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Joint message from University Vice-Chancellors

Update following Government announcement on 17/09/20

Open Letter from Northumbria and Newcastle Universities


As we prepare to welcome our students back, we wanted to take the opportunity to share some of the steps we are putting in place to ensure their safe return to our campuses, our city and the surrounding areas.


Covid has touched everyone’s lives over the past six months and like the rest of us, our students have experienced financial, health and wellbeing challenges.


Their next year at university will undoubtedly be different from what they might have expected. However, at Newcastle and Northumbria we are committed to ensuring that we provide the teaching and learning experience this generation of students deserves.


In this respect we would like to assure students that the additional measures announced on 17th September will not affect their ability to move to Newcastle and form a ‘household’ with other students, nor will the measures impact the quality of the education offer they will receive.  


We also know the start of this academic year will pose new challenges and we want to reassure our North East community that as students return to the region to begin or resume their studies, the safety and wellbeing of everyone in the local community is at the very heart of everything that we do.


Like all organisations up and down the country, we have been working hard to make our Universities as Covid-secure as possible. Every action and measure we have implemented align with government guidance, and we are confident that we are in a position to respond quickly and effectively to public health issues whenever we need to.


We take our responsibility for the health, safety and wellbeing of our students, our staff and our local communities seriously. We, along with our Students’ Unions, are in regular contact with local authorities, public health organisations and the police to ensure we are working in a joined up, collaborative way - Together Against Covid. 


We are practised and confident in managing public health issues with our staff and our students. Together with our Students’ Unions we are focussed on ensuring that all members of our Universities communities know what we are doing, and crucially what they need to do, to keep themselves and others safe. 


Throughout the pandemic, staff and students at our institutions have been supporting the community, driving essential research in the field of virus detection and diagnosis, supplying the NHS with vital apparatus and PPE, providing food and transport services, volunteering on hospital wards and supporting frontline NHS staff.  We feel sure that the extraordinary compassion and care that our communities have demonstrated in the face of this pandemic puts us in a strong position to continue to keep each other safe over the coming months.


Some of the specific measures we are taking in response to Covid-19 to enable us to manage our students’ safe return include:


  • Quarantine – students in university-owned and managed accommodation who have travelled from a country where quarantine is required have been, and will continue to be, fully supported with food and other essential items to observe the required isolation period.
  • Covid-secure’ campuses – in order to ensure that our campus is Covid-secure, we have made a number of physical campus changes, including: social distancing, one way systems, defined points of access, signage, socially distanced catering outlets, hand sanitisation points and enhanced cleaning regimes.  To further encourage good hygiene on campus, both universities are also providing all students and staff with a care pack, including reusable face coverings and hand sanitiser.
  • Student accommodation – throughout the lockdown, both universities have continued to operate our residences and therefore have learned a great deal about how to do so in a Covid-secure way.  Accommodation ‘bubbles’ or ‘households’ have been formed, and our move-in process have been structured across an extended period to limit interactions between ‘bubbles’.
  • Learning environment - both universities will deliver a blended learning experience which includes online and face to face teaching. Face to face teaching will be delivered within Covid-secure guidelines and we will keep our plans under review, responding to new local guidance as we need to.
  • Managing people – numbers of staff and students attending the campuses each day will be much lower than usual, and kept to a minimum, through adjustments to the teaching timetable and staff continuing to work from home where possible.
  • Managing travel – by moving to a blend of online and small group teaching, and extending the teaching/working day, we have been able to reduce the demand for public transport and spread it across the day. We are asking staff and students to only come to campus when necessary, are encouraging walking and cycling safely wherever possible, and are providing parking on campus for colleagues who need to drive in.
  • Test and trace – we are using internal systems to support NHS test and trace systems.  More generally, we are working closely with the NHS to help identify those who may have been in close contact with a positive case in our communities and react as quickly as possible, and with partners to increase test facilities in the city centre.
  • Operation Oak, jointly funded by both Universities, covers the cost of providing extra policing in residential areas with a high student density in response to concerns from local residents. This year it will be extended to provide additional support to the police to educate, encourage and enforce measures around social distancing in light of Covid -19.
  • Together Against Covid, both universities campaigns together with our staff and our students to reinforce our shared responsibility within the community and to help keep each other safe.
  • Report. Record. Support – we are committed to ensuring we protect students and colleagues where we can. If any of our staff or students show symptoms of COVID-19, need to quarantine, or self-isolate, please click here for the following steps we have in place. 


We are committed to doing everything we can to minimise risks and to ensure that the return of our students to the region happens as safely as possible for everyone.


Professor Andrew Wathey CBE FRHistS FRSA FSA

Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Northumbria University

Emmanuel Kabengele

President, Northumbria University Students’ Union

Anna Kemp

Vice-President Welfare, Northumbria University Students’ Union


Professor Chris Day MA, MD, PhD, FMedSci, 

Vice-Chancellor and President, Newcastle University


Dorothy Chirwa

President, Newcastle University Students’ Union

Benthe Tanghe

Athletic Union Officer, Newcastle University Students’ Union





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