A message regarding our response to COVID-19

In these unprecedented times, our thoughts are with all communities around the world.

Here at Bristol, the health and wellbeing of our students and colleagues is our top priority. 

For some weeks, we have been working intensively with colleagues across the University, and with Public Health England (PHE), the NHS and other partners to plan for all scenarios. This work will help prevent the spread of the virus, support affected staff and students and limit the impact of the outbreak on our academic activities and operations.  

It is for this reason that today, Wednesday 18 March, will be the last day of face to face lectures, tutorials and seminars and the end of teaching for this current term (brought forward from Friday 27 March).  

Importantly, the University is currently not closing, although many of our operations will be substantially reduced. We continue to house and care for students, we continue to research and plan for next term’s teaching, and support our students and staff.  

We expect and hope that term will start again on Monday 20 April 2020, although there is no doubt that the term will feel markedly different. We are transitioning to online teaching and assessment – an enormous challenge and opportunity for many colleagues, but one that I know we will embrace.  

For now, our main library will be repurposed as a study centre with appropriate safety protocols in place to create a safer study space. Some research facilities will remain open. I also want to assure our staff and students that our wellbeing support for staff and students will remain available throughout the extended Easter vacation.  

We are also dedicated to supporting our international staff and students to help resolve any additional concerns they have, and who may feel particularly isolated at this time. 

At the University of Bristol, we are proud to have friends, colleagues, collaborators and alumni all over the world. During these challenging times, it is important that we all pull together. As so many of us work remotely or find ourselves in isolation, let’s make the effort to reach out to each other, to offer support where we can and stay connected.  

This is indeed a very worrying time for us all, but I am confident we can harness our collective ingenuity, resolve and passion to navigate the choppy waters ahead. 

Students and staff can continue to keep updated on the latest developments through our Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage 

Navigating industrial action together

Industrial action represents a challenging situation for all parties concerned. It is not entered lightly on either side of the debate, and staff and student communities and leadership teams up and down the country, including here at Bristol, will be navigating the impacts of the current strike over the coming days.

I have said several times over the previous weeks that I respect the right of my colleagues to act where they feel they have no other option to protect their current and future interests. This is an important right and one I stand by; our sector is experiencing a range of significant pressures and changes, and many of these are felt strongly and directly by our workforce, who are vital to our success as individual institutions and to the quality of higher education we provide nationally.

I am proud of the continuing hard-work and commitment of my colleagues as we develop our teaching, research and civic influence together at Bristol. As we are together in the successes, so we are in the challenging period we currently find ourselves in.

I have spent parts of this week speaking to colleagues on the UCU picket line. Many of these colleagues I know from their excellent work in our teaching, research and student support activities and the professional services which underpin them. I value the honest conversations we have had and will continue to consider the opinions and challenges being expressed. I will feed these back to my team and to the negotiating table and look for ways to support the ongoing discussions.

One of my priorities is of course protecting the education of our students. I’m very aware of the uncertainty these situations can create, both for our young people and for their parents. We have introduced a range of measures, re-directed resources and bolstered key services to support our students during this period, both in terms of their academic studies and for their wellbeing.

I’m also aware that with the absence of some colleagues, our remaining staff are carrying on with their work as usual, working hard to keep the activities in our faculties, schools and professional and support services on track. We are all grateful for your support.

We will continue to navigate the uncertainty together in the coming weeks as best we can, continuing constructive dialogue with UCU and working hard to minimise the impact of the strikes on our community.