Our committed staff community has adapted resourcefully throughout the pandemic and is preparing for the fuller phased return to campus of all staff across professional and academic teams.
Return to Campus for Semester Two
Learning, Teaching and Working
The experience of our staff and students remains a top priority for the University as a safe place of work and study. After the Easter holiday and as Semester Two draws to a close, we are preparing to gradually make the final phase of transition back to the campus life that is so central to our University purpose.
More than two years after the beginning of the pandemic, the time has come to return to the vibrant and inspiring campus environment that is so central to the identity and purpose of Ulster University.
Students should continue to check Blackboard and University emails regularly for information on delivery plans for individual courses and modules.
During May, staff will have the opportunity to return to campus on a voluntary basis and at their own pace.
All remaining professional services colleagues can return to campus from Monday 30th May, joining the staff who remained on campus throughout the pandemic. This phased return to the workplace enables us to once again come together as a university staff community at the heart of our unique and vibrant campuses.
Ulster University took the decision before the start of the academic year to hold all end of semester assessments online, except where professional, statutory and regulatory bodies require on-campus examination or where the module outcomes necessitate this form of assessment.
Therefore, where an assessment has been scheduled as an on-campus examination, this will continue to be the case. All on-campus examinations will take place with COVID mitigations in place to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of students and staff.
Let’s work together to keep each other safe
Although many of the legal restrictions have been lifted, guidance and some measures remain in place on campus, and we can all still play our part to make campuses a safe and comfortable place to work and study.
The range and extent of mitigations on campus are kept under review to reflect current public health advice and Government guidance.
We ask that all staff and students on campus follow the guidance and participate in the measures that remain in place. Acting responsibly and with consideration for others on campus can make all the difference to the confidence of those studying and working around us.
Lateral Flow testing on campus has now concluded but anyone in Northern Ireland can still access free Rapid Lateral Flow Tests to help keep friends, family, and colleagues safe.
We strongly encourage students and staff to take up the opportunity to be vaccinated and boosted as this offers the best protection available against the virus and the path towards full, stable and permanent on-campus operations.
We ask that all students and staff help us to gather the most up-to-date information about the spread of Covid by continuing to report any positive cases.
Over the past two years we’ve been fully flexible, agile and responsive to the NI Executive Guidance.
Up-to-date information for our University community will always be available on these UU COVID web pages.
Stay up to date with the protective measures on campus on our Safe Campus Community page.
How will the University ensure a safe working environment?
From 25th April, the following measures will be retained on campus:
- Hand sanitising stations
- Social distancing and the wearing of face coverings will be strongly encouraged
- ‘Keep left’ markers to support the comfortable movement of staff and students around campus.
- Enhanced mechanical ventilation
- Perspex screens in reception areas
- Isolation room for use by anyone who may become symptomatic on campus
What are the requirements for social distancing?
We continue to strongly encourage social distancing on campus where possible.
Staff and students should try to keep their distance from others when moving around campus, and follow the ‘Keep Left’ signs to support this.
What does mechanical and natural ventilation mean for me and what do I need to do?
We are retaining our enhanced mechanical and natural ventilation protocols on campus, building on continuous improvements over the past year in both new buildings and older teaching spaces
This continued measure may make the ambient temperatures in teaching and communal spaces cooler than usual so you may wish to bear this in mind when deciding what to wear on campus.
Will staff be required to wear face coverings on campus?
Staff, students and visitors are strongly encouraged to continue to wear a face covering on campus. Thank you for wearing a face covering if you can.
Disposable face coverings are available at all campus receptions. Please dispose of these carefully in the campus bins after use.
Face shields for use by lecturing and teaching staff when presenting and during practical classes will continue to be provided at a local team level as appropriate.
What is the University’s approach to vaccination and testing?
Whilst vaccination is a personal choice, we continue to strongly urge all students and staff to take the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Vaccination is by far the best way to protect yourself, your family, your friends, and the wider NI community.
Although on-campus testing has now finished, anyone in Northern Ireland can still access free Rapid Lateral Flow Tests to help keep friends, family, and colleagues safe.
Are there isolation rooms on each campus and how will these be used?
Isolation rooms are available on each campus.
Where a staff member becomes unwell on campus, they are advised to leave for home straight away if they can do so safely.
If a staff member is unable to leave campus immediately, the isolation room provides privacy until they can travel home.
Will there be Covid Safety Advisors on campus?
Up until the end of Semester Two on 27th May, COVID Safety Advisors will be on each campus, providing support and guidance in communal spaces.
How will I know if I have been in close contact with someone at university who has tested positive for Covid-19; or what do I do if I have symptoms?
Anyone who tests positive in our University community is required to complete and submit our online notification form, and provide details of UU contacts. This enables us to notify others that they are a close contact.
Confirmed close contacts within the University community will then be contacted by a member of the University’s COVID response team with advice on what to do next.
If you are double vaccinated you do not need to self-isolate, but you will be asked to take a PCR test on day 2 and day 8.
If you are not double vaccinated you will be asked to self-isolate for 10 days.
Details of the original positive case will not be shared as this information remains confidential.
Stay in touch with the steps to take if you have symptoms or test positive.
Managing the safe return to campus
What protocols and processes are in place to support the safe return to campus for staff?
In discussion with the Trade Unions, we have refreshed our Interim Operating Protocols supporting the safe return to campus, outlining the University’s response to the most recent NI Executive guidance, which announced the return of face-to-face on-site delivery in FE colleges and Universities
The Protocols include further information on the types of roles returning to campus for September, an overview of the safety measures in place on campus, as well as the approach for any colleagues in clinically vulnerable groups or with caring responsibilities and whose work requires them to be on campus.
The IOP are regularly updated, and you will always find the latest guidance in the ‘Covid Support – Return to Campus’ tile on our Employee Experience Sharepoint site.
If I am clinically extremely vulnerable, or live with someone who is, what can I do if I am particularly anxious about returning to work on campus?If I am clinically extremely vulnerable, or live with someone who is, what can I do if I am particularly anxious about returning to work on campus?
Please discuss your individual circumstances with your line manager in the first instance, to ensure that they are aware of these and can plan accordingly.
The University will continue to follow all relevant clinical advice regarding the safety and wellbeing of staff members who are clinically extremely vulnerable or who live with someone who is.
Further information in relation to this is available within the University’s Interim Operating Protocols document.
Our services and facilities are part of a vibrant campus experience and students can be reassured that University facilities on campus reflect the appropriate public health and government guidance.
A range of popular catering outlets will be open on campus in line with NI Executive guidance for indoor hospitality.
From the grab n’ go The Link on Belfast campus offering fresh breakfast and lunch options, to the relaxed UEat café in Jordanstown, the exciting dishes from around the world at Flow & Co in Coleraine and the vibrant Rock Road Social café bar at Magee, there’s plenty to choose from across our campuses to suit all tastes.
At Ulster, we aim to create active campus communities by providing opportunities for more of us, to be more active, more often through the delivery of high-quality services, facilities and innovative programmes.
Our Sports Centres are open and operating to the highest standards and public health guidelines, to ensure your safety in our gyms, popular live and on-demand classes and throughout our facilities, allowing you to train with confidence.
Teaching spaces, delivery and assessment
What sort of face-coverings are suitable for teaching?
The University has a range of different face-coverings available including face-shields/visors that may be more suitable for staff using a microphone in their teaching delivery or for situations in which a member of the class has a hearing impairment.
The Health, Safety and Wellbeing Team has a supply of face-coverings and face-shields/visors, and these can be requested through your line manager or Head of School who can then submit a request by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How will we avoid students clustering in communal areas and outside teaching rooms?
A busy and vibrant campus is at the heart of our student and staff experience, and we want to ensure smooth movement around campus, and between teaching, informal and social spaces. Timetabling is developed with ease of transfer in mind, allowing time for one class to depart and the next to arrive.
For everyone’s comfort, please stick to the start times and end times required by the teaching period allowing time for all students to leave the allocated room before the next class and encourage students to move along to social spaces designed for gathering once their teaching has concluded. Keep left, passing places, queuing markers and other helpful COVID signage is in place to support the safe and comfortable movement of staff and students around campus.
Teaching sessions are scheduled to start at 15 min after the hour and due to end at 5 past the hour. In order to manage the flow of traffic around the campus staff are reminded to end their sessions promptly at the 5 past the hour point to allow a ten-minute changeover period before the next class if any.
Will teaching rooms be cleaned in between sessions? Will computers and AV equipment be wiped down between sessions?
Our existing cleaning systems, together with an enhanced cleaning regime and products enable us to deliver a safe campus environment. Our current cleaning products are 5 times faster than other brands and take just 1 minute to kill 99.99% of viruses, including Coronavirus.
We have also enhanced cleaning in areas of high traffic and touch points, using a highly protective and persistent decontamination spray system in all areas. This product takes just 5 minutes to kill the Coronavirus and carries on working to provide protection for 28 days. All areas on campus will be sprayed every 14 days and the spray system allows complete coverage of targeted surfaces and areas.
This is in use in all circulation spaces, general and shared areas, teaching spaces and shared offices. It ensures a high level of protection on hard and soft surfaces and equipment and is chlorine free, alcohol free, non-corrosive, non-toxic and non-irritant.
Staff and students are asked not to attempt to clean surfaces with other cleaning materials or wipes, as this can remove the protection afforded by the highly persistent decontamination system.
This enhanced cleaning regime has been reviewed and validated by the University’s Independent Expert Advisory Panel and offers significant protection and reassurance for staff and students on campus.
Will staff have access to anti-bacterial wipes in teaching spaces?
Surface wipes are not provided in teaching spaces as these are not required given the persistent protection offered by the ecostatic spray, outlined above.
Hand sanitisers are conveniently located at all campus entrances for personal use.
How will teaching spaces be ventilated?
Teaching spaces will be ventilated at least one hour prior to the first teaching session of the day and then continuously throughout the day.
One of the many Covid-19 mitigations that the University will have in place is the maximisation of ventilation in teaching spaces.
This will cool the ambient temperatures in teaching spaces, so students and staff should dress accordingly.
How will staff absence be managed if they must isolate or become unwell due to Covid-19?
If a member of teaching staff is unable to attend campus due to COVID they should follow the normal procedure for notifying their line manager of the circumstances leading to their absence.
The Head of School or Associate Head of School will decide what provision should be made to cover the scheduled teaching. In circumstances where the absence from campus is due to COVID self- isolation rather than illness, it may be possible and appropriate for the delivery of teaching to move online temporarily.
In the case of a move to online lecture delivery this should be asynchronous delivery unless an exemption is granted by the relevant Associate Dean (Education). This will avoid students coming onto campus to participate in online lectures where a face-to-face teaching session is scheduled shortly afterwards.
Course Directors will then cascade these arrangements to students on the impacted modules through the usual channels. Students should be routinely encouraged to keep an eye on their emails, Blackboard, and any other informal message groups (such as SMS or What’s App) used within the class or module, since it is very possible that any adjustments may need to be shared at short notice.
Can teaching staff deliver lectures online?
Teaching staff who wish to deliver their lectures (substantive didactic content) online, were invited to make this request through the CA3 process and through discussions with the relevant Associate Dean (Education). We are using an asynchronous delivery model for online lecture recordings.
There may, however, be some exceptional circumstances in which an ADE has provided approval for synchronous online lecture delivery.
Will staff have to provide lecture recordings?
To help students engage with learning, we are asking Course Teams who have approval, to deliver lectures online asynchronously so that recordings will be available to students for these modules. In circumstances where an ADE has provided exceptional approval for synchronous delivery, these sessions should be recorded and made available to students.
Teaching staff delivering face-to-face lectures should make available to their students, recordings of substantive content from last year, updated where appropriate. Support for editing existing recordings is available from ODL and CHERP. Staff are welcome to make fresh recordings using Panopto for 21/22.
The adaptability of this provision will enable staff and students to manage any periods of disruption that may be caused by the ongoing health situation.
Can staff deliver seminars/tutorials/workshops online?
Course Teams should provide seminars / tutorials / workshops either as they are detailed and expected within the current module description within the Curriculum Management System, or as agreed by the temporary CA3 process (minor course changes) in a way that supports the student learning experience.
If you are unsure about this, please speak to your Associate Head of School / Department.
How will students be assessed in 21/22?
Course teams will use a wide variety of means, appropriate to the subject area and which have been quality approved, to assess students and support their learning progression.
For the academic year 2021/22 formal sessional examinations will only be used where they are required by Professional Bodies that accredit the programme of study.
Course teams will in most cases provide alternative assessments in modules that would normally contain examinations, and Module Teams should ensure that their students have details of these.
Will the University operate a blanket Exceptional Circumstances Policy for students in 21/22?
The University is planning to resume the normal EC1 process for the 21/22 academic year.
How should I meet with students on a one-to-one basis?
1-2-1 meetings with students are encouraged and should take place on-line but can be completed on campus with appropriate mitigations in place. There may also be regulatory requirements that stipulate such meetings should take place in person and where this is the case these should be facilitated on campus with appropriate measures in place. The wearing of face coverings and maintaining distance is strongly encouraged during such meetings.
Students may have undisclosed circumstances which may make them more clinically vulnerable, and that this should be considered when students are invited to attend such meetings.
Supporting our students
How will the University be supporting students who are clinically extremely vulnerable or live with someone who is Clinically extremely vulnerable?
When new or returning students enrol online, they will be asked whether they are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable or live with someone during term time who is Clinically Extremely Vulnerable.
Students will have the option not to disclose this information however, we are encouraging them to share this information at enrolment. This will enable the Student Wellbeing Team to make contact and provide details of the process for making reasonable adjustments that may enable them to study remotely until the public health situation improves.
Whilst the University will make every effort to put in place reasonable adjustments for those students who have certificated medical reasons for being unable to attend face to face teaching sessions on campus, there may be elements of a course which cannot be delivered online and for which campus attendance will be mandatory. In some instances, this may be linked to the need to satisfy the accreditation requirements of professional or statutory bodies and will be integral to the achievement of the programme level learning outcomes.
It is anticipated that only a small number of students will be affected by these circumstances, and where a course mandates face-to-face teaching, the Student Wellbeing Team will be able to advise the student. In this situation students may be asked to take a period of Leave of Absence until the public health situation improves sufficiently to permit their safe return to on-campus learning.
How will the university be supporting students who are anxious about returning to campus?
With life gradually returning to something more recognisable for us all, we understand that this will be an anxious time for some in our University community, particularly after such a prolonged period of restrictions.
It is natural that some students may feel apprehensive. As well as reassuring them of the comprehensive safety measures in place on campus, our Student Wellbeing team is available to support new and returning students now and throughout their time at UU, ensuring they can access the academic and pastoral support available.
Please encourage any students who are anxious to visit Student Wellbeing or reach out to the team at email@example.com
Our extensive support services are wide ranging, and students will be able to access telephone, video and face to face appointments with the Student Wellbeing team in the new academic year.
The Student Wellbeing team has qualified Mental Health and Wellbeing Advisors to support students with a broad range of wellbeing concerns as well as AccessAbility Advisers to provide robust support to students who have a disability or additional study needs.
We also have Student Money Coordinators to provide money management and budgeting advice as well as some financial support for students in financial hardship. The Student Wellbeing team can also refer students to our counselling provider for therapeutic counselling sessions if appropriate.
Our student led mental health initiative ‘Mind Your Mood’ will host regular events and training workshops, both on campus and online to remove the stigma of mental health and enhance our students’ mental fitness and resilience and from mid-October Student Wellbeing will also host a fortnightly ‘Wellbeing Wednesday’ webinar.
For the incoming year, we are also providing further academic, study skills and pastoral student wellbeing interventions. This will include the introduction of a student peer mentoring service, alongside Students’ Union initiatives such as the ‘Here for You’ online wellbeing hub and a student wellbeing hotline that will proactively reach out to students to ensure they are accessing any services they may need.
The Students’ Union (UUSU) will also be investing in the University’s Quiet Rooms, supporting safe spaces on campus for specific needs, investing in the Mind Your Mood student-led mental health programme, and implementing skills training for student representatives right across the University’s four campuses to provide peer support in times of need.
For more information
Where can I go for more information?
Your line manager is available to discuss any aspects of operational changes.
Additionally, our Employee Experience Sharepoint Site, ‘How we work, manage and connect’ continues to be a one-stop-shop with top tips and formal guidance. Including a handy A-Z of resources, you will find information and policies to assist our staff community and line managers as we prepare for the fuller return to campus.
Visit the ‘Covid Support – Return to Campus’ tile in the Sharepoint Site