Local democracy during coronavirus

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Agenda item

Update on Return of Universities

This report considers the challenges and work being undertaken regarding the return to Universities in York for students in response to COVID-19.



The Committee were joined by officers and Professor Charlie Jeffery the Vice Chancellor of York University.


It was outlined that York’s higher education sector had planned for the full return of students and had carried out this planning by working with partners including City of York Council and York’s Public Health officials. It was noted that a sub group of the Outbreak Management Board had been set up to look at higher education and this group had undertaken various scenario planning in preparation.


The work undertaken to prepare was noted including actions having been taken such as the move of a lot of fresher’s week online, a specific bus service for the University had been agreed with Frist and students had been advised to use this service and no other buses. It was also noted that socially distanced events had been set up on campus to lessen the number of students using bars in the city centre. Support provided to students having to isolate was also noted.


Access to testing was discussed for students and staff and it was noted that home kits had been acquired for York’s institutions and a walk in testing centre had been set up on the University of York’s campus, discussion took place regarding the location in relation to St John’s University and while it was agreed as not being ideal the site was within a 35 minute walk which was better than the access to the drive in centre at Poppleton Bar. Members enquired about the use of the University Labs for testing and it was highlighted that work had been undertaken with regional partners and the NHS around this and it was incumbent on logistical organisation and Central Government support that would allow the University to deliver some testing for COVID-19.


International students were discussed and it was highlighted that all international students would have to undertake 2 weeks of self-isolation and were collected from airports in chartered transport, once, they would also receive 2 weeks of free accommodation alongside support to be able to isolate.


Online teaching was considered and how York’s higher education institutions had adapted to the challenges of teaching either virtually or in a mixed environment. Members enquired as to whether more tutors and lecturers had been hired to facilitate online teaching, whether there were more opportunities for online learning if students didn’t travel to York, and whether fees were still justified with the changes to how teaching had changed. It was confirmed that the Universities had not expanded their recruitment but had planned and prepared since the start of the pandemic and had worked closely with teaching unions to be able to start the academic year. Changes to fees were not advised by Professor Jeffery due to the changes as University fees were not set by contact teaching time. It was also noted that additional access to teaching online from students homes had been made available for those still unable to travel to York, however, the University did intend for students not on a distance learning course to be able to learn from York once any transport issues were resolved.




                      i.         The update was noted.

                     ii.         That members of the Committee consider any KPI information they would wish to be presented regarding COVID-19 at future meetings.


Reason:     To ensure that Members were aware of the current

situation relating to Covid-19 and York’s higher education sector.





Supporting documents:


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