Jan 06 2021

The Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 4 January of a national lockdown and this letter from the Universities Minister means that how we can deliver your education has changed.

The new term will start, as planned, on Monday 11 January but all timetabled teaching will be online until at least Monday 22 February, for all courses at Royal Holloway. This changes the information we provided to you before Christmas which explained that there would be a staggered return to campus and some teaching would be online and some face-to-face, that information was based on government direction at that time. The latest UK government direction on teaching at universities is here.

The rapidly evolving situation with coronavirus (Covid-19) infections across the UK means that the government has required us, and all other English universities, to start teaching online to reduce student travel from home to term-time addresses and to help slow the rise in case numbers. Our paramount concern is your safety and the safety of our staff and we will study and work online until the government reviews the situation in mid-February. For most classes this will mean minimal changes but in a very small number of cases we may need to adjust some elements of your course to allow online delivery and departments will update you directly.

Whether you are staying at home or living locally, there are implications of the ‘stay at home’ instruction from government that will impact you beyond online classes.  We have answers to some of the questions you will have, but there are some where we are awaiting further government guidance, or we need to work through detailed arrangements. We are working urgently on these and we will update you as quickly as we can. If you do not already follow us on Twitter or Instagram, please do so, as it is the quickest way to know about the latest updates. You can find us at @RHCampusLife. We will also continue to send out our weekly newsletters for undergraduate and postgraduate taught students on a Sunday, and will send email messages to postgraduate research students, so please look out for those. Your department and course tutor will also provide specific information about your course so please keep a look out for emails and messages from them and check your timetable and the module pages on Moodle.
Some of the most urgent information you need appears below, so please take the time to read through to the end.

What we know and can update you on now

Stay at home, where possible

If you live in campus halls or privately rented accommodation during term-time, and you left your term time address for the holidays and have not yet returned you should, where possible, remain where you spent the holiday period.
If you commute to campus, where possible, you should study from home.
If you are an international student and you travelled home for the holiday period, or you are due to start your course on Monday 11 January 2021 and you plan to travel to campus for Monday 11 January, you should try to rearrange your travel plans and remain in your home nation if possible. If this is not practical or it is not possible to rearrange travel plans, we will support your arrival and through any required period of self-isolation.

Compelling reasons to come to campus

The government recognises that there are some students who have a compelling reason to come to campus to access facilities. 
Compelling reasons include, but are not limited to; students without access to appropriate study spaces or facilities at home; students who have remained in university accommodation over the holiday period; international students who have remained in the UK or who have travel plans that cannot be changed; and students whose wellbeing could be affected unless they return to campus. Students who are also employed as key workers should check with their employers regarding a return to campus.
If you have a compelling reason to come to the campus, then you need to be tested for possible infection, details of which appear below.

Central facilities on campus including the Library

The Library will remain open to provide study space for students who have a compelling reason to be on campus. You are also able to visit the Library to access academic resources in order to be able to study at home. You can find out more about opening times and how to use the Library’s resources here. Similarly, practice spaces and other facilities will remain available for students who are unable to study at home and students should contact their tutors to discuss conditions of use and the health and safety rules that apply.
If you need to use particular resources to aid your studies at home, please contact your department.
The Students’ Union (SU) shop which also has an online click and collect service, is operating Monday to Sunday 8am to 6pm and Little Café on the Square, in the Windsor building, remains open for takeaway snacks and drinks. Founder's Dining Hall and Kingswood Dining Hall also remain open to catered hall and non-catered hall students.

Getting a test to access campus halls or facilities

All students living on or attending campus are required to take a lateral flow test, even if they do not have symptoms. The test is quick and easy and uses a technology known as a lateral flow device. You get the result normally within 30 minutes of your test. Testing is currently available until 15 January and you can book your test here.
You will need to take two tests three days apart.   Between tests you should try to minimise the contact you have with other people. If you test positive, you and the people you live with need to self-isolate immediately and you will need to get an NHS Covid-19 test (known as a PCR test) to confirm if you have Covid-19. If you test positive we will support you.
More information on the testing programme is here.   
More information on the support and advice available to all students who need to self-isolate, whether living on or off campus, is here.

Teaching, support, services and facilities

This factsheet provides more information on what we know so far about teaching on your course and where to go for more information. It also outlines the support, services and facilities available on campus. You can also keep up to date on developments on teaching on your course here.

Extensions and extenuating circumstances

The extensions and extenuating circumstances information that was communicated before Christmas will still apply for term two and you can find out more information here.

Questions we know you have, and we’re still working through

There are a number of issues where we are awaiting further government advice or need to finalise details internally. We are working as quickly as we can to give you answers on the following questions:

  • End of year exams and assessments. We will update you in early February. 
  • Policies to safeguard your academic achievements, including periods of disruption or illness. We will update you in early February. 
  • Campus-based accommodation contracts. We will update you next week.    
  • If you are in your final year and are looking ahead to graduation, we understand how important graduation ceremonies are to you. As and when the situation in relation to coronavirus (Covid-19) stabilises and it is possible for us to develop a plan for ceremonies that we can safely deliver, we will contact you with more details. This is likely to be later in the spring. 

I appreciate that these sudden changes are frustrating and we are doing everything we can to keep you informed in a timely way. In these exceptional times, our priority is to support you to succeed in your studies and successfully complete this academic year. 

Professor Paul Layzell