Covid-19 - Staff Update - preparations for academic session 2020/21

Staff update - 9 April 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, amid ongoing disruption, we wanted to update you on the plans we are now making for the start of the 2020/21 academic session.

First, we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in our community for the fantastic efforts you have made in recent weeks, in responding to fast-changing circumstances, and in continuing to support our students’ learning experience.

There is of course much continuing uncertainty for the education sector as a whole. Whilst, we are looking forward to welcoming everybody back to our campuses as soon as possible, it is unclear whether all of our new and returning students, both from home and abroad, will be able to be on campus in September for the commencement of the academic year.

As you will know, continuing social distancing measures and travel restrictions across many countries, the closures of schools and universities internationally, and resulting disruptions to prior qualifications all pose obstacles to our students commencing or resuming their studies in Aberdeen in September.

We are therefore working hard to ensure that, as far as is possible, our new and returning students are not disadvantaged by external circumstances which none of us can control. To achieve this, we need to be as flexible as possible in our response to those circumstances, in keeping with our principles of openness and inclusivity.

With that in mind, we will soon be asking everyone to begin to prepare for the 2020/21 session by planning for online provision which will be available to students who cannot travel to campus, or which will replace face-to-face teaching in the event of continued restrictions in September 2020.

In addition, the University Senate has approved a delay of two weeks to the scheduled start of the 2020/21 academic session, and this will provide additional time for ourselves and our students to adapt to our new working conditions, and to prepare for the new session.

The 2020/21 academic session is therefore now scheduled to commence with Welcome Week on 21 September 2020, (20 September in Qatar) rather than the originally scheduled date of 7 September 2020. Courses will commence on 28 September (27 September in Qatar)

Work is under way to implement the actions necessary to support this change, which will be overseen by a Task and Finish Group led by Vice-Principal Alan Speight.

Please note that this change applies only for the academic session 2020/21 and we intend to return to the established academic year pattern for 2021/22.

We all hope that we will be able to deliver face-to-face teaching on campus at the new session start date. However, in case that is not possible, we will also begin to prepare for the delivery of teaching and learning from that date in a way that will enable students to commence their studies with us, online if necessary, and to transition to on-campus study at Aberdeen when circumstances allow.

Our approach will be framed in terms of ‘blended learning’. This will involve the creation of online communities of learning in parallel with on-campus provision. For many students, this will mean starting the new term online where necessary, and continuing their studies in person and on campus, when that becomes possible.

This approach is also guided by the need for us to emerge from this challenging period stronger than ever as an institution, and more resilient to external disruption and global events.

Work is under way to implement the arrangements to support the development of this online provision, which will be overseen by a Task and Finish Group led by Vice-Principal Ruth Taylor.

We understand that there will be questions about how the development of online provision will be supported and enabled. Further work is now taking place with the Online Learning team and the Centre for Academic Development to support these preparations.

A set of initial FAQs has been created to respond to some of the queries you will have about the changes outlined above, which can be found here. A message will also shortly be issued to all returning students to advise them of these changes, with similar access to FAQs, and we will also engage with our applicants and offer holders to keep them updated.

We recognise that the changes we are describing here will lead to extra effort across our community. We ask for your further support and engagement as we continue to adjust and adapt in response to challenging circumstances, and for your help in ensuring our resilience and sustainability in these testing times.

Best wishes,

Alan, Ruth and Richard

Professor Alan Speight, Vice-Principal Student Recruitment

Professor Ruth Taylor, Vice-Principal Education

Professor Richard Wells, Vice-Principal International Partnerships