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Coronavirus FAQs

The safety of our students and staff remains our number one priority. Our ways of working and our physical environment have undergone some changes over the past few months – answers to some of the most frequently asked questions, along with links to find out more information, are below.

Information iconGeneral

How do I avoid catching or spreading coronavirus?

The Government has issued three simple actions we must all do to protect each other:

  • Wash your hands: Wash with soap and water regularly and for at least 20 seconds
  • Cover your face: Wear a face covering when in enclosed spaces
  • Make space: Maintain social distancing from those you do not live with

Find out more on the government website.

How do I find out the latest University information about the Covid-19 outbreak?

This page will be kept up to date as and when the situation for Birmingham City University staff and students changes and regular updates are also posted on iCity.

Students should continue to check their BCU email regularly for updates, while staff will receive messages in Tiger Today.

Returning to campus

Is teaching still taking place on campus?

Yes, we have pledged to deliver 50% of teaching face to face and on campus throughout the 2020/2021 academic year.

Find out more about our pledge to students here.

Who is required on campus?
  • Colleagues involved in teaching and learning delivery
  • Colleagues in technical support roles, school administration roles and central teams who provide student-facing activities
Do I need to do an induction before I return?

All staff returning to campus must complete the self-assessment and a revised e-induction, even if they have previously done the former induction. Find out more here.

All students returning to campus must also complete a version of the self-assessment and e-induction before returning to campus. Find out more here.

If I am not required back on campus, should I stay at home?

Yes – all other colleagues are asked to continue to work from home for the time being.

Do I need an authority to return form?

No – this process will not be needed for Semester 1 but the self-assessment tool must be used, and the e-induction undertaken.

What do I do if I have been shielding?

Extremely Clinically Vulnerable staff cannot return to campus. As a University, we have decided that they should work from home and share with us the letter/email that they received from the Government/NHS.

What is the guidance on using public transport?

Before you travel, check restrictions and plan your journey. Remember it may take longer than normal to get to and from University due to social distancing measures and limits on the number of people who can get on public transport, so leave plenty of time for your journey.

You will need to maintain social distancing where possible and wear a face covering while travelling on public transport.

Find tips on travelling during Covid-19 here.

Are support services available on campus?

Yes, student support services, including the Mental Health and Wellbeing team, are available on campus and online. More information on how to access these services is available here.

Can I access the library?

Yes, during Semester 1, we have implemented a booking system for anybody who would like to use Curzon or Mary Seacole Libraries. You can use the time to sit and study, browse the shelves and borrow items, as well as use library facilities such as printing. Book a space here.

You can also access lots of resources online via the library website and use the 24/7 chat service for help.

I’m a postgraduate research student – what support is there for me?

Where possible, all PGR students should continue to work off campus during Phase 1 of Semester 1. Where working wholly off campus is no longer possible, including for wellbeing reasons, PGR students who have an essential need to return to campus will be prioritised for a limited return to campus by their Faculty Research Degrees and Environment Committee or FRDEC.

The University has set out a roadmap outlining a phased, priority-based approach to restarting research on our campuses. This timeline will be flexible and will be reviewed in line with government guidance. Find out what research priority group you are here.

Professional services and academic staff who form the Doctoral Research College (DRC) are working remotely and continue to support PGR students, whose supervisors and PGR leads can be contacted by email, phone and Microsoft Teams.

Symptoms and testing

What should I do if I have symptoms?

BCU has issued guidance on its test and trace process, which covers what staff and students should do if they have symptoms, who they should inform, what isolation involves and what to do if someone in their household has symptoms of the virus.

Guidance for staff can be found on iCity here.

Guidance for students showing symptoms can be found here.

How do I get a Covid-19 test?

You can request a free test from the NHS here:

Who do I need to contact if I have symptons?

You must immediately go home and self-isolate. You should let your course leader or line manager know you are experiencing symptoms by phone or email. You should also report your symptoms via our Notify system. Find our step-by-step guide to what you should do if you have symptoms here.

The Test and Trace Team has told me to self-isolate. What should I do?

Staff should notify their line manager and follow the requirements set out by the Test and Trace Team. Guidance for staff can be found on iCity here.

Students should notify their course leader and also follow the requirements set out by the Test and Trace Team. Guidance for students showing symptoms can be found here.

You can find further information from the NHS on how to self-isolate here.

Current restrictions

Why are there local restrictions in Birmingham?

The Government and local authorities are trying to control the spread of Covid-19 following a rise in the number of cases in the area. Local restrictions have been introduced in parts of the West Midlands, as well as other areas across the UK. You can use the BBC tool to check what restrictions are in your area.

What are the local restrictions in Birmingham?

The Government has now introduced local Covid alert levels. Birmingham is currently on high Covid alert level, or Tier 2. This means:

  • you must not socialise with anybody outside of your household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place. This includes cafes, bars and restaurants.
  • you must not socialise in a group of more than six outside, including in a garden or public parks.

Your household is defined as the people you live with and any support bubble. This means, if you are in University accommodation, your household if the flat you live in.

Find out more about the measures that apply in high alert areas here

What do the different alert levels mean?

Local Covid alert levels set out information for local authorities, residents and workers about what to do and how to manage the outbreak in their area.

Different alert levels have different restrictions. Birmingham is currently on high Covid alert level, or Tier 2. Find out more about the alert levels on the government website.

I live in University accommodation. Can I visit my family at home?

If you live in University accommodation, your household is the residents in your flat. The restrictions mean that you won’t be able to meet with people outside of your household in any indoor setting, at home or in a public place, unless they’re in your support bubble.

You can still meet with other households outdoors, including in a garden, as long as your group is not more than six people.

You must not move backward and forward between your permanent home and term time address during term time – subject to limited exemptions set out in law.

I commute to Uni. What do the restrictions mean for me?

Commuter students can still travel to University for their scheduled sessions. When commuting into Birmingham you must not:

  • meet people you do not live with in their home inside the area, unless they’re in your household, childcare or support bubble
  • host people you do not live with in your home, if they live in the affected area, unless they’re in your childcare or support bubble
  • meet people you do not live with in their student halls, whether inside or outside of the area, unless they’re in your childcare or support bubble
Do the restrictions in Birmingham affect teaching on campus?

No, education settings are exempt from the local restrictions. Students should continue to come to campus for their timetabled sessions only, while staff should continue to work on campus where agreed.

What is the Rule of Six?

The Government has introduced a ‘Rule of Six’ which applies to England. This prevents you from meeting in groups of more than six people, including yourself, within indoor and outdoor social settings.

Social settings include homes, pubs and restaurants. The group can be up to six people from six different households.

Please remember that this guidance can be replaced with specific local guidelines, such as the current information for those living in the West Midlands, along with other parts of the UK. 

Find more information on the government website.

Does the Rule of Six mean I can’t come to campus?

No. Education settings are exempt from these rules. Students should continue to come to campus for their timetabled sessions only, while staff should continue to work on campus where agreed. More information on exemptions can be found on the government website.

Icon of face coveringFace coverings

Do I need to wear a face covering?

Face coverings should be worn at all the times when entering and while moving around buildings and in cafes on campus. Face coverings should also be worn in rooms where 2m social distancing can’t be achieved. Face coverings cannot be removed in rooms where 1m-plus mitigations are in place. Students can remove face coverings when they are in teaching rooms where 2m social distancing can be achieved.

Will BCU provide me with a face covering?

The University is distributing ‘Stay Safe’ bags to all staff and students returning to campus, containing two washable face coverings and a container of hand sanitiser. These are available at collection points just inside our buildings' entrances.

Staff will also be supplied with a visor and microphone for teaching.

Can I wear my own face covering?

Yes, you can choose to wear your own.

Can I be exempt from wearing a face covering?

Yes, if you have a condition which prevents the wearing of face coverings or exacerbates that condition. The University is operating the sunflower lanyard scheme for those exempt from wearing a face covering.

When can I collect my BCU face coverings?

‘Stay Safe’ bags, containing two washable face coverings, can be picked up from prominent collection points at the entrance to each building.

When will the face coverings be replenished?

The ‘Stay Safe’ bag contains two washable face coverings, so they should not need replenishing. Please remember to bring these coverings, or your own, with you when you come to campus. If you lose them or forget them, subject to stock availability, we will provide you with a disposable covering so you are able to come into the buildings.

What do I do if someone refuses to wear/remove their mask or does not comply with other safety instructions?

Report the incident on Notify so the University knows about the incident as soon as possible. 

Icon of social distancing Buildings and social distancing

Will social distancing be used?

For social distancing, in line with government recommendations since early July, BCU supports working with a 1m+ model although we will strive for 2m social distancing where we can. The 1m+ model is supported where it is used with appropriate mitigation, which should be highlighted in the work activity/workplace Risk Assessment which can be accessed here.

What does 1m+ mean?

Where 2m social distancing cannot be achieved, the 1m+ model is supported where it is used with appropriate mitigation, which should be highlighted in the work activity/workplace Risk Assessment. This mitigation includes use of face coverings and sanitation which must be used wherever 1m+ social distancing is in place. Wherever possible, staff and students should adhere to 2m social distancing.

What are the building opening hours?

A full list of building opening hours can be found on iCity here.

Do I use the normal entrances?

Yes, building entrances are now open with clear signage to show you the circulation routes as you enter.

Do I need to sign in?

No – but you must ensure you have completed the new e-induction and the staff self-assessment before returning. You will also need to use your ID card to access buildings, as normal.

Can I move around the buildings normally?

We are using a keep left policy in most buildings. Some buildings may have slightly different circulation routes if social distancing cannot be achieved by keeping left. Find out more about the circulation plan in your building here.

How many people will be in the buildings?

Our plans are aiming for 50% occupancy in buildings to reduce the overall number of people on campus at any one time.’

What will the room layouts look like?

Every teaching room will be supplied with a plan of the socially-distanced room layout, which will need to be observed by staff and students. The plan will typically be located on the wall near the entrance. Staff and students should not move furniture around as it has been positioned to adhere to social distancing. 

Read more on iCity.

How will I be kept safe while teaching?

Students and staff should socially distance from each other while teaching. Teaching staff must wear a visor while teaching. When teaching staff are unable to stay at least 2m from others, they should wear a visor and a face mask to avoid potentially contaminating themselves and others. Staff will also be issues with face coverings and a microphone for their own person use.

What about specialist spaces where social distancing is not possible?

Every specialist space has its own risk assessment which you can read here. This area also contains guidance for those courses where social distancing is impossible due to the nature of teaching. 

For labs and workshops, we have developed a specific 

How do I use the cafeterias?

On-site catering outlets are open but operating with social distancing and reduced seating. They are no longer accepting cash. A click-and-collect option is also available and details can be found here. Details of opening times for each outlet can be found on iCity here.

Are staff kitchens open?

Yes, but every kitchen facility across our campuses has a set of instructions displayed for staff to follow:

  • Only one person is allowed in the kitchen at any one time.
  • Hand gel must be used prior to entry to the kitchen area.
  • Face coverings must be worn while in the kitchen area.
  • Staff should use the supplied cleaning wipes to wipe down touch points such as taps before preparing their lunch or drink.
  • Food items, packaging or used crockery shouldn’t be left out for others to clean up.
Can I use the lifts?

Lifts are operational but their use will be limited to allow for social distancing. Please follow the signage at each lift.


Do I need to socially distance in University accommodation?

Your household is the people you live with in your accommodation flat, so you don’t need to socially distance from them. You will need to maintain social distancing from residents of other flats in your accommodation.

I live in University accommodation. Can I visit my family at home?

If you live in University accommodation, your household is the residents in your flat. The restrictions mean that you won’t be able to meet with people outside of your household in any indoor setting, at home or in a public place, unless they’re in your support bubble.

You can still meet with other households outdoors, including in a garden, as long as your group is not more than six people.

You must not move backward and forward between your permanent home and term time address during term time – subject to limited exemptions set out in law.

What do I do if told to self-isolate while in University accommodation?

If you are required to self-isolate because you are experiencing symptoms, the residents of your accommodation flat will also need to self-isolate.

You should follow our step-by-step Test and Trace process and inform the University through the Notify app.

Our Mental Health and Wellbeing Team will be in touch with you, anyone you’ve been in close contact with and members of your bubble to offer support. We will organise food and other essential deliveries so you don’t have to leave your flat.

What should I do if someone in my household has symptoms or is self-isolating?

If someone in your household (this includes a university flat or a shared house) is feeling ill and is having a Covid-19 test, you should not come onto campus.

Contact your course leader. If the ill person in your household receives a negative test result then you can come back to campus. If they receive a positive test result (they have Covid-19), you should not return to campus until the period of isolation as advised by the NHS Test and Trace Team is over. You should keep your course leader informed of this.

If someone in your household is well but has been told to self-isolate because they have been in contact with someone with Covid-19 outside the house, you should still attend campus as normal. Only if that person starts to develop symptoms should you stay at home and follow the advice above. Please keep your course leader involved throughout.

When can I come back to campus if I have had a positive test?

You can come back to campus after isolating for 10 days as long as:

  • you do not have any symptoms
  • you just have a cough or changes to your sense of smell or taste – these can last for weeks after the infection has gone
You must continue to self-isolate if you have these symptoms after 10 days:
  • a high temperature or feeling hot and shivery
  • a runny nose or sneezing
  • feeling or being sick
  • diarrhoea

If you have diarrhoea or you’re being sick, stay at home until 48 hours after they've stopped.

You can find more information on how long to self-isolate for on the NHS website here.

Icon of sanitiser Sanitation

Is hand gel provided?

Yes, hand gel is available at entrances, around buildings and in your ’Stay Safe’ bag.

What is the cleaning regime?

You can read the full cleaning regime here.

Can I hot-desk when not teaching?

If you are required on campus and cannot work in your usual office, you can book a hot desk in the Joseph Priestley or Seacole buildings via a new service. Read more about this here.

Are toilets operating normally?

Clear signage will be in place at every set of toilets and some will be limited to a maximum number of people at any one time. This limit will be clearly displayed at the entrance.

Are showers in use?

Yes – there will be limitations to enable social distancing and cleaning to be undertaken and you should follow the signage at each shower block.

Can I use the photocopier or printer?

Yes, you can use them, although try to minimise their use where possible. Where you can, stay in your seat until it's free to use. If this is not possible, please queue at least 2m away from the person using the printer. Wash or sanitise your hands before and after use of the printer/photocopier.

Can I distribute hand-outs?

Keep printing to a minimum by sharing documents electronically and displaying course materials, scripts and prompt cards on screens during teaching and practical sessions. If you have to issue hard copy documents, issue one copy per person. If hand-outs need to be reused, laminate them and wipe them down with a cleaning wipe between sessions. During the session, do not hand materials directly to another person. Distribute them on desks before the session starts or designate a table in a clear area of the room as a pick-up point and allow individuals to collect as they enter. Always sanitise your hands before and after handling printed material.

Equipment for working from home

Can staff request equipment for home use?

Staff whose current role involves an element of working from home may request equipment for home use to enable them to perform their role effectively.

How do staff request equipment for home use?

A process has been established to deal with these requests, and the full guidance can be read here. Broadly, this involves the local DSE assessor identifying any needs via a DSE self-assessment.

Which types of equipment are included in this process?

Electrical equipment, which includes monitors, docking stations, or risers, keyboards, mice, cables for computers or chairs.

Can staff return to my building on campus to collect equipment or personal belongings?

Staff can only return to campus to collect equipment subject to approval by their Dean or Director and after completion of a DSE Assessment. Personal belongings can be collected following approval by the Dean or Director. Unless involved in student-facing activity or other activity that requires them to be on campus, the staff member must return only to collect equipment or belongings and then leave immediately.

I’m a student without access to IT equipment – what can I do?

You can still access computers on campus, or borrow a laptop with our laptop loan service. You can find a PC on campus using PCFinder. Alternatively, you can loan a Windows laptop for a maximum of six hours, or a Mac laptop for up to four hours.  At this time we are asking that you return the laptop the day you loan it, before leaving site and before 5pm.

To ensure that all equipment is thoroughly cleaned after each use, students will need to keep the laptop in the same building it has been borrowed from and return it to a designated location (not a locker) once the session finishes. Find out more here.

Icon of a carCar Parking

I previously paid for a parking permit – will this carry on?

The Vice-Chancellor has decided to continue with the suspension of charging for car parks across the University. This includes all BCU car parks, as well as temporary car park Plot A and Millennium Point.

Parking will continue to be free of charge on a first come, first serve basis for all staff, regardless of whether they have permits, until further notice. Find out more on iCity.


What are the options for flexible working to help with travel plans and avoid potential commuter congestion?

If you are able to stagger your working pattern i.e. come in earlier/later and leave earlier/later, then please discuss this with your line manager in the first instance. Be mindful however, that if you are required to be on site for a specific time to meet timetable/business demands then you must be present at that time.

I am not required on campus, but don’t feel able to continue to work from home. Do I have any options?

You must contact your line manager to discuss your situation and explain your reasons as soon as possible. The University has been clear that in the interests of the safety and welfare of its employees and students, if you are not required to return to work on campus for Semester 1, you must, wherever possible, continue to work from home. It might be that your line manager is able to offer you additional support or increased flexibility to be able to continue working from home, for example, additional equipment or access to confidential counselling.

If my child’s school closes or my child’s class is sent home to quarantine, I will need to look after my children. What support can I expect from the University?

We recognise this will be a concern for some of our employees and this is not an easy situation to manage. As we did when lockdown started in March, we would encourage you to talk to your line manager at the earliest opportunity and identify and discuss solutions that will work for everyone.

Some solutions that could be considered include:

  • varying your daily working pattern, for example, starting earlier in the day and ending earlier, or alternatively starting and finishing work later
  • using annual leave or requesting unpaid leave
  • where you have shared caring responsibilities, working with the other carer to agree how responsibilities can be shared
  • agreeing a temporary reduction in working hours or a temporary period of home working (unless you are already working from home)

We need to ensure, of course, that any agreed solution supports the normal delivery of our services such as the needs of the educational timetable.

How do I find details of sick pay, reporting sickness, caring responsibilities or annual leave entitlements?

Details of sick pay, reporting sickness, caring responsibilities, annual leave entitlements and more can be found on the Human Resources iCity pages. Find out more here.