are also producing posters and leaflets for office areas, which contain COVID-related guidance.
  • We will also shortly be issuing additional information for staff on a safe return to campus. This will include practical information on matters such as travel to campus, campus capacity, campus adaptations, catering facilities and the use of face coverings. All members of staff will require to familiarise themselves with this information, and to confirm that they have done so, prior to returning to campus for the first time.

Some updates from IT:

  • The team (including Media Services) are currently working on video guides on the use of Collaborate and other tools within classroom spaces. In light of COVID, a support model is also being developed that protects both the IT team and the colleague requesting support. Until further notice, the default will be remote support as at present. More information will follow.
  • Thank you again to everyone who has completed online training on how to undertake online teaching. You might find it useful to note that the COVID intranet site includes a direct link to online training information.
  • As advised previously, the IT team has set aside two rooms in the LRC, 1161 and 1163, to allow staff to undertake lecture capture work on campus. These rooms can be booked through the room booking system.

We hope you find this update helpful.

12 August 2020

COVID-19 (coronavirus) update for student and staff 

You will be pleased to know that our transition towards a return to more normal operations is moving at pace. I summarise our progress below.

Current situation (phase 2 of QMU's route map​)

  • We are currently in phase 2 of our route map, which focuses on preparing for phase 3 (semester start). Phase 2 enables priority and essential activity to take place on campus, with the default position being home working for staff where this is possible.
  • With consent, staff can access the campus to pick up belongings or equipment, or if they cannot work from home effectively. Details on how to request access to the campus and request equipment are available on the intranet.
  • The outdoor campus spaces and outdoor gym are open.
  • In addition to the café facilities in the Students’ Union, Starbucks is open to those authorised to enter the campus.

From Monday 17 August (continuation of phase 2)

  • Staff offices will be open, but with limited capacity to allow for physical distancing. Access to the offices will be controlled via staff card (ie no need to complete the campus access form).  As physical distancing limits us to 50% occupancy, please coordinate with colleagues in your area if you plan to access the staff offices. Working from home remains the default.
  • The Learning Resource Centre will be open to students from 9am-2pm, with access by student access card. No booking is required, but if you have any specific requirements please contact the LRC staff in advance (at LRCHelp@qmu.ac.uk.)
  • Staff meetings with up to nine participants can take place (in a limited range of rooms). Such meetings must be pre-booked using the standard ad-hoc booking system found on the intranet. More information on this will be circulated via Moderator over the next few days.
  • Doctoral vivas can take place and essential visitors are permitted, provided they are booked in using standard visitor management process (intranet link)
  • While it will be possible to arrange meetings involving more than nine people if they are dispersed across more than one room and linked by video conference, you will need to check with Media Services that this is achievable in your case. Please be mindful that the ITS and Media Services team need good notice of your request given the likely volume of requests and competition for video conferencing resources right now. Staff will receive an email with more information on this soon.
  • Research activities with external participants can resume, provided there are no more than nine people in the room and that a risk assessment has been completed. Information on the risk assessment process is available here.
  • Staff tea points will be available, with limitations on use.
  • Signage on campus will indicated which toilets are open, and will be updated as provision expands when the number of people on campus increases.
  • Accommodation for international students who need to quarantine will be available from 20 August.
  • The Helpdesk (Assist) will be physically staffed from 10am to 2pm on weekdays. Remote service through email will continue be available from 8am to 7pm on weekdays. (Student queries via LRCHelp@qmu.ac.uk and all other queries Assist@qmu.ac.uk.)

From Monday 24 August (continuation of phase 2)

  • Teaching starts for our PGDE (Home Economics) students. We very much look forward to welcoming these students on campus.
  • Staff meetings with more than nine participants can take place (limited by updated - ie reduced - room capacities, defined in turn by requirements for physical distancing). Advance booking is still required, via the standard ad-hoc booking system found on the intranet.
  • There can be more than nine people involved in research activities on campus involving external participants, provided that a risk assessment has been completed. Information on the risk assessment process is available here.

From Monday 7 September (our phase 3)

  • Student residences will be open (open from Friday 4 September, and earlier for international students in quarantine)
  • Student induction begins, with welcome and RES:LIFE activities.
  • The Learning Resource Centre will be open from 8am to 9pm every day. The tiered area of the main atrium, with study spaces, will be open 24 hours a day, with vending facilities available. Access will be via student card, ie no booking required.
  • All Student Services will be fully operational, with adaptations where necessary. As appropriate, students will be able to make bookings for face to face appointments.
  • Outdoor sport is permitted, so long as it is organised by the Sports team or Students’ Union
  • Students’ Union staff will be present on campus.
  • Academic and professional services staff, who operate in student facing roles or whose presence is required on campus, will be expected to be on campus from the start of the semester on the days when their presence is required. Those whose role does not involve any face-to-face contact with students and are able to carry out their role remotely are expected to continue to work from home until the Scottish Government moves to phase 4 of its route map.

From Monday 14 September

  • Teaching starts (including on campus teaching).
  • Subject to Scottish Government guidelines, we anticipate that indoor sports and indoor entertainment will resume.

Staff can find more details of the plan on the intranet.

As you will appreciate, all steps taken will be subject to any changes in Scottish Government guidance.

Our approach to face coverings on campus

The University expects everyone to wear a face covering when moving around the campus and when physical distancing is not possible. This is in line with current Scottish Government advice that face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces where physical distancing is difficult and you might come into close contact with a lot of people.  The Scottish Government has also confirmed that the use of face coverings will be mandatory in university libraries and reading rooms, and it will issue more detailed guidance on this point in the next few days. We respect the rights of those who cannot wear face coverings for medical reasons. Face coverings will not be required in classes, unless physical distancing is compromised for some reason. Some staff may opt to wear face visors or face coverings when teaching.

Other updates

  • Remember that 16 August (Sunday) is the deadline for submissions to the Stories of COVID Open to all students and staff, this project aims to collect QMU student and staff experiences of living through the pandemic, and to create a legacy of stories. No story is too small!
  • We know that staff have been seeking guidance on do’s and don’ts for when they are on campus. We are working on an Office Guide and Learning and Teaching Guide, both of which will be provided to you before you access the campus. We also plan to have posters with advice located across campus. 
  • Feedback has been positive on the new COVID intranet microsite for staff.
  • Thank you to all staff who completed the Wellbeing Survey. We look forward to sharing the results with you in due course.
  • Conscious of the recent local of localised COVID outbreaks, particularly in Aberdeen, we can reassure you that we have been planning, and continue to plan, for any local outbreak, liaising with Health Protection Scotland, other Edinburgh institutions and council officials. This will help mitigate the impact of any local outbreak on our campus operations and University life, helping us to ensure that we can consistently provide our students with the education and support that they need and deserve.
  • Following the recent survey, the four UK funding bodies have agreed the proposed revisions to the REF timetable and guidance. They have also provided preliminary advice on putting in place contingency arrangements for REF submission preparation.  The full news item is available here.

All of us involved in planning for the new semester feel very pleased at the progress noted above, and look forward to witnessing the re-awakening on campus. My sincere thanks go to colleagues who are working so hard to make all of this happen in a safe and orderly manner.

Malcolm G Cutt

Director of Operations and Finance

 

 

 

 

 

27 July 2020

New intranet microsite

We’ve just launched a new intranet microsite that will serve as a single source of COVID-19 information for staff.

These pages include answers to many of the questions that staff will have about returning to work on campus. We’re aware that a great deal of information associated with COVID-19 has been made available, both internally and externally, and we hope that these pages will act as a one-stop-shop for all the information staff need to know when planning their return to campus.

We will continue to add to the pages as more information becomes available.

Returning to campus

Staff will have seen the email message from the Principal that went out on 20 July.

On 9 July the First Minister announced the move to phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 route map. This confirmed that, with effect from 22 July, universities and colleges can engage in a phased return to on-campus learning as part of a blended model with a mix of face-to-face and online teaching.

In order for us to operate effectively from the beginning of the 2020/21 academic year, both academic and professional services staff, who operate in student facing roles or whose presence is required on campus, will be expected to be there from the start of the semester on the days when their presence is required. Those whose role does not involve any face-to-face contact with students and are able to carry out their role remotely are expected to continue to work from home until the Scottish Government moves to phase 4 of its route map.

Staff wellbeing survey

Last week, a Moderator message was issued with a link to the staff wellbeing survey.

The purpose of the survey is to collect feedback from you on your experiences of working remotely during the pandemic. A key priority for us is to ensure that staff wellbeing is considered throughout. We therefore want to identify and put in place support for staff to re-integrate effectively into the campus workplace, whilst continuing to support working from home. A summary of the findings will also be available to all staff towards the end of August 2020.

The survey is open until Monday 10 August and is available here.

Panopto

Panopto lecture capture software is now ready for download and use. For details of how to get started and use the new software, as well as links to training videos click here

Please also ensure you view the training videos before arranging a 1-2-1 session with a member of the IT team. The videos are extensive, easy to follow and cover all the key information. 1-2-1 sessions are available but are intended for colleagues who have already viewed the videos and may require assistance on a specific topic.

Updates from government

The Scottish Government recently (17 July 2020) published guidance on the safe re-opening of college, university and purpose-built student accommodation.

The publication sets out the current advice and guidance for the safe restart of university and college halls of residence and purpose-built student accommodation, in helping to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

Please be assured that the health and wellbeing of students, staff, visitors and contractors to University accommodation is our top priority and that we will continue to follow government advice at all times. At the same time, we are working closely with the Students’ Union and ResLife to ensure that enhanced health and safety measures on campus will have as limited disruption to student life as possible.

The Scottish Government has also recently issued guidance around how to safely move home during this time, which will be of interest to those moving to and from both University accommodation and other purpose-built student accommodation.

Our campus accommodation FAQs will continue to be updated and can be found on our website.

14 July 2020

COVID-19 (coronavirus) update for students and staff: 14 July 2020

Updates from government

Last week, we moved into phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 route map. This means, for example, that up to three households can meet indoors, and that up to five households can meet outdoors. Non-essential shops can open now, along with outdoor hospitality, and indoor hospitality (cafés, bars etc.) can resume from this Wednesday.

It is important to emphasise that the government advice is that home working will remain the default position for those who can do so. More information on phase 3 of the Scottish Government route map is available here.

The Scottish Government made a number of other important announcements last week, as set out below:

  • Passengers arriving in Scotland from 57 overseas destinations that have similar or lower levels of coronavirus infection than Scotland will no longer need to quarantine.
  • Launch of a sustainability plan for colleges and universities in light of coronavirus. This came just as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) released analysis on how the pandemic might impact university finances. Along with re-stating previous commitments, the government statement on the sustainability plan included confirmation that EU students studying in Scotland will not have their tuition fees met by the Scottish Government from 2021/22. Our Principal has written to our EU students to reassure them that tuition fees for current EU students, and those who will be commencing their studies in 2020, will continue to be met by the Scottish Government for the duration of their undergraduate studies. We have updated the Brexit section of our website with the new information, and have covered relevant points in our coronavirus FAQs.
  • First Minister committed to a job guarantee scheme for young people, making reference to the role of universities and colleges within her statement. This included reference to scaling up online learning and postgraduate study in line with the needs of the Scottish economy.

Preparing for semester one and beyond

While the Scottish Government has moved to the first part of Phase 3 of its route map, we remain at phase 2 in the University’s route map; phase 3 will begin with the resumption of learning and teaching on campus. Progress on our business recovery planning, through the various work streams, continues well.

You might enjoy watching a short video in which some members of the QMU community look forward to next semester and beyond.

Further updates for staff:

Access to campus buildings

Please remember that, if you believe that you need to access the campus during phase 2, you can request to do so through your line manager who will submit details to the University helpdesk (Assist). Guidance on making access requests and the request form, along with examples of valid reasons for requesting access, are available here.

COVID-19 FAQs

We continue to update our staff and other coronavirus FAQ pages, most recently adding a question on desk access.

PPE update

We are arranging a centralised process for purchasing PPE for use where needed on campus. Details of this process will be confirmed in due course.

06 July 2020

COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) UPDATE FOR STUDENTS AND STAFF 

Last Thursday, the Scottish Government confirmed further Phase 2 measures in their route map. You can read details here. The changes included further lifting of travel restrictions, which took effect from last Friday. In addition, the Scottish Government has decided to retain 2 metres as the default physical distancing requirement for Phase 3, but will introduce exceptions to this requirement for specific sectors and settings if practicable mitigating measures can be implemented. There will, however, be no exemptions prior to the move to Phase 3. None of the new announcements change the University’s current route map or detailed plans, though we will remain flexible as Scottish Government guidance changes.

The Scottish Government has also released specific guidance for universities on re-opening. Reassuringly, our plans are well aligned with this guidance, in particular the section on health and safety.

Last week we launched an animated video setting out some of the steps we are taking to ensure a safe and positive experience for all when the campus re-opens. We followed this up with further information for staff on planning for re-opening. Staff can find that important message on the intranet. (Do remember you need to be logged onto the QM Desktop to access the intranet).

We hope that you are finding the information that we are providing useful. As you know, we are not yet able to answer every detailed question that you might have about our plans, but we are committed to providing information as soon as we have it. We continue to update the coronavirus FAQS frequently.

 

See below for some further points, which are likely to be of more interest to staff than students:

Business Recovery Work Streams

Our business recovery work streams continue to make good progress. Much of the work at the moment is focused on early occupation of the campus, along with preparation for semester one, including staff and student wellbeing and ensuring the optimum student experience within the required constraints.

As actions from the research and innovation work stream are now being taken forward via groups across the University, meetings of that work stream have been paused, with a view to reconvening later in the summer if required. Similarly, now that Court has approved the 2020/21 budget, the financial implications work stream does not have any additional meetings planned at this point. Work on refining financial plans will continue through the usual channels and the work stream will reconvene if required.

Staff Wellbeing

The Senior Leadership Team is conscious of the current pressure on staff and its impact on staff anxiety and workloads, and we are looking into what steps we can take to help ease the pressure. A separate message will be issued shortly to staff, which will provide more information on this.

We also appreciate that some of you are buying items such as stationery and other consumables for use in connection with working at home. Please remember that any reasonable incidental costs you incur in undertaking University business may be reclaimed through the normal staff expenses procedure, with the authorisation of your line manager.

Now that we are in July, I know that many of you will soon be taking a very well earned summer break. If you feel that you can’t take leave because of your workload, please discuss this with your line manager. On behalf of the Senior Leadership Team, when you do take leave I encourage you to switch off from work fully during your time off.

30 June 2020

COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) UPDATE FOR STUDENTS AND STAFF 

Updates from government

Since our last update, the Scottish Government has announced further steps towards moving out of lockdown. You can find details here. In addition, the Deputy First Minister announced last week the intention that schools will return full-time in August, a move that I am sure will come as a big relief to all of you who are parents to school age children.

The Scottish Government has also advised that students can retrieve belongings that they have left in student accommodation, with effect from 29 June. For more information, click here. If you have any queries about this, please contact Accommodation Services.

Preparing for the next semester

Here at QMU, and in line with the Scottish Government route map, we have been undertaking essential preparatory work to allow us to move into phase 2 of our own route map.

We have finalised our COVID-19 risk assessment, and it was approved by our Health and Safety Committee last week. We will share this document with you as soon as possible. This risk assessment is a key enabler, not just for phase 2 but for the re-opening of the campus.

As set out in our last update, the default position remains staff working from home, but from Monday 29 June (ie yesterday) they are permitted to attend the campus to retrieve essential materials, subject to approval processes. During the course of this week we will issue further guidance on how staff can request campus access. In addition, certain high priority works can resume, although the activity in this category is very limited and subject to completion of an appropriate risk assessment.

Continuing to address your questions

We will continue to address common questions as soon as we can, the limitation being the evolving situation and the pace of the Scottish Government’s move out of lockdown. One such question relates to use of the Learning Resource Centre (LRC). The answer is that, while it will not be in use until the start of the semester, it remains accessible remotely.

A range of preparations is being made for next semester. Our timetable is central to this work. It is key to managing the numbers of students and staff attending campus at any one time, and coordinating travel, access and circulation for these numbers as well as the learning and teaching that takes place over the course of the day. We are monitoring external guidance as it is updated and will continue to ensure that our own plans adapt as appropriate.

Supporting your mental health

In previous updates, we have acknowledged the anxiety felt by staff and students at this time, arising for a whole range of reasons. In the next few days, look out for information on ‘The Big White Wall’. This is an online resource to support our student and staff community with mental health and wellbeing. We have subscribed to this service with funding from the National Lottery Young Start Fund as part of our much broader programme of work to support mental health and wellbeing at this time.

Graduation

In the last week, we announced our plans for graduation activities. While we deeply regret the need to cancel July’s ceremonies at the Usher Hall, we look forward to celebrating this important milestone on our website and social media, and to next year’s graduation celebration.

IT training resources for staff

Our ITS team has created a portal that links to Microsoft training resources on how to use Office, OneDrive and Teams. 

We have received very positive feedback on the digital learning training being provided by the ITS team, and there is evidence of some great peer to peer learning too. Academic staff who have not yet had time to engage in this training are encouraged to take this opportunity to check their options here.

How we will welcome new students

Just as everyone who reads this will be feeling for all the 2020 graduates whose graduation celebrations are affected by coronavirus, you may be wondering about our plan for welcoming new students in these unusual times. To give us more space for physically distanced activities, we have arranged for a marquee to be in place on campus at the start of the semester. Using that space and others, we will offer a full four-week ‘Welcome to QMU’ programme focused on fun and forming friendships. Our Students’ Union and RES:LIFE team will, as always, work closely together, and they will run these ‘Welcome to QMU’ events in full partnership. Within their planning, they are taking account of the needs of those students who won’t be on campus to benefit from opportunities for social interaction.

The role of higher education in COVID recovery

I’ll end by mentioning the recommendations of the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, which were published last week. Encouragingly, the report proposes an education-led economy and argues that university and college funding should be protected.

 

22 June 2020

COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) UPDATE FOR STUDENTS AND STAFF 

Gradual introduction of phase 2 of the Scottish Government’s route map

On Thursday, the Scottish Government announced the gradual introduction of phase 2 of their route map out of lockdown. With the exception of people shielding, you are now able to meet people from up to two other households outdoors, either together or separately. While these do not always have to be the same households, the advice is that you should not meet more than two other households in one day. As in phase one, there should not be more than eight people in a group. Anyone living alone or only with children under 18 can form an ‘extended household group’ with one other household.

From Monday, 29 June some indoor workplaces can re-open, including factories, labs and warehouses, subject to strict physical distancing, hygiene and health and safety guidance, but non-essential offices and call centres should remain closed. While the guidance allows a small number of university staff to return to university buildings to make essential preparations for re-opening in Phase 3, subject to adhered to public health measures, the default remains working remotely. Scottish Government guidelines state that these essential preparations include:

  • preparation of buildings, the adjustment of teaching spaces, walkways and student accommodation as well as research facilities.
  • provisions for specialist testing and services to support operations, including access for contractors.
  • work onsite to prepare teaching materials, including digital content (e.g filming lab demonstrations) and arrangements for their delivery.
  • allowing staff to access facilities to collect materials to support continued home working, eg. teaching and research materials.

Please note that we are the process of conducting a full COVID-19 risk assessment in line with HSE guidance in consultation with our trade unions and we will not ask, and cannot permit anyone to return to the campus until, as far reasonable practical, it is safe to do so.

We have updated our own route map for the return to campus based on this latest Scottish Government announcement and associated guidance, and you can find it here. Alongside this, we have been expanding our coronavirus FAQs for students and have produced a ‘top ten’ FAQs on the return to campus for staff, which you can find on the intranet (remember you need to be using the QM desktop to access the intranet). As we are sure that you will understand, there will continue to be questions that we cannot answer fully at the time you seek them, given the fast moving situation. Rest assured that we are committed to providing answers to your questions as soon as we can, and that our plans for the next semester are progressing well.

We appreciate too the range and depth of anxieties as we move towards our campus re-opening in September – for example worries associated with juggling caring responsibilities with teaching or studying. Our Business Recovery Wellbeing work stream is considering how to address your anxieties, and this topic also features greatly in senior leadership team discussion right now.

Students’ Union survey on students’ experiences of the move to online learning and teaching

Related to this, the Senior Leadership Team has found the Students’ Union’s survey on students' experiences of the move to online learning and teaching very helpful. Students reported enjoying the flexibility of being able to interact with recorded material in their own time and at their own pace. Challenges highlighted in the survey included: finding motivation and maintaining focus; issues associated with the home working environment, particularly in busy households or where students are trying to juggle caring and work responsibilities; and missing peer support. The results gave us an indication of how students have experienced the last part of the academic year and are already proving very useful in our work planning the delivery of learning and teaching and student support next semester. Thank you very much to everyone who completed the survey.

Updated visa guidance from the UK Government

Earlier last week, the UK Government issued Updated Guidance for Tier 4 Sponsors and Migrants and for Short-term Students. This update confirms that new international students can commence their studies by distance learning for academic year 2020-21, provided they will transition to face-to-face learning as soon as possible. It also confirms that those studying by distance/blended learning will be eligible to apply for the Graduate (visa) route, provided they are in the UK by 6 April 2021. The update also provides information on the current availability of visa application centres, which now includes India and the USA, and also secure English language test centres.

Other useful updates (primarily of interest to staff rather than students)

  • I will take this opportunity to remind staff of the guidance and support on teaching and learning in semester one that was issued by Moderator on 18 June. Staff can find practical and pedagogical guidance here and supporting resources here.
  • We have received further guidance on the revised deadline for REF 2021 submissions and revisions to the impact assessment period. The key points are:
  1. The revised submission deadline is confirmed as 31 March 2021 for all elements of submissions, with the exercise formally resuming on 31 July 2020.
  2. The staff census date of 31 July 2020 remains unchanged.
  3. The extended assessment period for impact (in which examples of impact may occur in order to be eligible for submission) will run from 1 August 2013 to 31 December 2020, an extension from the previous end date of 31 July 2020.
  4. REF will review the situation in November 2020 to consider the level of disruption being experienced and whether further contingency arrangements for the REF may be necessary.

REF will provide some further clarification on 24 June 2020.

12 June 2020

COVID-19 (coronavirus) – update for students and staff 

More on the plans for the start of the semester

Following the announcement about our plans for the start of semester, many staff and students, quite understandably, have been seeking more detailed information. Whilst we are not in a position to answer some of your more detailed questions yet, please be assured that we will share more information as soon as we can. We understand that you will be anxious to receive as much detail as possible and we are trying to address that as fast as we can, whilst making sure that our plans are aligned with guidance which continues to emerge from the Scottish Government. In the meantime, please rest assured that our planning for next semester is running smoothly.

You might like to note that we have been able to update our student and applicant/offer holder FAQs with some more information on studying online, in response to questions on that subject we received last week

Another common question is when staff can start working again on campus. Whilst we cannot yet give specific information, we can confirm that, for the majority of staff, remote working is likely to be the default way of working for some time, with some exceptions.

We would ask all students to use the coronavirus FAQs and updates (which are available on the website) as their first port of call for information before approaching members of staff, as this will help ensure that you receive the most accurate information. Where you do need to approach staff with a question, it would help hugely if you could approach one staff member at a time rather than contacting a number of them simultaneously. This will help to ensure that your question is dealt with in the most efficient way. As I have noted above, please be aware that there are some questions where we are not yet in a position to provide a substantive answer, but that we will undertake to provide an answer as soon as we can. Thank you for your support with this, which will help to ensure you get the right information, and that staff time is used in the best way possible.

Roadmap out of lockdown

Next Thursday (18 June), the Scottish Government is expected to announce whether we can move into phase 2 of its route map out of lockdown. At QMU, we continue to develop our own detailed roadmap, which is aligned to the Scottish Government approach, and which is taking into account higher education sector-wide approaches and principles. We hope to be able to share this roadmap with staff over the next couple of weeks.

There has been good progress in each of our Business Recovery Planning work streams. A brief summary of the current status is set out at the foot of this message.

Update on examination boards

We know that students will be waiting anxiously for their exam results and we can confirm that examination board meetings have been running very smoothly. School Office staff have done a great job in adjusting and streamlining systems to reflect the move to online board meetings, and all indeed staff involved have adapted extremely well, in very challenging circumstances We think that the success in moving to online board meetings offers positive learning that we can take beyond the pandemic. On behalf of the Senior Leadership Team, I thank everyone involved in this year’s exam boards.

Engaging with prospective students when they cannot visit us in person

You may have seen our new online hub ‘Experience QMU’ , which is designed to give prospective students a flavour of what it like to study with us. We are confident that this hub will be really useful to prospective students and are very grateful to the staff and students involved in its creation. We encourage you to share the link to the hub with people who you think might be interested. This initiative is part of a much broader programme of work on engaging with prospective students at this time.

Useful information for academic staff

From previous updates, staff will already know about our IT team’s work on resources and support for remote teaching, assessment and student support in response to COVID-19. I would encourage colleagues to engage with these resources and the associated training which is available on how to get the most out of using them. You will find new information on this topic here.

Recovery Planning Work Streams: current status

See below for a brief update on each of the Business Recovery Work Streams. If you need any further information, please speak to the relevant convener.

Academic Calendar & Timetable Work Stream (convened by June Ross)

Dates have now been set for the start of semester one – and announced - and it has been agreed which programmes are moving their start date to semester two. The thinking is therefore that the Academic Calendar and Timetable work stream should now amalgamate with the Approach to Academic Delivery and Assessment work stream to allow for more integrated discussion.

The Transition & Induction Working Group will be able to take forward some of the planning for the start of session now that the high-level parameters have been set.

Campus Adaptions Work Stream convened by Bruce Laing)

This work stream is coordinating a wide range of important work to allow for the successful resumption of the on-campus experience for students, and the creation of an adapted work environment for staff on site. There is a very large amount of pivotal work taking place in this area.

Student Experience Work Stream (co-convened by Yvonne Simpson and Chiara Menozzi)

Work continues, in partnership between the University and the Students’ Union. This work stream is likely to remain in place longer than most, to help co-ordinate student support as students return to campus.

Approach to Academic Delivery & Assessment Work Stream (convened by Dr Richard Butt)

While this work stream will continue for the time being, it is likely that its high level planning work will shortly be complete. The development of programme level adjustments will continue in the schools, as will the work of the IT team and the Transition and Induction Working Group. The focus of the work stream is now concentrated on supporting the work of the Schools and programme leaders.

Research and Innovation Work Stream (convened by Prof Brigid Daniel)

The work stream has held two well attended meetings and staff have gathered a significant amount of pertinent information to help QMU shape its response to the challenges and opportunities driven by the current situation. The work stream has produced some useful ideas as to how best to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on both progressing existing research and for winning new work. Of particular early concern was the impact on both staff and budgets for research that was nearing completion of contracts. However, the view is now that these can largely be dealt with through existing working groups and business processes.

Staff Wellbeing Work Stream (convened by Angela Smith)

This work stream is looking at supporting both those staff who are returning to campus and those who will continue to work from home for the time being. 

Financial Implications Work Stream (Malcolm Cutt)

The work stream will need to carry on for the time being but will be absorbed into business as usual financial planning.

Student Recruitment (co-convened by Sarah Bailey and Jane Scott)

The group has considered a number of actions to support both 2020/1 and 2021/2 recruitment cycles, supplementing activity already in place. The Recruitment and Admissions and Marketing & Communications teams are implementing actions, including, for example Experience QMU, converting open days to online events, and finding the best ways of engaging prospective students in the absence of face to face recruitment fairs.

 

3 June 2020

Preparations for returning to the campus

Last Thursday (28 May), the Scottish Government confirmed the start of phase 1 of the route map for easing lockdown. While this means that some outdoor activity restrictions have now been eased, we are still urged to stay at home as much as possible and maintain strict physical distancing when outdoors. You can find out more about phase 1 rules at news.gov.scot.

We are making good progress through the various business recovery work-streams on establishing what each stage of the easing of lockdown means for operations at Queen Margaret University, and on planning the adaptations, we will make to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of staff and students when we return to the campus. We are working closely with the Universities Safety and Health Association (USHA), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and the Scottish Government to implement a number of adjustments to our campus. Before restarting any work on campus, we will conduct a full COVID-19 risk assessment in line with HSE guidance, consult with our trade unions and communicate these results to the QMU community. We will not ask anyone to return to the campus until we can ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that it is safe to do so.

Adjustments will include managing campus access, as well as monitoring occupancy levels and the circulation of students and staff in our buildings, to ensure that we continue to adhere to social distancing requirements. We will achieve this by:

  • Limiting the occupancy of all University spaces at any one time.
  • Staggering the start of timetabled sessions and lunch periods.
  • Timetabling learning sessions in 2-3 hour blocks, all of which will be supported by a return to campus induction, clear signage and other supporting communications.
  • Putting other robust hygiene measures in place, such as providing hand sanitisers at key locations throughout the campus.
  • Further details of the actions we plan to take will be communicated to all staff and students as Scottish Government and public health advice, and our own subsequent business continuity planning develops.

We will also be closely following the principles for emerging from lockdown that have just been published by Universities UK and UCEA. Further information about these guidelines can be found here.

Autumn semester start dates

Importantly, and as we announced on Friday, we are now able to confirm that our autumn semester will start in September and that we are all set to welcome our new and returning students then. Our Induction Week will begin for most students as planned on 7 September, with teaching and learning starting on the 14th. There are a few exceptions, which you can find out more about in our applicant FAQs. We plan a mix of on-campus and online activity (commonly referred to as blended delivery) for semester 1. More information on our plans for the autumn semester can be found here

In our communications about next semester, we aim to emphasise that while COVID-19 has brought major disruption worldwide, the University’s role in the world remains unchanged. With our focus on addressing the issues facing society, through education and research, and our strong social justice ethos, we look forward to playing our part as society re-adjusts and re-calibrates beyond the pandemic. More immediately, we pride ourselves on the supportive community environment that we offer at QMU, in which everyone is treated as an individual. We are confident that this strength will serve our students well when they join or re-join us this autumn to make progress on their goals in their study, work and personal lives.

Engaging with prospective students

As you will already know, we are maximising opportunities for prospective students to engage with us, for example through the Online Postgraduate Open Day which took place last Thursday. This event went very well, thanks to the excellent work of all those involved.

Alongside this, we have been showcasing some of the excellent work going on across the University in recent months, including both that related to the pandemic and our work generally. One way we have been doing this is through publishing and promoting staff and student blogs, which you can find here.

29 May 2020: Confirmation of dates and arrangements for the start of the autumn semester

From our communications on coronavirus, you will know of our plan to start learning and teaching delivery in mid-September in line with the currently published academic calendar, with such delivery anticipated as being a mix of on-campus and online activity (commonly referred to as blended delivery). We can now provide more clarity and reassurance on our plans.

In short, we can confirm that:

  • Induction Week will begin on 7th September.
  • Teaching and learning will start (with a few exceptions as set out at the foot of this message*) on 14th September.
  • We will maximise opportunities for face to face delivery in support of the student experience.
  • We will aim to publish the semester 1 timetable by no later than 21 August. The semester 2 timetable will be planned separately and published on a later date so as to be able to take into account any changes to current and planned restrictions.
  • Lectures will be delivered online and asynchronously. What this means is that students can access online lectures at a time that suits them, rather than all students having to “attend” a lecture at the same time. As we will have to allow for social distancing on campus, the removal of lectures from the face to face timetable frees up space and time for the other elements of teaching, such as seminars and tutorials, where students gain more benefit from face to face interaction.
  • The teaching day will be extended so that it runs from 9am to 8pm, though we will minimise the number of times any student or staff member is scheduled to be on campus in the evening.
  • All new first year students will receive 6 hours on-campus teaching per week from the very start of their course, in two to three hour blocks across two to three days a week. All new (full-time) postgraduate students will receive 5 hours on-campus teaching from the very start of their courses, again delivered in two to three hour blocks across two days a week. If at any point in the semester Scottish Government health guidelines require it, this activity will be moved online for the required period. Level 2-4 students will also receive a combination of on-campus and online learning, the balance of which will vary according to programme requirements.
  • The level of teaching of students in other years will be decided by the programme team, working within certain parameters.
  • Students who are unable to join us from the beginning of the term (e.g. because of issues related to their visa or quarantine) will be able to begin their studies online.

Our plans have been informed by the following principles:

  • Protecting the health and safety and wellbeing of our students and staff.
  • Enabling a fulfilling all-round student experience for all students. We are determined to ensure that students new to the University are provided with sufficient on-campus teaching to support their adjustment to a new learning environment, and that returning students also have sufficient time for their on-campus learning activities.
  • Adhering to health protection advice from Government and other national bodies, e.g. in terms of social distancing, additional hygiene measures.
  • Facilitating a fulfilling all-round student experience for new students from the very beginning of their time with us. We are taking into account the importance of new students having plenty of opportunities to engage with their peers from the very start of their course, enabling them to make friends and form support networks.
  • Maximising the flexibility for programme teams in collegiately designing, distributing and delivering their learning and teaching activity within the required COVID-19 restrictions.
  • No student or staff member will be timetabled to be on campus for more than 8 hours on any one day

While this message focuses on taught programmes, please rest assured that we are, of course, planning for appropriate contact time and support for new and continuing PhD students. This important work is being led by our Graduate School team.

We know that everyone will be very keen to return to a normal way of living and working as soon as possible, enabling them to make progress on their goals in their study, work and personal lives. We hope that the arrangements set out above reassure you that we will be able to offer a fulfilling student (and staff) experience from September, while ensuring that appropriate social distancing and broader health protection measures are in place.

We pride ourselves on offering a supportive environment for our students at QMU, treating everyone as an individual. I am confident that this strength will serve our students well as we move into the new academic year.

Dr Richard Butt
Deputy Principal

* The exceptions to the 14th September start of teaching date are to the following programmes:

1. New year 1 entrants PDGE Secondary (Home Economics) - Induction will begin on 24th August with teaching commencing on 7th September.

2. Postgraduate programmes in the Business School and in the Institute of Global Health and Development - Induction will commence w/b 21st September, with teaching on those programmes beginning on 28th September.

3. New year 1 entrants

The following programmes will commence on 13th January:

  • MSc Physiotherapy pre-registration
  • MSc Occupational Therapy pre-registration
  • MSc Art Psychotherapy (International)
  • MSc Music Therapy
  • MSc Audiology
  • MSc Speech and Language Therapy pre-registration

4. New year 1 entrants MA Stage Management will commence in April 2021.

27 May 2020

The Scottish Government’s Route Map

As you will know, towards the end of last week the Scottish Government published its route map setting a gradual four-phase move out of lockdown. The first phase is due to begin tomorrow (Thursday) following the end-of-cycle review of the COVID-19 regulations due on that day, if the evidence supports that. During phase 1, people will be allowed to use public outdoor spaces for recreational purposes, for example to sit in a public space. In addition, one household could meet up with another household outdoors, in small numbers, including in gardens, but with physical distancing required.

As certain conditions must be met before we move to phase 2 and beyond, no dates have been set for phases 2, 3 and 4 yet.

Phase 1 will not involve any changes to University operations. Laboratory work can re-start from phase 2, and we will liaise with relevant staff on this, including contract researchers, in due course. Phase 3 allows for blended learning and teaching. Our representative body, Universities Scotland, is liaising with the Scottish Government to ascertain more precisely the implications of each phase for universities, but it appears that the assumptions of our business recovery work streams, which continue to work at pace, are in line with the Scottish Government’s thinking. Our Principal will also have the opportunity to discuss the implications with the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, at their next 121 meeting.

It is abundantly clear to all the Senior Leadership Team that staff right across the University are doing an amazing job tackling business continuity and business recovery planning at the same time as getting their day to day work done. We recognise that pressure on staff is particularly acute at the moment as academic and professional services staff prepare for, and participate in, examination boards and review and validation events. Thank you again to you all.

A couple of other points for staff:

  • ITS are planning further online training for staff across the summer period to support them with online teaching. Look out for a Moderator on the subject which will come out soon, covering both group and 121 training options. As you would expect, we are also considering and planning for students’ online learning training needs, particularly those of new students.
  • We know very well that many staff are missing face to face interaction with colleagues at the moment, both from a professional and social perspective. We also know that, across the University, staff are creating opportunities to interact and socialise online with colleagues, through informal catch ups or online quizzes etc – which is wonderful. If you are arranging such online events and would be open to inviting colleagues more widely to join, do let us know so we can include your event in an online calendar of such events via QMU@Home. Please email Mary Craig with the details.

For students and staff:

  • Our Chancellor, Prue Leith is keen to show her support for the staff and student community at this time and has released another video message for us, which you can view here if you haven’t already seen it on social media.

Thank you for your continued support and positivity. It really is appreciated.

19 May 2020

Updates from government

The First Minister has announced that the Scottish government will publish more details on Thursday of its "phased approach" to easing the lockdown restrictions. She said that if sufficient progress was being made on suppressing the virus, the first stage of this phased approach would start from 28 May.

The UK Government has announced that the job retention scheme (furlough) will be extended until October, but with employers sharing the cost with government from July. At QMU, we have a small number of staff currently on furlough.

Discussions continue between the Scottish Government, the SFC, and across the sector on support for higher education with the issues arising from COVID-19. In the last week, the Chief Executive of the SFC gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee on the impact of COVID-19 on the sector.

Online events for prospective undergraduate and postgraduate students (and discounts on postgraduate study for this year’s QMU graduates)

A virtual event for QMU’s undergraduate offer holders went very well last week, thanks to great team-working across the University. On 27 May, we will hold an online postgraduate open day, focusing on courses in the School of Arts, Social Science and Management and the Institute for Global Health and Development. Current undergraduate students considering options after graduation are warmly invited to attend. In recognition of the challenging circumstances that the COVID-19 pandemic presents, the University is offering an additional 10% discount on postgraduate tuition fees to this year’s QMU graduates and alumni, on top of their existing 10% discount, when they apply before the end of July 2020 for a programme commencing in 2020/21.

Senate met last week and discussed the University’s business recovery plan. Work continues at pace on the various business continuity workstreams and we anticipate being able to share more information about our plans for next semester in the near future.

A successful move to online validation events

A number of programme validations and re-validations took place online last week. Validation panels have reported that the online format worked well. On behalf of the Senior Leadership Team, I would like to thank the staff of the Governance and Quality Enhancement Unit for organising and implementing these events in very difficult circumstances, and, of course to all the academic staff involved, both at events and in the detailed preparatory work. As you may know, student representatives participate in validation panels too, and we were delighted that they gave very positive feedback on their teaching.

New podcast episode

Today, we launched the latest episode of the QMU podcast, which looks at loneliness in the context of the lockdown. The podcast features Dr Olivia Sagan, an academic expert on the topic, and Louise Gill, our Wellbeing Adviser. The podcast also explores COVID-related research on loneliness that is being undertaken at QMU and mental health resources for our students and staff. You can listen to the podcast here. 

 

12 May 2020 

Updates from government

Since our last update, there have been further announcements on lockdown by both the UK Prime Minister and the First Minister of Scotland. While the Prime Minister has announced some slight loosening of lockdown in England, the rules in Scotland remain substantively as before, albeit that we are now allowed to go outside more than once a day to exercise.

Last week, the Scottish Government announced a one-off £75 million increase in funding for Scotland’s universities to ensure they can protect research programmes against the financial impact of COVID-19. We are waiting to hear how these funds will be distributed across universities.

Message of support from our Chancellor

You might have seen on our social media the video message of support to students and staff from our Chancellor, Prue Leith. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can find it on our YouTube channel.

Staff rest day this Friday

Do remember that the next rest day for staff is on Friday 15 May. This day is intended to be used by staff to rest and switch off from work, which has, of course, been very intensive recently. We ask both staff and students to avoid sending emails to staff on this day wherever possible, to avoid people coming back to full inboxes. You were all very responsive to this request on the last rest day and I thank you again for that.

Other news for staff

Staff are asked to note that the Senior Leadership Team has agreed a relaxation to the annual leave carry over arrangements for the current leave year (which ends on 31 July).

The relaxation is designed to ensure that those staff who have additional or altered workload requirements as a result of COVID-19, which mean they are unable to take their accrued leave within the normal time frame, are provided with additional time in which to take their leave. Further details are available on the intranet (accessible when you use the remote desktop).

Answering queries about student accommodation

Our accommodation team have been receiving a number of requests for lease extensions given current circumstances. We anticipate that we will be able to provide accommodation for any students who wish to stay beyond their current occupancy end date, and may be able to assist students whose private rental accommodation is coming to an end and would like to move into our halls of residence (for further information contact accommodation@qmu.ac.uk).

We are also receiving enquiries from students who have already left accommodation and are wondering how and when they might be able to retrieve their belongings. If you are in this situation, please be assured that we will be in touch to clarify the process and the deadline for collecting your belongings when any changes are announced by the Scottish Government regarding the restrictions which currently prevent travel to campus. In order to protect you, other students and our staff, access to the accommodation will be restricted to enable social distancing and so please do not travel to campus until you have heard from us. Your belongings will remain secure within accommodation until restrictions have been lifted. In a very small number of cases the University may need to pack carefully and store securely your belongings should the room you occupied be needed to accommodate NHS staff/key workers, or to allow for essential maintenance programmes that have been planned in the summer months. There are no confirmed plans at present but we will provide advance notification to any affected students. We have written separately to any affected students covering all the points above, and more information is available in the accommodation section of our coronavirus FAQs.

Business recovery planning

Work on our Recovery Planning Group workstreams is moving at pace. We are planning to start learning and teaching delivery in mid-September in line with the currently published academic calendar, with such delivery anticipated as being a mix of online and on-campus activity (commonly referred to as blended delivery). The Recovery Group’s plans will allow for flexibility, and are focused firmly on ensuring the quality of the student experience and the wellbeing of staff and students. There is, of course, student and trade union representation on many of the workstream groups and planning is being informed by advice from government and public health bodies. If you have queries about the work of the Recovery Planning Group, please email Gordon Craig, our Head of Planning.

 

 

 05 May 2020

As Malcolm Cutt is taking a few days’ annual leave, I am writing today’s update.

Good news

I’ll begin with some good news. QMU has been awarded £92,242 in rapid coronavirus research funding from the Scottish Government following two successful bids from academic staff within the University. The University’s two research projects aim to inform current health protection practice and policy in the provision of quality care, in health service settings and the wider community, in the context of COVID-19.

Dr Alison Strang, a Senior Research Fellow at our Institute for Global Health and Development (IGHD), and Dr Olivia Sagan (Head of the Division of Psychology, Sociology and Education) will receive £64,098 towards their research into the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on loneliness amongst asylum seekers and refugees, while Dr Cathy Bulley from the University’s Physiotherapy area is leading an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the School of Health Sciences who have been granted £28,326 for work on supporting recovery from illness experienced in isolation due to a pandemic. Congratulations to them, and sincere thanks again to everyone involved in putting together our bids to the Scottish Government.

Another example of the QMU community’s positive response to the pandemic is the 'Race Around the World' challenge hosted by the QMU Men's Rugby team in collaboration with all of the University's sports clubs and societies. Everyone in the QMU community is welcome to take part, with the aim of travelling 40,000km collectively (that's 34 cities across 30 different countries) within the month of May to raise at least £1500 for NHS Charities Together. Those wishing to participate just need to download the Strava app, sign up and then join QMU's club. You will be able to follow the story on QMU’s Instagram page as the participants make their way across the globe (virtually). You can donate here.

Updates from government

The Scottish government has today set out options for easing the coronavirus lockdown in due course but has warned that "extreme caution" will have to be exercised. Although the current strict social distancing restrictions are due to be reviewed on Thursday, it seems that significant changes are unlikely.

At UK Government level, Friday saw the announcement of a package of support measures for students and universities designed to respond to the unprecedented circumstances created by the pandemic. This announcement was largely focused on the English sector, and further clarity is needed on some of the details of the package from the perspective of the devolved nations.

Alongside this, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science has written to principals of HE and FE principals in Scotland summarising Scottish Government support so far (much of which have been covered in Malcolm’s previous updates to staff and students) and referring to engagement with the UK Government. The minister has also been meeting principals 121 online, including our own Principal, of course.

Your wellbeing

Do remember that the next rest day for staff is on Friday 15 May. This day is intended to be used by staff to rest and switch off from work, which has, of course, been very intensive recently. We ask both staff and students to avoid sending emails to staff on this day wherever possible, to avoid people coming back to full inboxes. You were all very responsive to this request on the last rest day and I thank you again for that.

Staff will have received an update via Moderator on Friday on the subject of employee wellbeing and support, and health and safety when working from home. We encourage staff and students to take advantage of the support resources and services available to them. You will find useful information in our coronavirus FAQs as well as in various emails on the subject.

I’ll end this message by noting the end of examinations, taking place in very unusual circumstances. I hope that students are now managing to relax and enjoy themselves a little more, despite their constrained lifestyles.

27th April 2020

For students and staff:


Updates from Government

Last Thursday, the Scottish Government published a framework for their approach to decision making on easing social restrictions post-lockdown (and increasing these again if need be). What is clear from the document is that some degree of social distancing will be required for some time after the end of lockdown. There is specific mention of educational settings in the framework, and our Recovery Planning Group is taking this information into account.

Alongside this, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science issued a letter to all international students, along with associated guidance. We have added a link to this letter into our coronavirus FAQs for international students.

It was also reported over the weekend that those in Scotland working in health and social care and those falling within certain other priority groups can now apply to be tested for COVID-19 if they are displaying any of the known symptoms.


REF 2021 – Survey on initial views on changes to the REF 2021 timetable

The four UK higher education funding bodies are currently in the preliminary stages of adapting the details of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF). This follows the decision, on 24 March 2020, to put the REF on hold while institutions respond to the impact of COVID-19 on their operations.

 

To help inform this work, the REF team at Research England ran a webinar on 21 April, seeking initial views from the higher education sector on two central issues for the revised REF exercise:


1) The timing of the new submission deadline.

2) The broad approach to considering the effects on impact case studies.

 

Views on these two issues will be gathered via a short survey, which is available on their website. The deadline for responses to the survey is noon, Tuesday 5 May, with the outcome due at the end of May. An institutional level response will be discussed at the REF Steering Group, but responses are also invited from any organisation, group or individual with an interest in the conduct, quality, funding or use of research.


Furlough

The University is employing the Government’s furlough scheme with a very small group of staff members, who are unable to do meaningful work at this point because of the lockdown situation. The Government will pay 80% of their salary, and QMU will make up the remaining 20%. We have contacted all staff affected personally to ensure that they understand that this is not a sign of job insecurity. In essence, furlough is simply a mechanism for the University to access government support legitimately.


Reporting downtime or other IT issues via Assist

While our IT systems are generally working very well for remote working, we know that some may have been experiencing intermittent issues. We continue to encourage students and staff to report any problems they may be experiencing to Assist so that the IT team is aware of these and can act on them as appropriate.

 

Messages from the Principal for current and prospective students

We hope that students saw the Principal’s video message on social media last week to wish them all the best for their upcoming exams and to thank them for their resilience and courage while we navigate this new way of learning. Sir Paul has also recorded and issued another video message for prospective students, emphasising that we are open for business. In parallel with this, staff are in the process of working on online taster sessions for prospective QMU students, as well as a broad programme of “handholding” activities for them, including online sessions. Through these, and in other ways, we are determined to demonstrate our commitment to offering practical and student-centred support during these uncertain times.


New podcast episode

On Friday, we released the third episode of the QMU Podcast, which features interviews with Nursing students working on the NHS frontline, and talks about the broader contribution of our School of Health Sciences to the coronavirus response. You can listen to the latest episode here


For staff:

 

A paper providing a high-level framework for academic staff for the next academic session was issued separately by Moderator this morning.

 

QMU@Home

We continue to update the QMU@Home website for staff. Updates in the last week include further guidance on wellbeing sessions, and new blogs covering subjects such as the challenges faced by temporary home workers and working from home while attempting to home school children, as well as Occupational Therapy and Arts Therapies staff on why their occupation matters more now than ever.

 

Next update

We will update you again next week unless there is anything significant to report before then.

20 April 2020

As you will know, the UK Government announced on Thursday that the current lockdown will continue for at least another three weeks. Led by the Principal, our Recovery Group is factoring this and other information into its scenario planning.

For students:

As you will all be aware, this week sees the start of final assessments. You may wish to check out the FAQs about the coronavirus-related adjustments to regulations, policy and practice concerning student assessment, progression and award. The full regulations are available here. As you will know, these adjustments are designed to ensure that no student is disadvantaged because of the current situation in their assessment marks, academic progression and awards.

Please note that Turnitin has scheduled downtime from 8am-1pm on Wednesday 22 April. This is nationwide, not QMU specific. If this poses real and unavoidable problems for you in terms of submissions, please contact the School office. For assessments, we are currently updating Drop Box dates to account for this.

Young Scot, YouthLink Scotland and the Scottish Youth Parliament are keen to hear from young people about how they personally have been impacted by coronavirus. They have created the #LockdownLowdown survey which will be analysed and publicly reported to inform and support youth work organisations, stakeholders and practitioners, as well as helping the development of digital information. You may wish to complete the survey and/or look at the related information page about the coronavirus specifically designed with young people in mind. Young Scot also features volunteering opportunities on its website.

For staff and students:

As school Easter holidays come to an end this week, but children are of course not returning to school, we are conscious that students and staff with children will be facing increasing challenges. You might like to note that the Students’ Union have set up a Facebook group for students with children.

For staff:

We continue to update the QMU@Home website. New staff blogs on lockdown life were published towards the end of last week. Colleagues interested in writing for QMU@Home, or indeed producing a coronavirus related blog based on their academic expertise, should email the Press Office. We are also very interested in hearing student stories, at the same email address.

Next update

We will update you again in around a week’s time unless there is anything significant to report before then.

 

15 April 2020

In my last update, I highlighted the finalised details of adjustments to regulations, policy and practice concerning student assessment, progression and award. These were published on Friday and will ensure that no student is disadvantaged because of the current situation in their assessment marks, academic progression and awards. Yesterday, the Students’ Union ran a virtual pop-up union, joined by June Ross, Assistant Secretary (Registry & Academic Administration), to answer questions on the revised regulations. FAQs on the subject will be published as soon as possible.

As you will know from previous updates, the Business Continuity Group has been considering requests from across the NHS and social care providers for resources to tackle the pandemic. In the last few days we have lent hospital beds from our Clinical Simulation Suite to NHS Borders, we have lent our mobile X-ray unit to the Louisa Jordan Hospital at the SEC in Glasgow. We have also donated personal protective equipment to St Columba’s Hospice. Our technicians have been doing a great job helping with the organisation of pick-up and delivery of these items. Thank you very much to them. (We hope to cover the contribution of healthcare students and staff in the next episode of the QMU Podcast. You can listen to previous episodes here.)

Alongside this, our Firefly research team have produced advice for schools with regard to helping to support children with autism who are at home at this time. We are also in discussions about making available accommodation in the halls of residence for key workers who cannot go home.

You might have seen speculation in the media about when and how schools, colleges and universities will open again. We would echo a statement released by Universities Scotland yesterday which stated that it is still too early to say with absolute certainty if the start of the new academic year will need to be delayed. As you would expect, QMU’s Recovery Planning Group, led by the Principal, is working hard on contingency planning in this area. In the meantime, please assume that the academic year will start at the usual time.

We are aware that across the University, individual staff and groups of staff have started to think about recovery planning in their own areas. Where this is taking place, please make sure that your Senior Leadership Team member knows about it. In that way, we can ensure alignment between your plans and those of the central Recovery Planning Group.

Next update

We will update you again on Monday unless there is something significant to report before then.

 

Malcolm G Cutt

Director of Operations and Finance

10 April 2020

Announcements from the Scottish Government

Yesterday, the Scottish Government issued a media release emphasising its commitment to mitigating the effects of COVID-19 in the higher education sector. Alongside this, as part of a package of emergency financial support to help students facing hardship as a result of the current situation, the Scottish Government has awarded QMU an additional allocation of £47k. In line with guidance, this sum will be applied to our Discretionary Fund for students. Students who are facing hardship as a result of COVID-19 should apply to our Discretionary (hardship) and International Hardship funds in the usual way, through our Student Funding Adviser at studentfunding@qmu.ac.uk. The Student Funding Adviser can provide you with advice as well as guidance on how to apply for these funds.

QMU’s contribution to the national and local effort

Over the last couple of weeks, researchers from across the University have worked together at pace to develop a portfolio of grant applications to the Chief Scientist Office’s Rapid Research in COVID-19 Programme.   The research portfolio that we have submitted seeks to inform current health protection practice and policy in the provision of quality care in health service settings and the wider community in the context of COVID-19.  It has a particular focus on supporting the mental health of health care professionals, service users and vulnerable communities at a time when their resilience is under significant pressure due to the professional and personal changes brought about by the pandemic and the measures to contain it. On behalf of the Senior Leadership Team, I thank everyone involved for their great collaborative work.

More broadly, the University community continues to respond to the current situation in creative and big-hearted ways.  As an example of this, our catering contractors have been providing practical catering support to one of our local residential care homes, Carberry House.  Having made contact with the care home, they have been providing goodies for afternoon teas, including our much loved QMU scones.  On top of that, our chef Davie has volunteered to provide cover at Carberry House, while some of their team are self-isolating or unable to work because of family commitments. 

Food is an emerging theme in the support that the QMU community is offering more generally.  “Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts”, a project led by a Gastronomy student, Lewis McLachlan, is a community group of chefs providing free meals from Bridgend Farm in Edinburgh. Between 30 March and 9 April, the group sent out 1050 breakfasts, 1050 lunches and 1050 dinners as well snacks, totally free of charge. We are now looking at whether we can support this initiative by making our catering facilities available to them.

If you have a story you would like to share, please email PressOffice@qmu.ac.uk.

Looking ahead to the future, the University’s Recovery Planning Group has now been established and held an initial meeting. This group is undertaking scenario planning for the transition in the future back to a more normal way of studying and working.

Revised assessment, progression and Boards of Examiners arrangements

As promised, today we issued finalised details of adjustments to regulations, policy and practice, concerning student assessment, progression and award, as you will have seen from this afternoon’s Moderator message.

Next update

We plan to update you again next Wednesday, unless things change significantly before then. In the meantime, I do hope that you manage to enjoy the Easter weekend.

Malcolm G Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance 

08 April 2020

Celebrating the good in challenging times

In these challenging times, it is perhaps more important than ever to share news of the good things that people are doing. Across the higher education sector, universities are sharing stories of the work they are doing to contribute to the national effort against the COVID-19 outbreak, under the #WeAreTogether hashtag. At QMU, we are sharing our own stories on social media using the hashtag, and encourage you to send us ideas at PressOfffice@qmu.ac.uk.

We are particularly proud that 100% of our eligible allied health professional and Nursing students are currently seeking employment or paid placements in the NHS or social care. These final year students are providing much needed support at a time of unprecedented need. In addition to the students working in Scotland, we have a number seeking work in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I know you will want to join with the Senior Leadership Team in thanking them all for what they are doing for our society, and indeed our own loved ones.

In the second episode of the QMU Podcast, which was released today, we celebrated the contribution of staff and the Students’ Union in allowing us to adapt to our current way of working and living. With ‘shout outs’ to the IT and security teams, and to students involved in volunteer projects responding to COVID-19, this episode features conversation with Res:Life coordinator Alice Kerr and the President of the Students’ Union. Topics of discussion range from ‘Zooming’ with your grandparents to the best ABBA tracks to cheer you up when you are stuck indoors. As with episode 1, you can access the podcast on Spotify, Deezer, Podchaser, Castbox and Podcast Addict. It’s also now available on Apple and Google Podcasts. Alternatively, you can stream it via Spreaker .

Still on the subject of celebrating the good, I’ll also draw your attention to the nominations for the Students’ Union STAR Awards. Based on student votes, this award scheme celebrates the contribution of staff to the student experience, and the contribution of students to University life. You can see the nominations here.

Revised assessment, progression and Boards of Examiners arrangements

Last week, I let you know that we expected to have finalised details of adjustments to regulations, policy and practice, concerning student assessment, progression and award, and to the operation of Boards of Examiners. I can confirm that we plan to be able to share details with you on Friday.

Staff rest days

As you will know from the Moderator communication yesterday, all staff are being given two rest days, with the first being this coming Monday (Easter Monday). This move is part of our efforts to support staff health and wellbeing at the current time, and in recognition of their extraordinary efforts in recent weeks. We ask both staff and students to avoid emailing staff on these rest days, wherever possible. We are, of course, acutely conscious that students’ need to seek support from staff is increased at this time, and so these rest days have been spaced out partly to minimise their impact on students. Thank you for your support.

Staff health and wellbeing more generally

It is important that staff continue to take leave, as managing the work/life balance is essential in order for us to keep fit and well. This is still true even although we are much more limited in what we can do while we are on annual leave. We would ask staff to continue to take annual leave during the coronavirus situation, and to switch off entirely from work when they are on annual leave. The Senior Leadership Team are adopting this approach themselves too. As a reminder the current leave year ends on 31 July 2020, and the University’s Annual Leave Policy is available here

Additionally, while working remotely, we all need to ensure that we take breaks and take other steps to protect our wellbeing. Remember you can find information and support on health and wellbeing at QMU@Home

Joint work across the higher education sector

In earlier updates, I’ve let you know about some of the joint work across the higher education sector, and with partners and government, to address the challenges arising from the current situation. You might be interested to know that, over the last week, the higher education sector and Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) met (online) to discuss opportunities for joint approaches. Attended by our Principal, this was a very productive meeting, at which participants found they had much in the way of a common cause.

Next update

We plan to update you again on Friday after the (online) meeting of the Business Continuity Group that day, unless something significant changes, in which case we will update you earlier.

06 April 2020 

If you are based in Scotland right now, I hope that you managed to enjoy the sunnier weather when you were outside for your daily exercise this weekend. As we start a new week, today’s update is fairly brief.

For students, I will take this opportunity to share with you a coronavirus-related volunteer scheme with People Know How, an organisation that provides befriending projects for both adults and children. In response to COVID-19, People Know How’s services are going online. They are looking for student volunteers to assist in the delivery of these services. You can find full details on the new online positions and how to apply here.

For staff, I would like to highlight QMU@Home, the new webpage to support staff by bringing together useful resources related to working from home, including maintaining a good work/life balance, health and wellbeing advice, and ways of staying in touch with the QMU community during this uncertain time. The site also provides details of key contacts if you need specific support from colleagues. In addition, it features blogs in which individual staff members describe how our present circumstances are affecting them and how they are adjusting.

Whether you are a student or a staff member, you might be interested in another example of how our academic expertise can provide insightful perspectives on our current situation. This example is from an opinion piece that appeared in the Scotsman last week, by Sarah Haywood of our Division of Occupational Therapy and Arts Therapies. Drawing on her experience managing and delivering an in-house mental health service in a secondary school in Scotland, Sarah highlights the factors in teenagers’ favour when it comes to coping with the changes provoked by coronavirus, while also acknowledging their anxieties, of course.

New advice for staff and students for research involving human participants will be issued today (06 April 2020) via Moderator. The advice addresses how the QMU Research Ethics Panel (REP) requires all ongoing and planned research to make changes to how participant interactions are conducted, and the notification and approval of those changes.

Next update

We plan to update you again on Wednesday after the (online) meeting of the Business Continuity Group that day, unless something significant changes, in which case we will update you earlier.

03 April 2020

I’ll begin this update with a brief summary of some new useful sources of information and support for students and staff. 

Student Services: You will have seen the information on Student Services issued by Moderator yesterday, expanding on the list of services we provided last week. The expanded list encompasses the full range of support services across the University. Each area is committed to helping you navigate this uncertain time, and we hope that you find this updated information useful. We have extracted key points from it for inclusion in our FAQs.

Assist helpdesk: Among the services available to students and staff, don’t forget the Assist helpdesk. It continues to be your one-stop shop for reporting any faults or problems with Accommodation, Facilities, IT and Library Services. To log a job, please drop them an email at assist@qmu.ac.uk and a member of the team will be happy to help.

SAAS funding: The Chief Executive of SAAS issued a statement yesterday stating that his organisation aims to continue to provide funding on time and that the new academic session opened as usual on 1 April. SAAS have also published FAQs for students.

REF FAQs: Also yesterday, REF published a set of FAQs for university staff outlining further clarification on the UK higher education funding bodies’ approach to contingency planning for coronavirus for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. The FAQs are available on the REF website here: https://www.ref.ac.uk/faqs/.

You might also be interested to know that the Scottish Government’s Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science has convened a COVID-19 focused group, which includes representation from universities and colleges, NUS Scotland and trade unions. This group met for the first time this week.

Procedure for staff reporting self-isolating or shielding

All staff are reminded to contact the Head of HR (asmith2@qmu.ac.uk) if they are currently self-isolating or are shielding (due to an underlying health condition). HR have prepared a document setting out the various self-isolation and shielding scenarios, which includes details on who you should inform, available here (contact your HR partner if you need to see this document but haven’t access to the intranet). Further information about shielding can be found on the NHS Inform website

Availability of on-campus accommodation 

As you will know from previous communications, our halls of residence remain open and we continue to offer support services to those still living on campus through RES:LIFE, our security team and also a pop up shop. Beyond that, these students have online access to our full range of student support services, including our Wellbeing service. We fully expect to be able to provide accommodation for students who need to stay beyond their current lease end date to enable them to adhere to government advice not to return home. We also anticipate that we will be able to assist students whose private rental accommodation is coming to an end and would like to move into our halls of residence, and might also be able to provide accommodation for key workers. For further information, email accommodation@qmu.ac.uk.

Thank you to the essential staff on campus

I’ll take this opportunity again to highlight again the crucial role of staff providing essential services on campus, including those working for our contracted partners. Our contractors make an enormous contribution to the ‘one team’ approach we have in Campus Services, where staff with different expertise and roles work together to provide a joined up service. You might also like to know that the contractors remaining on campus have been supporting the local community in the current situation, arranging home deliveries from our pop up shop to households that are self-isolating in the local area.

I wish you a relaxing and refreshing weekend.

 

01 April 2020

Contributing to the national effort 

With health sciences a substantial part of our course portfolio, our Nursing and allied health professional students are making a real and impactful difference in the NHS and in social care settings at a time when the service is under unprecedented pressure. Our final year students are responding positively to the call from the Scottish Government for them to go on the temporary emergency registers for graduating students, which enables these students to go out and be in paid practise now, before their formal graduation.

Alongside this, we are moving fast on discussions with healthcare providers about opportunities for them to make use of elements of the University’s healthcare and protective equipment.

Our academic experts also have an important contribution to make to the broader community in this current situation. For example, Dr Olivia Sagan, Head of the Division of Psychology, Sociology and Education, spoke on Radio Scotland on Monday about the challenges of being alone arising out of the current isolation measures, and how to make the most of being on your own in these difficult times. 

We are keen to celebrate stories of the ways in which the University community is responding to the current situation. If you, or someone you know, or a group of you, are doing anything along these lines that you would like to share, please email PressOffice@qmu.ac.uk.


Progress within the University

Work on arranging alternative assessment is near completion. Indeed many student cohorts have now been informed of the arrangements for their course or module, as we have been posting up details on the Hub as and when decisions are made. We expect to have finalised details of all alternative assessment arrangements by next week, and will let you know when we get to that point. We are, of course, aware of the NUS’s requests for flexible solutions and for appropriate adjustments to be made for those with individual learning plans. We are confident that our plans are broadly in line with these requests.

Important advice on communication tools

As you will know from other communications, we encourage you to use Microsoft Teams for virtual meetings, voice or video; Vscene for video conferencing; and Blackboard Collaborate for teaching purposes. Although you are free to use Zoom and other similar products, please be aware that there are widespread concerns about the security of Zoom. If you are using Zoom, please ensure you never communicate any personal or confidential information.

Looking forward

Whilst we don’t know how long COVID-19 will continue to disrupt our everyday lives in the way that it is doing now, I want to reassure you that the University is looking ahead and is planning for the transition back to a more normal way of living and working. We are doing this in partnership with others in the higher education sector, our funders and other partners.

Next update

We plan to update you again on Friday after the (online) meeting of the Business Continuity Group that day, unless something significant changes, in which case we will update you earlier.

 

 

 

30 March 2020

I hope that you managed to find some relaxation over the weekend, albeit that life is so constrained at the moment. Anecdotally, I know many of you are sharing tips for films, boxsets, games etc to help you make the most of your free time at home.

Advice for students living away from home (in halls or private rental accommodation)

Over the weekend, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science wrote to university principals stating that the Chief Medical Officer and Scottish Government’s advice is that students currently remaining in university accommodation should stay where they are and not attempt to travel home, even if that is to another part of Scotland.

This is in line with medical directives across all four UK nations. Whether students are living in halls, or private rented accommodation, the advice is that they should remain there and stay indoors while current restrictions are in force. The minister goes on to say he understands that this is a worrying time and many students will want to be with their families. Nevertheless, he emphasises that staying put in accommodation and adhering to the directives issued by the Chief Medical Officer and the Scottish and UK governments is the best way to slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19, protect our NHS from being overwhelmed and save lives.

As you would expect, the Senior Leadership Team at QMU supports the minister’s position. Our halls remain open and we will continue to offer support services to those residents through RES:LIFE, our security team and also a pop up shop. Beyond that, these students have online access to our full range of student support services, including our Wellbeing service. We fully expect to be able to provide accommodation for students who need to stay beyond their current lease end date to enable them to adhere to government advice. We also anticipate that we will be able to assist students whose private rental accommodation is coming to an end and would like to move into our halls of residence (for further information contact accommodation@qmu.ac.uk).

Launch of Scotland Cares

In response to the current situation, the Scottish Government has launched a volunteering scheme, Scotland Cares. People are being asked to go to the Ready Scotland website if they wish to provide practical or emotional help. People who wish to become volunteers have three options: 

  • returning NHS workers will be directed to existing voluntary arrangements in NHS Scotland
  • people wishing to offer their support to our public services, including the NHS and local authorities, will be directed to a site co-ordinated by the British Red Cross
  • those looking for opportunities with other charities or community groups in their area will be directed to Volunteer Scotland for information.

Online academic writing support

My colleagues and I have been encouraged by the high uptake of online tools and services available to students. The Effective Learning Service (ELS) continues to offer guidance and support to all students who wish to develop their academic writing. Staff in the service will attend to all ELS and ELS international appointments by communicating guidance and advice on your assignments via email. If you wish to make an appointment with the service please use this link.

For all level one students, and students at other levels on selected programmes, QMU has partnered with Studiosity, an external online service accessed via the Hub, to provide 24/7 constructive feedback on key elements of academic writing. Studiosity will review your draft work and give you quick feedback about how to improve your academic writing style. Uptake on the service has been growing over the last couple of weeks, and student satisfaction with their academic writing support remains high. 

We encourage students to take advantage of the services available to them, and remind you of the email setting out the broad range of services available for students, sent by Moderator on 25 March, and summarised in our coronavirus FAQs.

Next update

We plan to update you again on Wednesday after the (online) meeting of the Business Continuity Group that day, unless something significant changes, in which case we will update you earlier.

 

 

27 March 2020

I know from Twitter that the national applause for NHS workers was audible on campus last night, which is great to hear. I think that all who joined in or heard the applause, wherever they were, will have found it an emotional and uplifting experience. With Health Sciences being such a significant part of QMU’s teaching and research work, I am sure that the applause had a particularly strong impact on many of you.

Our Sports Centre colleagues are working to keep our spirits raised too, with the introduction of the QMU Sports MyWellness App, which is free to use. It provides daily home workouts and fitness tracking tools. To access all you need to do is: (1) go to www.mywellness.com/qmusports and create a new account; (2) download the mywellness app from your app store and log into the app with the credentials you created at (1). Our Sports team will be adding further features to the App over the next week, including the ability to contact the Sports staff to assist you with tailoring your programme and to provide you with fitness advice.

Still focused on wellbeing, you might like to take a look at the latest issues of Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership’s Thrive newsletter, which is dedicated to advice on looking after your mental health and wellbeing in the current situation.

For students specifically:

  • We know that, quite understandably, there is concern among some of you as to how the current challenging circumstances will be taken into account when your academic work is considered by exam boards. The University appreciates that this is an anxious period for students, and we can reassure all students that our regulations for the operation of Boards of Examiners, and our assessment regulations, do allow Boards of Examiners to exercise discretion in coming to a decision on student progression and awards where circumstances, such as the current ones, make it appropriate to do so. Evidence considered by the Boards will include reports from staff on special circumstances affecting student performance.
  • Thinking particularly of students in the halls of residence, please do continue to adhere to the Government’s social distancing guidance, tough though this is. This is to protect your own health as well as that of others.

For staff specifically:

  • Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021: You might find it helpful to know that the UK REF Team have published an update on their website in relation to contingency planning for coronavirus for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 here. Recognising that institutions are required to divert staff resource to other critical areas, including those working in clinical and health-related fields, they have reassured institutions that such activities should be prioritised without concern for the effect on REF preparations and have put the exercise on hold until further notice to enable this. The submission deadline on 27 November 2020 will no longer apply, and a new submission deadline will be announced no later than eight months prior to the deadline. The UK higher education funding bodies recognise the significant effort that has been invested so far by institutions in preparations for the current REF cycle and in view of this the REF staff census date (31 July 2020) remains unchanged.
  • Following this recent guidance we are pausing some of our internal REF activities and rescheduling others which were due to take place over the forthcoming months. This includes extending the REF 2021 appeals deadline to 27th April 2020 for decisions on the identification of staff with significant responsibility for research. A review of the REF institutional timetable will take place in line with the recent guidance published. As this is a constantly evolving situation, we will continue to monitor and take necessary actions in line with government advice, keeping staff fully briefed as soon as external guidance is received. QMU will also remain engaged with the UK higher education funding bodies in the coming weeks to gather further information as the situation develops.

If staff do have enquiries or concerns regarding the REF 2021 Project and these recent developments, please contact REF2021Project@qmu.ac.uk.

Reminder of campus building closures

I will take this opportunity to remind you that there is no access to the main academic building, and that this applies to both staff (excluding essential security staff) and students. There is no access to the Sports/Students’ Union building either, with the exception of the pop-up shop supplying essential supplies to students living on campus, which is open for two hours daily on Monday to Friday from 12 to 2pm.

QMU Podcast

With the support of QMU graduate and SU trustee, Keith Easton, we have launched a podcast, to help the QMU community feel connected in our current situation. The first episode went live today, featuring our Principal, Sir Paul Grice. The podcast is available now on Spotify, Deezer and Podchaser, and will be available shortly on other platforms, such as Apple Podcasts. You can also listen on Spreaker.

Next update

We plan to update you again on Monday after the (online) meeting of the Business Continuity Group that day, unless something significant changes, in which case we will update you earlier.

 

25 March 2020

It might be hasty to say so, but we seem to be starting to settle into the ‘new normal’, though we very much appreciate how difficult things are for so many of you.

For students

You will have seen the message on Moderator today emphasising that all of our Student Services remain open to you (online), and reminding and updating you on how to access these services. Students should not hesitate to contact Student Services for support, signposting and guidance. Appointment guidance and information can be found on Student Central.

While we appreciate how very hard it is, we urge you, particularly those of you living in residences, to adhere to the Government’s social distancing guidance. This is to protect your own health as well as that of others. We summarised this guidance in yesterday’s update.

For staff

You might like to access a one hour ‘Working Successfully from Home’ training session that is delivered online via Zoom by our training partners, Positive People. The session is presented by David Longstaff, who has delivered the Ease the Load session to staff in the past. The session will be most useful to those that are unfamiliar with working from home. You can sign up for a session here. Just enter your details at the link and add PREPAIDQMU in the coupon code box. There are a number of dates available and more will be added. Please access Zoom via your browser rather than through the Horizon desktop in order for voice and video to work. The session content includes: the value of daily routines; dealing with distractions; juggling work and children; focusing on priorities; getting exercise; knowing when to stop work; overcoming guilt.

Given the current situation, you might be particularly interested in information from the QAA on technology-enhanced learning which you can find here. Based on the QAA’s Focus On: Technology Enhanced Learning project, that link features curated resources and guidance in related areas (eg a toolkit for online learners and tutors). There will be an online event on the project (in place of the original face to face sharing practice session) on 1 April – details are on the QAA website.

For everyone

The Senior Leadership Team continues to be deeply impressed at how you are all adjusting to our current circumstances. So many of you, both students and staff, find yourselves managing a tricky balance of work and caring responsibilities, have had to adopt unconventional working hours, have issues with wi-fi and other home tech, and have other coronavirus-related worries and tasks to handle. Given this, none of us can expect instant answers to emails etc, and the Senior Management Team know you will continue to be kind and tolerant of one another when you don’t receive the response you would like from others in the timescale you would like.

Next update

We plan to update you again on Friday, after the (online) meeting of the Business Continuity Group that day, unless something significant changes, in which case we will update you earlier.

24 March 2020

24 March 2020: supplementary update

Information sent to students in Halls of Residence

We are acutely aware that some students are facing real financial challenges arising from COVID-19 and we want to do everything we can to support them.  Our Senior Leadership Team has been thinking very carefully about how best to support students facing such financial difficulties, and to do so fairly based on need.  They have benefitted from strong, constructive and effective representation of student views by the Students’ Union.

As one of the outcomes of these deliberations, we are offering all residents in the halls of residence the option to terminate their contracts with 28 days’ notice.  Residents are receiving full details of this by email.

Our halls of residence will remain open for those who wish to stay, and we will continue to offer support services to those residents through RES:LIFE, our security team and also a pop up shop. We anticipate that we be able to provide accommodation for any students who wish to stay beyond their current occupancy end date, and may be able to assist students whose private rental accommodation is coming to an end and would like to move into our halls of residence (for further information contact  accommodation@qmu.ac.uk).

In parallel with this, we will be arranging a significant increase in our international hardship funds in addition to increasing the existing discretionary funds for UK students. We invite students in need to apply for such funding. One benefit of this approach is that it can encompass students in private rented accommodation, as well as those living on campus. If you are facing financial hardship and are finding difficulty with living costs then please contact the Student Funding Adviser at studentfunding@qmu.ac.uk

Furthermore, we will be sympathetic to requests from students who are experiencing financial hardship to extend their university accommodation payment terms, so that they can pay their outstanding balance over a longer period of time than originally planned.  Students who are experiencing hardship and in need of such payment extension should contact creditcontroller@qmu.ac.uk

24 March 2020

The latest instructions from Government

You will be aware from announcements last night by the British Prime Minister and the Scottish First Minister that the United Kingdom is from today in a state of effective lockdown to arrest the spread of COVID-19.

As you will appreciate, this is no longer a matter of advice or guidance – it is a direct instruction from our governments to everyone in this country and will be enforceable by the public authorities, including the police. In any case, we are confident that you will want to comply, to support our collective effort to limit the threat we face.

The only reasons you should now leave your home (or flat in student accommodation) are as follows:

  •  Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible;
  • One form of exercise a day - for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household;
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person;
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home;
  • Public gatherings of any more than two people are no longer permitted, unless they are members of your own family.

 

Further restrictions on campus

As a result of the new instructions from Government, we will be closing the main academic building completely, including the LRC.

Acutely conscious of our duty of care to students living on campus, we will still have security staff in place, of course. They can be contacted on 0131 474 0000 and extension 2222. Students living on campus can also reach them via the intercom points across campus (eg at the entrance to the main academic building and accommodation).

Working remotely, our RES:LIFE team will continue to support students living on campus, working in partnership with the Student Services team and the Students’ Union.

We will continue to offer a pop-up shop for students living on campus, providing essential provisions. Except for access to the pop-up shop, the Sports/Students’ Union building will be closed.

Beyond essential Campus Services (security) staff, no staff are permitted on campus. All non-essential cleaning and maintenance will be suspended, and the Finance Office will remain closed (although still available via e-mail at FinanceOffice@qmu.ac.uk ).

We expect to complete the actions above by 5pm today.

It is anticipated that this period of lockdown will last for three weeks. Thank you for your patience, cooperation and understanding during this very difficult time.

 

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing

I will take this opportunity to remind you that our FAQs now include various helpful sources of information, and these are reproduced below:

Coronavirus and your wellbeing - Mind
What do to if you're anxious about coronavirus
Mental Health Considerations during COVID-19 outbreak

These resources supplement the University resources available to students through QMU’s Student Services and staff through the HR team (including our Employee Assistance Programme). Our Wellbeing service also has a webpage with useful resources. 

Tomorrow, Wednesday, the Students’ Union sabbatical offers will be running an online pop-up SU event.

They will be available to chat over anything that would be helpful for you in these unprecedented times. You can join via this link on Wednesday 25th March at 14.15.

(They will also have a Facebook event.)

 

Supporting students in financial need – reminder and additional information

In my message of 22 March, I set out how our Senior Leadership Team has been thinking very carefully about how best to support students facing financial difficulties arising out of the current situation, and how to do so fairly based on need. I explained how we will be arranging for a significant increase in our international hardship funds in addition to the existing discretionary funds for UK students. We invite students in need to apply for such funding. If you are facing financial hardship then please contact the Student Funding Adviser at studentfunding@qmu.ac.uk. The Student Funding Adviser can provide you with advice as well as guidance on how to apply for our hardship and discretionary funds.

In addition to this, we will be sympathetic to requests from students who are experiencing financial hardship and who wish to extend their tuition fee or accommodation payment terms, so that they can pay their outstanding balance over a longer period of time than originally planned. Students who are experiencing hardship and in need of such payment extensions should contact creditcontroller@qmu.ac.uk.

My sincere thanks again for your support and cooperation during this situation, and for looking out for one another.

 

23 March 2020

Social distance guidance reinforced by Government

As you will know, in the last 24 hours both the UK and Scottish Government have emphasised the importance of adhering to the guidance on social distancing. In particular, we are all asked to follow the guidance when out enjoying the fresh air, avoiding busy areas and keeping two metres apart from others.

Community spirit

We know that many of you, both students and staff, are doing a great deal to help others facing particular challenges at this time. We are not surprised at this, as we know that so many of you were attracted to join QMU because our focus on serving the community and social justice resonates with your own worldview. If you would like to give a shout out to a member of the University community who is helping others, please do contact our communications team at PressOffice@qmu.ac.uk. The communications team would also love to hear how you are keeping your spirits up while studying or working at home, if you would be happy for them to share your story with others on our social media channels.

You might be interested to know that we are in discussions with the NHS about the possibility of our healthcare staff volunteering in the health service.

Thank you very much indeed to all the staff who contributed to the success of Saturday’s online visit days, for example speedily converting materials for online use (the original plan having been for a face to face event), at a time when you have also been dealing with so much other coronavirus related work and complications in your personal lives.

More on self-isolation

Please remember that you need to tell the University if you are self-isolating. Staff should report their absence to their line manager and the Head of Human Resources (asmith2@qmu.ac.uk) advising whether you are signing off sick or working from home. HR colleagues have published a document on the intranet setting various self-isolation scenarios. Students should complete the normal absence form within the Student Portal.

IT resources for students

Students might like to note that the IT team are providing online training sessions on Collaborate. Further details are available on the Hub. Additionally, Adobe Create Cloud is now available on temporary basis to support remote working and study. You can find information on this in the Moderator message issued by the IT team today. We hope this is helpful.

Next update

Our next planned update will be on Wednesday, after the (online) meeting of the Business Continuity Group that day, unless something significant changes, in which case we will update you earlier.

Malcolm G. Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

22 March 2020

We hope that you are managing to enjoy your weekend as much as possible – beautifully sunny in Edinburgh - despite the increased limitations on your social interactions and the uncertainties that arise from the current situation. The Business Continuity Group met again (virtually) this morning (Sunday).  Please see below for developments affecting QMU since Friday.

Further restrictions on campus access

In response to the tightening up of social distancing advice from Government on Friday, we are now closing off group seating spaces in the atrium, and the group study rooms in the LRC. While the main LRC remains open to students – with social distancing measures in place – we encourage you to consider whether you can access the resources you need online rather than visiting the LRC in person. We will continue to offer a limited space in the LRC for members of staff who, exceptionally, are unable to work from home due to local technology limitations, but to use this space you or your line manager need the authorisation of a Senior Leadership Team member.

As you might know from our social media posts, we have now closed our sports facilities on campus, and service at Maggie’s is restricted to takeaway only. This follows the Government telling cafes, pubs and restaurants to close, based on updated scientific advice. We are really sorry about this but are sure that you will understand this move to protect public health.

If you are a student living on campus, please try to minimise meeting in groups, and, if you feel you must gather, please remember to follow the advice on social distancing. We suggest that you don’t meet in groups any larger than around five or six people at the most. I am sure that many of you are experimenting with virtual social gatherings using various apps.

Progress on online assessments

As you will know from previous messages, staff are working at pace to prepare online assessments to replace those assessments that are normally conducted face to face. Details of your assessments will be published on the Hub as soon as possible. In the meantime, it would help enormously if you could please avoid asking your lecturers about progress on this, as they are so busy working on preparing the assessments and other coronavirus-related work. 

Unless you hear otherwise via the Hub, or directly from your module co-ordinator, please assume that you will be asked complete all the assessments that are an intrinsic part of the learning outcomes of your modules, albeit some of those assessments will necessarily be in a modified form. We are taking this approach because we take our commitment to your learning seriously. The process of preparing for assessments, undertaking assessments and the feedback you receive afterwards are all fundamental aspects of that learning.  However, recognising the disruption you have faced over recent days, and as you will be aware from previous updates, all undergraduate or postgraduate coursework due on or before 3rd April, and all undergraduate dissertations (regardless of their deadline) has had a one week extension applied to their existing deadlines (see 20th March update for full details).

Supporting students in financial need

We know that some students are facing real financial challenges in these extremely difficult times and we are keen to support those of you in this situation. 

Our Senior Leadership Team has been thinking very carefully about how best to support students facing financial difficulties, and to do so fairly based on need. As a result, we will be arranging for a significant increase in our international hardship funds in addition to the existing discretionary funds for UK students. We invite students in need to apply for such funding.

If you are facing financial hardship then please contact the Student Funding Adviser at studentfunding@qmu.ac.uk. The Student Funding Adviser can provide you with advice as well as guidance on how to apply for our hardship and discretionary funds.

I hope that you find this update helpful. Rest assured that all of us in the Senior Leadership Team will continue to do everything in our power to support the rest of the University community.

Malcolm G Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

20 March 2020

As we draw towards the end of a highly unusual week, I would like to reiterate my personal thanks, and those of my colleagues in the Senior Leadership Team, for the way in which all members of the University community have conducted themselves in the face of huge uncertainty and rapidly changing circumstances. We have seen many instances of small acts of kindness, and of people going the extra mile to help others. These are the things that lie at the heart of the ethos of Queen Margaret University, and will play a critical part in our ability to navigate our way through the current difficult circumstances.

As we all get used to studying and working in different ways we will continue to have a number of questions. Please remember that you can access information and FAQs on our coronavirus site.

In the meantime, there are a few specific matters I would like to draw to your attention.

Reminder of campus access restrictions

Access to the main academic building remains restricted to the Atrium and the Learning Resource Centre (LRC). Although unstaffed, the LRC will be accessible to students via smart card access and available on a 24/7 basis. In order to comply with fire regulations, and to ensure compliance with health and safety requirements, staff are not able to work in the staff office area. If a member of staff needs to access their desk area, e.g. to collect personal possessions, they need authorisation from a member of the Senior Leadership Team who will then advise Security. If staff are unable to work from home due to local technology limitations, an IT workroom will be available within the LRC. However, this area will be subject to social distancing and infection control measures.

The student accommodation remains open. Social opportunities continue to be provided through the Res:Life team, and resources are available through the Students’ Union (SU). A catering service remains in place in Maggie’s in the SU, as well as a shop which stocks essential provisions, and which will be open seven days a week. The sports centre remains open for students living on campus and for those essential members of staff who still require to be on campus. In all of these areas, you are reminded to follow the government guidance on social distancing.

If you are self-isolating

Please remember that you need to tell the University if you are self-isolating. Staff should report their absence to their line manager and the Head of Human Resources (asmith2@qmu.ac.uk) advising whether you are signing off sick or working from home. Students should complete the normal absence form within the Student Portal.

Working at home

HR colleagues have developed some further guidance for staff on tips for working from home and work station set up. These are in addition to the existing Working from Home Guidelines, and can be found on the staff intranet.

Submission deadline extensions

As announced on 19th March, all undergraduate or postgraduate coursework due on or before 3rd April, and all undergraduate dissertations (regardless of their deadline) will have a one week extension applied to their existing deadlines. This update provides further clarification of that announcement.

  • Any individual learning plan (ILP) adjustments will apply to the revised extension deadline rather than the original deadline.
  • For individual students who had already been granted an extension due to their own Extenuating Circumstances (ECs), this one week extension is additional to the extension granted in response to their ECs.
  • Where assessment extensions have already been applied by programme leaders or module co-ordinators for all students on a module, those revised deadlines will not be changed.
  • This extension does not apply to assessments where the format and, in some instances, the timing of that assessment has already been modified (e.g. face to face exams that have been moved into an online mode).
  • For the avoidance of doubt, all the above only applies to undergraduate or postgraduate coursework due on or before 3rd April, and all undergraduate dissertations (regardless of their deadline).
  • Any postgraduate taught student who considers that they have an extenuating circumstance should apply for recognition of that EC in the normal way.

If you have any remaining queries regarding the above, please contact your module co-ordinator or programme leader.

For postgraduate research students (Prof Doc and PhD) whose fieldwork and or data collection has been/will be disrupted by the COVID19 related restrictions, a separate message will be sent directly to you from the Graduate School shortly, but rest assured that we be taking account of the impact of those restrictions on your research activities.

Guidance on Looking after your Mental Health and Wellbeing

Our FAQs now include various helpful sources of information, and these are reproduced below:

These resources supplement the University resources available to students through QMU’s Student Services and staff through the HR team (including our Employee Assistance Programme). Our Wellbeing service also has a webpage with useful resources.

Finally, I would like to offer particular thanks to those colleagues who continue to undertake essential roles on campus. Our goal is to continue to keep our campus open, but we are of course only able to achieve that goal through the efforts of those colleagues. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

We will plan to provide a further update early next week, although if there are any significant changes or developments over the weekend then we will of course communicate these earlier than that.

Thank you.

Malcolm G. Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance 

Further update

Tonight, the Scottish Government told cafes, pubs and restaurants to close, based on updated scientific advice. Given this, we have closed our gym on campus, and service at Maggie’s is restricted to takeaway only. We are sorry about this but are sure that you will understand this move to protect public health.

19 March 2020

Reminder of campus access restrictions

I will begin today’s update by reminding you that access to the main academic building is restricted to the Atrium and the Learning Resource Centre (LRC). Although unstaffed, the LRC will be accessible to students via smart card access and available on a 24/7 basis.  In order to comply with fire regulations, and to ensure compliance with health and safety requirements, staff cannot work in the staff office area. If a member of staff needs to access their desk area, eg to collect personal possessions, they need authorisation from a member of the Senior Leadership Team who will then advise Security. If staff are unable to work from home due to local technology limitations, an IT workroom will be available within the LRC. However, this area will be subject to social distancing and infection control measures.

Reporting self-isolation

Please remember that you need to tell the University if you are self-isolating. Staff should report their absence to their line manager and the Head of Human Resources (asmith2@qmu.ac.uk) advising whether you are signing off sick or working from home. Students should complete the normal absence form within the Student Portal

Submission deadline extensions

All undergraduate or postgraduate coursework* due on or before 3rd April, and all undergraduate dissertations (regardless of their deadline) will have a one week extension applied to their existing deadlines. Any individual learning plan (ILP) adjustments will apply to the revised extension deadline rather than the original deadline. (We are aware that some extensions have already been applied to some modules, their revised deadlines will not be changed.)  *This extension does not apply to assessments where the format of that assessment has already been modified (e.g. face to face exams that have been moved into an online mode).

Progress on alternative assessments

Programme teams are making good progress on alternative assessments, though, as you will appreciate, this is taking a bit of time. Programme teams will publish details of assessments on the Hub as soon as they can.

Advice for students on healthcare placements

Health Sciences students on healthcare placements should have received an email from the University yesterday about their placement. If you have not, please contact your Programme Leader.

School closures

As you will be aware, the Scottish Government has announced that schools will close with effect from tomorrow evening. Most of our staff are no longer on campus, so should be available as required to look after children. We expect colleagues in this situation to continue to work from home where possible, but we recognise that it may be difficult for those with young children to do so during their normal working hours and/or to work a full working day. We will continue to provide full pay to all staff in this position, and in return we would ask that staff, where possible, exercise a degree of flexibility.

Also, we would remind colleagues of the need to continue to take planned annual leave, and to ensure that they switch off completely from work when doing so. We recognise that some members of staff may wish to take additional annual leave to allow them to fulfil childcare commitments, and we can confirm that line managers will be as flexible as possible in responding to any such requests.

IT advice and support

You will have seen the Moderator message from the IT team yesterday.  From that message, please note in particular that you should access both Microsoft Teams and Collaborate via your web browser, and not via the QMU desktop.  The desktop is not configured to support web conferencing of any type.  Also, if you require access to admin rights on your QMU supplied device, please raise a call through Assist and the IT team will respond.  Please do read Moderator messages in order to keep up with IT updates, particularly as these updates reflect queries and issues that have been raised by staff and students.

Blackboard Collaborate 

This is available for teaching purposes and can also be accessed via the Home Working webpage.  The IT team are currently running virtual Collaborate training sessions to ensure colleagues have the necessary abilities to use the solution.  We would strongly encourage engaging with this training. Find out more

An opportunity for students

We are conscious that the current situation means that many students find themselves suddenly without paid work.  You might be interested to know that NHS Lothian are inviting students to apply to join their staff bank. This opportunity is not necessarily for front line staff, and could encompass drivers, administrators etc. as well as healthcare support workers.  If you were to join the bank, you would be helping the NHS at a time of intense need. If you are interested, please email covid19recruitment@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk. Our understanding is that they are interested in all students, not only those undertaking health sciences programmes.

Remember that you can access information and FAQs on our coronavirus webpages. As ever, thank you for your support and positive spirit as we all adjust and adapt to new ways of working and living. 

18 March 2020

This message provides a further update on the position in relation to the Covid-19 situation.

Campus Access

 The campus remains open, but with restricted access which is intended to ensure that we are able to deliver essential services and support students living on and off campus.

 Details of the areas and facilities which are operating and the access that is available to these will be posted as soon as possible on relevant sections of the website. This information will be updated as required to reflect any developments in local and national Covid-19 planning.

  •  The student residential accommodation remains open and staff will be available during normal working hours at the accommodation reception and will continue to offer social opportunities through RES:LIFE.
  • The Sports Centre will remain open only for students living on campus and those essential staff still working on campus.
  • Catering services will be available within Maggie’s, in the Students’ Union, with 1875, the University shop and Starbucks closed.  In addition a pop up shop is available in Maggie’s for residents on campus. This will stock essential provisions and will be open seven days a week.
  • Access to the main academic building will be restricted to the Atrium and the Learning Resource Centre which, although unstaffed, will be accessible to students and staff via smart card access and available on a 24/7 basis.  In order to comply with fire regulations, and to ensure compliance with health and safety requirements, access to staff offices will be limited and will require authorisation.
  • Campus Services staff will be available as a first point of contact 24 hours a day via main reception and on the main contact number (0131 474 0000) and extension 2222. The campus will be closed to external visitors, except where authorised by a member of the Senior Leadership Team.
  • Students’ Union staff will be available during normal working hours either via union@qmu.ac.uk or on Facebook @qmusu

In accordance with Government guidance, social distancing and infection control measures will be in place across the accessible areas of the campus highlighted above as and where appropriate.

Remote functionality for working or studying away from campus will be fully available. You will find information on all the key services you will require here. On that page, you will find information on how to access the help desk should you require support during office hours.

Home working is now the norm

Given the restrictions and alternative provision set out above, staff, other than those with specific approval to be on campus, should be working from home. The exception, in general, is in relation to essential frontline services staff and we are implementing appropriate procedures to enable these staff to work on campus safely.  If you fall into the category of essential frontline services that will already have been confirmed with you.

 If staff are unable to work from home due to local technology limitations, an IT workroom will be available within the LRC. However, this area will be subject to social distancing and infection control measures.

School closures

You may already be aware of today’s announcement from the First Minister that schools are expected to close by the end of this week. Our Business Continuity Team will discuss the implications of this for the QMU community at its meeting tomorrow, and we will advise tomorrow on the measures we propose to put in place to support colleagues with children.

Approach to staff annual leave

Some staff members have been asking about our approach to annual leave during the coronavirus situation. The Senior Leadership Team agrees that is important that we all continue to take leave, as managing the work/life balance is essential in order for us to keep fit and well. This is still true even although we are much more limited in what we can do while we are on annual leave. We would ask staff to continue to take annual leave during the coronavirus situation, and to switch off entirely from work when they are on annual leave. The Senior Leadership Team will adopt this approach themselves too. Additionally, while working remotely, we all need to ensure that we take breaks and take other steps to protect our wellbeing.  The HR team are preparing updated guidance on remote working, with useful hints and tips, which we will share with you as soon as possible.

Information sources

Do keep up to date with our FAQs, which we continue to keep up to date. Over the next day or so, we will provide a list of useful email addresses for contacting service teams remotely. While the current situation is very challenging, at QMU we are well placed for delivering services online.

Message from the Principal

Our Principal, Sir Paul Grice, has issued a message to the University community which you can view here. Paul convenes the Business Continuity Group and has been working intensively with colleagues across the University to enable us to respond to events in the optimum way.

The emotional impact of the current developments

Although this message focuses on practical matters, I do want to take this opportunity to say that the Senior Leadership Team is deeply conscious of how upsetting the current situation is to so many of us. In addition to those of you with a heightened risk, or worried about vulnerable family members, and international students having to return home at haste, we are also conscious of students who have had their first year on campus suddenly cut short, sports teams and societies who have prepared for events that have had to be cancelled or postponed, final year students who were looking forward to events celebrating the successful end of their studies and staff who will miss face to face interaction with their students and the camaraderie gained from working alongside colleagues in an office. I know that you will all look out for one another and keep in touch with your friends, classmates and colleagues while you are at home. Together, we will get through this in the best possible way. Thank you for your support.

Malcolm G Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

17 March 2020

I will begin this update by reiterating the strong advice from Government yesterday that people who are pregnant, or over 70, or who are at high risk or have underlying health conditions should stay at home as much as possible and significantly reduce their social contact. If you fall into any of these categories, please do not come to the campus.  If someone in your household is pregnant, or over 70, or is at high risk or has underlying health conditions, you should also stay at home

More generally, the latest advice is that all of us should reduce our unnecessary social contact, and we are trying to minimise the number of people on campus. If you are able to work from home, please do so. If you are not certain whether you can work from home please ask your line manager, who can in turn call on the advice of the Senior Leadership Team.  The majority of both academic and professional services staff should now be able to work from home. Generally, the exception is in essential frontline services, and we are planning appropriate procedures to protect the health and safety of such staff, eg through social distancing and infection control measures.

The new guidance from Government last night also extended the requirements for self-isolation. Now, members of a household where someone has suspected symptoms should stay at home for 14 days. For students, this means that if someone in your shared student residence has symptoms, the entire flat should self-isolate for 14 days. While it might be tempting to return home to your families in such a circumstances, remember that your family would then need to self-isolate too.

There will be no classes or assessments on campus from tomorrow (Wednesday).

As communicated before, the campus will remain open. The Business Continuity Team are currently working out the specifics of what will remain open, and to whom, balancing health and safety with the need to ensure, for example, the wellbeing of students living on campus. However, the campus will be closed to external visitors – except with the agreement of the Senior Leadership Team – from Wednesday 18 March.

For the rest of this week, the Student Services team will be available to meet with students face to face, with these services moving online from next week. Alongside this, we are considering a range of other issues related to student wellbeing, including, for example ensuring ongoing catering for students on campus (again factoring in social distancing etc).

We are working to ensure that most University services remain fully operational online. For example, you will continue to be able to access the support of the Assist team at assist@qmu.ac.uk.

In case you are wondering, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus as yet in the QMU community. A number of students and staff are self-isolating, which is to be expected, of course, given the wide range of criteria for self-isolation.

Thank you again for the way you are working with us as we introduce all the above measures to reduce the spread of the virus and protect the more vulnerable in our society.  QMU has a great community spirit, and I am sure that we will all continue to be kind to each other and be mutually supportive as we move into a rather different way of living and working over the weeks to come.

Malcolm G Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

16 March 2020

Important update issued 18:50

To students and staff:

To slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) the general public are being asked to stay at home as much as possible and avoid unnecessary social contact.

People over 70 and those who are at high risk or have underlying health conditions are being strongly advised to stay at home as much as possible and significantly reduce unnecessary social contact.

 The advice is that people should:

  • minimise social contact by avoiding crowded areas and large gatherings, including religious congregations and smaller gatherings such as restaurants, pubs, bars, clubs, cinemas and gyms
  • avoid using public transport as much as possible
  • work from home when possible
  • follow the latest health and travel advice, and follow basic hygiene precautions, such as washing hands frequently, not touching their face and covering their nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing

Members of a household where someone has suspected symptoms should stay at home for 14 days.

The advice also states that those who cannot work from home should continue to go to work unless advised by their employer or if they display symptoms. If the nature of your work is such that you are able to work at home tomorrow, then please do so, in line with Government advice.

The campus will remain open tomorrow as we consider next steps at our Business Continuity Meeting in the morning. Please note that parking restrictions on campus will be lifted.

For students, if you are in an at risk category, you should not come into the campus tomorrow.  More generally, unless you have an assessment tomorrow, students are not expected on campus. 

Malcolm Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

***

Our Business Continuity Group is meeting every day this week as we move towards online delivery of learning and teaching (to be fully in place by Monday 23 March), and as we plan online delivery of exams and assessments.

At this stage, we would like to highlight the following points. 

  • The latest guidance for those with symptoms suggestive of coronavirus: people with symptoms suggestive of coronavirus - a fever or a new cough - should stay at home for seven days as per the advice of Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer on 12 March. Those who have been in contact with someone who is experiencing symptoms need only stay at home if they themselves begin to experience symptoms. Please report your absence to your line manager and the Head of Human Resources (asmith2@qmu.ac.uk) (staff), advising whether you are signing off sick or working from home. Students should complete the normal absence form within the Student Portal. If you are experiencing the above symptoms and have been in contact with an infected person or have travelled abroad recently, if you have travelled to the UK from specified areas in the last 14 days, or have been in contact with someone with coronavirus, and you develop symptoms of cough, fever or shortness of breath, you should call NHS 111 (but importantly do not visit your GP practice in person). 
  • Suspension of all but essential business travel at QMU, both in the UK and aboard: The University is suspending all but essential business travel, both in the UK and abroad.  If you are a staff member with plans to travel and you think this travel is essential, please discuss this with your Line Manager. If they agree that your travel is essential, they will need will need to discuss this with QMU Health and Safety . If you are a student planning travel related to your studies at QMU, please speak to your Programme Leader, who will then need to seek the advice of QMU Health and Safety
  • Policy on campus visitors: Although we are not holding public events from 23 March, we continue to allow visitors to the campus. As you would expect, we have appropriate signage and guidance in place for visitors. Our policy is in line with advice from Health Protection Scotland and will remain under review.  
  • Students wishing to return home can do so: We understand that some students, particularly those from overseas, may be anxious and may feel the need to return home. If you do decide to return home, your academic progress will not be adversely affected.  
  • Remote working support for students and staff:  We strongly encourage you to take the time to read the Moderator message on this subject published today, and repeated on social media. Staff will have received an additional Moderator message on Hub training resources. 
  • Remember that your University remains open: Although we are changing our mode of learning and teaching as already communicated,  staff and students can be on campus, and our library, specialist facilities, student services, refectory, halls of residence and Students’ Union remain open. We will continue to monitor and comply with advice from Health Protection Scotland and take any necessary steps, including possible campus closure, if we are advised to do so in the future.  
  • The student residences remain open and will continue to remain open as usual: ResLife support for students in residences will continue to be available; all students are welcome to talk to their Senior Residents, the RLAs, and the Residence Life Coordinator at any point.  The team have events planned for April and will keep residents up to date via the ResLife Facebook page
  • Graduation and Degree Certificates: July 2020 graduation ceremonies will be rescheduled, most likely to autumn 2020. All student degree awards will be approved and signed off by the University Senate, as they are each year in the normal course of events. This means that if you would have been eligible to graduate at the July ceremony, your degree award certificate will be sent to you in July this year at your registered home address.  Your degree award will be recorded as having been conferred upon you on the date that Senate approves the award.  Importantly, receipt of your award certification does not prevent you from participating fully in the rescheduled graduation ceremony. Further details on the rescheduled graduation ceremonies will be communicated once they are available. 

All of us in the Business Continuity Team and the Senior Leadership Team have been very impressed by the positive way that the University community is responding to the measures we are taking, and the way you are all supporting each other.  We have been struck too by the socially responsible attitude of staff and students as we all work together to help delay the spread of COVID-19 and to protect and support those in our community more vulnerable to the illness. 

15 March 2020

Following recent developments and contingency planning at Queen Margaret University, and sector wide discussions with Scottish Government, we have updated the next phase of our action plan in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus). The measures outlined below are precautionary, based on our commitment to support our community and prepare accordingly.

Queen Margaret University is continuing to monitor closely and follow healthcare and government advice from Health Protection Scotland.  Our campus and halls of residence remain open. We will comply with advice from Health Protection Scotland and the Scottish Government and take any necessary steps if we are advised to do so in the future. The guidance on the website will be updated, if required, by 4pm each day.

 Learning and Teaching will be moved entirely online by 23 March

We will be moving to delivering teaching online. Reduced face-to-face teaching will begin from Monday 16 March, and no face-to face teaching will take place from Monday 23rd March until further notice. If there are any changes to your classes in the week beginning 16 March, information will be published on the Hub.

Academic staff will decide how best to conduct teaching and learning activities, using a range of resources to best support students.

Exams and Assessments will move online

All taught undergraduate and taught postgraduate exams and assessments scheduled from Monday 23rd March, including those for the Semester 2 exam period (commencing Monday 20th April), and reassessments scheduled for the end of July, will be delivered online or by other methods of alternate assessment.  If you are on a programme with assessments in the week beginning 16th March, you will be contacted by your programme leader if there are any changes to the timing or format of your assessment.

Assessment type will be guided by academic discipline and academic staff expertise. Students will be notified as early as possible about what online assessments mean in practice. Individual Learning Plan Adjustments will also continue.

Students wishing to return home can do so

We understand that some students, particularly those from overseas, may be anxious and you may be considering returning home. If you do decide to return home, you will not be penalised for doing so.

Queen Margaret University’s campus and halls of residence are open

Whilst we are changing our mode of learning and teaching and taking measures to be responsive to an evolving situation, QMU’s campus will remain open. We have had no indication from Health Protection Scotland or the Scottish Government that we should close, and buildings, services and facilities will run as usual.

Staff and students can be on campus and our library, specialist facilities, student services, refectory, the halls of residences and Students’ Union are also open. We will continue to monitor and comply with advice from Health Protection Scotland and take any necessary steps, including possible campus closure, if we are advised to do so in the future. 

All public events will be postponed from 23 March

This is due to the number of events already postponed and our commitment to the safety and wellbeing of our community. Public events, that is events with less than 500 people involving anyone from outside the QMU community, can continue up until 23 March since we have had no indication from Health Protection Scotland that there is a risk to our community at this time. Again, this position will be reviewed daily.

July 2020 graduation ceremonies will be rescheduled, most likely to autumn 2020. We will communicate further details when they are available. 

Dr Richard Butt, Deputy Principal, Queen Margaret University

15th March 2020

 

Supplementary Message for Health Students (also issued 15th March)

All health students who are currently on placement should stay on placement. Health students who are due to start placement on Monday 16th March should continue to do so. Students with concerns should contact their programme leaders or placement co-ordinators for advice from 16th March.

Supplementary message for ITE students (also issued 15th March)

We realise that students on ITE programmes will be wondering about the implications for their studies if placements are disrupted. The Scottish Council of Deans of Education will be holding a teleconference with the GTCS on Monday morning to discuss contingencies. We will update you as soon as we have more information about plans to minimise the impact on your studies.

 

 

12 March 2020

We know that many of you are worried about the COVID-19 outbreak and what it means for the health and safety of students, colleagues, and friends and family, wherever they may be. As the situation with COVID-19 (coronavirus) is moving fast, it seems timely to update you again.

 At the time of writing, the Scottish Government has said that it is not planning to close schools and universities, but that this option remains under review.  On the basis of that advice, we continue to operate as business as usual here at QMU, whilst also putting in place arrangements should that position change quickly.

There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection at Queen Margaret University, however this could change as the number of cases grows in Scotland. We are well prepared for this and we will let you know if and when we have a confirmed case in our community.

You will already know from my last message that the University has been preparing carefully for the potential impact of coronavirus across a number of areas. We are working hard to mitigate against the impact of any escalation in the situation, including considering the impact on teaching delivery over the next few weeks until the end of the academic session. This includes prioritising teaching that is essential to degree completion or professional registration. Importantly, however, we have activated all the necessary regulations that would allow boards of examiners to exercise discretion in coming to a decision on student progression and on degree classification, where not all of the work is available to be assessed.

Assessments

Assessments will continue as planned, unless the Health Protection Scotland guidance would make this inadvisable or Scottish Government measures make this impossible.

If required, some assessments, such as exams, may be conducted in alternative ways.  Wherever possible, such alternative assessments will take place on the same date as currently scheduled.

Registry, working with the two academic Schools, is planning options to be ready if and when needed.  The University will continue to monitor Health Protection Scotland Guidance and notify students of any changes to assessment as soon as those changes are required.

As you would expect, we are also making provision for supporting students in the residences who are self-isolating or unwell.

 How you can help: IT

As part of our planning, we have published information on our website on remote working tools for students and staff, with guidance on how best to use these tools. You can find this information here.

Over the next few days, we encourage you to ensure that you are comfortable using the remote working tools available to you.  This will help you in the event that we have to scale down activity on campus, and also help minimise demands on the IT team in such a scenario.

Among these tools are our Remote Desktop and Office 365, which includes all the standard Microsoft Office applications (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, e-mail etc). Unless you need to access applications that are only available through the Remote Desktop (eg. SPSS), we recommend that you use Office 365.

 How you can help: reporting

It is important that the University is made aware of any incidences whereby an individual connected with the University has been exposed to, or has been diagnosed with, coronavirus.

If you are self-isolating or have been diagnosed with coronavirus, it is important that you advise us.  If you are a student, you can complete the normal absence form within the Student Portal. If you are a staff member, please email the Head of Human Resources at ASmith2@qmu.ac.uk

Your health and wellbeing

Please be assured that foremost in our minds as we plan is your health and wellbeing. If you have any concerns related to your work, study or wellbeing at QMU not covered in our coronavirus FAQs, please draw on the standard support networks. For students, this includes your personal academic tutor and the Students’ Union. For staff, this includes your line manager, HR partner or trade union representative.

While it is natural to feel anxious when things are uncertain, and particularly as we are all bombarded with updates online or through the media, please do try not to worry unduly.  We should remember that health experts tell us that the vast majority of people who become ill with coronavirus will experience only mild symptoms. In terms of operations at QMU, you can rest assured that we are doing everything we can to minimise the impact of coronavirus on you.

Malcolm Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

10 March 2020

With the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK continuing to rise, I wanted to reassure you of the active steps that the University is taking around contingency planning.

While the situation is developing daily, we are doing all we can to be ready for all potential scenarios. The University’s Business Continuity Group is meeting frequently, most recently today. Membership includes the Principal and other members of the Senior Leadership Team, key service leads, the Students’ Union and TU representation.

While it is very much business as usual on campus, the Business Continuity Group is following closely all published national guidance, and preparing for various potential scenarios. In its planning, the Group is considering, amongst other issues, how best to safeguard student academic progression and completion, were teaching, assessment and other activity on campus to be impacted directly or indirectly, and how best to safeguard staff and student health and wellbeing. Underpinning this is detailed work to ensure that we have the necessary IT capacity and capability to allow the University to continue to function, whatever the scenario.

Please do keep an eye on our coronavirus FAQs, which we are keeping updated. Topics covered include personal travel, self-isolation, and placements. There is also guidance on the steps we can all take to protect ourselves and others, which, as you will know, focuses on frequent and thorough handwashing.

Malcolm Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

QMU COVID Inbox

Our dedicated COVID email is now open for students who want to speak directly to someone at QMU about any COVID-related questions or concerns. 

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