Letter from Vice-Chancellor
(27th August, 2020)
It’s been a busy few weeks since I last wrote to you. A lot has been happening across the University and our sector as a whole which has kept us occupied on top of all the planning that continues as we get ever closer to the start of the new academic year.
I’d like to thank you all again for your continued hard work in extraordinary circumstances.
My updates seem to be getting longer each time I write, but as our plans come to fruition there is a lot of important information to share with you.
Clearing and Welcome/welcome back
More staff than ever from across the professional services and academic schools volunteered their time this year to help us respond to hundreds of queries at our socially distanced Clearing Call Centre in Commons. Because of the changes to grades announced by the Government, the picture was even more complicated than ever. Although the situation does change every day, and despite all these issues, two weeks after results were published the net position is that we have gained over 40 more undergraduate students across our courses.
Can I say a heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed to this collective effort in large and small ways, it really made a difference to applicants who liked what they heard and were able to choose Bath Spa with confidence.
We are already in the process of welcoming these and all new students and welcoming back returning students. We have an excellent ‘Welcome’ section on the University website which gives our students a wealth of information about what they can expect when they arrive/return in September.
More information will be added to this over the coming weeks, so please refer to it should you get questions from students. We have also recently updated the COVID-19 advice and FAQs on the University website and these will also be added to over the next few weeks.
We are conscious of the need to encourage our students and staff alike to behave respectfully towards one another and this is amplified for those of us who will be returning to work and study on campus. To ensure we can protect our health and safety and the health and safety of others, we are asking everyone to commit to the Bath Spa Community Pledge. We hope the Pledge reinforces the core values of our University and reminds us all of our responsibilities to be good and respectful citizens.
Health and Safety
All staff will soon be invited to complete a health and safety e-learning module, whether you will be required to work on campus or not. Details will be made available shortly.
We have also decided that staff members who are required to work on campus to fulfil their role will be provided with a face visor which you can wear in any setting. We believe visors will be better at allowing face-to-face communication while offering more comfortable protection than other types of face covering. You can order your individual visor via Central Services and it will come with instructions for use and cleaning.
There are three key things we are asking all students and staff to do:
Keep your distance
Please maintain social distancing both inside and outside on campus. Observe the signs and one-way systems in buildings.
Wear a face covering
We require you to wear a face covering when you are inside buildings on campus, unless you are unable to because of a medical condition, disability or trauma.
Clean your hands
Please wash your hands regularly and make use of the new hand sanitiser stations at the entrances and inside buildings on campus.
All First Bus services will be running at around 50% capacity to maintain social distancing and they have adapted their service to keep customers safe and have information on this if you wanted to read further on their website. With the latest version of the First Bus App you can now track your bus live on a map and it also displays how many seats are available on each bus. They also have introduced a new tool called Space Checker, which is to help you plan ahead and allows you to see when your local bus stop and service is typically at its busiest and choose a quieter time to travel. The U5 fleet of buses will also be replaced this year with much newer buses.
We have been working closely with First Bus to agree a schedule for the upcoming academic year and we will share this with staff and students as soon as it is available on the First Bus website. We can confirm at this stage that there will be one Bath Spa University service (U5) running on a slightly different route to include the City Centre and the Lower Bristol Road where Locksbrook campus and many halls of residence can be accessed. By moving to a single route rather than operating two routes, the service frequency will be increased to a bus in each direction every 10 minutes on weekdays. This will reduce the waiting times at bus stops where social distancing will be difficult and reduce the risk on long waits for students unable to get on a bus operating at 50% capacity. This change is due to the pandemic and will be revisited throughout the year.
There will be an additional Bus Stop at Twerton Mill, enabling students and staff to get on there and proceed directly to Newton Park. The current bus stop will remain allowing for travel from Twerton Mill into the city centre.
If you usually catch the bus from the Upper Bristol Road / Newbridge Road, you will need to catch the X39 and change at the Globe or walk to the Lower Bristol Road and get on the bus there. For Sion Hill, First Bus advise catching the Lansdown Park and Ride service from Milsom Street in the city centre which drops you at the entrance to Sion Road. Bath Zone student tickets are valid on this service.
Inter-site shuttles buses between our campuses will not be running this academic year. Social distancing requirements mean these buses can only carry a small number of people and also do not conform to the new clean air regulations in Bath. I know that some students will be unhappy about this, but work is being undertaken to reduce the need to travel between campuses and our blended delivery approach will mean that students are required to be on campus less. The Culverhay campus will no longer be operating.
While we understand there may be concerns regarding the capacity of the buses, we want to reassure all staff that we envisage the demand on the buses to be significantly reduced in the next academic year with many professional services staff working from home and the requirement for students to be on campus to be much less, and the improved frequency should reduce waiting times at bus stops.
We are conscious that because of the limitations to public transport during lockdown a greater number of people will feel that they need to park on campus. However, as you know, parking capacity is limited, so you will need to consider your options, including use of public transport carefully. If you are currently working on campus or need to most days, the best parking permit choice will continue to be a Net Pay Permit. If you are planning to only come to campus occasionally the best parking permit choice would be a Validation Permit. If you are not planning to return to campus until Semester 2 you will not need to apply for a parking permit at this time. You can order your permit by registering your vehicle here. Permits will be needed from 1 October 2020. There will be no parking charges throughout September. More information about how to apply for a disabled or temporary permit is available on Sulis.
Move In Weekend
This year students living in University accommodation have been invited to move in over four days: Thursday 17 September to Sunday 20 September. Although Registration is taking place online this year, we still need friendly faces on campus to signpost and answer any potential questions or queries from parents, supporters and our new students.
We are looking for volunteers from across the University to help on campus on these four days to welcome the students, their parents and supporters. We want to make sure students settle into university life and have a friendly first impression of Bath Spa. You will need to be available for a full day, and lunch will be provided. All the necessary health and safety measures will be in place and staff will be entitled to claim time off in lieu or (where eligible) overtime at the appropriate rates. If you would like to volunteer, please add your name to this spreadsheet.
Minerva will be upgraded on Saturday 29 August to the new Blackboard Learn Ultra Experience. This new way of navigating Minerva has a sleek, modern look and feel and will save you time with simpler workflows and easier access to important information. As a result, Minerva will not be available on Saturday while we make these improvements.
Please remember to book onto a training session to help familiarise yourself with the updates. The sessions, titled Blackboard Ultra - What you need to know! are part of our suite of Virtual University workshops and can be booked through this form.
For those of us who have been working from home and will soon be transitioning back to working on campus this may feel strange and challenging, so it’s important that we continue to support one another. This could be via virtual coffee mornings or lunch, or it might be meeting in person on campus in a safe and socially distanced way in the lead up to the start of term.
I know this academic year will be different and we and our students will need to adjust to our new normal. I also know that we will do that. The resilience you have all shown in the face of this pandemic and the resulting consequences is extraordinary. Never has the Bath Spa community been so strong in the face of the uncertain and I am confident that this spirit will carry on through this academic year.
Professor Sue Rigby
Bath Spa University