The University of Cumbria has been dynamic, caring and compassionate in its response to the global pandemic with a particular focus to the health and wellbeing of its students and staff which has been of paramount importance.
Teaching, campus operations and halls of residence sites have all been adapted significantly to ensure:
- staff and student safety
- student learning continues, whether online or in an essential blended approach(online with some face to face on campus teaching) for those on ‘future critical worker’ courses in line with government guidance
- that all health and safety guidance is pivotal in our operations and staff communications to prevent the spread of the virus
- support for wider communities
- strategic developments and priorities are maintained so the university continues to enjoy future sustainability and success.
Due to the dispersed nature of its campuses and student body, the University of Cumbria has overcome unprecedented challenges, e.g. the university’s five campuses are situated across three English regions (Cumbria, Lancaster, and London) and careful consideration had to be given at every step to the implications and impact of government decisions around regional tiers due to the spread of coronavirus and the varying range of restrictions this brought (when national lockdown are not in place).
The university’s academic programmes (more than 100 programmes of study) are delivered through five institutes; health, education, the arts, science and natural resources (including outdoor study), and business and leadership. Each institute has had to work with a range of students to continue to deliver high quality education whilst still meeting regulator and employer requirements during the various stages of the covid pandemic, acknowledging that many of our programmes have a placement element for our students.
Significant numbers of our students are on professionally regulated courses to become nurses, paramedics, allied healthcare professionals and teachers who will enter public service. Whilst most learning must be online during the national lockdown, these students are on courses where essential face-to-face teaching approaches are required to learn clinical skills, communication skills or teaching skills. Programmes such as these are all required to continue to support the future workforce needs of the country, in line with government guidance.
Senior staff at the university, including our Deputy Vice Chancellor (Health, Environment and Innovation) Professor Brian Webster-Henderson is Chair of the Council of Deans of Health (the voice for UK university faculties for nursing, midwifery and allied health professions), have helped shape strategic national policy relating to many pandemic issues. Student nurses joinied the NHS workforce as paid employees to bolster the workforce on the frontline of caring for covid patients. See our story here for more info: https://www.cumbria.ac.uk/about/news/articles/articles/cumbrias-student-nurses-step-up-in-coronavirus-crisis.html
In early December 2020, the University of Cumbria was one of around 40 higher education institutions selected to take part in the Department of Health and Social Care’s asymptomatic testing programme. Working closely with Department of Health and Social Care, on-campus lateral flow testing centres were quickly established and training given to staff and students in our Carlisle, Lancaster and Ambleside campuses. This facilitated the movement of students without coronavirus symptoms and who wanted to travel home safely for Christmas in the so-called ‘student travel window’ to do so. To read more see our article here: https://www.cumbria.ac.uk/about/news/articles/articles/new-covid-19-asymptomatic-testing-starts-at-university-of-cumbria--.html
This responsible and caring approach has carried over into 2021 with University of Cumbria having measures in place to offer testing to ALL of its students where applicable and the centres are being staffed on a daily basis by students and staff of the university in addition to their learning or other duties.
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Health, Environment and Innovation) Professor Brian Webster-Henderson said: “We are immensely proud of the resilience shown by our students and staff during this time of global pandemic, and of their fantastic contribution and impact supporting our nation’s response to coronavirus.”
Students were informed that specific courses would be delivered through blended learning – a combination of online learning and a limited number of face-to-face sessions on campus that are an essential part of their programmes.
Permitted courses include nursing, midwifery and some allied health professional programmes such as occupational therapy and paramedic practice.
Student teachers on a number of identified courses delivered by the university’s Institute of Education also received carefully considered blended learning throughout February 2021.
All other programmes across the university, including undergraduate, postgraduate, professional development courses and work-based programmes such as degree apprenticeships continued online.
In a message to students Dr Signy Henderson, Dean for Student Success at University of Cumbria, said: “We recognise this is a time of great uncertainty. Our priority is the safety of everyone across our university community while we continue to do all we can to allow you to continue with your studies.”
Roadmap out of lockdown
Following the Prime Minister’s most recent announcement outlining the Government’s plans for a roadmap out of lockdown, we have now received the detailed guidance from the Department of Education (DfE). The DfE guidance states that HE providers can resume face-to-face teaching and learning from 8 March for students who are studying practical or practice-based subjects (including creative arts) and require specialist equipment and facilities.
This is in addition to the health and education courses which were able to continue with blended learning or placements from January. For the time being, where courses are not of a practical nature, or can be reasonably delivered online, their teaching will remain 100% online until the next Government review after Easter.
When returning to campus, all students and staff are required to complete a Covid-19 risk assessment and all staff and students who need to be on campus for the majority or all of the week, are required to get tested twice a week, every, this also includes any staff or students who take part in any university activity off-campus e.g. a field trip or outdoor activity.
Further information and updates on the university’s response to Covid, can be found on our webpages here: https://www.cumbria.ac.uk/coronavirus/