Information for Staff

Since March 2020, our committed staff community of academic staff and professional services colleagues has adapted well to operating alongside the pandemic, whether working remotely from home, or returning to our safe campus environment for essential on-campus work. 

Since March 2020, our committed staff community of academic staff and professional services colleagues has adapted well to operating alongside the pandemic, whether working remotely from home, or returning to our safe campus environment for essential on-campus work.

We’ve made it our priority to put in place and continually review our protocols to ensure that colleagues continue to feel supported, wherever they are working.

Our plans for the fuller return to campus will include appropriate revisions to our Health and Safety guidance in consultation with our Trade Unions, reflecting the evolving clinical, scientific and public health guidance.

Our Sharepoint Site continues to be a one-stop-shop with top tips and formal guidance on how we can best work, manage and connect as a team. 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.

Like many employers, we are also re-imagining what the workplace might look like following the pandemic, and you can keep up to date with developments on our staff news channel.

Semester 1 2021/22

In May the University outlined its two planning assumptions for the approach to Semester One; either a return to broadly normal on-campus teaching or a continuation of remote operations.  And on 12 August, the Northern Ireland Executive announced that all FE and HE would resume with face-to-face teaching on campus.

The Covid-19 pandemic has not ended, but the vaccine continues to diminish the link between the virus and severe illness and as a consequence, restrictions are gradually easing and society is reopening.  Nevertheless, there remains a degree of uncertainty and we know that some staff and students may feel a little apprehensive about returning to campus.

We have to be realistic and acknowledge that there will almost certainly be some disruption to teaching during the semester, however a comprehensive set of measures is in place to support a safe, phased return to campus.

NI Executive regulations require social distancing is adhered to in the workplace.  Staff must keep their distance from each other.  We ask all students to respect that this is a workplace for all our dedicated staff who are providing their on-campus experience and to keep their distance from staff at all times.

We ask that all staff and students act responsibly, follow all the guidance that is issued and play their part to make campuses a safe and comfortable place to work and study.

Rest assured that we will be fully flexible, agile and responsive to the demands of the very latest NI Executive Guidance and the most up to date information for our University community will always be available on these UU COVID web pages.

Staying safe

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?

    The physical and mental health and safety of all our staff is our absolute priority.  Our approach to planning for a return to campus working is underpinned by robust and regular risk assessment to ensure risks have been identified and appropriate solutions are implemented to address them.

    We are retaining a wide range of health and safety measures in place on campus and are committed to providing a safe, comfortable and welcoming campus.  Here are the steps we are taking:

    • Face coverings are required on campus.
    • Perspex screens are in place at reception areas.
    • Limits on numbers in lifts will be retained
    • Keep left, passing places and queuing markers will remain to support the safe and comfortable movement of staff and students around campus.
    • Helpful COVID signage will remain in place reminding students of our COVID-secure measures.
    • Whilst in line with NI Executive guidance, social distancing is no longer required in classrooms and teaching spaces, we do ask that staff and students try to keep their distance when moving around campus.  We ask students to respect that this is a workplace for 2500 dedicated staff and remind them that 1m+ social distancing is required in the workplace.
    • Enhanced cleaning continues, using a highly protective and persistent decontamination system.
    • Hand sanitiser stations remain at the entrances to campus buildings, and we remind staff and students to wash or sanitise their hands well and often.
    • Mechanical and natural ventilation of indoor spaces will be maximised across campus to help reduce the spread of the virus, building on continuous improvements over the past year in both new buildings and older teaching spaces.
      In mechanically ventilated spaces, this includes air purifier units to supplement ventilation where this is of benefit. Installed CO2 monitoring will be tracked through building management.You can find out more about ventilation in this pdf
  • What are the requirements for social distancing?

    Whilst social distancing is no longer strictly required in classrooms and teaching spaces, NI Executive require that social distancing of 1m+ remains for workplaces and should be adhered to.

    • We ask all students to respect that Ulster University is a workplace for over 2500 dedicated staff members and to keep their distance from staff

    Everyone should continue to keep their distance at all times and when moving around campus.

    • In the spaces on our campuses that students normally have access to (i.e., not staff offices etc), they will not be required to socially distance from one another at all.  (For the purposes of clarity this includes the library and other learning spaces e.g., study spaces and labs used by PhD Researchers).
    • Staff are required to keep a social distance of 1m+ from other staff members and students (For the purposes of clarity this includes offices)
    • Where the keeping of 1m social distance between students and staff is not possible (during a practical demonstration for example) then appropriate mitigations, e.g., PPE, should be used.
    • Separate arrangements exist for Catering outlets and Sports Centres
  • What does mechanical and natural ventilation mean for me and what do I need to do?

    One of the many health and safety mitigations that we will have in place on campus for 21/22 is enhanced mechanical and natural ventilation protocols. We are optimising mechanical and natural ventilation across campus to help reduce the spread of the virus, building on continuous improvements over the past year in both new buildings and older teaching spaces.

    This may make the ambient temperatures in teaching and communal spaces cooler than usual, and we encourage staff to consider this when deciding what to wear on campus.

  • Will staff be required to wear face coverings on campus?

    Students and Staff will be required to wear face-coverings both on campus and during classes. It is important that everyone follows this guidance in order that we can create a safe university community for all.

    We recognise that there are circumstances, including medical conditions that may make it difficult for students and staff to wear face-coverings. We are committed to building and maintaining an inclusive and supportive environment for everyone.

    It is important to remember that it is not always obvious why a person may not be wearing a face-covering. That does not mean that they do not have a legitimate reason and so we ask staff and students to be mindful of this and respectful of one another. You can find out more about wearing face coverings.

  • 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.

    On-campus testing and vaccination

    In liaison with the Public Health Agency and the Health and Social Care trusts, we are hosting pop-up vaccination centres on each campus in September.

    The pop-up vaccination centres and ongoing Asymptomatic Lateral Flow (LFD) testing available on campus, make it straightforward and convenient to take these steps that are vitally important to a safe campus community.

    It couldn’t be easier to arrange to take a free Lateral Flow test regularly. Students and staff without symptoms can book an on-campus LFD test or arrange to collect a home test kit.

  • 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?

    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.

  • How will it be decided which staff or teams return first to campus?

    The NI Executive guidance will not lead to a concurrent return for all staff at once.

    Our pragmatic approach to reboarding for 2021/22 Semester 1 will initially prioritise the safe and supported return of those student facing colleagues and those who are vital to delivering the student experience or progressing those activities essential to prepare for return to campus, such as our Welcome Week programmes, student services and teaching. These colleagues can be reassured that the appropriate risk assessment process will be applied and that managers will engage staff individually to address any concerns.

    Since the NI Executive guidance remains that where work can be done from home this should continue, Ulster University staff not included in this initial phase of return, can expect to continue to work entirely from home until at least the end of October.

    For activities that are not student-facing, both professional and academic staff can and should continue to work from home, for example hosting team and 121 meetings online where appropriate.

  • 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.

On-Campus services

What facilities will be available on campus for those staff that return for the start of Semester?

Staff can look forward to a vibrant campus experience and can be reassured that University facilities on campus will operate in line with the appropriate public health guidance and restrictions.

We are maintaining robust cleaning and sanitisation across all services.

Catering

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.

Sport

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 healthandsafety@ulster.ac.uk.

  • What should staff do if a student or students are not wearing face-coverings during a teaching session?

    Students and Staff are required to wear face-coverings both on campus and during classes. It is important that everyone follows this guidance in order that we can create a safe university community for all.

    We recognise that there are circumstances, including medical conditions, that may make it difficult for students and staff to wear face-coverings. We are committed to building and maintaining an inclusive and supportive environment for everyone.

    It may not always be obvious why a person may not be wearing a face-covering, but this does not mean that they do not have a legitimate reason. We ask staff and students to be mindful of this and to be understanding and respectful in relation to the wearing of face-coverings.

    The familiar Sunflower Lanyard scheme discreetly indicates hidden disabilities, and in the context of the pandemic, some people are opting to wear this to explain that they are not able to wear a face covering.

    If a member of staff is concerned that students are not wearing a face-covering, they should politely remind students that, unless exempt, face-coverings should be worn, and encourage students to put on face-coverings.  A prepared message has been created for use at the start of on-campus teaching sessions to remind students of the need to wear their face covering in classes and thanking them for doing so.

    If a student doesn’t have a face covering, they can leave the teaching space to collect one from campus reception.

  • 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 mitigations in place.

    These on-campus meetings should take place in well ventilated spaces (for instance, with open doors and/or windows) with all parties wearing face-coverings and maintaining at least 1m social distance.

    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 studentwellbeing@ulster.ac.uk

  • Support services

    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.

Meetings

How will staff meetings and committees be held in Semester 1?

A pragmatic approach should be taken and so for example meetings that can be conducted effectively online should continue in that way during this transition period, as we continue to follow emerging government guidance.

A similar approach will be taken to University committees during this period of phased return since MS Teams offers an efficient, effective, safe and sustainable way for colleagues to conduct committee business in the current context.

For more information

Where can I go for more information?

Your line manager is available to discuss any aspects of the return to campus.

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