Important information for students: Easter update
As the Easter break approaches, we wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about all the planning we are doing in preparation for the remainder of Semester Two, which continues after the vacation. Like the rest of the country, we are awaiting further information from Government about progress towards the easing of Covid restrictions. We are planning for a number of different scenarios and, of course, all our plans are fully aligned with the national “roadmap” for recovery. We are also expecting further clarification for universities from the Department for Education at the end of the Easter holidays.
As we write, there is much that remains unknown. We continue to hope that more students will be able to return to campus after the Easter vacation and we are committed to doing everything possible to make the remainder of the academic year the best it can be under the circumstances.
What follows is an outline of our plans based on the assumption that the Government does permit more - or all - students to return post-Easter, although we must emphasise that that will be entirely dependent on the progress of the pandemic. We also provide some information about our alternative plans if that is not permitted due to continuing Covid restrictions.
We include information on the following areas:
- Teaching and learning
- Study spaces
- Sport, and social activity
- International students
- Covid testing
- Travelling home for Easter
We recognise this is a lot of information, but we wanted to ensure it is all available in one communication such that you can refer to different sections as they become relevant to you. We will also be in contact again as soon as we are able to update this information further.
Teaching and learning
If all students are permitted to return to campus, and if restrictions are relaxed in line with the national roadmap for recovery, then we are planning to resume in-person teaching and learning for the remainder of the academic year. As was the case in the autumn term, teaching will be delivered bi-modally to ensure we are able to follow our Covid-adapted procedures.
When the semester recommences on 19 April, the scheduled bi-modal timetable will resume with a balance of in-person and online teaching. Note, the precise balance will continue to vary from School to School and programme to programme, as it did in the autumn. It is essential, therefore, that you look out for direct communications from your School. Every effort will be made to send you communications that clarify the position at least one week before teaching commences but, as you will be aware, we are dependent on receiving information from the Government.
If, for any reason, the Government retains some restrictions that constrain our use of space for teaching, we will prioritise students who need access to practical facilities. In addition, we will be offering additional drop-in academic support sessions for all students who are permitted to be on campus. If Government retains many or all of the current restrictions, such that more students are unable to return to campus post-Easter, we will ensure you are able to continue to progress with your studies. We are all set up to offer both bi-modal and online provision as required, and as we have done this term.
As previously confirmed, the majority of your assessments at the end of this academic year (in the weeks commencing 24, 31 May and 7 June) will be undertaken online. This will remain the case no matter what the Government announces in the next few weeks. We were keen to ensure you had certainty about the way in which you would be assessed and given the uncertainty around the pandemic, we took this decision earlier. You can find our previous statement and advice here and your School will advise further after the Easter break.
Before the assessment period there are two Assessment Support Weeks (weeks commencing 10 and 17 May). During this period, you will be offered additional subject-specific support that will help you to prepare for the end of year assessment period. In the last Assessment Support Week just before Christmas, there were almost 70,000 visits to our Assessment Support Hub and students reported finding the material useful. We are adding further resources to the Hub including subject-specific support.
Sport, study and social activity
We are planning to restart sporting activity and provide greater access to food outlets as soon as permitted. We will also continue to open more study spaces and to start to bring the campus back to life through a co-ordinated programme of activities. Working with the Guild of Students we are planning a programme of events and activities called Spring into Summer, including food attractions, activities and experiences that will help students reconnect with each other on campus. As always, this is subject to the relevant guidance from Government.
We also understand that for many of our students, particularly our international students, it may not be possible to return to campus while travel restrictions are in place either in the UK or in your home countries. We have already confirmed that the vast majority of international students are able to complete the year through online study. Where there are limited exceptions to this, your School will let you know. Further travel advice and information for International Students is available here.
One of the many unusual features of this year has been the expectation that students (and staff) should take regular asymptomatic coronavirus tests to access campus facilities and we are expecting that to continue after Easter. Everyone can access testing through our large testing site in The Great Hall and new testing site at the Vale Village in the Duck & Scholar. It is really important that we all continue to get tested, preferably twice a week, to break the chain of transmission in asymptomatic adults. One in three people may still be asymptomatic while the coronavirus and so regular testing helps us all to re-open society, and reconnect with our friends and family.
Testing takes no more than 15 minutes and you should receive your results in about half an hour. Please keep getting tested – or get tested for the first time if you haven’t already!
If you are currently in Birmingham and planning to return home over the Easter break, you should get tested before you leave. You must then get tested again before you come back either in your community testing facilities or on campus as soon as you return. We will be updating our bookings calendar for more testing dates after the Easter Bank Holiday weekend shortly.
Travelling home for Easter
Under the current national restrictions, students who have travelled to their term time addresses are permitted to travel home for Easter, but they can only do so once. Students who have only recently returned to their term time accommodation are strongly advised by Government not to travel home again if at all possible. If you are travelling, please travel safely and avoid busy times and routes where you can. Further advice is available here.
Over this last difficult year we have continued to see our whole university community supporting each other wherever we can. It has been challenging, but together we will get through this.
Financial Hardship support
If you are struggling financially to meet your basic living costs then please submit an application to our enhanced Student Support Fund. We have made £1 million available through this fund and we have already awarded more than £600,000 to students who need financial support. All students are eligible to apply from undergraduates to postgraduates, including international students.
We were also pleased to support the Guild of Students to launch their new Covid Response Fund - to support students with immediate needs.
Mental health and wellbeing support
The pandemic has been a challenge for everyone in our University of Birmingham community. We know that there has been an impact on the mental health and wellbeing of some students. In addition, many students will have experienced feelings of loneliness as a result of being disconnected from peers, and anxieties about change, restrictions on our daily lives, and the future. The Wellbeing Teams in your schools and colleges have been doing tremendous work to support students through this period and if you need to contact them for any further help and advice you can find their details here.
The Mental Health and Wellbeing Team, Student Disability Service, Pause and the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy Team are all available to offer support and have been doing so throughout the year, in many cases from their homes to yours.
While our support services will be closed for some part of the student Easter vacation we have support available throughout that period from our partners and other national services. The University will be closed between Friday 2 April and Wednesday 7 April (inclusive) with the exception of the Library, which will be open at the times detailed here.
If you need help with your mental health and wellbeing over the vacation period you can find details of the support available here.