We have created this resource to give you information and advice on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the actions we are taking to ensure you will still benefit from an excellent student experience.
As government advice is frequently being updated, our guidance is constantly being reviewed to provide you with the most up-to-date information.
Please check the UK government coronavirus page for the latest information.
Guidance for students joining us in September in 2020
**Update 24/09/20 The NHS COVID App is now available and we recommend all members of our community make use of it. You can find more information on the app, how it works and how to get it by clicking here.**
We are committed to ensuring that BGU is a place of safety and stability for every member of our community, including those starting or continuing their studies with us in September.
Based on current guidance from the UK Government, BGU anticipates on-campus teaching and learning will begin in September but with social-distancing and enhanced hygiene measures in place.
The University recognises that with the continuing Covid-19 situation the university experience this year is going to be different but at BGU we plan to deliver:
- a high-quality academic learning and teaching to enable students to be able achieve their degree qualifications; and
- a welcoming student experience that will enable you to meet and work with other people and develop friendships.
We are mindful that the Covid-19 situation is dynamic and the most likely scenario we are planning for is an on-campus experience with social distancing. Through the course of the academic year a phased return to more normal activity may be possible; but re-imposition of restrictions locally or nationally may come into effect. Either way we will liaise with our students and implement contingency plans developed in consultation with our Students’ Union representatives.
The academic experience – teaching, learning and assessment
A key factor that determines the on-campus delivery of our programmes is the reduced room capacities of our teaching spaces and the safe flow of large student groups between classes with social-distancing. Initially, necessary restrictions may prevent large whole-group lectures during the autumn but our normal small group classes will be combined with on-line learning to provide a rich and supportive academic experience.
BGU is planning to deliver at least 50% of the normal scheduled time through smaller group sessions with a tutor physically in the room. These in-person seminars and workshops will focus on developing subject and academic skills, discussing, debating and developing ideas and concepts, and fostering a learning community approach.
The traditional whole group lectures will be replaced by scheduled, managed and supported on-line learning using recorded lecture presentations, guided study tasks and live discussion sessions.
The in-person sessions will integrate with the on-line learning activities, ensuring that students are keeping pace and engaging effectively with their studies.
Regardless of the style of learning, all our students can expect the high quality of teaching for which we are renowned.
For the MA Education programme, we note that:
- the on-campus sessions offered over 3 weekends through the year are normally optional and students are not required to attend and can be / are supported remotely by tutors;
- learners in these programmes are normally employed in school-based settings and so might choose not to attend the weekend sessions to minimise the risk of physical contact outside their school setting.
Therefore, following the success of April’s virtual study weekend the programme for 2020-21 will be delivered remotely using on-line resources and digital interaction and we will not be offering the in-person weekend sessions. The delivery team will be using on-line tools to facilitate student-tutor and peer interaction.
We are currently developing the timetable to deliver the planned blended learning of on-line activity and small group in-person class sessions. This requires a significant revision of the timetable including building longer transition periods to allow for safe and controlled entry into and exit from classes.
We will be trying to schedule most classes from 9 am to 5 pm but we may need to occasionally use the early evenings for some in-person class delivery. Of course, when revising the timetable, we will be mindful of the commitments and responsibilities that our students, including work-based learners, carers etc., may have alongside their university life.
We intend to provide a draft of the blended learning timetable showing when module classes have been scheduled in the first semester of the new academic year by the start of August 2020. Information on which students have been assigned to which split groups will then follow.
We are planning to deliver as much of the designed programme of placements as possible.
We have asked schools/settings to sign up to the usual placement pattern, according to the usual schedule, with the proviso that we may have to adapt and change as circumstances unfold.
Whatever changes should become necessary we will be doing everything we can to ensure that our ITE students receive the necessary experiences to demonstrate achievement of the Teachers' Standards and can be recommended for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
Support during placements will be, usual high quality and responsive and every trainee will have both university and school-based mentors.
Our approach mirrors the very latest guidance from DFE, whereby we are setting out to deliver the 'designed programme' but we will be allowed to take advantage of some easing of the relevant criteria if we need to.
The Department for Education have in 2019-20 demonstrated considerable flexibility around QTS trajectory judgments to ensure that entry to the profession is not impacted for those undertaking ITE courses.
The provision of placements relies heavily on businesses and placement settings to provide opportunities whilst they themselves are now recovering from lockdown and implementing continuing restrictions and advice from Public Health England.
Programme teams are therefore, planning to substitute placements in the autumn semester with alternative learning activities which will ensure learning outcomes can still be met. We are planning to restore placements in the second semester this year and in subsequent years of study as restrictions are eased and placement settings are able to offer placement opportunities again.
In addition, we will continue to enhance our graduates’ employability through BGU’s Graduate Attributes framework which is embedded in all programmes, and through the careers and employability opportunities and support provided by our BG Futures service.
Programme teams are planning for the delivery of these course elements, although they are obviously subject to venue / site restrictions and current guidance at the time from Public Health England and, for overseas trips, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, as appropriate and the ability to acquire appropriate travel insurance.
We will consult with students through the academic year if on-going restrictions mean that planned activities might not be possible. In these circumstances we will look to provide alternative activities to deliver the intended learning outcomes and an equivalent experience where reasonably possible.
Most of the assessment practices used by BGU will remain unchanged as they are mostly coursework which can be completed and submitted remotely.
Some practical assessments may have to be adapted for placement activities or subject-based skills which cannot be tested due to social distancing. Performance and presentation activity can be either assessed through small group in-person activity or by being recorded and submitted on-line.
For those few modules that would normally be assessed by traditional formal examinations we will be using, for the whole of 2020-21, a 24 hour open book exam format that allows remote completion and submission.
BGU intends to move, under its Force Majeure Emergency Regulations from current Stage 3 back to Stage 1 because there is ‘advance warning and adequate time for planning and preparation’ for revised academic delivery.
This means that that whilst teaching, learning and assessments may have to be adapted, the normal assessment regulations will be applied in relation to passing modules and referral of failed assessments for 2020-21.
We would normally expect our students to have access to their own digital / IT equipment that would allow them to access the virtual learning environment, search and browse the University Library’s e-learning resources, access credible external web-sites to download further learning material and be able to prepare and submit assessment using various digital tools e.g. Word documents, Powerpoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets etc. (which for our students can be downloaded for free from IT Services).
The move to a blend of on-line and in-person learning will make having access to your own digital / IT equipment and data allowances more important. The University can provide IT guidance on what IT equipment is most suitable and what software packages can be downloaded by students including video-conferencing.
The majority of learning resources provided by the Library and recommended by tutors can be accessed on-line via WorldCat, the Library’s A-Z Databases site, and My Reading. This allows you to search for resources and use them remotely.
Over this summer there will be a limited reopening of physical access to the Library ready for the new academic year. Just like other learning and teaching spaces, social distancing will limit the number of users that can be in the Library at any one time. So, a number of measures will be in place to reduce the pressure on the Library whilst Covid-19 restrictions continue:
- Tutors will recommend more of the Library’s e-resources to facilitate remote access;
- The Library will seek to acquire access to additional e-resources;
- There will be a click and collect service for students to order and receive physical books for loan;
The physical access to the Library for browsing resources and working in the study spaces will be actively managed, via a booking system if necessary.
The broader student experience
All our student support services – Centre for Enhancement in Learning and Teaching (CELT), Student Advice, Chaplaincy, our Careers, Employability and Enterprise Service (CEE), IT Services and our student administration team (SAO@bishopg.ac.uk) will be operating and providing support to all our students.
As with the Library, whilst social distancing continues, we will reduce pressure on the campus by delivering access to these services remotely on-line as we have been doing. However, we do anticipate that students will be able to book an appointment if they require an in-person session.
The University is aware of the needs of some of our students for financial assistance to help them to have continued access to learning. The University already provides a range of student bursaries – please see eligibility information. The Student Advice team, the Students’ Union and CEE provide guidance on financial matters and can help students identify part-time work opportunities whilst studying.
The Learning Fund can provide some financial assistance for remote study requirements (e.g. purchasing personal IT equipment) due to COVID-19.
Our Accommodation Service is keeping up-to-date with guidance on social distancing and management of shared space in the University’s accommodation as well as providing advice for students sharing in the private sector.
For students living in University accommodation in 2020-21 we currently intend to allocate rooms based upon the subject they are going to study. This is to facilitate the creation of social ‘bubbles’ based around the groups they will be assigned for their in-person classes.
The University is working collaboratively with its Students’ Union to provide, a mix of on-line and in-person social, wellbeing and sporting activities. The most recent Government announcement (23rd June) has indicated some easing of restrictions for bars, hospitality and catering which should enable related Students’ Union social activities.
We have received notice from the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) association that inter-university fixtures will not resume until January 2021. However, BUCS will be providing a hybrid approach alongside a competition programme in the coming academic year which will:
- include a blended experience of on-line and in person delivery;
- allow students and staff to follow on-line or access streamed delivery of exercise classes at home and at a time to suit them;
- facilitate more localised competition, reducing the difficulties and cost of travel to opposition venues;
- continue the “normal” stand-alone events.
At the moment the Government has not indicated how and when gyms may be able to reopen but the University’s Sports Centre
will be reopening when it is able to do so.
The University understands that individual students’ specific circumstances may change during the year due to caring responsibilities, shielding, self-isolating following Covid-19 testing or having to miss in-person sessions for other non-Covid-19 reasons. Therefore, we recognise that students may at times, may not be able to attend some of the in-person sessions and as a result academic teams will support those students to be able to access the material and activities in those sessions. Our personal tutor system and Student Advice service will also provide support for all students. Should you need to self-isolate or are concerned about symptoms please let us know via our self-declaration form, available by clicking here.
The University is mindful that this is an ever-changing situation and the plans outlined above are based on a scenario of on-campus activity with some aspect of social-distancing. If restrictions are further lifted, then we would review the scope for more in-person activity after semester 1. Equally, if there was to be either a national or local lockdown then the University would move to on-line learning to continue the delivery of the modules. The academic teams are preparing for this contingency using the experience from the second half of this academic year (2019-20).
The safety of our students, staff and wider community will remain our priority and every decision will be made with that in mind and informed by government guidance.