Harper Adams University's message to reassure townsfolk with students set to return

The head of Harper Adams University has moved to reassure Newport residents that students will be welcomed back safely this September.

Harper Adams University near Newport
Harper Adams University near Newport

Vice-chancellor Dr David Llewellyn acknowledged that some people in Newport might be concerned to see an influx of young people returning to the campus and the town, and wrote to explain some of the new rules.

In a letter for townspeople, he wrote: "As the autumn approaches we are looking forward to welcoming new and continuing students back to the university.

"But, in a year like no other, we are very aware that the arrival of a group of young people from across the country could cause concern for some local residents, even if it will provide a welcome boost for local businesses and the local economy.

"We have been working hard on our planning to meet Government expectations for a Covid-secure environment. Not only has this altered our teaching approach to include more online engagement but it has also led, amongst other measures, to our buildings being marked up to encourage social distancing, the introduction of hand sanitising stations across the campus and close liaison with the local authority’s Health Protection Hub on test and trace procedures and information for students on the checks they need to undertake before they travel here.

"We are grateful to all our staff for their hard work throughout this period and for their commitment to our preparations for the forthcoming academic year."

Welcome week

The students' union is planning welcome week later this month, with a much bigger emphasis on online events and adjustments made to the campus bar to allow social distancing. Students have been reminded to be respectful to the townspeople.

Dr Llewellyn wrote: "Our ‘Harper Herds’ approach to creating units of students who will live together, on campus or in the local area, will enable social distancing to be applied in student accommodation and will limit the mixing of these groups while the pandemic is with us.

"It will all be very different for our students, but we hope our range of measures will reassure the local community that, in the coming months, we are placing health protection at the heart of our work."

University leaders have held virtual meetings with Newport Town Council and Edgmond Parish Council to map out the way forward.

'We can be contacted if you need to speak to us'

"Despite the lockdown, the university needed to remain open to look after students still resident in our accommodation, to manage our farm and other animal facilities and, gradually, to return to our research activities and to prepare for the coming academic session.

"We have taken a cautious approach to these tasks, and we will be doing all we can to ensure that our students adopt a similar level of care in the communities in which they live. That is why we have introduced a Covid-19 responsibility agreement, setting out expected standards of behaviour in these difficult times, with which we expect our students and staff to comply, and will reiterate the latest Government guidance when students arrive.

"Whilst universities are not in a position to monitor the day to day actions of every student, we will be continuing to work hard to ensure that our students living in the community are respectful of those around them and that they understand changes to government guidance and legislation. If there are occasions when this guidance is not being adhered to, our Student Services team, working closely with the local police and landlords, are on hand to liaise with students, and their neighbours, to resolve issues of concern.

"Now, more than ever, we want to make sure that you not only understand the steps we have taken to address one of the most challenging years we have ever seen, but also to know that we can be contacted if you need to speak to us. The best way to do this is via email at studentservices@harper-adams.ac.uk .

"Some of the students returning to university are in the final stages of their studies and will be focussed on securing their degrees and getting into employment. Others will joining us for start of their programmes, will be new to university life and, in some cases, away from home for the first time.

"Either way, they will be eager to learn and, in time, to make a contribution to some of the most important challenges we all face – feeding the nation, improving our environment and managing the animals in our care. We therefore hope that you will continue to work with us to welcome our students into the local community, as you always have done, despite the many additional challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has created along the way."

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