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Coronavirus information for staff and current students

In the light of Government guidance, the University is now planning for the limited re-opening of some parts of our campus for Semester 3 to support selected groups of students.

The necessary safety precautions will be taken to allow only a restricted number of staff and students onto some parts of our campuses. Any communal and social learning spaces, such as the library, will remain closed for physical access at this point, and online resources will remain available.

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.

Last updated: Monday 8 June

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 guidance on using public transport?

The Government has advised that you should avoid using public transport where possible, and should not travel if you:

  • are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms
  • are self-isolating as a result of coronavirus symptoms or sharing a household with somebody with symptoms
  • are clinically extremely vulnerable.
If you have any symptoms of coronavirus you should self-isolate at home and arrange to have a test to see if you have COVID-19.
If you do travel, the Government has advised that you should wear a face covering to cover your mouth and nose. Find out how to wear and make a face covering here.
Before your journey, please check the latest advice from your operator. You should only travel during off-peak times maintain social distancing where possible. Where social distancing is not possible you should keep the time you spend nears others as short as possible and avoid physical contact.
Read more about travel guidance 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

Who can return to campus during Semester 3?

Only staff and students with an official invite from the University can return to campus. Students with an invitation will receive a personalised timetable from Registry Services which must be adhered to at all times.

If you are returning to campus, please keep your invitation with you at all times to present to our Security staff.

What safety and social distancing measures are being taken for the limited re-opening in Semester 3?

To ensure a safe campus experience when BCU re-opens, the University will be taking the following necessary safety precautions:

Social distancing

Staff and students will only be able to access our buildings if they have been invited, allowing us to control the number of people on campus, while general teaching spaces in each building will be restricted to enable social distancing at all times. Any lectures which would involve large numbers of students in a room will be moved online and students given access to computer facilities to watch these lectures.

The numbers of staff on campus will also be limited to only those needed to support students in person, such as security and workshop or lab technicians.

Specialist facilities

The University will ensure risk assessments are in place for the use of all specialist facilities. Academic staff and technicians who run these spaces will lead on protocols for safe working, including risk assessments and setting maximum group sizes.

Masks and gloves

All staff and students invited back to campus will be given a supply of masks and gloves for their use if they wish to wear it at other times, such as travelling to and from University. If social distancing is not possible and classes are considered essential, such as in labs and workshops, masks and gloves will be provided in line with protocols and risk assessments only if signed off by the specialist staff that work in these areas.

Will student support services be available on campus during the re-opening?

There will be no student-facing services or access to physical libraries or social learning spaces as part of this restricted re-opening. All student-facing support (including library) will remain online to minimise the numbers of staff needed and ensure our Estates team can manage effective social distancing in communal areas.

For students who deferred online learning to Semester 3, learning will remain online and students will be timetabled to access computers in groups of no more than 15.

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 will ensure that second and final-year BCU students receive a clear and fair judgement on the marks they receive and their overall qualification for this academic year and apply the ‘no detriment’ rule. This means that each student’s average results from semester 1 and the average for the whole year will be looked at, and the higher score will count.

Will I still graduate this year?

We are giving priority to final-year students to enable them to achieve their degree outcomes and to graduate on time. Graduation certificates will be sent to all students who have completed their course in the summer.

Once students have completed all the requirements to be eligible to graduate, they will receive an email confirming how to access details of their award.

The University has taken the decision to postpone graduation ceremonies originally scheduled for July 2020. Students will received an email update on Monday 1 June outlining alternative celebrations, including rearranged in-person ceremonies and virtual events in August 2020.

I deferred Semester 2 learning and assessments to Semester 3 – when will I graduate?

Tutors will support you to complete everything you need for your degree as quickly as possible but this might not be in line with the timescales that enable you to have formally completed before a virtual graduation celebration in August. We still make sure you graduate and receive your certificate as soon as possible. We will invite you to a formal graduation celebration within a year of your degree completion date, as long as Government guidance allows.

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?

Students without access to IT resources at home, for example, a working laptop or Wi-Fi connection, were given the option to defer Semester 2 studying to Semester 3 when the University opens on a restricted basis. If you require more support, please contact your School Office directly. 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. 

What support is there for me as a postgraduate research student?

Professional services and academic staff who form the Doctoral Research College (DRC) are now all working remotely and will continue to support PGR students, their supervisors and PGR leads by email, phone and MS Teams.

Thesis submissions can now be made by email, while Viva-Voce exams are being conducted online. 

Full details of the support for PGR students can be found on iCity.

I am struggling to buy essential items – can the University help me?

We opened a special hardship scheme to support students in exceptional financial hardship on Monday 6 April. We had an overwhelming response to this scheme and it has now closed for new applications. However, if you are still struggling, we may be able to help – please contact the wellbeing team by email sa.wellbeing@bcu.ac.uk.

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 should have received direct communication from your School informing you of how to prepare for home study.

I am a current international student, how can I access lectures, seminars and classes online?

You can access learning materials which may be online lectures or narrated presentations through online learning platforms. Lecturers will adapt sessions as necessary to ensure you continue to receive high standards of learning.

Should I be attending classes online?

Yes, whist classes remain online you will be required to continue to engage with your classes and complete your assignments.

Can I continue to live on campus?

Yes, if you are staying in our hall of residence you should stay there, and we recognise that for many of our students, this is your only home in the UK. You should remain in halls until the Government reviews its measures.

How do I look after myself while studying at home?

Learning from home can be challenging during self-isolation and social distancing. Try and stay active each day and use this opportunity to learn a new interest or simply find time for yourself through meditation and mindfulness.

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 home?

The Government is calling for everyone to stay at home and to avoid all non-essential travel, this includes travelling to their family homes. Students who have already travelled home need to complete a student intention form immediately if they haven’t done so already. All forms to be emails directly to Parmila.murria@bcu.ac.uk.

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 January 2020 and 31 July 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

Who can return to campus during Semester 3?

Only staff and students with an official invite from the University can return to campus. Students with an invitation will receive a personalised timetable from Registry Services which must be adhered to at all times.

If you are returning to campus, please keep your invitation with you at all times to present to our Security staff.

What safety and social distancing measures are being taken for the limited re-opening in Semester 3?

To ensure a safe campus experience when BCU re-opens, the University will be taking the following necessary safety precautions: 

Social distancing

Staff and students will only be able to access our buildings if they have been invited, allowing us to control the number of people on campus, while general teaching spaces in each building will be restricted to enable social distancing at all times. Any lectures which would involve large numbers of students in a room will be moved online and students given access to computer facilities to watch these lectures.

The numbers of staff on campus will also be limited to only those needed to support students in person, such as security and workshop or lab technicians.

Specialist facilities

The University will ensure risk assessments are in place for the use of all specialist facilities. Academic staff and technicians who run these spaces will lead on protocols for safe working, including risk assessments and setting maximum group sizes.

Masks and gloves

All staff and students invited back to campus will be given a supply of masks and gloves for their use if they wish to wear it at other times, such as travelling to and from University. If social distancing is not possible and classes are considered essential, such as in labs and workshops, masks and gloves will be provided in line with protocols and risk assessments only if signed off by the specialist staff that work in these areas.

Should I work remotely?

The vast majority of University staff are now 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. 

Some members of staff will be invited back to campus for the limited re-opening during Semester 3 by their senior management team. Staff without an invitation to return should continue to work from home.

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.