Plans for students to return to campus after Christmas are uncertain as universities await Government guidance. Dr Sam Grogan, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Salford University, explains: “Giving certainty over what January is going to look like is the million dollar question we are all asking Government and one of yet we have not had an answer.”
Sam Grogan is responsible for overseeing the academic direction of the university, ‘holding responsibility and accountability for Value for Money performance related to student experience’. With over 20,000 students and employing over 2,700 staff members, the impact that Salford University has on the community is vast.
They plan on continuing with a blended teaching environment in January with some face-to-face on campus activity, and some moved online: “What we’re doing in the absence of a instruction from the government is making sure that we’ve got a plan in place that can then be adjusted if needs be by virtue of instruction from government rather than have no plan at all. What I don’t want us to do is to be in a reactive space. We need to be in a responsive space where we’re able to consider the best needs of the students at all times.”
Following Government announcements last week that explained an evacuation style plan to get students home for Christmas, Sam Grogan, tells students: “In the midst of uncertainty: plan to get your degree.”
The government had confirmed plans advising that all students who live away should travel home for Christmas during the “student travel window” between 3 – 9 December. These measures are only ‘advisory’ but are being strongly recommended by governing bodies.
The plans include mass testing of students prior to travel in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus from high-risk areas. Students that test positive during this period being named ‘The Student Exodus’ will be advised to isolate before being re-tested 14 days later.
It’s for those 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗖𝗢𝗩𝗜𝗗 𝘀𝘆𝗺𝗽𝘁𝗼𝗺𝘀 to enable you to travel to your non-term time address for Christmas, if you wish to. pic.twitter.com/6w93LjYBFD
— University of Salford (@SalfordUni) November 24, 2020
Students received communication today explaining that rapid testing would be available as early as Monday 30th November and will continue until the 4th December, but with teaching not going online until the 9th and advice being that you should travel home within 24 hours of receiving a test, it is leaving students feeling as though they have to pick between the safety of their family or attaining their degree.
Georgia Morris, a student at the University of Salford, is concerned about missing face-to-face teaching: “I feel like I can either see my family for Christmas and potentially risk their health, or stay at University over the Christmas period to complete my studies.
“It appears that the ‘well laid’ plans that the government have put in place haven’t accounted for differentiation in timetabling. It’s not one size fits all.”
However, Sam Grogan has since confirmed: “With the few instances that there may be continued face to face lessons after that testing point, we are working through to make sure that students and can go home safely. We also have the potential for testing to take place on the 7th or 8th December if there is a demand for it.”
Salford University have been working with the aim to ensure that the term ends as smoothly as possible and important deadlines for many students go un-affected by the government’s latest recommendations: “We’re putting the the finishing touches to the timetable because obviously [moving online from the 9th] will impact on students timetables and what that looks like through to the end of Christmas and into January.”
He explains that the university will take a similar ‘no-detriment’ approach as the last lockdown: “We recognise that we need to put a safety net in place to make sure that, should a student have a reasonable indication that somehow their ability to submit assessment has been heavily impacted, that they would be appropriately judged on their best work based on prior marks.
“The effect of the pandemic will not cause a student to be adversely affected with respect to their marks and overall score as they go through the various levels of study.”