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Coronavirus information for staff and current students

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, BCU is currently closed to all staff and students. This includes the closure of libraries and all other facilities. Please DO NOT travel to campus as you will not be allowed entry unless you are essential staff – as designated by your manager.

We will continue to support our students, particularly all of those who are in student accommodation, whether this is in halls or private facilities.

This page will be kept up-to-date as and when the situation for Birmingham City University staff and current students changes. Staff can also see regular updates on the intranet page. For all up-to-date details about coronavirus, the Government web pages are being frequently updated.

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

To date, there have been no confirmed cases amongst our staff or student body. Should this change, we will immediately offer advice to staff and students about next steps.

Last updated: Tuesday 31 March 2020

A message from the Vice-Chancellor

General enquiries

What is coronavirus and COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus.

The symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath

But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness.

The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.

How to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus?

Do:

wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
always wash your hands when you get home or into work
use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell

Don't:

touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

If you believe you might be at risk, you can call NHS 111 or use the dedicated online tool. Government advice asks anyone with a new persistent cough or high temperature to self-isolate for seven days, as the UK government moves to the "delay" phase of its plan to tackle coronavirus.

The World Health Organization has detailed updates on its website about the current worldwide situation.

What can I do while the country is in lockdown?

The Government has outlined that you should only leave your house for the limited purposes only:

  • shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  • one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household
  • any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home

Read more about what you can and can’t do on the Government website.

What is the University doing about coronavirus?

The University set up its first dedicated task force on Monday 20 January 2020 due to our strong links with the city of Wuhan, Hubei province including two University partnerships. This group is led by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Prof Clare Mackie and includes key staff from all relevant areas of the University. It has been meeting regularly and updating staff and students with information and evidence supported by advice from Public Health England, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for Education. We have since established a number of other groups to ensure we are considering all implications for our University community.

These groups have been working to safeguard staff and students as far as possible from the spread of the virus.

What steps have been taken so far?

Initially, we remained in close contact with students and staff who study/deliver our degrees in China and those students and staff who may have recently returned to the UK from Wuhan or Hubei Province, as well as our partners in Wuhan. The initial group worked with staff based in Wuhan at the time of the initial shutdown, and kept in close communication with both them and students returning from China, to ensure both their safety and well-being, and that of the wider university population.

We have ensured all affected staff and students – whether they are from areas most affected or have friends and family in those areas – are supported by our well-being teams and relevant counselling services. The group has also worked extremely closely with halls of residence partners to ensure students based there receive appropriate advice, care and support, and has also put in place measures to review all business travel before staff leave the country. Additional hand sanitiser was ordered and received at the beginning of February then distributed across all university buildings.

More recently, we have suspended all face-to-face teaching on our campuses with immediate effect. Academic staff have been moving as much teaching material online as possible with support from the teams across their faculties. From Monday 30 March, we will be teaching online for the rest of this semester.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 23 March, we closed our campuses with immediate effect to all staff and students. This included the closure of libraries and all other facilities, however student accommodation remains open at present.

We are constantly reviewing Government advice in light of the changing situation. Any relevant updates will be posted here or in the intranet page for staff.

How do I keep updated about the latest University information about coronavirus (COVID-19 outbreak)?

This page will be kept up-to-date as and when the situation for Birmingham City University staff, students and visitors changes. Staff can also see regular updates on the intranet page. For all up-to-date details about coronavirus, the Government web pages are being frequently updated.

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

To date, there have been no confirmed cases amongst our staff or student body. Should this change, we will immediately offer advice to staff and students about next steps.

Current students

What does Semester 2 now look like?
Semester 2 dates27 January 2020 - 29 May 2020
FACE TO FACE TEACHING STOPPED Tuesday 17 March 2020
  • No further teaching this week to allow students to travel home / adjust to working at home
Reading week for all students Week commencing 23 March
Online teaching
  • 30 March - 1 May 2020
Week 1 online: commencing Monday 30 March
  • Easter holiday week 1: commencing 6 April
  • Easter holiday week 2: commencing 13 April 

Week 2 online: commencing Monday 20 April

Week 3 online: commencing Monday 27 April

Private study week Week commencing Monday 4 May 2020
Assessment Weeks 1 – 3
  • 11 - 29 May 2020: Assessments during this period will be completed online

Week 1 assessment: Commencing 11 May

Week 2 assessment: Commencing 18 May

Week 3 assessment: Commencing 25 May

How will assessments work going forwards?

The University has taken the decision to move away from exams, where possible, and teaching staff are prioritising alternative methods of assessment for Semester 2, while also working hard to minimise the amount of students needing to attend campus for assessments in Semester 3. For the majority of students, this will mean there will be no summer exams, including resits, on campus.

Read more on iCity

How will the current situation affect my results?

The University will ensure that you receive a clear and fair judgement on the marks you receive and your overall qualification for this academic year. Where appropriate, the University will apply the ‘no detriment’ rule to any work in Semesters 2 and 3 disrupted by the current outbreak. The ‘no detriment’ rule allows exam boards discretion to consider achievement with and without Semester 2 results and to apply the best degree outcome for an individual student.

Read more on iCity

Will the University ensure I am not disadvantaged because of the disruption when I get my degree?

The university is applying the ‘no detriment’ rule to degree classifications for 2nd and final-year students. This means your grade for the year will be assessed both with and without your semester 2 results with your overall grade being based on whichever is higher.

Will I still graduate this year?

We will be giving priority to final-year students to enable them to achieve their degree outcomes and to graduate on time. We’ll aim to send graduation certificates to all students who have completed their course by July. Summer graduations are currently scheduled for Monday 20 to Friday 24 July. We hope to keep these graduation dates, but there may be unavoidable delays linked to COVID-19. Students already have the option to either graduate in absentia or to graduate at the Winter 2020 Graduation Ceremony in January. If these ceremonies have to be delayed, we will announce further details in due course.

Can I access specialist facilities and equipment on campus?

Practical assessments that require access to specialist equipment or resources, particularly where these assessments are required by a professional or statutory body for degree recognition purposes, may need to be delayed until the first month of Semester 3, if the University is able to re-open. If this applies to you, your Course Team will be in touch by the end of March to let you know. A schedule for practical assessments won’t be published until we know when the campus will reopen, but we will aim to give you at least one month’s notice and provide appropriate support to enable you to complete them.

For final-year Arts, Design and Media (ADM) students, we plan to provide optional access to facilities and support for the first month of Semester 3, if the University is able to re-open, to allow you to complete your portfolio, which is important for career prospects, rather than formal assessment purposes.

Are any buildings still open?

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 23 March, BCU closed with immediate effect to all staff and students. This includes the closure of libraries and all other facilities, however student accommodation remains open at present.

Please DO NOT travel to campus as you will not be allowed entry unless you are essential staff – as designated by your manager. 

We will continue to support our students, particularly all of those who are in student accommodation, whether this is in halls or private facilities.

The Doug Ellis Sports Centre and The Pavilion will also be temporarily closed to members. 

Can I get a refund on my accommodation rent?

The University has agreed that students living in our managed accommodation at University Locks will not be charged for the remainder of their contracts if they have now left the halls. This can be backdated as far as 18 March – the point at which it was announced face-to-face teaching would end.

Read more on iCity

I don’t have a working laptop / computer or access to wi-fi - what do I do?

If you don’t have access to IT resources at home, for example, a working laptop or Wi-Fi connection, we will allow you to defer your online teaching and assessments for Semester 2 to the first month of Semester 3, if the University is able to re-open. A schedule for this won’t be published until we know when the campus will re-open, but we will aim to give you at least one month’s notice and appropriate support to enable you to complete these assessments.

If you need to defer your teaching and assessments into Semester 3, you should email this request to your school office directly, and they will make the decision to allow deferral and confirm this directly with you.

Find out how to contact your school office here.

What University support services are still available?

Student support services are now running with staff working from home and contact details can be found on iCity here.

What about my library loans?

Loans will need to be renewed online on the library website and extended periods will be given. Please check your return dates.

The Library team have stopped issuing new library fines so you will not incur new fines from not being able to return items.

Can I still use the library online?

The Library team has been working hard to ensure that our library services and resources are online, and to minimise disruption for you as much as possible.

Should I still attend my placement?

If you are currently on placement or due to go on placement this semester, your course team will contact you with specific guidance.

Additonal reading weeks will not apply to Nursing and Midwifery students on placement due to NMC course requirements. If you are on placement you should continue to attend as planned. Our School of Nursing and Midwifery team is issuing guidance to students for each course. 

Will my Student Loan payments be delayed?

No. The Student Loans Company has confirmed that you will receive your scheduled or next instalment of your Maintenance Loan at the planned start of the summer term, regardless of whether the university or provider has made alternative arrangements for teaching.

You can find more information for current students on the Government website.

How do I study at home?

You will receive direct communication from your School informing you of how to prepare for home study from Monday 30 March. 

I have called 111 and been advised to self-isolate - how will this affect my studies?

If you are unwell and experiencing signs of COVID-19, preventing you from taking part in online learning, you will be required to register your absence as normal via email, copying in your course leader. Any short-term absence will not affect your studies and we will make arrangements for you to catch up on any missed learning. You can contact the wellbeing team for more support on 0121 331 5188.

International: Can I go back to my home country?

For international students on a Tier 4 Visa, the announcement of the suspension of face-to-face teaching means you are free to return to your home country if you wish to do so. You are, however, required to inform your School Office if you return home so that for welfare reasons, we know that you are safe.

International: My UK student visa has expired or will be expiring soon. What do I need to do?

The UK Government has announced that it will be extending UK Student visas for people that:

  • cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19) and
  • currently have a Student visa that is due to expire between 24 May 2020 and 31 May 2020.

The extension is not automatically applied, so if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to COVID-19, you must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) to update your records if your visa is expiring.

Read more on iCity

Staff

Should I work remotely?

The vast majority of University staff should now be working from home. The only people who are currently allowed on campus are essential staff who are tasked with keeping the buildings safe, and our systems (especially our IT systems) operational. Staff who fall into this category will have been informed by their line manager.  

Which buildings will still be open?

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 23 March, BCU is closing with immediate effect to all staff and students. This includes the closure of libraries and all other facilities. Please DO NOT travel to campus as you will not be allowed entry unless you are essential staff – as designated by your manager. 

We will continue to support our students, particularly all of those who are in student accommodation, whether this is in halls or private facilities. 

The Doug Ellis Sports Centre and The Pavilion will also be temporarily closed to members.  

What does Semester 2 now look like?
Semester 2 dates27 January 2020 - 29 May 2020
FACE TO FACE TEACHING STOPPED Tuesday 17 March 2020
  • No further teaching this week to allow students to travel home / adjust to working at home
Reading week for all students Week commencing 23 March
Online teaching
  • 30 March - 1 May 2020
Week 1 online: commencing Monday 30 March
  • Easter holiday week 1: commencing 6 April
  • Easter holiday week 2: commencing 13 April 

Week 2 online: commencing Monday 20 April

Week 3 online: commencing Monday 27 April

Private study week Week commencing Monday 4 May 2020
Assessment Weeks 1 – 3
  • 11 - 29 May 2020: Assessments during this period will be completed online

Week 1 assessment: Commencing 11 May

Week 2 assessment: Commencing 18 May

Week 3 assessment: Commencing 25 May

Where can I find more information about learning and teaching online?

We have an iCity page with FAQs relating to learning and teaching which includes information on remote working and assessments, which you can access here.

Can I still get help with IT issues?

The University’s IT Helpline is no longer answering telephone calls. While managing the transition to a different way of working, the department has moved to an email-only model for staff and students working remotely. Staff should email ithelp@bcu.ac.uk with their query and a contact number, and a member of the IT team will call them back.

Can I have a refund for my monthly car park pass?

From your April pay packet, the University will no longer make deductions for car parking until such time as we return to on campus working.

Am I entitled to sick pay?

Staff who have over six month’s service with the University will have eligibility to University sick pay in line with their contract. There is a sliding scale of eligibility based on a colleague’s length of service. This provision remains in place as normal. All members of core staff in their probationary period usually have no eligibility to University sick pay and would receive Statutory Sick Pay only for any absence. The University has made the decision to support all staff at this time, and everyone who is on their probationary period will be eligible for one month’s full pay and one month’s half pay as University sick pay.  When staff are self-isolating and are ill, they would be classified as sick and would receive University sick pay. If a staff-member is self-isolating and not ill, they should be working from home and will receive normal pay.

How do I report sickness?

Normal sickness and management reporting needs to take place in the upcoming months to maintain records, but all sickness related to COVID-19 and self-isolation over the next few months will not count for any sickness management purposes. Staff should report sickness or self-isolation in the usual way to their line manager. The University appreciates that gaining fit notes for absences of longer than seven days will be difficult – each colleague should fill in a self-certification form, which is available on the HR iCity page – the Return to Work Interview form is the minimum requirement. Staff are expected to make reasonable efforts to obtain Fit Notes. Sickness triggers that typically lead to Absence Review Meetings will be suspended for absences connected to coronavirus.

What should I do if I have caring responsibilities?

Staff who have to care for a sick (COVID-19) household member, but are not ill themselves will have to self-isolate for 14 days. During this time, the University expects the staff member to work, but also recognises that working patterns may need to be flexible to accommodate these caring needs.

What should I do about annual leave?

Although holiday plans that involve travel are being disrupted by the outbreak, staff still are being encouraged to take annual leave in the usual way as breaks from work are not just a legal requirement, but are good for health reasons too. In line with current policy, staff may carry five days into the next annual leave year, with the agreement of their line manager. No greater amounts of annual leave will be carried forward into the new annual leave year.

Do I still have to complete my Mid-Year Review?

Mid-Year Reviews should still take place, but the deadline for completing them has been extended from the end of March to the end of April.

What are the rules on data protection when I work from home?

Staff should continue to follow policies and procedures around data protection when working from home. See iCity for more information.