Vice-Chancellor's start of term messageMonday, 28 September 2020
This message from Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Van de Noort has been sent to all colleagues at the University
As we begin a new academic year, I would like to thank you once again for all the work during the past few months. The disruption caused by COVID-19 has been exceptional, but your response to it has been exceptional too.
Colleagues and students started returning to our campuses this month. While many seem excited about being back on campus and seeing other colleagues, many others feel some anxiety about how safe a return to campus and engaging in normal activities will be.
I would like to assure you that the safety of our colleagues and students has been our absolute priority in planning phased returns. Having regularly worked from the Whiteknights campus over the past few weeks, I have seen the hard work that colleagues from across our University have put into preparing for a phased return. Those already on the campus would have noticed the advice signs, hand sanitiser stations, protective screens and one-way systems to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additional measures are in place to ensure that shared facilities – like printers, stationary cupboards and kitchen – can be used by colleagues safely. This short UoR – COVID Ready video highlights some of the measures in place.
Colleagues have also been working very closely with local public health teams to finalise the University’s plans should there be an outbreak of coronavirus on our campuses, and we will share further details of this soon. I was informed yesterday of a confirmed student case of COVID-19 in Reading. The student has been in self-isolation at home since developing symptoms, and relevant teaching colleagues and members of their cohort have been informed. We are also supporting the Public Health England team to reach any close contacts. It is a timely reminder of how important it is that we continue to follow appropriate precautions and do our bit to help protect ourselves and our communities. It is very important that, if you are self-isolating with suspected COVID-19 symptoms or you have tested positive for the virus, that you let your line manager know as soon as possible whether or not you have been on campus.
Please also make sure that you familiarise yourself with the new arrangements so you can guide our students and other colleagues with any queries. If you feel that an additional measure will help, please share this with your Head of School or Function. We will all be learning to work in a different way and our students will be looking to us to inspire confidence in the measures in place. While there will invariably be bumps along the road, our support and kindness for each other and for ourselves will move us forward.
Over the next few days, Parveen Yaqoob and Julian Park will share with more details on the COVID-19 arrangements so please do keep an eye out for that.
Conversations with colleagues
You may have noticed on the Staff Portal that I have restarted the monthly conversations with colleagues. These will be 15-minute slots that can be booked individually or for a small group. I would be keen on our discussion to focus on ideas and suggestions that relate to our four strategic principles - Community, Excellence, Sustainability and an Engaged University. During the last round of these conversations, colleagues brought interesting suggestions on:
- University Volunteering and the local community
- Colleague recognition and business improvement schemes
- Expanding coaching opportunities to students
- Supporting colleagues on maternity leave, and their line managers
I look forward to continuing these conversations with you – starting with Microsoft Teams, but hopefully in a face-to-face environment soon.