Board member news, Vice-Chancellor news

An open letter from the Vice-Chancellor and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Education and Students

Dear parents and carers,

We appreciate sending your child off to University is an important milestone in the lives of both children and parents alike. Because we understand that ahead of this academic year, doing so has brought added concerns and complexities for many of you, we are writing to you today both to address some of the concerns raised with us since students began arriving in Cardiff, and explain the safety measures we have worked over the summer to put in place ahead of their return.

Welsh government guidance and local restrictions

As many of you are already aware, on Sunday 27 September Cardiff joined other areas of South Wales by being placed under additional coronavirus restrictions. The Welsh Government subsequently published further guidance specifically for the Higher Education sector, much of it focussed on the more social side of being a student. In making the announcement, the Welsh Government made it clear that travelling for educational purposes (or work) is a legitimate reason (or ‘reasonable excuse’) to enter or leave Cardiff and other areas subject to restrictions.

Safety measures

We responded quickly to this announcement, updating our students on the implications and reminding them of the safety measures we already had in place as well as the support available to them should they need it.

The restrictions now in place in Cardiff are designed to protect people’s health and stop the spread of the virus. As a part of the local community, we recognise the role we have to play in supporting the new measures.

However, our University remains open – and the restrictions do allow for several important parts of student life to continue, assuming the guidance from ourselves, the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales is adhered to.

Facilities including our libraries, catering outlets and sports facilities are available and accessible for students’ use, organised in such a way as to allow for social distancing and the other measures in relation to coronavirus that we are now all familiar with.

Before our students arrived, we put in a range of safety measures to support on-campus teaching while keeping our students, staff and the wider community safe. We welcomed the Education Minister’s reiteration on Wednesday that a blended approach to learning is important if we are to give students as normal a university experience as possible.

In-person teaching in small groups is scheduled to take place, and social distancing, plus enhanced cleaning and hand sanitisation, allow for our teaching staff and students to remove face coverings if speaking.

Our teaching spaces are:

We recognise that many of our students are taking an exceptionally responsible approach, taking great care to adhere to the measures, and we commend them for that. Summarised online here and in this video the measures include:

  • Asking students and staff who come on to campus to sign up to a new University-wide community commitment
  • Asking students to participate in our own in-house coronavirus (COVID-19) screening (testing) service for asymptomatic students and staff on campus which is fully operational, and will soon be processing over 4,000 tests a week
  • Requiring everyone in University buildings to wear a face covering (with limited exceptions)
  • Subjecting our buildings to a specific COVID-19 risk assessment, which supports our overarching Organisational Risk Assessment.
  • Monitoring the ventilation systems and settings of all our buildings to ensure they only recirculate fresh air (rather than recirculated air)
  • Introducing a significantly enhanced level of daytime janitorial service, which includes regular cleaning of touchpoints, toilet / WC facilities and replenishment of hand wash/sanitiser.

Working in partnership

The safety measures do not stop once our students leave our campus. Cardiff City Council have gone to great lengths to make sure that we can all go about our business safely and securely. They have launched a phased plan to gradually reopen Cardiff as one of the safest cities in the UK. Many shops and restaurants remain open but may close a little earlier than normal.

We are working in closely with Public Health Wales and the Cardiff Trace, Track and Protect (TTP) Service to ensure students can access NHS Testing facilities, and expect an NHS Local Test Site to be established on our campus in the coming week providing for our staff, students and local community. With these partners, we have access to the latest epidemiology data (number, location and links between cases) which means we are able to take prompt action in the event of cases arising in our staff or student population. Our screening service will provide an invaluable early warning system that will self-isolate potential cases in advance of a confirmatory NHS Test.

Students and staff are asked to alert us if they are self-isolating because they are or have been a close contact of someone that has symptoms or a positive test result from either our screening service or an NHS Test.

The University has a range of support measures in place to support student households that are required to self-isolate. The TTP Service will maintain daily contact via text and telephone both to check in and check up with those self-isolating, and our Academic Schools will liaise to ensure academic study can be maintained remotely or required face to face activity caught up in other ways.

Our Student Support and Wellbeing Service will check in with those who are self-isolating or test positive and we are providing a full range of support services remotely. In addition, peer to peer support will be available from our Residence Life Team and Academic Peer Mentors. If a student has any concerns then please do encourage them to access this support, as well as contacting their Personal Tutor, a member of their programme team or School Office.

As a busy and vibrant City, Cardiff is also fortunate to have a wide range of food delivery options available to students which is being supplemented by a University delivery service.

Finally, we appreciate there is a lot of detail in this letter, but we are both keen for this message to keep you as well informed as possible and address any concerns or questions you may have. We hope it provides you with reassurance that we have put in place mechanisms and adjustments to maintain a safe campus and allow our students to continue to access their learning.

Best wishes

Colin Riordan                          Claire Morgan

Vice-Chancellor                       Pro Vice-Chancellor, Education and Students