Joint Letter from the Vice-Chancellor and the Director of Public Health for Liverpool

A joint letter from Professor Dame Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor, and Matt Ashton, Director of Public Health, Liverpool City Council:

We are writing to let you know about an important change to teaching arrangements across the University. This change will see more classes being taught online as an additional measure to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our local community.

You will no doubt be aware that, over recent weeks, the number of cases of the virus in Liverpool and the surrounding area has increased significantly. This change is a result of more transmission of the virus among all age groups and in many different settings.

At the same time, we have been carefully monitoring cases among the University community on a daily basis, aided by the use of the University’s own testing facility on campus. This has identified a number of cases among the student population, along with a relatively small number among staff, consistent with the wider increase in case numbers across the city.
In this context we have held discussions, also involving neighbouring universities, to agree how we can all, working together, best support efforts to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 across the city.

Changes to teaching arrangements

We have today agreed that face-to-face teaching will, for the rest of this month, be limited to essential delivery for students in clinical, laboratory and other practice-based disciplines, and that required for professional accreditation. The campus is a safe place to be but, by further reducing face-to-face teaching, we will contribute to the city’s wider goal of reducing interaction between different household groups and help to reduce the spread of the virus.

The change will take place with immediate effect, initially until Friday 30 October. These arrangements will be reviewed on Friday 23 October, again on the basis of latest public health insight and further discussion with neighbouring universities, and we will communicate further with you at that time.

It has always been the University’s commitment to you, and to students, that the response to the pandemic is guided first and foremost by the goal of helping everyone to protect their overall wellbeing. The aim of delivering an element of face-to-face teaching to all students was driven by that goal, as the significant benefits of being able to meet fellow students and academic staff in person are widely understood.

However, at this time it is clear that the University community needs to take new steps to help Liverpool combat the pandemic. We have not made this decision lightly and the intention is to reintroduce an element of face-to-face teaching for all students at the earliest opportunity, when COVID-19 cases in the city are under greater control.

We know that this means that some students will, at least during October, be taught wholly online. Libraries and other facilities will still be open, with bookable spaces and arrangements in place to help maintain a safe environment. The University is also working with the Guild of Students to deliver a wide range of activities students can participate in beyond their academic programme and will be adding further to this over the coming days. The potential impact of the pandemic on students’ mental wellbeing is one of our key concerns at this time and students will continue to be offered many different social activities together with emotional and welfare support.

Public health advice strongly encourages students to remain in their current accommodation and not to return to a family home or other location at this time. It is of course also essential that those who are self-isolating continue to do so.

Next steps

We are sending you this email to let you know about this decision as soon as possible and we will shortly be sending a similar message to students. Heads of departments and schools will now need to urgently review teaching schedules to identify and communicate the detail of the changes to be introduced as a result of this announcement. We recognise that making these adjustments is an additional burden at an already very busy time and would like to thank all colleagues across the University for continuing efforts to make the best possible provision available to the students.

The campus will continue to be open for a range of purposes, with significant safety measures in place.

Last and by no means least, may we take the opportunity to remind you of the need for the whole University community to continue to unite against the spread of COVID-19. We saw over the summer how, with everyone working together, the virus can be kept under control.

The three key steps we can take as individuals – wearing a face covering, regularly washing our hands, and maintaining a safe distance from anyone from another household – make an enormous difference. By collectively following this advice, and the various regulations in place locally and nationally, we can help Liverpool and the University return to a greater sense of normality as soon as possible.