Ask Sessions 2019/2020

Ask Sessions 2019/2020

You can view the recording of the session here.

I'd like to ask if there are any plans to expand the options for day/evening classes for continuing adult education that also help to support those in local communities to connect and continue learning?

We do not have plans for the expansion beyond our current offering however we are offering an extensive portfolio of online short courses that can be found here - Short Courses | On-demand Learning.

Will there be any additional help set up for students that are affected by Long Covid? There are Long Covid Clinics set up in England but not in Scotland.

We are working with local NHS to look at what support is available in Scotland relating to Long Covid.  Internally we have a range of support services that you can access for any impact this is having on your studies.  More details are on our website.

Sometime in 2019, it was announced that the UK will commence issuance of two years post study visa through the Graduate route to graduate students who have an eligible visa by 21 April 2021. I want to know when to expect guidelines on this?

We are still awaiting guidance from UKVI and more details will be communicated to students in due course. You can follow UKCISA for more information and updates.

The Uni is asking us not to see anyone before we, PhDs, go home. How many COVID tests will they set as side for us? Will they be continuing to offer anxiety workshops?

The advice from the Scottish Government is that between your two tests you should look to limit the contact you have with others. This is to limit the risk of spreading the virus during this period. Enough tests are available for all our students, regardless of their level of study.

Our Anxiety workshops have been run by the University Counselling Service as a pilot this past two months and we have been delighted with how well they have been received.  We are adding more dates and looking to add new courses in the future.

90 Minute Anxiety Workshop | Events | Students | The University of Aberdeen (abdn.ac.uk)

What will the consequences of studying online at my home country for this academic year be for the EU Settlement scheme?

To ensure that you get the correct advice you should look to speak with a qualified Immigration Adviser in our Student Support team.  You can contact them on student.international@abdn.ac.uk  

Do we need to get tested if travelling from Aberdeen airport to Finland? What if travelling from Aberdeen to London and then to Finland? (Finland doesn't require me to get tested but is there some specific rule in the UK?) Will we be let back into the UK

This will depend on the rules required in Finland so if you do not need a test to travel there you would not need to book into a test with the University.  You may need to self-isolate when you return to the UK and currently Finland is listed as a country exempt from travellers needing to isolate when they enter the UK.  This means you would NOT need to isolate for 14 days when you return to the UK if the rules do not change.

To help your return at the border you should take evidence with you that you have been living in the UK before the 31 December.  This could be a lease of contract of accommodation. You can also get confirmation that you have been studying with us by emailing infohub@abdn.ac.uk

I am feeling a bit unsure about travelling home for the winter holidays and was wondering what precautions I could take to help ensure that I am being save and following correct guidelines.

Students that have received their second negative test are allowed to travel freely in the UK to return home. This has been announced by the Government and no penalties will be issued to you for travelling.  Making use of a private car is the safest approach and will allow you to maintain physically distancing.  Just remember to maintain this, and use a face covering, if stopping for rests or petrol and wash your hands and surfaces regularly. You should also look on the Government website for the area you are travelling to so that you can remind yourself about the local restrictions that may apply when you arrive.

As Scotland has banned travelling to England except for certain reasons, will we be able to travel home in England over winter break?

Yes, you are permitted to travel to England.  This will be an exception for students from the point they have their second negative test and are cleared to depart Aberdeen.

As an Erasmus Student from Aberdeen, what are the travel arrangements that will affect me?, If I would like to return home for Christmas.

The same rules will apply to you regardless of being an Erasmus student.  If you are currently in the UK you should take evidence back home with you that you have been in the UK and living here prior to the end of December.  This will help you easily enter the UK from 1 January, the date our Brexit changes come into effect, by showing you had been in the country prior to the change in immigration.

With regards to Covid-19, you should carefully check the travel requirements in your home country to see that they permit travel from the UK.  This may require you to self-isolate on arrival back home and, when you look to re-enter the UK, you may also need to self-isolation when you return.  A current list of exempt countries that will not require travellers to isolate when they re-enter the UK is available online.  If your country is not exempt this means you would need to isolate for 14 days when you return to the UK if the rules do not change.

I'm wondering if I happen to go back in Belgium (which is zone 4) can I come back after? Or will I be stuck there?

You will need to carefully check the travel requirements in Belgium to see that they permit travel from the UK.  This may require you to self-isolate on arrival in Belgium and, when you look to re-enter the UK, you may also need to self-isolation when you return.  Currently

as a country exempt from travellers needing to isolate when they enter the UK.  This means you would need to isolate for 14 days when you return to the UK if the rules do not change.

Is it possible to have the on campus Covid testing extended to support students who will be traveling abroad to go home for the Winter break or is it possible to get some guidance on how to get one after 4th of December?

The lateral flow testing the Scottish Government is providing through the University is different to the PCR testing commonly required for international travel.  More information about local PCR test providers is available on the University website: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/about/coronavirus/pcr-testing-for-international-travel.php

If I can work with a 20 people team, all of whom are different households, why can’t the uni provide a space for us to have the option to be on campus? The main part of our learning journey is to meet new friends and have peer support.

We've been following which says we should minimise contact with others.  The guidance asks institutions to ensure they have plans in place for discouraging non-essential trips within buildings and sites and other measures to minimise the numbers of staff and students on campus and in specific buildings at any one time.  There are risks in bringing students together and we have had to prioritise educational activities which cannot, effectively, be provided remotely.

 

As an online student, I have a burning question about the fees that we have paid. We have been told we will be online until Easter, and our funds include things like resources - handouts, library for books, internet for study etc. What have we paid full

Students are receiving the same education online, albeit delivered in a different way.  The entirety of Library e-resources have been available to online students and we have also invested additional resource this year to extend the collections.  The University has also provided secure internet connectivity and user accounts to allow for the extensive use of licensed software packages. 

As part of your 2040 strategy plan, are you considering to revise the content of the courses to be more innovative to adapt with the changing world?

We are already developing programmes that address areas such as those referred to in Aberdeen 2040.  We are looking forward to having a number of new programmes in place over the coming months.  As well as that, we want to address issues such as sustainability within our current programmes so that students are able to engage in learning across these areas.

Moving online I've really noticed a big change in social confidence and rapport with a lot of passive learning rather than active learning. I think the courses are really well organised and the materials are excellent but I feel the important human-human

Thank you for these thoughtful comments.  We are aiming to offer an active learning experience through activities that engage students both online and in the classroom. We are currently undertaking an evaluation and as part of that we are identifying good practice that we can share across the university – we will make sure that the areas that you have highlighted are a focus for the sharing of practice.  Our guidance on blended learning for our staff provides examples of how interaction and engagement can be encouraged, and we have made sure that all of our course coordinators who are making preparations for January 2021 have access to that.

Does the uni have plans to keep delaying start dates?

With respect to the first half-session, it was only the exam period that was removed due to the move to alternative modes of assessment.  Whilst the start of term has been delayed by two weeks, the overall teaching time has not been shortened.  We have a 12-week teaching period, with an additional flexible week for reading week or similar.  In addition, there is a 3-week spring break.

As an online student, I want to be added in the student group of social media to meet more accounting and finance postgraduate students, and discuss the modules knowledge with them. Please provide the group name for us.

Please contact your course leader for information on the most appropriate groups.

How and when can students apply to assist lecturers by tutoring younger students next year?

This may vary from School to School, please contact your course leader to see if any opportunities may be available.

What do the senior leadership team consider the term "Postgraduate Taught" to mean?

Taught provision can be delivered on campus, online, or a blend of both. If you would like to contact us about your particular situation, please email your School or coronavirus@abdn.ac.uk and we will look at your particular circumstances.

Are you going to continue with blended learning so students can decide if they go to campus or study online?

What do the senior leadership team consider the term "Postgraduate Taught" to mean? and, would the team agree with me that any course or module that has *zero* tutor contact for the purposes of delivering learning materials to students should be badged as something other than "Postgraduate Taught", so that students have a clear and honest representation of the course, and can make an informed choice about its suitability for their personal objectives and learning style.

I was wondering when we will know for sure how next semester timetable will look like and which courses will be available due to covid19 situation?

The timetable will be ready to publish in early January.  It’s intended to open MyCurriculum and MyTimetable on 11 January which is two weeks before the start of term.  Students have been sent an email providing information about what is happening.

Are there any plans to change the exams in the following years? I am a current second year student who is very worried about having to sit exams in her honours years without having had proper practice.

We understand this issue and Schools will provide support and guidance to students so that they are prepared for whatever the format that their assessment takes.

I was wondering how the second semester will take place. How many teaching weeks will there be? Will there be a spring break? And will there be exams in May?

There will be a total of 12 weeks teaching, plus one flexible week that Schools will use for a reading week or similar. Schools will provide the details of the timing of the flexible week. The spring break will take place from Monday 5 April to Friday 23 April inclusive.

as an online student, I would like to ask: are we potentially going to be required to be on campus during the second semester at some point? - for exams?

Final exams will not take place in person. Alternative approaches to assessment will be in place so that you can be assessed online. Your Schools will inform you about the mode of online assessment for your courses.

Why was the term not reverted back to the original dates at the beginning of September when it was clear that things were not going to improve?

The restructure of the first half-session was designed to take a variety of factors into account based on what we knew at the time when we had to take the decision (for example, uncertainties about travel arrangements, impact of school exams). We then had to ensure that communications were clear, that preparations were made, and that students could plan their travel and other arrangements. Any further change to the dates would have impacted on these areas.  Although the start of term was delayed by two weeks, no teaching time will be lost. The time normally used for the exam diet, two weeks at the end of term, will be used for teaching because the mode of assessment has changed, and the exam window is no longer required.

Below you can find the Q&A's from

  • The Aberdeen ASK Sessions
  • The Doha ASK Sessions

You can view the Principal's powerpoint presentation from the Aberdeen session here.

Looking to the Future

What is the university doing to fight climate change?

A significant amount of work has been done in this area and our emissions have been reduced by 30% over the last three years. The University is also ranked 31st in the world for its contribution to the UN’s sustainable development goals.

We are aligned with the Scottish Government’s declaration of a climate emergency and that’s why we are following a range of practical steps to make a difference. For example, we have been working with AUSA to develop a ten-point plan on this issue.

The University has several electric powered vehicles in its fleet, but are there any plans to look at hydrogen powered as another alternative?

We consider all vehicle types as options for our fleet and choose those that most closely fit the operational needs of the University. Given the relatively low mileages of University fleet vehicles, hydrogen is not the best option for us. Fully electric vehicles are closer to meeting operational needs and it’s likely we’ll see a significant increase in the use of them over the next few years as vehicles get replaced.

Can the University do anything to stop cars idling for long periods of time in car parks?

I agree its poor practice for people to do this. As part of our Health and Wellbeing programme we will consider ways of encouraging our community to be more mindful in the future.

Will graduation ceremonies continue to be performed using some Latin and would you prefer to conduct the ceremony in Scots?

We will continue to use some Latin in our graduation ceremonies – that was the language of education when the university was founded in 1495. I use some Doric in the opening address for the ceremony.  I’m open minded about adjusting the opening of the ceremonies so that the first formal statement people hear is English rather than Latin to make it more contemporary.  Latin remains useful for demonstrating the connection to our roots.

If Elphinstone Hall ceremonies cannot be extended over more days to accommodate more graduands, what provisions have been looked at into booking the larger and more fitting St Machar’s Cathedral? 

The decision to waive graduation fees last year resulted in an increase in the number of students who wished to attend graduation. As a result, the decision was made to hold graduation ceremonies in a grand marquee on campus which has a much greater capacity than Elphinstone Hall. This also means that all those who wish to attend graduation as guests have been able to.

As part of the University’s review of graduation other venues have been assessed for their suitability to host ceremonies but the best option was to continue to hold them on campus. Feedback about the grand marquee from students and their families last summer was very positive, and we will use it again for our summer graduations in 2020.

What is the University doing to encourage participation in sport and support elite athletes?

We spend a substantial sum each year on the Sports Village to help to make it accessible to students and the local community. In addition, we’re currently reviewing our sports strategy.

Where do you see the University in 10 years’ time?

Half way through our strategy to 2040 which will mean we’ll be even more inclusive, interdisciplinary, international and sustainable. The University will also be bigger through increased student recruitment and we’re aiming to have a larger postgraduate community.

Once the Aberdeen 2040 strategy is approved by Court in December, we’ll develop a small set of targets and metrics to make sure we can track our progress. The Senior Management Team will be accountable to the University Senate and Court for making sure these are met.

International students who start their courses in January have encountered difficulties attending their summer graduation ceremonies as their VISAs expire in the New Year or Spring. Is there anything the University can do to help?

January start students are granted an extra 4 months on their Tier 4 visa following their course end date.  This means a visa expiry date in May.  Graduation Ceremonies are held in June and November and these dates cannot be changed.  This unfortunately means that January start students cannot stay on in May for Graduation in November unless they begin a new course immediately and extend their Tier 4 visa or are able to switch into a work visa category.

Students can apply for a Standard Visitor visa to return to the UK for graduation.  The current cost for this visa is £95.  Further information can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/standard-visitor-visa 

My hope is that the proposed reintroduction of the Post-Study Work visa by the UK government will partly resolve this issue.  Judging by past experience of this scheme, the majority of our Masters students were keen to apply on completion of their studies.

Student Experience & Employability

What makes the University Unique?

I’d have to say our 1495 foundational purpose ‘Open to all and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others.’ No other University has had this purpose in place for almost 525 years. Our location in Aberdeen also makes us unique as does the University’s five Nobel prizes for subjects including medicine and nutrition. The new University strategy, Aberdeen 2040, will be distinctive, and I’d encourage every student to engage with it next year as it sets out what we want the University to be like over the next 20 years.

Are there plans to introduce student work placements as part of courses?

My preference is to be able to offer every student work experience opportunities as part of their degree programme. Professor Ruth Taylor has recently started at the University as Vice-Principal for Education and I’ll be giving her every support to make this happen.

Will the University continue to offer Erasmus+ opportunities after Brexit?

The Aberdeen 2040 strategy will mean international study and work opportunities are available for all students.

Can you make an introduction week for Erasmus students that has a comprehensive programme and orientation groups over numerous days?

We already offer this, and orientation takes place every year in September and January. It consists of a varied programme of interactive sessions. These are designed to introduce all new students to the University and the different systems, departments and ideals that we share here, as a way of helping you to settle in. We would of course welcome any feedback or suggestions on what else we could do to further support students transition to university.

It can sometimes be difficult to find an available computer in the library. What is being done to address this?

The Sir Duncan Rice Library has a total of 231 PC’s which represents 23% of the total number of PC’s available for students to use. Not surprisingly, the library is the most popular place for students to study and PC capacity was increased by 16% last year as a response to student feedback.  The PC’s there are the only ones on campus that are exclusively “open access” and are therefore in high demand.  The University has attempted to optimise the distribution of PC’s around the campuses for the different demands and we regularly review their use. It’s worth noting that PC labs are available for use elsewhere on campus and are relatively under-utilised in other buildings. Students can find out about available study space  and free PC’s here

Why don't we have gender neutral toilets?

We have, but by no means all.  Last year following an exercise where we surveyed the entire WC provision across our campuses Estates & Facilities identified 116 toilets, (12%) of our total provision, that could fulfil Aberdeen City Council Building Control’s interpretation of the Building Standards Scotland of a unisex/gender neutral toilet. This was discussed with AUSA and reported to the Student Experience Committee where it was agreed that Estates & Facilities would progress the re-designation of these toilets. Further survey work on the replacement of signage is nearly complete and we expect to start the changes early in the New Year.

Brexit

It’s perhaps no surprise that Brexit was one of the key issues raised by several students who submitted questions. Three of the main themes were:

  • How will the University be affected by Brexit?
  • What will happen to me as an EU student after Brexit?
  • Will new students from the EU have to pay tuition fees in the future?

If Brexit goes ahead, the main risk is we lose our proportion of European students and staff which we value so highly.

Unless Brexit happens, funding will be in place for EU students to cover course fees. However, after Brexit it is likely that any new students from European Union countries who begin their course from September 2021 onwards will have to pay international fees.

The government has committed to providing funding for EU students up to the September 2020 intake and then from 2021 new EU students will be treated as International students. It is possible that some scholarships will be available to EU students to make the fees more affordable.

For students from beyond the EU, nothing will change for you, but the University will be less European than it is now in terms of students, and possibly staff. I am determined to maintain our strong links across Europe.

Our Scottish recruitment is growing and the number of students we have recruited this year from the most deprived post codes in Scotland has almost doubled compared to last year. This is an important focus for the University to maintain our founding principle of being ‘open to all.’

Recruitment from the rest of the UK also increased this year and we’ve seen impressive growth in our number of international students.

What made the University decide to open a campus in Doha?

AFG were the perfect partner for this part of the world because they share our goal of making a University of Aberdeen degree more accessible. According to THE, University of Aberdeen is the 28th most international University in the world and we want to build on this.

What are the plans for expanding programmes on the Doha campus?

We plan to start a programme in International Commercial Law in January 2020, with aspirations to start further programmes in the future, including Education.  Details of these programmes will be announced later this year and early next year.

How do we start Clubs and Societies?

We now have a dedicated Student Events Coordinator in post, who is working with our AUSA Qatar Committee representatives and the wider student body to ensure we have a calendar of social events and established clubs and societies, some of which are already in place and being facilitated by our representatives. We have invested in activities and equipment in response to student requests. At this point we haven’t rejected any investment requests from students. More information on starting clubs and societies will be provided through the AUSA Qatar Committee Chair and it will be circulated to the student community.

How can Clubs compete with other universities and encourage better players to participate and choose to study at UoA?

AUSA have approached the local Aspire zone to explore opportunities for Doha students to make use of the facilities. More information will be gathered and shared with the student community.

What advice would you give to all staff and students?

Work hard, study hard; if you are excited by a subject, that is the best prospect to ensure your success and lead to your future career.

When will the parking issues at the front of the building be resolved?

Parking has historically been a challenge due to our location and available space. However, we have purchased an additional dedicated student parking space which can comfortably accommodate 65 vehicles. This is supported by a student shuttle bus service to and from the campus to ensure that students do not have to cross the busy main road between the additional parking and the main campus.

Dedicated disabled vehicle parking will also be allocated either side of our two main entrances, with additional disabled parking adjacent to our new PG teaching block (Villa 0). This work is to be completed during the term break within the month of December. The biggest challenge we face is getting our student body to park their vehicles within our new parking area (65 spaces). The possibility of introducing a valet service will be reviewed.

What awards are available for staff in Doha?

Staff can be nominated for the University’s Excellence Awards and more information about these can be found on the University’s website, here.

What co-curricular opportunities are there available to Doha students?

A new member of staff will take up the post responsible for Careers support on the Doha campus on the 1 December. A number of new opportunities will be available to students which mirror and compliment those already offered on the Aberdeen campus. As part of this, it is planned that students be provided with seminars where they can broaden their horizons from a careers perspective, learn about entrepreneurships, HR services and various other skills which will help them in their chosen profession.

Can Doha offer Summer courses like they do in Aberdeen?

This would not be possible at UG level but options to offer at PG level could be explored. AFG would be happy to support Doha students visiting the Aberdeen campus to participate in UoA Summer programmes. These may not need to be credit bearing but would help to promote student collegiality across the campuses.

Do we have a student representative on the Doha campus?

Yes, but it is acknowledged that we need to better promote the role across campus and explore the possibility of providing an office or meeting space.