Working on campus

Health and Safety

The University takes the health and safety of all of its community very seriously and has invested considerable time and resource into making the campus a Covid-19 secure environment since the outset of the pandemic, in line with Government guidance. Comprehensive risk assessments have been undertaken which are regularly reviewed and will be kept under constant review and revised if there are any changes to the national position, or if measures are reintroduced in the future.

Based on the most up to date Government guidance, and the preference of the large majority of our students, our default position for this academic year is that we will be teaching in-person and on-campus wherever possible. There will be clear signage indicating whether there are any additional mitigations to be adhered to in certain spaces, for example the mandating of face coverings. In all other spaces the University encourages and supports the wearing of face coverings and urges the University community to be mindful of individuals’ different preferences in this regard and for also maintaining some form of distancing. The wishes of others should be accommodated where at all feasible to do so.

Any personal concerns regarding on campus teaching should be discussed between the individual and their Head of School/College or nominated deputy as appropriate, with advice and guidance from HR, where necessary. It is normal and to be expected that there will be some anxiety about returning to teach on campus and, where this is the case, specific factors causing anxiety should be identified and where possible, mitigating actions put in place if appropriate and feasible.

Any individuals who are concerned about working on campus should speak to their line manager as soon as possible and should articulate as specifically as possible the nature of their concerns. The line manager will work with the individual to try and mitigate their concerns as far as is reasonably possible. The University will work with any individuals who are concerned about working on campus and commits to being as flexible and supportive as it can be, whilst recognising that an appropriate balance needs to be struck to ensure that the needs of the University and the services it offers to its staff and students are met.

Managers and staff are reminded of the University’s Wellbeing services, including 24/7 support offered through the University’s Employee Assistance Programme provider, Health Assured. Further details of both Wellbeing support and services accessible through Health Assured are available here.

The government has announced the end of its shielding programme (which was previously paused) and reiterated its advice that those people previously shielding should now follow the same advice as the rest of the population, and manage their conditions(s) with their own health professionals. Further government advice is available here. Therefore, there is no automatic need for a referral to Occupational Health for those previously shielding to work on campus. However, if there have been any significant health changes or concerns which warrant medical advice, then a referral should be made to Occupational Health in the usual way.  Assistance is also available from the HR Advisory team.

If a member of staff is pregnant, they should follow the same general guidance as other staff.  If the member of staff is more than 27 weeks pregnant, or has an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of severe illness from Covid-19 at any point in pregnancy, they may wish to discuss with their manager how they can consider limiting close contact with people they do not regularly meet in order to reduce the risk of catching Covid-19.  Pregnant staff or those considering pregnancy who have not yet been vaccinated are advised by the Government to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Risk assessments

As part of this approach all buildings must have a COVID Risk Assessment and all mitigations must be in place before the building is allowed to open. Copies of all the Risk Assessments are available to view. You can also find copies of the building reopening plans below.

In addition, all staff should have a conversation with their line manager about returning to work on campus.

Face coverings

The wearing of face coverings is no longer required by law, but a personal choice. We continue to encourage and support the wearing of face coverings, particularly indoors and in busy areas, and in some settings it may be expected as part of covid risk assessments. We should also continue to support and respect those colleagues who choose to wear a face covering and to be mindful that some staff, students and regular visitors will feel anxious about being on campus and around other people.

Teaching and Learning in 2021-22

Based on the most up to date Government guidance, and the preference of the large majority of our students, our default position for this academic year is that we will be teaching in-person and on-campus wherever possible. Online delivery will be available in specific circumstances and for specific groups of students (see later section). 

Risk assessments for teaching spaces 

In light of the latest government guidance, all of the risk assessments for each University building have been reviewed and updated, along with the generic risk assessments for teaching rooms and teaching labs. Each one of these has been the subject of review between colleagues from Health and Safety, Estates, LRAT and College/School teams to establish how we can safely increase capacity and what measures are needed to continue to support users of those spaces.

A key action addressed in building risk assessments is assurance around enhanced ventilation and CO2 monitoring. CO2 monitors have been fitted in all of our larger capacity teaching spaces, which will be remotely monitored, and mobile monitors are available where required. There is also a revised teaching space checklist and updated guidance for all teaching settings. In accordance with established practice, if there are any concerns about physical teaching environments, these should be addressed to TAMU's contacts details: tamu@contacts.bham.ac.uk extension: 43322 in the first instance.

For the majority of teaching settings, the following principles apply:

  • Capacities have been determined in accordance with ventilation requirements and in most instances are near normal capacity, so you can expect to see capacities up to 500 in large lecture theatre settings
  • Social distancing and face coverings are no longer mandated, but teaching settings are typically set up with the lecturer distanced from the student group, and face coverings are encouraged and supported, particularly in busy indoor areas. In some instances, local Risk Assessments may require the wearing of face coverings (unless exempt), in which case this will be clearly indicated by signage
  • If a particular setting requires additional mitigations these will be made clear in the room guidance and any operational requirements should be followed

More generally, we should continue to be mindful that some staff and students may feel anxious about being around other people, although as restrictions have been lifted in wider society this is becoming increasingly normalised. We should respect the space of those that may wish to continue to reduce their close contacts and support and respect individual choice about wearing a face covering, while continuing to encourage and support staff, students, and visitors to wear face coverings on campus, particularly indoors in busy areas.

Teaching and Learning

Professor Kathy Armour, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) wrote to all students over the summer period confirming the University’s approach to teaching and learning over the academic year 2021/22. This position is reiterated below and will remain the position unless the Government imposes any restrictions that prevent such an approach from being followed, or unless otherwise advised from DfE or PHE.

This guidance was developed to aid Schools and Colleges with planning for the delivery of their teaching over the forthcoming academic year and to ensure broad consistency of approach across Colleges. Maintaining and enhancing the quality of the student experience is at the heart of the University’s decisions and actions, particularly given the disruption that our students have faced over the last 18 months. 

Lectures

Lectures will typically go ahead in person, in the normal way, but with all core content made available in advance, online, as preparation for the in-person interactive lectures. Last year, our students reported they found the availability of user-friendly preparatory content online to be very helpful in supporting their learning. This is particularly the case for students with a disability, caring responsibilities, or English as a second language. This also means that students can continue to access core teaching content even if they are required to self-isolate or are unable to travel, or if staff are required to isolate. The in person interactive lectures will reinforce and extend the core lecture content and will be recorded (where appropriate) so they are available if a student is self-isolating or unable to travel. 

Small group teaching/group work 

Small group teaching such as seminars, labs and skills sessions will go ahead in-person in the usual way. Activity risk assessments for labs and skill sessions will determine if any additional mitigations are required. 

There are no restrictions on either group or pair work, however, personal preference and mitigations should be borne in mind. It is recommended that in considering any form of group work, teaching staff bear in mind different perspectives regarding Covid including personal choice about wearing a face covering and maintaining some form of distancing. Open discussion should be encouraged to ensure the activity can proceed successfully.

Online weekly group tutorials

These online group tutorials with personal academic tutors were successful last year, so we have retained them for this year, albeit with revised schedules for different year groups. These will remain online because students found it to be convenient and the online format means that students can access them as an important regular and supportive contact point even if they are isolating or studying from another country.

Hybrid teaching

A number of teaching settings have been established to support hybrid teaching for our large international cohorts who may not be able to travel to campus at the beginning of the Semester. These allow synchronous in-person and online delivery. Guidance for how to manage hybrid teaching is available on Sharepoint, including detailed guides on the following topics:

  • Hybrid teaching checklist
  • Planning for lecture assistance
  • Planning for active learning
  • Managing students’ questions
  • Managing students’ expectations
  • Housekeeping powerpoint slide

Attendance monitoring 

Colleagues will be aware that we have an increasing focus on engagement rather than the more simplistic attendance capture/monitoring, and we have a developing Learner Analytics programme, building on learning through the pandemic. However, recently changed UKVI regulatory requirements necessitate the monitoring of in person attendance for international students traditionally, which requires an attendance capture process to be in place for all Schools. The development of a solution was already part of the StARS programme, initially focussed on programmes with mandatory requirements, and following intense work, the intention is to roll this out across the whole campus. There will be a phased roll out through September and October, with full guidance and supportive details to follow.

Office hours/Project Supervision/Tutorials

It is expected that in-person office hours will be made available to students, as they were prior to the pandemic, and the proportion of office hours delivered in-person/online will be for the School and College to decide as they deem appropriate. Supervision and individual tutorials are expected to be in-person in the first instance, but may be delivered online if requested and supported by the student.

Meetings

Specific building risk assessments will advise as to whether there are any mitigations that need to remain in place in certain locations, i.e. wearing of face coverings. When arranging meetings, individuals should be mindful of others’ preferences in terms of wearing a face covering and of providing space where possible in a meeting room/office. The room should be well ventilated and guidance is available should you have any queries. Consideration should also be given to arranging meetings outside or in a different/larger setting if attendees prefer to do so and where it is feasible.

Staff absences impacting teaching 

In the usual way, if a member of staff is unable to attend a teaching session, consideration should be given to the options to mitigate impact to the students concerned and considering the staffing implications. Options include, but are not limited to:

  • Delivery of the in-person session as scheduled by an alternative member of staff
  • Re-scheduling of the in-person session to an alternative date
  • Delivery online on the same or an alternative date 

The DfE has made clear that it expects teaching to be delivered face to face and that maintaining in-person education is a government priority. In the interests of preserving a high-quality student experience, any individual requests to move scheduled in-person teaching online should be discussed with and agreed by the Head of School.  

Teaching in Dubai

Staff can now travel to Dubai to teach provided they comply with relevant travel requirements and the local restrictions in place, as clarified by the Dubai team.

Concerns

Any personal concerns regarding on campus teaching should be discussed between the individual and their Head of School/College or nominated deputy as appropriate, with advice and guidance from HR, where necessary. It is normal and to be expected that there will be some anxiety about returning to teach on campus and, where this is the case, specific factors causing anxiety should be identified and where possible, mitigating actions put in place if appropriate and feasible.

General wellbeing guidance is available for staff through the staff intranet and staff are reminded of the University’s free, confidential 24/7 Employee Assistance Programme.

If a member of staff had an Occupational Health assessment in the Autumn term 2020 as a precursor to returning to campus and there are no significant changes to their health since then there is no need for further review. If significant changes in the intervening period have taken place, then managers should refer them, after discussion, to Occupational Health. Assistance is also available from the HR Advisory team.

On campus events and visitors

The University is happy to announce the return of our in-person and on campus events programme for staff, students and visitors. 

However, whilst some events have moved to in-person, on campus events, please be advised that some events will continue as ‘online’ events. To avoid any confusion, please check the details when registering for each event or via the events page.   

Staff and students are advised that visitors are once again coming to campus, and like others, are asked to continue to take regular Covid-19 tests and not come onto campus if they are unwell.

If you are a member of staff and would like to discuss a venue for your own on campus event, please contact Conferences and Events in Campus Services.

All events that are organised as on campus events will be managed in line with government guidelines in place at the time.  

Work related travel

Advice regarding international travel is changing on a frequent basis. Individuals are therefore advised to check the latest government travel advice for their destination country, available here.

Before travelling abroad, individuals should:

1.         Check the rules and advice for the country or territory they are considering going to, ensuring they check the advice for each country if a multi destination trip is being planned

2.         Find out what the requirements are for return to the UK.

3.         Book any tests or quarantine hotel packages needed.

It is important to check foreign travel advice prior to travelling to find out whether:

  • the UK government advises against all but essential travel to the places you want to travel to
  • the country or territory you want to go to will allow people from England to enter
  • you need to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter, or quarantine when you arrive

 From 4 October 2021, the traffic light system was replaced by a single red list of countries and simplified travel measures for arrivals from the rest of the world and testing for fully vaccinated travellers will be reduced so that they will no longer need to take a pre-departure test when travelling to England. The rules to be followed depend on which countries or territories you’ve been in or travelled through in the 10 days before you arrive in England, as well as the one you’re travelling from. You should ensure that you check the latest guidance available here prior to leaving the UK.  Countries and territories can move between lists at any time if the COVID-19 situation changes. Sign up for an email alert to let you know if this happens.

 From the end of October (date to be announced), eligible fully vaccinated passengers will be able to replace their day 2 test with a lateral flow test.  Testing for unvaccinated passengers will remain as per current rules.

You should take all the relevant advice into account and seek the agreement of your School or Budget Centre before deciding to travel.  The University does not support travel (other than on an exceptional basis after a risk assessment) to a red list country for work-related purposes at this time.

Hybrid working

The University has affirmed its desire to maintain the unique community-based environment which makes a critical contribution to the student and employee experience, and to collaboration, innovation and networking.  However, it has also outlined its strong support for hybrid working - which has advantages for staff and for the University.  It has developed a Framework for Hybrid Working which outlines the principles for hybrid working which will need to be implemented.  In addition, it has developed guidance for managers who will manage hybrid working arrangements (but which will also be useful for staff to read). 

Annual leave 

Staff are able, on an exceptional basis, to carry over a maximum of 10 days annual leave into the 2021/2022 leave year. 

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