Staff Update - 27 August 2020
With the new academic session almost upon us, our planning for the new term continues apace. We hope that the information below will be helpful for you personally, and also reassure you that we are working intensively as a community, in close liaison with the Scottish Government, to ensure that term starts safely and smoothly.
Richard Lochhead, Scottish Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, has been in touch with Scottish universities asking to see our plans associated with the arrival of students and the provision of a positive learning experience while mitigating the risk of local outbreaks.
We have responded to the Minister explaining the measures we are taking to protect our community. These include physical distancing, the wearing of face coverings, enhanced hygiene procedures and adaptions to our teaching, social and accommodation spaces, alongside the launch of our blended learning approach. We have also advised him on a range of other measures including:
- Quarantine arrangements
For students arriving from outside the UK, current Scottish Government guidelines require a 14-day quarantine period for many countries. University accommodation will be open from 5 September to enable students to quarantine before the start of term and you can see
more here in the Quarantine UUKi checklist overview.
A procedure for dealing with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 infections within our halls of residence has been developed and is available here.
- Contact Tracing
We are developing plans to ensure we are ready to respond to, and support, the NHS Test and Protect systems, through monitoring attendance and movement across our campuses – including at halls of residence. As well as recording attendance at classes through the timetabling system, we will also be requiring the use of the SafeZone app. More information will follow in due course.
- Minimising numbers on campus
The University has strictly adhered to Scottish Government guidance and while it has enabled small numbers of staff to resume activities, such as lab work, the overriding message remains that staff should continue to work from home where their role allows, remaining consistent with Phase 3 of the Scottish Government route map.
- Supporting staff and students
We have recently updated the guidance for staff and PGR students on continued working and studying from home, for those who continue to work and study on campus, as well as those returning to campus. This includes updating the Personal Risk Assessment process in place to take into account the Scottish Government’s recommended use of the Covid Age Questionnaire.
- A Return to Campus by Exemption Protocol
A protocol has been developed to manage the consideration of requests from staff and PGR students - with exceptional circumstances - to return to campus. These circumstances include those with difficult home environments, those who need to access materials in their office for research purposes that they cannot suitably arrange to store at home and those with severely extended commute times due to nurseries or schools re-opening.
Covid signage has been installed across campus together with one-way systems, two-metre distancing indicators and reminders around face coverings and personal hygiene. Online training on the return to campus is available here.
- Outbreak Management Plan
We have also updated our ‘Contingency Plan for a Covid-19 Outbreak on Campus’ after carrying out a virtual desktop exercise to test our procedures against a range of pandemic-specific scenarios. See a check list here for notification procedures for suspected or confirmed infections.
Return to Campus Open Session
Understandably we expect our community will have queries around the new term, the resumption of teaching and what this will look like. That is why the next in our series of Open Sessions for staff held via Teams will tackle these issues. More details will follow nearer the time, but questions can be submitted in advance to email@example.com.
With the health and safety of students and our community being paramount, and Phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s route map guiding the University’s approach to the new academic term, it has been agreed that Aberdeen University Students’ Association will hold its Freshers’ Week online. A packed schedule of events has been organised to enable students to safely link up with clubs and societies while connecting with other students.
A University Travel Group has met to discuss guidance that will be helpful for staff and PGRs planning essential travel for work in the UK and especially overseas. A need and risk-assessed approach will be taken with approval devolved to Schools and Professional Services Heads/Directors. More information will follow shortly.
Face coverings and thermometers
Following the lifting of local restrictions, face coverings and thermometers can again be collected. Two reusable coverings and forehead thermometers, for those who wish them, can be picked up from Linklater and Polwarth reception from 11am to 1pm each weekday. Please bring your ID.
Home working cost
And finally, staff who are required to work from home and have additional costs as a result of extended home working may be able to claim directly with HMRC for a rebate of some tax since their home working began. The process is online. Please note this an HMRC policy and is not a University scheme.
We are aware that this is an important period for all of us as we prepare to welcome back our students next month. We look forward to discussing our preparations with you at the upcoming Open Session, and meanwhile if you have any questions please do contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karl and Debbie
Professor Karl Leydecker
Acting Director of Operations