By Tirion Davies
Following the March 16 announcement made by Cardiff University Vice-Chancellor Colin Riordan that the university would implement remote learning, much uncertainty has remained regarding the next few years of learning.
In May, Cardiff University announced its plans to reopen the university gradually, whilst remaining vigilant of guidelines put in place by the Welsh Government.
On August 3, Cardiff University Pro Vice-Chancellor Claire Morgan announced to students that updates had been made to the university’s guidelines ahead of students returning to campus in September.
The announcement comes following a decrease in the number of COVID-19-related deaths in Wales. The BBC recently reported that the seven deaths involving COVID-19 registered in Wales in the week ending 24 July, made up just 1.2% of all registered deaths for the same period across the United Kingdom.
Although Cardiff remains the county in Wales with the highest number of deaths, statistics from Public Health Wales have shown that the rate has dramatically slowed down following the cautious easing of lockdown by the Welsh Government.
It means that, for now, students will be able to return to Cardiff for the academic year. However, a significant number of changes will be made to the way Cardiff University will operate, in order to maintain social distancing and ensure the safety of its students.
What kind of changes are being made to the campus?
Staying safe on campus
Although Government guidance is changing from week to week based on statistics, Cardiff University has decided the two-metre social distancing requirement will be maintained on campus until at least January 2021.
University buildings will now have signposted one-way routes, additional handwashing facilities, and high touching points such as door handles will be cleaned regularly.
Students, staff, and visitors will be required to wear face coverings whilst in university buildings. Academics will be able to remove the face coverings whilst they are teaching, in order to ensure they are understood.
The majority of non-teaching staff will continue to work remotely, in order to reduce the number of people on campus.
A notification system will soon be implemented, where students and staff are able to report any Coronavirus-like symptoms. All students have full access to the NHS and will be treated for Coronavirus if necessary.
Changes to learning
A new digital orientation, enrolment, and induction process will begin in September, with new students able to gain support from a senior student in your academic School, as the mentor scheme continues.
All courses will have some face-to-face teaching available, but how much will depend on factors such as Welsh Government guidelines and your programme of study; and of course, these changes will be monitored based on the change in the number of cases throughout the year.
Large lectures will not take place on campus, although face-to-face teachings in smaller groups will take place, provided that social distancing measures are met. High-quality online teaching has been promised to students in events where it is not possible to have face-to-face teaching.
Study spaces in libraries will be available to book with two-hour slots, and a ‘click and collect’ service will be implemented for those collecting and returning books.
Cardiff University has also ensured a ‘reasonable adjustment process’ to ensure students who are unable to return to campus because of shielding, self-isolation, or travel restrictions, are still able to access digital content.
Cardiff University student accommodation will be open, and the university is currently in talks with the Halls of Residences Team to put social distancing measures in place where necessary.
It means students will be required to maintain social distancing rules with students they do not live with.
Students will not, however, be asked to arrive early for quarantine, and therefore will not be required to pay for additional accommodation. If quarantine is necessary, measures have been put in place to ensure students are able to quarantine in their rooms and join studies remotely.
Currently, plans are in place to reopen cafes and restaurants with additional safety measures. Some of these measures include enhanced cleaning, social distancing, queue management, longer opening times, installation of Perspex screens, and reduced seating capacity. Food will also be required, where possible, to be pre-packaged.
Student societies will be supported and will have the opportunity to organise small, socially distanced gatherings in the Students Union.
During Freshers’ Week, a social programme will include daytime and evening events which will likely be extended over the first few weeks of term in order to accommodate the limited capacity in the Students’ Union.
The Students’ Union will operate on a 24/7 basis during the first term, with some restrictions in place for enhanced cleaning.
Traditional graduation ceremonies will resume in Summer 2021, given health regulations ease and it is possible to do so.
Although the campus will be different from what many are used to, it is of utmost importance that students remain safe during this period, whilst continuing to receive a high-quality education.