All student email, Tuesday 19 May 2020

Dear student,

We are committed to keeping all of our students updated at this time. You may be receiving this email even though you are not based on our Birmingham campus, and some of the content may not be as relevant.

In today’s bulletin, we lead with an update from the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Kathy Armour on our planning for the new academic year. We also invite you to join us at the Vice-Chancellor’s Great Debate next week, and offer some top-tips from the Academic Skills Centre on assignments and literature reviews.

Today’s updates includes:

  • What will the next academic year look like?
  • The Vice-Chancellor's Great Debate is moving online
  • Top tip – Assignments and literature reviews

What will the next academic year look like?

I hope you are all well and coping as best you can with the Covid-19 crisis. Clearly this crisis has huge implications for everyone in society, and universities are no exception. I know that many of you are still working through final assessments for this academic year, but some of you will also be wondering about the next academic year. I thought it might be helpful at this stage to share some of our thinking about the future, while also recognising that the national and international situation remains very uncertain.

We are continuing to follow UK Government and Public Health England guidance on whether, when and how we will be able to open campus. Currently, we believe that campus will be open in September, albeit with some restrictions in place. The nature of these restrictions will become clearer over the coming weeks with the ongoing UK Government monitoring of infection rates. The uncertainty of the situation presents a real challenge for planning for the next academic year, but we have now taken some important decisions:

Term Dates

We are planning to retain our term dates as originally scheduled so this should help you to make plans. It is important to remind everyone that we are also transitioning to a New Academic Teaching Year spread differently over two semesters. This includes the introduction of two formal assessment points (one at the end of each semester) and this will help our assessment to be more resilient in the year ahead.

‘Bimodal’ (on-campus and online) provision of education

Given the uncertainty about the evolution of the Covid-19 crisis through the next academic year, we have taken the decision to prepare to teach both on-campus and online. This will increase the resilience of education, while also ensuring we can follow the latest guidance on social distancing. It also recognises that some Covid-vulnerable students and staff may find it challenging to be on campus for quite some time.

Study Abroad

In case you haven’t seen it, we have issued further information for students expecting to study outside of the UK on a Study Abroad Semester/Year.

We have developed a new Resilience Framework for Education 2020-21 to ensure that even in these challenging times, we can continue to provide a world-class education. More details will follow in the next few weeks, and a lot of work is now beginning in your Schools and Departments to translate that Framework into a workable model. We will be actively involving your Student Reps in that process, and the Guild is supporting student engagement.

As you might imagine, this is a large and complex piece of work but the whole academic community is collaborating to develop something that is resilient, exciting (albeit different to business as usual!) and supportive. I look forward to sharing more details with you as we work through all the implications and as UK Government advice on Covid-19 is updated.

With my very best wishes,
Professor Kathy Armour

The Vice-Chancellor's Great Debate is moving online

We are proud to announce that the Vice-Chancellor's Great Debate will be moving online for the first time and will be broadcast for FREE on YouTube, 19:00 on Wednesday 27 May.

This year the panel will consider ‘Trolls, flat-earthers and fake news purveyors: What are the challenges we face in trusting social media?’

Everyone is welcome to join us for what promises to be a thought-provoking debate. You are encouraged to submit your questions to the panel in advance (by 17:00 on Tuesday 19 May), and join the conversation on Twitter during broadcast using the hashtag #UoBGreatDebate.

Ritula Shah, journalist and regular presenter of The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4, returns for a third year to moderate what promises to be a thought-provoking debate from a high profile panel featuring:

  • Anne McElvoy - Senior Editor, The Economist
  • Will Moy - Chief Executive, Full Fact
  • Isabel Oakeshott - Political journalist and commentator
  • Professor Alice Roberts - Professor of Public Engagement in Science, University of Birmingham

Join us for the Vice-Chancellor’s Great Debate. This event forms part of the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture Series, which aims to reflect on the major social, scientific, cultural and policy issues of our time.

Assignments and literature Reviews

Many students will now be reaching the stage of their studies where they will have been asked to conduct a literature review for assignments. But what does that mean, and how can you set about doing a ‘quality’ review?

The Academic Skills Centre in Library Services has created this short canvas course to help you to plan your search, identify key subject databases and use controlled vocabulary to get the most from your reviews.

If you would like in person support, you can sign up for a virtual 1 to 1 with a skills advisor.
Have a good week everyone
Student Communications Team


Professional Services