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A message from the Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sally Mapstone FRSE

Dear Alumni, Parents, and Friends,

I have today written to students and staff to update them on plans for our new academic year in September, and to provide detail on the ways in which we will resume teaching and research in St Andrews.

Yesterday, Scotland’s First Minister confirmed that the country is now in the second phase of its four-phase plan to exit lockdown. This allows us to begin preparing for a phased physical re-opening over the summer, and to move ahead with re-starting key areas of our global research portfolio.

I now want to share with you our vision and plans for St Andrews in September.

Our headline decisions are:

  • We will begin our new academic year on 14 September 2020. Orientation Week begins on 7 September, and our Halls of Residence will be ready to welcome students from 24 August.
  • Teaching at St Andrews next semester will be a blend of traditional, in-person classes, pre-recorded content and live, interactive online provision. Wherever possible, we will default to traditional in-person teaching with remote delivery as back-up support for those students who require it. Larger classes, typically those in lecture format, will be delivered only online while public health restrictions remain in place. All our in-person classes will take place under physical distancing regimens. All our online classes will be recorded so that students can access them later if desired.
  • We are calling this blended approach to teaching in St Andrews “dual mode delivery.” We will provide teaching this way only for as long as is necessary, and as a stepping stone towards a comprehensive return to the traditional approaches to learning and teaching for which St Andrews is renowned. All students can expect the same high level of teaching quality, academic attention, and support, whether online or in person.
  • Current students or new entrants to St Andrews will be contacted in August with links to detailed information about how we will implement dual mode delivery in their chosen modules.
  • All students who are able to travel safely should plan to be with us in St Andrews for the start of the semester. We will of course make arrangements to provide tuition online if students are unable to get here for the start of term, but we strongly recommend they come to St Andrews if they can. Being here in person means they will be best placed to benefit from an optimal learning environment as Scotland completes the final phases of its exit from lockdown.
  • Safety informs everything. We will provide safe, fully risk-assessed, living, studying and working conditions in St Andrews, and all the tools and facilities people need to stay safe, founded on clear public health guidance. We will provide students and staff with face-coverings, and over the summer we will re-purpose our buildings to support physical distancing. Detailed guidance for staff on the safe use of our buildings will be published shortly.
  • Our Halls of Residence will be open as normal. All students will have their own rooms. For any hall resident who may need to quarantine on arrival in the UK, if that requirement is still in place, we will provide their accommodation free of charge for the quarantine period, from 24 August.
  • We are taking steps now to bring key staff back on site, to re-open labs where possible, and to re-start our research. The First Minister has confirmed that essential staff can return to work on site from 22 June to prepare for universities and colleges re-opening, and that labs and research facilities can resume work from 29 June. We expect to move into phases 3 and 4 of the Scottish Government’s route-map over the next two months and as that happens we will be asking key staff to come into work in St Andrews to support our gradual re-opening.
  • We will manage the numbers of people in our community at any one time, particularly after the semester starts. Many of our staff who are not directly involved in teaching or research will be asked to continue to work remotely, and on site only when absolutely necessary. This is to minimise any risk to our students in town, and the staff who will be carrying out small-group teaching and research, and those supporting them.
  • Our teaching staff will be expected to provide small-group teaching on site under physical distancing regimens, and we will increase the amount of in-person teaching we provide as the easing of restrictions permits.
  • We will provide comprehensive support to our students. They will be looked after by our Student Services team, and our Student Health Hub in St Andrews will ensure they have speedy access to high-quality healthcare and support. If they are living in our Halls, we will ensure their environment is safe, and common areas are regularly cleaned and disinfected.
  • Our student leaders and the St Andrews Students’ Association are working hard behind the scenes to bring students some unique and creative events and activities that can be enjoyed both from home, and in St Andrews come September – from a new take on Freshers’ Week, to socially-distanced society events, to online showcases for student talent, every part of the student experience will be adapted to make it as safe as possible, without compromising on quality. The Students’ Association is independent of the University and works to represent and support all students. Whether you’re in St Andrews or anywhere else, you can reach out to union@st-andrews.ac.uk if you have questions about the Association’s busy calendar of activities for the new semester, or an issue you want raised at a university, local or national level.

Our planning is founded on a vision of St Andrews as safe, supportive and Scottish, where people come first.

Scotland has taken a particularly cautious approach to managing the Covid crisis, and the aim of the Scottish Government is to get as close as possible to eradicating the virus over the summer, to support a comprehensive re-opening of society as soon as public health guidance allows.

We will be in lock-step with the Scottish Government’s programme for exiting lockdown. The Government’s prudent approach to managing risk, and the steady progress that Scotland has made in suppressing Covid in recent weeks, give us grounds to be optimistic that our University will be able to return to a much more familiar pattern of life in the coming academic year.

Sally Mapstone
Principal and Vice-Chancellor

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