Shropshire Star

University boss: 'Keeping students safe is our absolute priority'

University of Wolverhampton Vice Chancellor Geoff Layer explains how its teaching continues in trying times.

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Vice chancellor Professor Geoff Layer at the university's Telford campus

"The Prime Minister’s announcement that we would be heading into a new national lockdown included important information for education.

Schools, colleges and universities will remain open throughout the November 5 to December 2 lockdown in England.

A letter from the Universities Minister following the announcement stated this was to prioritise education so that there is no gap in the academic journeys and lives of students.

At the University of Wolverhampton, we have been working through the national guidance and regulations and making the relevant changes to our advice to students and staff.

Our priority throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has been the safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and the wider community, and I want to reassure people living near our campuses and regional centres that this continues to be our focus.

Key areas to highlight are:

  • Face coverings will be required across all areas of the university unless a tutor has organised sessions where this is not possible.

  • The university will continue to provide blended learning but students may prefer during this period of national lockdown, or for the safety of themselves or family, to opt to study wholly online.

  • To support our students during this time, the libraries will remain open, and we are opening up more Covid-secure study spaces across our campuses where students can safely access IT and Wi-Fi facilities. Students are welcome on to campus to use these in a socially distanced and safe way.

  • University gym facilities are closed but if sport is part of a course, students will be able to continue this activity in a Covid-secure manner during scheduled on-campus teaching.

  • We are reviewing our catering services during the national lockdown period and will operate within national guidelines.

  • The campus bus services will continue but will operate on a reduced timetable, dependent on usage.

We are continuing to liaise extremely closely with our local authority partners and public health officials, and we thank them for their support.

Our teams meet weekly with public health experts from Wolverhampton, Walsall and Telford, where we have campuses, and our procedures and policies have been developed in close liaison with them.

We have robust reporting procedures for cases of Covid-19 among students and staff, and ensure that students who are self-isolating on our campuses are well supported in terms of food, laundry and welfare checks.

The university has a strong focus on mental health and wellbeing, and is acutely aware of the challenges our communities face at the moment.

The University of Wolverhampton

All of our students can access online mental health and wellbeing support 24/7 through Togetherall – an online community monitored by trained clinicians.

In addition to this our own dedicated mental health and wellbeing service offers one-to-one support and can signpost students to additional support services. We also have a dedicated webpage which brings together all the student support services available which can be accessed via:

On-campus transmission of Covid-19 remains low compared to the wider population and we continue to offer a safe, managed and controlled environment for our students to live and learn.

We also continue to review and assess our approach to ensure we are providing the right support in the right places for our students and staff, and are planning ahead as much as possible for the coming months.

This includes awaiting guidance from the Government about arrangements for Christmas, and also the impact of travel restrictions on our international students.

The University of Wolverhampton remains open – we continue to teach and support our students in these uncertain times.

Our students enter a range of professions and careers and many are from the West Midlands – I have no doubt readers of this will know at least one of our students and will have met many more in hospitals, schools, businesses and other walks of life.

Education has the power to transform lives and while the current circumstances are challenging, we remain committed to ensuring our students and our communities have a brighter future."

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