Campus Services news

Three students walking through the Green Heart laughing

Missing the daily bustle of campus? Read on to catch up with colleagues, and hear what different teams and individuals are up to during restricted campus operations.

15th May 2020

A message from Simon

The latest update from Simon Bray

The pool as you’ve never seen it before

The Sport & Fitness team have been carrying out weekly maintenance and testing. Last week, however, they embarked on some essential pool work too.

This included lifting the floor of the pool to keep the water warm and stop the development of bacteria. Here’s Lucy standing on it!

lucy standing in front of the swimming pool

The team also worked on strengthening the boom for new lane fixtures, meaning new lane configurations will be available to members when the pool reopens. It’s all part of their ongoing work to make sure the whole of Sport & Fitness is ready to reopen without delay, as soon as it’s appropriate to do so.

Thank you, team!

Conferences & events keep delivering

Events may have been cancelled on campus until 1 September, but the Conferences & events team have been looking to the future. The team have successfully postponed many planned events, securing important income for the University.

They’ve also brought in lots of exciting new events, including:

  • Digital Health Conference July 2021 – planned to take place in Warwick this summer, and now being held with us next year
  • BISS July 2021 and July 2022 – residential course 
  • World Blind and Visually Impaired Games August 2023 – creating a complete Games Village for around 1500 athletes over 6 to 10 days for this major international event

Meanwhile, the team have been collaborating with colleagues to develop options for virtual and hybrid conferencing, and making plans for socially-distanced venues.

Accommodation team stay busy

Although many of the Accommodation Services staff are working from home, lots of us are still here to look after the students still in residence.

Claire on the phone at the vale reception

Claire’s working at the Vale reception, answering lots of calls from parents and students who are at home, and handling phone and email enquiries from students on campus.

Claire’s Netflix rec: Afterlife series 1 and 2 – ‘very funny but with a sad side to it’.

accommodation-2

Sheila’s working at Jarratt Hall. Here she’s litter picking: no matter what’s going on in the outside world, we always want to keep the students’ living space clean and keep standards high.

Sheila’s lockdown hope: to get back to normal before her Amazon shopping gets out of control and she orders a hot tub.

Melodie proudly standing in front of the store cupboard

This is Melodie at Pritchatts Park. Organising the store cupboard is one of those things she never has  time to do – until now.

Melodie’s wish: to get back to playing Ultimate Frisbee. ‘It’s like American Football but with a Frisbee. Google it!’

Nurseries celebrate VE Day

Our nurseries teams continue to provide care for key workers’ children at The Elms Hub, with teams working through closed days and Bank Holidays.

They celebrated the early May VE Day holiday with lots of red, white and blue crafts, and a picnic in the sunshine!

Nursery staff and children sitting around a union jack flag celebrating VE day

Families at home also joined in with their own picnics.

Notice board, with a rainbow and the words thank you NHS painted on

The Elms Hub children have also created this cheerful rainbow of support for our NHS, which has been put up on campus by the maintenance team.

Starbucks’ Mermaids cookie makes a splash

Before restricted operations came into force, individually-decorated Mermaids cookies were available to buy at both Starbucks stores at the University of Birmingham as part of their #whatsyourname campaign.

Mermaid tail cookie in a cup of coffee

The charity Mermaids provides vital support services to the transgender community and their families, and has seen a 600% increase in demand for its helpline service in the past five years. Starbucks aimed to raise at least £100,000 for the Mermaids helpline, with 50p donated from the sale of every special-edition Mermaid cookie.

On campus, we sold 218 of the cookies. This meant a donation of £109, which Mermaids were delighted to receive. 

Garden tips from Winterbourne

Are you spending more time in your garden thanks to lockdown?

Why not get the advice of Winterbourne’s professional gardening team? Join the weekly Ask a Gardener chat on Twitter and Facebook to get bespoke advice. Or subscribe to the newsletter for regular tips on what garden jobs to do at this time of year, direct to your inbox.

Yellow dahlias with Winterbourne house overlooking in the background

Staying safe online

An increasing number of spam and fraudulent emails are being sent in the UK, exploiting the pandemic to scam individuals and businesses. Visit the National Cyber Security Centre for advice to help protect businesses and keep families secure online. 

We are staying together by meeting online instead. However, some have experienced unwanted guests joining in and causing disruption on sites like Zoom.

Read the step-by-step security guidance for online meetings - PDF (1.73MB)

Unfortunately, hate crimes still occur during times like these. If you experience a hate crime, online or in person, then please report it to West Midlands Police as soon as possible.

Our young people are also spending a lot more time online during the lockdown. Find advice online about what to look out for to protect them from extreme ideas, or read this parents’ guide.

Parents’ guide to identifying extremism - PDF (659KB)

The view from campus

One positive side effect of restricted operations: wildlife! This is particularly noticeable at night, when a cohort of badgers emerge and roam fearlessly through the streets.

Badger walking though campus

There have also been sightings of foxes, badgers, voles and squirrels whilst Security carry out their night-time patrolling routine.

In the daytime sunshine, campus continues to look beautiful, with spring flowers everywhere.

Top left photo, flower bed outside Staff House, Top right photo, Aston Webb, Bottom left photo, Staff House, bottom right photo, Muirhead tower

24th April 2020

Tales from home

Those of you who are working from home with families are tackling the challenges of childcare and homeschooling alongside your work – and we know it’s not easy. If you’re struggling to make things work, please do contact your manager, or get in touch with the Wellbeing Services team.

On a happier note, many of you are enjoying some fun activities with your little ones, especially during the Easter break. Helen Jones from Accommodation Services always bakes her dad a birthday cake. Though this one had to be delivered on the doorstep with singing through the window, Flossie definitely enjoyed helping out.

Chocolate birthday cake being made by Flossie

Now everyone’s used to it, teams are getting creative with their video conferencing. Worklink held a Skype team celebration before the Easter break, including a quiz, to acknowledge their huge effort to meet deadlines.

Worklink team on a skype call

At Edgbaston Park Hotel, the team marked the Easter break with a ‘holiday’ Zoom meeting.

Hotel Commerical Team - Fun Friday 2!

Others are finding ways to support vulnerable people in their local community, using their contacts from work. Karen Parkes from Catering and her daughter have arranged for campus catering supplier Bidfood to deliver to their home, and distributed food packages around her neighbourhood.

Bidfood lorry parked outside house

She’s also been knitting up these ear savers to make wearing PPE more comfortable.

Knitted pink mask adapters

Check out the WeAreUoB staff Facebook group for more examples, and patterns if you’d like to join in!

Staying active with UoB Sport & Fitness

The swimming pool may be unusually peaceful for this time of year, but the Sport & Fitness team have been hard at work creating a virtual experience for staff, students and the local community.

The swimming pool at sport and fitness

The Virtual Sport & Fitness Club group shared 18 classes – a mixture of live and pre-recorded – over the Easter closed period, with over 400 people ‘attending’ the live classes, and pre-recorded classes totting up an impressive 7000 views! 11 instructors worked to get these classes set up. Head of Athletics Luke Gunn also ran a circuits class which was viewed 1500 times, and Gym Supervisor Chris Shorey did three ‘DIY’ videos for people to create their own equipment – including a kettlebell!

Sunday 26 April was the intended date of the London Marathon. The #TwoPointSixChallenge was created to help raise money for UK charities who will lose around £4billion in income as a result of Covid-19. The team lent their support with outdoor activities, and the special 26-minute Grit and Pilates classes were watched by an amazing 1000 people.

The Performance team continue to support students on the scholarship programme virtually: 75% of these scholars are now engaging with a Facebook group, packed with useful and informative posts to keep them connected during lockdown. Reception’s live chat and membership queries by email remain busy, and the team have replied to over 1500 member enquiries.

Spring on campus

If you’re missing campus, you might enjoy these pictures from Martin Hewitt-Moran from the Bramall team. It’s definitely a lot quieter than usual!

Photos top to right, Old Joe, Aston Webb behind some flowers, Library, Muirhead tower

Students in action

Students who have been leaving accommodation have been generously donating to a food bank operation, run by University of Birmingham student volunteers.

Jarratt Hall was commandeered as a storage unit once the food bank outgrew the houses of the students involved, and the Catering team joined in the donations from campus stores. Now the food bank has outgrown Jarratt Hall, too, and has moved to a local church.

Collection of food spread over tables, chairs and in bags

Well done to the students who have donated, and especially the volunteers who are doing an amazing job supporting Selly Oak residents in need.

Ramadan advice

How are you managing Ramadan this year? Whether you’re working from home or on campus, it’s inevitably a challenge this year without the usual opportunities to gather together.

To help out our isolated students on campus, we asked Graphic Designer Naz from Campus Services Marketing to share her experience of fasting alone. We thought you might find her tips useful too – especially if you’re not able to be with all your family at the moment.

“I can relate to feeling lonely when you’re the only one fasting. I lived in Brussels for a year, and fasting during my year away was so hard. It’s not the same situation, but this is what I did or tried to do in general:

  • Don’t skip suhoor (pre-dawn meal) It’s super easy to just not eat, especially when you have nobody to wake you or if you can’t be bothered. Setting many alarms helps!
  • Eat high fibre, wholewheat, or oats for suhoor They’ll help keep you going.
  • Iftar over Facetime, Skype, Zoom or similar
  • Drink lots of water and lay off the caffeine
  • Eat as much fruit as you can at iftar
  • Prep your food It’s easy to not eat as much as you should when you don’t have anyone to make it for you, or if you don’t have the energy to, but prepping your food gives you something to do and also makes you miss home a little less. See if you can make the same thing they’re eating at home. I used to facetime my mom whilst I cooked along with her.
  • Keep fried, high fat, sugary foods to a minimum Though it all tastes good when you have it, it’ll actually make your fast the next day a lot harder.
  • Keep to your usual routine as much as you can

Hopefully this helps!”

Please use Zoom, Facetime etc to virtually attend congregational prayers, and to meet virtually with friends and family outside your household for iftar.

Visit London’s central mosque online for more advice and useful information.

8th April 2020

The teams that make up Campus Services keep the University running, all year round.

Now that we are on restricted campus operations, that hasn’t changed. Staff across Accommodation, Cleaning, Security, Catering, Edgbaston Park Hotel and Nurseries continue supporting the University’s students and academics on site, while others continue their roles at home.

Here’s a round up of the latest stories from campus.

Member of the accommodation team delivering food to students

At the Vale Village, the accommodation services and sites teams are still hard at work. With a small but important number of students still in residence, they’re providing regular welfare checks – supported by our wonderful cleaning teams – and delivering food to students who are self-isolating. The Costcutter supermarket team are also still working to keep everyone safely supplied with essentials.

George Wrigley outside of Muirhead and Max the dog

Security are still here 24/7, keeping the estate and all remaining staff and students safe from harm. They’ve got some extra help, too: meet Max. (Can we keep him when all this is over, please?)

Catering team donating food

Catering have been out and about to support the local community and our NHS heroes. They’ve been donating food supplies from the stores, delivering them directly to the QE hospital, and to the Selly Oak foodbank which has been set up by students. They’ve also delivered food, drinks and snacks to homeless charities in the city centre and around Birmingham.

Rainbows group at the Elms posing with a painting

The Elms Day Nursery has stayed open to care for the children of essential key workers. They’ve been busy enjoying the spring sunshine in the garden. To support all their families at home, the nurseries teams are writing personal letters to children, hosting story time on Youtube, and sharing their artwork to lift all our spirits. Look for #rainbowsfromhome on Facebook.

Virtual sports & fitness

UBSport are helping us all stay active at home, thanks to Virtual Sport & Fitness on Facebook. The team have been sharing their expertise with virtual classes, challenges and workout ideas, from live Body Attack (with 67 attendees!) and circuits to nutritional advice, personalised cycling workouts and a psychologist’s review. The group already has nearly 2000 members and is open to all – join today. 

Winterbourne house from across the garden

Winterbourne House and Garden is closed. However, like other botanic gardens around the country, a skeleton staff of gardeners are visiting (one person, once a day) to keep this important collection alive. The Winterbourne team are also offering brilliant remote support for anyone using this opportunity to get out into their gardens, by answering questions and offering advice. Join in ‘Ask a Gardener’ on Twitter or Facebook.

Cleaning staff are still working hard to keep any open buildings clean and safe, both for staff to work in, and for students and staff who live here.

Edgbaston Park Hotel has remained open solely to house NHS staff who have come to support the efforts against the virus.

Those of you who are working from home are also ensuring that essential tasks can continue, supporting students, and maintaining services across the board. Worklink have processed over 300 requisitions in 2 weeks to ensure casual staff are paid, including for cancelled work. The Conferences and events team are hard at work designing solutions for remote conferencing, working closely with the Bramall audio-visual team.

Thank you to Campus Services staff from the Director

Thank you all.

In this extraordinary time, you are doing extraordinary things. Please take time over this Easter break to rest and I do hope it will not be long before we can meet, face to face.

Take care,

Simon Bray
Director of Campus Services

Want to share your own news story?

We’d love to include stories from across the whole of Campus Services. If you’d like to let us know about a delivery of PPE or food you’ve been involved in, a new way you’ve been supporting students on campus or a creative team activity you’ve set up while WFH, upload a short description and any photos you have to the Campus Services newsletter section on the page below, and we’ll do our best to include it.

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