Ensuring students stay safe and well during the pandemic

09 December 2021
Posted by Dr Mark Cunnington

Ensuring students stay safe and well during the pandemic

Our top priority is always the health, safety and welfare of our students, and this has been particularly true during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To ensure students felt comfortable studying with us during the pandemic, we worked early on with our university partners and public health authorities to put several measures in place to create the safest possible environment. These included all the things one would expect - encouraging the wearing of face coverings around our buildings, providing hand sanitisers and reminding our students about their own personal hygiene including the regular washing of hands. We also introduced enhanced regular cleaning and sterilising regimes in our Centres, managed the flow of people around our buildings with one-way systems and signage, and ensured appropriate social distancing measures, including limiting class sizes where necessary.

In such a challenging and rapidly changing environment, communication is key. We issued regular updates on travel and domestic COVID-19 restrictions, ensuring that students always had accurate and up-to-date advice and guidance in an often rapidly changing situation. In addition, our UK-based students took part in mandatory COVID-19 health and safety awareness sessions and received a guide, Return to Campus Essential Health & Safety, which provided them with information on how to stay safe both at campus and more generally while in the UK.

As students' home countries experienced various lockdown measures, we also recognised that student safety and wellbeing during the pandemic was more than just a case of providing accurate and timely information, guidance, and support about COVID-19 itself.

To help students studying during lockdown, we promoted the best strategies for studying online or at home. We explained to them that with the flexibility of online learning comes responsibility, that online study takes a real commitment and discipline, and students needed to set limits, goals, and rewards for themselves. We regularly shared tips and advice to help students succeed while studying for their courses online. Our guidance covered areas such as how to avoid distractions and get enough sleep and exercise, as well as how to “put your hand up” if more help was needed from tutors or Centre staff. Other advice included signposting to mental health and other support websites, home cooking, shopping, and healthy eating tips, how best to create and maintain a good environment with housemates.

With some easing of COVID-19 restrictions, naturally, students were able to participate in more activities, particularly outdoors and when meeting friends and fellow students. But we recognised that getting back into an active social life might be difficult for some people. So, we asked students to pace themselves and not feel they had to go out and about. We asked them to take time to adjust to the ‘new normal’ and remember that there may still be social distancing and other restrictions in shops and on campus. With northern-hemisphere winter nights drawing in, we also reminded students to plan ahead, and think about how to get home safely if having a night out.

There’s no right or wrong way to socialise at the best of times, and certainly no ‘rule book’ for how we should all behave during and after the pandemic. The situation is new for all of us. Above all, we are helping students stay safe and secure during their time with us. We’re committed to working with every student to fulfil their higher education goals while living and studying in a safe and secure environment. We’re confident that we can ensure students maintain their progress towards undergraduate and postgraduate study and that their longer-term educational and career ambitions remain on track during these challenging times for us all.

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