Here, you will find all the latest updates regarding COVID-19 from QMU.

27 March 2020

I know from Twitter that the national applause for NHS workers was audible on campus last night, which is great to hear. I think that all who joined in or heard the applause, wherever they were, will have found it an emotional and uplifting experience. With Health Sciences being such a significant part of QMU’s teaching and research work, I am sure that the applause had a particularly strong impact on many of you.

Our Sports Centre colleagues are working to keep our spirits raised too, with the introduction of the QMU Sports MyWellness App, which is free to use. It provides daily home workouts and fitness tracking tools. To access all you need to do is: (1) go to www.mywellness.com/qmusports and create a new account; (2) download the mywellness app from your app store and log into the app with the credentials you created at (1). Our Sports team will be adding further features to the App over the next week, including the ability to contact the Sports staff to assist you with tailoring your programme and to provide you with fitness advice.

Still focused on wellbeing, you might like to take a look at the latest issues of Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership’s Thrive newsletter, which is dedicated to advice on looking after your mental health and wellbeing in the current situation.

For students specifically:

  • We know that, quite understandably, there is concern among some of you as to how the current challenging circumstances will be taken into account when your academic work is considered by exam boards. The University appreciates that this is an anxious period for students, and we can reassure all students that our regulations for the operation of Boards of Examiners, and our assessment regulations, do allow Boards of Examiners to exercise discretion in coming to a decision on student progression and awards where circumstances, such as the current ones, make it appropriate to do so. Evidence considered by the Boards will include reports from staff on special circumstances affecting student performance.
  • Thinking particularly of students in the halls of residence, please do continue to adhere to the Government’s social distancing guidance, tough though this is. This is to protect your own health as well as that of others.

For staff specifically:

  • Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021: You might find it helpful to know that the UK REF Team have published an update on their website in relation to contingency planning for coronavirus for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 here. Recognising that institutions are required to divert staff resource to other critical areas, including those working in clinical and health-related fields, they have reassured institutions that such activities should be prioritised without concern for the effect on REF preparations and have put the exercise on hold until further notice to enable this. The submission deadline on 27 November 2020 will no longer apply, and a new submission deadline will be announced no later than eight months prior to the deadline. The UK higher education funding bodies recognise the significant effort that has been invested so far by institutions in preparations for the current REF cycle and in view of this the REF staff census date (31 July 2020) remains unchanged.
  • Following this recent guidance we are pausing some of our internal REF activities and rescheduling others which were due to take place over the forthcoming months. This includes extending the REF 2021 appeals deadline to 27th April 2020 for decisions on the identification of staff with significant responsibility for research. A review of the REF institutional timetable will take place in line with the recent guidance published. As this is a constantly evolving situation, we will continue to monitor and take necessary actions in line with government advice, keeping staff fully briefed as soon as external guidance is received. QMU will also remain engaged with the UK higher education funding bodies in the coming weeks to gather further information as the situation develops.

If staff do have enquiries or concerns regarding the REF 2021 Project and these recent developments, please contact REF2021Project@qmu.ac.uk.

Reminder of campus building closures

I will take this opportunity to remind you that there is no access to the main academic building, and that this applies to both staff (excluding essential security staff) and students. There is no access to the Sports/Students’ Union building either, with the exception of the pop-up shop supplying essential supplies to students living on campus, which is open for two hours daily on Monday to Friday from 12 to 2pm.

QMU Podcast

With the support of QMU graduate and SU trustee, Keith Easton, we have launched a podcast, to help the QMU community feel connected in our current situation. The first episode went live today, featuring our Principal, Sir Paul Grice. The podcast is available now on Spotify, Deezer and Podchaser, and will be available shortly on other platforms, such as Apple Podcasts. You can also listen on Spreaker.

Next update

We plan to update you again on Monday after the (online) meeting of the Business Continuity Group that day, unless something significant changes, in which case we will update you earlier.

 

25 March 2020

It might be hasty to say so, but we seem to be starting to settle into the ‘new normal’, though we very much appreciate how difficult things are for so many of you.

For students

You will have seen the message on Moderator today emphasising that all of our Student Services remain open to you (online), and reminding and updating you on how to access these services. Students should not hesitate to contact Student Services for support, signposting and guidance. Appointment guidance and information can be found on Student Central.

While we appreciate how very hard it is, we urge you, particularly those of you living in residences, to adhere to the Government’s social distancing guidance. This is to protect your own health as well as that of others. We summarised this guidance in yesterday’s update.

For staff

You might like to access a one hour ‘Working Successfully from Home’ training session that is delivered online via Zoom by our training partners, Positive People. The session is presented by David Longstaff, who has delivered the Ease the Load session to staff in the past. The session will be most useful to those that are unfamiliar with working from home. You can sign up for a session here. Just enter your details at the link and add PREPAIDQMU in the coupon code box. There are a number of dates available and more will be added. Please access Zoom via your browser rather than through the Horizon desktop in order for voice and video to work. The session content includes: the value of daily routines; dealing with distractions; juggling work and children; focusing on priorities; getting exercise; knowing when to stop work; overcoming guilt.

Given the current situation, you might be particularly interested in information from the QAA on technology-enhanced learning which you can find here. Based on the QAA’s Focus On: Technology Enhanced Learning project, that link features curated resources and guidance in related areas (eg a toolkit for online learners and tutors). There will be an online event on the project (in place of the original face to face sharing practice session) on 1 April – details are on the QAA website.

For everyone

The Senior Leadership Team continues to be deeply impressed at how you are all adjusting to our current circumstances. So many of you, both students and staff, find yourselves managing a tricky balance of work and caring responsibilities, have had to adopt unconventional working hours, have issues with wi-fi and other home tech, and have other coronavirus-related worries and tasks to handle. Given this, none of us can expect instant answers to emails etc, and the Senior Management Team know you will continue to be kind and tolerant of one another when you don’t receive the response you would like from others in the timescale you would like.

Next update

We plan to update you again on Friday, after the (online) meeting of the Business Continuity Group that day, unless something significant changes, in which case we will update you earlier.

24 March 2020

24 March 2020: supplementary update

Information sent to students in Halls of Residence

We are acutely aware that some students are facing real financial challenges arising from COVID-19 and we want to do everything we can to support them.  Our Senior Leadership Team has been thinking very carefully about how best to support students facing such financial difficulties, and to do so fairly based on need.  They have benefitted from strong, constructive and effective representation of student views by the Students’ Union.

As one of the outcomes of these deliberations, we are offering all residents in the halls of residence the option to terminate their contracts with 28 days’ notice.  Residents are receiving full details of this by email.

Our halls of residence will remain open for those who wish to stay, and we will continue to offer support services to those residents through RES:LIFE, our security team and also a pop up shop. We anticipate that we be able to provide accommodation for any students who wish to stay beyond their current occupancy end date, and may be able to assist students whose private rental accommodation is coming to an end and would like to move into our halls of residence (for further information contact  accommodation@qmu.ac.uk).

In parallel with this, we will be arranging a significant increase in our international hardship funds in addition to increasing the existing discretionary funds for UK students. We invite students in need to apply for such funding. One benefit of this approach is that it can encompass students in private rented accommodation, as well as those living on campus. If you are facing financial hardship and are finding difficulty with living costs then please contact the Student Funding Adviser at studentfunding@qmu.ac.uk

Furthermore, we will be sympathetic to requests from students who are experiencing financial hardship to extend their university accommodation payment terms, so that they can pay their outstanding balance over a longer period of time than originally planned.  Students who are experiencing hardship and in need of such payment extension should contact creditcontroller@qmu.ac.uk

24 March 2020

The latest instructions from Government

You will be aware from announcements last night by the British Prime Minister and the Scottish First Minister that the United Kingdom is from today in a state of effective lockdown to arrest the spread of COVID-19.

As you will appreciate, this is no longer a matter of advice or guidance – it is a direct instruction from our governments to everyone in this country and will be enforceable by the public authorities, including the police. In any case, we are confident that you will want to comply, to support our collective effort to limit the threat we face.

The only reasons you should now leave your home (or flat in student accommodation) are as follows:

  •  Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible;
  • One form of exercise a day - for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household;
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person;
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home;
  • Public gatherings of any more than two people are no longer permitted, unless they are members of your own family.

 

Further restrictions on campus

As a result of the new instructions from Government, we will be closing the main academic building completely, including the LRC.

Acutely conscious of our duty of care to students living on campus, we will still have security staff in place, of course. They can be contacted on 0131 474 0000 and extension 2222. Students living on campus can also reach them via the intercom points across campus (eg at the entrance to the main academic building and accommodation).

Working remotely, our RES:LIFE team will continue to support students living on campus, working in partnership with the Student Services team and the Students’ Union.

We will continue to offer a pop-up shop for students living on campus, providing essential provisions. Except for access to the pop-up shop, the Sports/Students’ Union building will be closed.

Beyond essential Campus Services (security) staff, no staff are permitted on campus. All non-essential cleaning and maintenance will be suspended, and the Finance Office will remain closed (although still available via e-mail at FinanceOffice@qmu.ac.uk ).

We expect to complete the actions above by 5pm today.

It is anticipated that this period of lockdown will last for three weeks. Thank you for your patience, cooperation and understanding during this very difficult time.

 

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing

I will take this opportunity to remind you that our FAQs now include various helpful sources of information, and these are reproduced below:

Coronavirus and your wellbeing - Mind
What do to if you're anxious about coronavirus
Mental Health Considerations during COVID-19 outbreak

These resources supplement the University resources available to students through QMU’s Student Services and staff through the HR team (including our Employee Assistance Programme). Our Wellbeing service also has a webpage with useful resources. 

Tomorrow, Wednesday, the Students’ Union sabbatical offers will be running an online pop-up SU event.

They will be available to chat over anything that would be helpful for you in these unprecedented times. You can join via this link on Wednesday 25th March at 14.15.

(They will also have a Facebook event.)

 

Supporting students in financial need – reminder and additional information

In my message of 22 March, I set out how our Senior Leadership Team has been thinking very carefully about how best to support students facing financial difficulties arising out of the current situation, and how to do so fairly based on need. I explained how we will be arranging for a significant increase in our international hardship funds in addition to the existing discretionary funds for UK students. We invite students in need to apply for such funding. If you are facing financial hardship then please contact the Student Funding Adviser at studentfunding@qmu.ac.uk. The Student Funding Adviser can provide you with advice as well as guidance on how to apply for our hardship and discretionary funds.

In addition to this, we will be sympathetic to requests from students who are experiencing financial hardship and who wish to extend their tuition fee or accommodation payment terms, so that they can pay their outstanding balance over a longer period of time than originally planned. Students who are experiencing hardship and in need of such payment extensions should contact creditcontroller@qmu.ac.uk.

My sincere thanks again for your support and cooperation during this situation, and for looking out for one another.

 

23 March 2020

Social distance guidance reinforced by Government

As you will know, in the last 24 hours both the UK and Scottish Government have emphasised the importance of adhering to the guidance on social distancing. In particular, we are all asked to follow the guidance when out enjoying the fresh air, avoiding busy areas and keeping two metres apart from others.

Community spirit

We know that many of you, both students and staff, are doing a great deal to help others facing particular challenges at this time. We are not surprised at this, as we know that so many of you were attracted to join QMU because our focus on serving the community and social justice resonates with your own worldview. If you would like to give a shout out to a member of the University community who is helping others, please do contact our communications team at PressOffice@qmu.ac.uk. The communications team would also love to hear how you are keeping your spirits up while studying or working at home, if you would be happy for them to share your story with others on our social media channels.

You might be interested to know that we are in discussions with the NHS about the possibility of our healthcare staff volunteering in the health service.

Thank you very much indeed to all the staff who contributed to the success of Saturday’s online visit days, for example speedily converting materials for online use (the original plan having been for a face to face event), at a time when you have also been dealing with so much other coronavirus related work and complications in your personal lives.

More on self-isolation

Please remember that you need to tell the University if you are self-isolating. Staff should report their absence to their line manager and the Head of Human Resources (asmith2@qmu.ac.uk) advising whether you are signing off sick or working from home. HR colleagues have published a document on the intranet setting various self-isolation scenarios. Students should complete the normal absence form within the Student Portal.

IT resources for students

Students might like to note that the IT team are providing online training sessions on Collaborate. Further details are available on the Hub. Additionally, Adobe Create Cloud is now available on temporary basis to support remote working and study. You can find information on this in the Moderator message issued by the IT team today. We hope this is helpful.

Next update

Our next planned update will be on Wednesday, after the (online) meeting of the Business Continuity Group that day, unless something significant changes, in which case we will update you earlier.

Malcolm G. Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

22 March 2020

We hope that you are managing to enjoy your weekend as much as possible – beautifully sunny in Edinburgh - despite the increased limitations on your social interactions and the uncertainties that arise from the current situation. The Business Continuity Group met again (virtually) this morning (Sunday).  Please see below for developments affecting QMU since Friday.

Further restrictions on campus access

In response to the tightening up of social distancing advice from Government on Friday, we are now closing off group seating spaces in the atrium, and the group study rooms in the LRC. While the main LRC remains open to students – with social distancing measures in place – we encourage you to consider whether you can access the resources you need online rather than visiting the LRC in person. We will continue to offer a limited space in the LRC for members of staff who, exceptionally, are unable to work from home due to local technology limitations, but to use this space you or your line manager need the authorisation of a Senior Leadership Team member.

As you might know from our social media posts, we have now closed our sports facilities on campus, and service at Maggie’s is restricted to takeaway only. This follows the Government telling cafes, pubs and restaurants to close, based on updated scientific advice. We are really sorry about this but are sure that you will understand this move to protect public health.

If you are a student living on campus, please try to minimise meeting in groups, and, if you feel you must gather, please remember to follow the advice on social distancing. We suggest that you don’t meet in groups any larger than around five or six people at the most. I am sure that many of you are experimenting with virtual social gatherings using various apps.

Progress on online assessments

As you will know from previous messages, staff are working at pace to prepare online assessments to replace those assessments that are normally conducted face to face. Details of your assessments will be published on the Hub as soon as possible. In the meantime, it would help enormously if you could please avoid asking your lecturers about progress on this, as they are so busy working on preparing the assessments and other coronavirus-related work. 

Unless you hear otherwise via the Hub, or directly from your module co-ordinator, please assume that you will be asked complete all the assessments that are an intrinsic part of the learning outcomes of your modules, albeit some of those assessments will necessarily be in a modified form. We are taking this approach because we take our commitment to your learning seriously. The process of preparing for assessments, undertaking assessments and the feedback you receive afterwards are all fundamental aspects of that learning.  However, recognising the disruption you have faced over recent days, and as you will be aware from previous updates, all undergraduate or postgraduate coursework due on or before 3rd April, and all undergraduate dissertations (regardless of their deadline) has had a one week extension applied to their existing deadlines (see 20th March update for full details).

Supporting students in financial need

We know that some students are facing real financial challenges in these extremely difficult times and we are keen to support those of you in this situation. 

Our Senior Leadership Team has been thinking very carefully about how best to support students facing financial difficulties, and to do so fairly based on need. As a result, we will be arranging for a significant increase in our international hardship funds in addition to the existing discretionary funds for UK students. We invite students in need to apply for such funding.

If you are facing financial hardship then please contact the Student Funding Adviser at studentfunding@qmu.ac.uk. The Student Funding Adviser can provide you with advice as well as guidance on how to apply for our hardship and discretionary funds.

I hope that you find this update helpful. Rest assured that all of us in the Senior Leadership Team will continue to do everything in our power to support the rest of the University community.

Malcolm G Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

20 March 2020

As we draw towards the end of a highly unusual week, I would like to reiterate my personal thanks, and those of my colleagues in the Senior Leadership Team, for the way in which all members of the University community have conducted themselves in the face of huge uncertainty and rapidly changing circumstances. We have seen many instances of small acts of kindness, and of people going the extra mile to help others. These are the things that lie at the heart of the ethos of Queen Margaret University, and will play a critical part in our ability to navigate our way through the current difficult circumstances.

As we all get used to studying and working in different ways we will continue to have a number of questions. Please remember that you can access information and FAQs on our coronavirus site.

In the meantime, there are a few specific matters I would like to draw to your attention.

Reminder of campus access restrictions

Access to the main academic building remains restricted to the Atrium and the Learning Resource Centre (LRC). Although unstaffed, the LRC will be accessible to students via smart card access and available on a 24/7 basis. In order to comply with fire regulations, and to ensure compliance with health and safety requirements, staff are not able to work in the staff office area. If a member of staff needs to access their desk area, e.g. to collect personal possessions, they need authorisation from a member of the Senior Leadership Team who will then advise Security. If staff are unable to work from home due to local technology limitations, an IT workroom will be available within the LRC. However, this area will be subject to social distancing and infection control measures.

The student accommodation remains open. Social opportunities continue to be provided through the Res:Life team, and resources are available through the Students’ Union (SU). A catering service remains in place in Maggie’s in the SU, as well as a shop which stocks essential provisions, and which will be open seven days a week. The sports centre remains open for students living on campus and for those essential members of staff who still require to be on campus. In all of these areas, you are reminded to follow the government guidance on social distancing.

If you are self-isolating

Please remember that you need to tell the University if you are self-isolating. Staff should report their absence to their line manager and the Head of Human Resources (asmith2@qmu.ac.uk) advising whether you are signing off sick or working from home. Students should complete the normal absence form within the Student Portal.

Working at home

HR colleagues have developed some further guidance for staff on tips for working from home and work station set up. These are in addition to the existing Working from Home Guidelines, and can be found on the staff intranet.

Submission deadline extensions

As announced on 19th March, all undergraduate or postgraduate coursework due on or before 3rd April, and all undergraduate dissertations (regardless of their deadline) will have a one week extension applied to their existing deadlines. This update provides further clarification of that announcement.

  • Any individual learning plan (ILP) adjustments will apply to the revised extension deadline rather than the original deadline.
  • For individual students who had already been granted an extension due to their own Extenuating Circumstances (ECs), this one week extension is additional to the extension granted in response to their ECs.
  • Where assessment extensions have already been applied by programme leaders or module co-ordinators for all students on a module, those revised deadlines will not be changed.
  • This extension does not apply to assessments where the format and, in some instances, the timing of that assessment has already been modified (e.g. face to face exams that have been moved into an online mode).
  • For the avoidance of doubt, all the above only applies to undergraduate or postgraduate coursework due on or before 3rd April, and all undergraduate dissertations (regardless of their deadline).
  • Any postgraduate taught student who considers that they have an extenuating circumstance should apply for recognition of that EC in the normal way.

If you have any remaining queries regarding the above, please contact your module co-ordinator or programme leader.

For postgraduate research students (Prof Doc and PhD) whose fieldwork and or data collection has been/will be disrupted by the COVID19 related restrictions, a separate message will be sent directly to you from the Graduate School shortly, but rest assured that we be taking account of the impact of those restrictions on your research activities.

Guidance on Looking after your Mental Health and Wellbeing

Our FAQs now include various helpful sources of information, and these are reproduced below:

These resources supplement the University resources available to students through QMU’s Student Services and staff through the HR team (including our Employee Assistance Programme). Our Wellbeing service also has a webpage with useful resources.

Finally, I would like to offer particular thanks to those colleagues who continue to undertake essential roles on campus. Our goal is to continue to keep our campus open, but we are of course only able to achieve that goal through the efforts of those colleagues. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

We will plan to provide a further update early next week, although if there are any significant changes or developments over the weekend then we will of course communicate these earlier than that.

Thank you.

Malcolm G. Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance 

Further update

Tonight, the Scottish Government told cafes, pubs and restaurants to close, based on updated scientific advice. Given this, we have closed our gym on campus, and service at Maggie’s is restricted to takeaway only. We are sorry about this but are sure that you will understand this move to protect public health.

19 March 2020

Reminder of campus access restrictions

I will begin today’s update by reminding you that access to the main academic building is restricted to the Atrium and the Learning Resource Centre (LRC). Although unstaffed, the LRC will be accessible to students via smart card access and available on a 24/7 basis.  In order to comply with fire regulations, and to ensure compliance with health and safety requirements, staff cannot work in the staff office area. If a member of staff needs to access their desk area, eg to collect personal possessions, they need authorisation from a member of the Senior Leadership Team who will then advise Security. If staff are unable to work from home due to local technology limitations, an IT workroom will be available within the LRC. However, this area will be subject to social distancing and infection control measures.

Reporting self-isolation

Please remember that you need to tell the University if you are self-isolating. Staff should report their absence to their line manager and the Head of Human Resources (asmith2@qmu.ac.uk) advising whether you are signing off sick or working from home. Students should complete the normal absence form within the Student Portal

Submission deadline extensions

All undergraduate or postgraduate coursework* due on or before 3rd April, and all undergraduate dissertations (regardless of their deadline) will have a one week extension applied to their existing deadlines. Any individual learning plan (ILP) adjustments will apply to the revised extension deadline rather than the original deadline. (We are aware that some extensions have already been applied to some modules, their revised deadlines will not be changed.)  *This extension does not apply to assessments where the format of that assessment has already been modified (e.g. face to face exams that have been moved into an online mode).

Progress on alternative assessments

Programme teams are making good progress on alternative assessments, though, as you will appreciate, this is taking a bit of time. Programme teams will publish details of assessments on the Hub as soon as they can.

Advice for students on healthcare placements

Health Sciences students on healthcare placements should have received an email from the University yesterday about their placement. If you have not, please contact your Programme Leader.

School closures

As you will be aware, the Scottish Government has announced that schools will close with effect from tomorrow evening. Most of our staff are no longer on campus, so should be available as required to look after children. We expect colleagues in this situation to continue to work from home where possible, but we recognise that it may be difficult for those with young children to do so during their normal working hours and/or to work a full working day. We will continue to provide full pay to all staff in this position, and in return we would ask that staff, where possible, exercise a degree of flexibility.

Also, we would remind colleagues of the need to continue to take planned annual leave, and to ensure that they switch off completely from work when doing so. We recognise that some members of staff may wish to take additional annual leave to allow them to fulfil childcare commitments, and we can confirm that line managers will be as flexible as possible in responding to any such requests.

IT advice and support

You will have seen the Moderator message from the IT team yesterday.  From that message, please note in particular that you should access both Microsoft Teams and Collaborate via your web browser, and not via the QMU desktop.  The desktop is not configured to support web conferencing of any type.  Also, if you require access to admin rights on your QMU supplied device, please raise a call through Assist and the IT team will respond.  Please do read Moderator messages in order to keep up with IT updates, particularly as these updates reflect queries and issues that have been raised by staff and students.

Blackboard Collaborate 

This is available for teaching purposes and can also be accessed via the Home Working webpage.  The IT team are currently running virtual Collaborate training sessions to ensure colleagues have the necessary abilities to use the solution.  We would strongly encourage engaging with this training. Find out more

An opportunity for students

We are conscious that the current situation means that many students find themselves suddenly without paid work.  You might be interested to know that NHS Lothian are inviting students to apply to join their staff bank. This opportunity is not necessarily for front line staff, and could encompass drivers, administrators etc. as well as healthcare support workers.  If you were to join the bank, you would be helping the NHS at a time of intense need. If you are interested, please email covid19recruitment@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk. Our understanding is that they are interested in all students, not only those undertaking health sciences programmes.

Remember that you can access information and FAQs on our coronavirus webpages. As ever, thank you for your support and positive spirit as we all adjust and adapt to new ways of working and living. 

18 March 2020

This message provides a further update on the position in relation to the Covid-19 situation.

Campus Access

 The campus remains open, but with restricted access which is intended to ensure that we are able to deliver essential services and support students living on and off campus.

 Details of the areas and facilities which are operating and the access that is available to these will be posted as soon as possible on relevant sections of the website. This information will be updated as required to reflect any developments in local and national Covid-19 planning.

  •  The student residential accommodation remains open and staff will be available during normal working hours at the accommodation reception and will continue to offer social opportunities through RES:LIFE.
  • The Sports Centre will remain open only for students living on campus and those essential staff still working on campus.
  • Catering services will be available within Maggie’s, in the Students’ Union, with 1875, the University shop and Starbucks closed.  In addition a pop up shop is available in Maggie’s for residents on campus. This will stock essential provisions and will be open seven days a week.
  • Access to the main academic building will be restricted to the Atrium and the Learning Resource Centre which, although unstaffed, will be accessible to students and staff via smart card access and available on a 24/7 basis.  In order to comply with fire regulations, and to ensure compliance with health and safety requirements, access to staff offices will be limited and will require authorisation.
  • Campus Services staff will be available as a first point of contact 24 hours a day via main reception and on the main contact number (0131 474 0000) and extension 2222. The campus will be closed to external visitors, except where authorised by a member of the Senior Leadership Team.
  • Students’ Union staff will be available during normal working hours either via union@qmu.ac.uk or on Facebook @qmusu

In accordance with Government guidance, social distancing and infection control measures will be in place across the accessible areas of the campus highlighted above as and where appropriate.

Remote functionality for working or studying away from campus will be fully available. You will find information on all the key services you will require here. On that page, you will find information on how to access the help desk should you require support during office hours.

Home working is now the norm

Given the restrictions and alternative provision set out above, staff, other than those with specific approval to be on campus, should be working from home. The exception, in general, is in relation to essential frontline services staff and we are implementing appropriate procedures to enable these staff to work on campus safely.  If you fall into the category of essential frontline services that will already have been confirmed with you.

 If staff are unable to work from home due to local technology limitations, an IT workroom will be available within the LRC. However, this area will be subject to social distancing and infection control measures.

School closures

You may already be aware of today’s announcement from the First Minister that schools are expected to close by the end of this week. Our Business Continuity Team will discuss the implications of this for the QMU community at its meeting tomorrow, and we will advise tomorrow on the measures we propose to put in place to support colleagues with children.

Approach to staff annual leave

Some staff members have been asking about our approach to annual leave during the coronavirus situation. The Senior Leadership Team agrees that is important that we all continue to take leave, as managing the work/life balance is essential in order for us to keep fit and well. This is still true even although we are much more limited in what we can do while we are on annual leave. We would ask staff to continue to take annual leave during the coronavirus situation, and to switch off entirely from work when they are on annual leave. The Senior Leadership Team will adopt this approach themselves too. Additionally, while working remotely, we all need to ensure that we take breaks and take other steps to protect our wellbeing.  The HR team are preparing updated guidance on remote working, with useful hints and tips, which we will share with you as soon as possible.

Information sources

Do keep up to date with our FAQs, which we continue to keep up to date. Over the next day or so, we will provide a list of useful email addresses for contacting service teams remotely. While the current situation is very challenging, at QMU we are well placed for delivering services online.

Message from the Principal

Our Principal, Sir Paul Grice, has issued a message to the University community which you can view here. Paul convenes the Business Continuity Group and has been working intensively with colleagues across the University to enable us to respond to events in the optimum way.

The emotional impact of the current developments

Although this message focuses on practical matters, I do want to take this opportunity to say that the Senior Leadership Team is deeply conscious of how upsetting the current situation is to so many of us. In addition to those of you with a heightened risk, or worried about vulnerable family members, and international students having to return home at haste, we are also conscious of students who have had their first year on campus suddenly cut short, sports teams and societies who have prepared for events that have had to be cancelled or postponed, final year students who were looking forward to events celebrating the successful end of their studies and staff who will miss face to face interaction with their students and the camaraderie gained from working alongside colleagues in an office. I know that you will all look out for one another and keep in touch with your friends, classmates and colleagues while you are at home. Together, we will get through this in the best possible way. Thank you for your support.

Malcolm G Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

17 March 2020

I will begin this update by reiterating the strong advice from Government yesterday that people who are pregnant, or over 70, or who are at high risk or have underlying health conditions should stay at home as much as possible and significantly reduce their social contact. If you fall into any of these categories, please do not come to the campus.  If someone in your household is pregnant, or over 70, or is at high risk or has underlying health conditions, you should also stay at home

More generally, the latest advice is that all of us should reduce our unnecessary social contact, and we are trying to minimise the number of people on campus. If you are able to work from home, please do so. If you are not certain whether you can work from home please ask your line manager, who can in turn call on the advice of the Senior Leadership Team.  The majority of both academic and professional services staff should now be able to work from home. Generally, the exception is in essential frontline services, and we are planning appropriate procedures to protect the health and safety of such staff, eg through social distancing and infection control measures.

The new guidance from Government last night also extended the requirements for self-isolation. Now, members of a household where someone has suspected symptoms should stay at home for 14 days. For students, this means that if someone in your shared student residence has symptoms, the entire flat should self-isolate for 14 days. While it might be tempting to return home to your families in such a circumstances, remember that your family would then need to self-isolate too.

There will be no classes or assessments on campus from tomorrow (Wednesday).

As communicated before, the campus will remain open. The Business Continuity Team are currently working out the specifics of what will remain open, and to whom, balancing health and safety with the need to ensure, for example, the wellbeing of students living on campus. However, the campus will be closed to external visitors – except with the agreement of the Senior Leadership Team – from Wednesday 18 March.

For the rest of this week, the Student Services team will be available to meet with students face to face, with these services moving online from next week. Alongside this, we are considering a range of other issues related to student wellbeing, including, for example ensuring ongoing catering for students on campus (again factoring in social distancing etc).

We are working to ensure that most University services remain fully operational online. For example, you will continue to be able to access the support of the Assist team at assist@qmu.ac.uk.

In case you are wondering, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus as yet in the QMU community. A number of students and staff are self-isolating, which is to be expected, of course, given the wide range of criteria for self-isolation.

Thank you again for the way you are working with us as we introduce all the above measures to reduce the spread of the virus and protect the more vulnerable in our society.  QMU has a great community spirit, and I am sure that we will all continue to be kind to each other and be mutually supportive as we move into a rather different way of living and working over the weeks to come.

Malcolm G Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

16 March 2020

Important update issued 18:50

To students and staff:

To slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) the general public are being asked to stay at home as much as possible and avoid unnecessary social contact.

People over 70 and those who are at high risk or have underlying health conditions are being strongly advised to stay at home as much as possible and significantly reduce unnecessary social contact.

 The advice is that people should:

  • minimise social contact by avoiding crowded areas and large gatherings, including religious congregations and smaller gatherings such as restaurants, pubs, bars, clubs, cinemas and gyms
  • avoid using public transport as much as possible
  • work from home when possible
  • follow the latest health and travel advice, and follow basic hygiene precautions, such as washing hands frequently, not touching their face and covering their nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing

Members of a household where someone has suspected symptoms should stay at home for 14 days.

The advice also states that those who cannot work from home should continue to go to work unless advised by their employer or if they display symptoms. If the nature of your work is such that you are able to work at home tomorrow, then please do so, in line with Government advice.

The campus will remain open tomorrow as we consider next steps at our Business Continuity Meeting in the morning. Please note that parking restrictions on campus will be lifted.

For students, if you are in an at risk category, you should not come into the campus tomorrow.  More generally, unless you have an assessment tomorrow, students are not expected on campus. 

Malcolm Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

***

Our Business Continuity Group is meeting every day this week as we move towards online delivery of learning and teaching (to be fully in place by Monday 23 March), and as we plan online delivery of exams and assessments.

At this stage, we would like to highlight the following points. 

  • The latest guidance for those with symptoms suggestive of coronavirus: people with symptoms suggestive of coronavirus - a fever or a new cough - should stay at home for seven days as per the advice of Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer on 12 March. Those who have been in contact with someone who is experiencing symptoms need only stay at home if they themselves begin to experience symptoms. Please report your absence to your line manager and the Head of Human Resources (asmith2@qmu.ac.uk) (staff), advising whether you are signing off sick or working from home. Students should complete the normal absence form within the Student Portal. If you are experiencing the above symptoms and have been in contact with an infected person or have travelled abroad recently, if you have travelled to the UK from specified areas in the last 14 days, or have been in contact with someone with coronavirus, and you develop symptoms of cough, fever or shortness of breath, you should call NHS 111 (but importantly do not visit your GP practice in person). 
  • Suspension of all but essential business travel at QMU, both in the UK and aboard: The University is suspending all but essential business travel, both in the UK and abroad.  If you are a staff member with plans to travel and you think this travel is essential, please discuss this with your Line Manager. If they agree that your travel is essential, they will need will need to discuss this with QMU Health and Safety . If you are a student planning travel related to your studies at QMU, please speak to your Programme Leader, who will then need to seek the advice of QMU Health and Safety
  • Policy on campus visitors: Although we are not holding public events from 23 March, we continue to allow visitors to the campus. As you would expect, we have appropriate signage and guidance in place for visitors. Our policy is in line with advice from Health Protection Scotland and will remain under review.  
  • Students wishing to return home can do so: We understand that some students, particularly those from overseas, may be anxious and may feel the need to return home. If you do decide to return home, your academic progress will not be adversely affected.  
  • Remote working support for students and staff:  We strongly encourage you to take the time to read the Moderator message on this subject published today, and repeated on social media. Staff will have received an additional Moderator message on Hub training resources. 
  • Remember that your University remains open: Although we are changing our mode of learning and teaching as already communicated,  staff and students can be on campus, and our library, specialist facilities, student services, refectory, halls of residence and Students’ Union remain open. We will continue to monitor and comply with advice from Health Protection Scotland and take any necessary steps, including possible campus closure, if we are advised to do so in the future.  
  • The student residences remain open and will continue to remain open as usual: ResLife support for students in residences will continue to be available; all students are welcome to talk to their Senior Residents, the RLAs, and the Residence Life Coordinator at any point.  The team have events planned for April and will keep residents up to date via the ResLife Facebook page
  • Graduation and Degree Certificates: July 2020 graduation ceremonies will be rescheduled, most likely to autumn 2020. All student degree awards will be approved and signed off by the University Senate, as they are each year in the normal course of events. This means that if you would have been eligible to graduate at the July ceremony, your degree award certificate will be sent to you in July this year at your registered home address.  Your degree award will be recorded as having been conferred upon you on the date that Senate approves the award.  Importantly, receipt of your award certification does not prevent you from participating fully in the rescheduled graduation ceremony. Further details on the rescheduled graduation ceremonies will be communicated once they are available. 

All of us in the Business Continuity Team and the Senior Leadership Team have been very impressed by the positive way that the University community is responding to the measures we are taking, and the way you are all supporting each other.  We have been struck too by the socially responsible attitude of staff and students as we all work together to help delay the spread of COVID-19 and to protect and support those in our community more vulnerable to the illness. 

15 March 2020

Following recent developments and contingency planning at Queen Margaret University, and sector wide discussions with Scottish Government, we have updated the next phase of our action plan in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus). The measures outlined below are precautionary, based on our commitment to support our community and prepare accordingly.

Queen Margaret University is continuing to monitor closely and follow healthcare and government advice from Health Protection Scotland.  Our campus and halls of residence remain open. We will comply with advice from Health Protection Scotland and the Scottish Government and take any necessary steps if we are advised to do so in the future. The guidance on the website will be updated, if required, by 4pm each day.

 Learning and Teaching will be moved entirely online by 23 March

We will be moving to delivering teaching online. Reduced face-to-face teaching will begin from Monday 16 March, and no face-to face teaching will take place from Monday 23rd March until further notice. If there are any changes to your classes in the week beginning 16 March, information will be published on the Hub.

Academic staff will decide how best to conduct teaching and learning activities, using a range of resources to best support students.

Exams and Assessments will move online

All taught undergraduate and taught postgraduate exams and assessments scheduled from Monday 23rd March, including those for the Semester 2 exam period (commencing Monday 20th April), and reassessments scheduled for the end of July, will be delivered online or by other methods of alternate assessment.  If you are on a programme with assessments in the week beginning 16th March, you will be contacted by your programme leader if there are any changes to the timing or format of your assessment.

Assessment type will be guided by academic discipline and academic staff expertise. Students will be notified as early as possible about what online assessments mean in practice. Individual Learning Plan Adjustments will also continue.

Students wishing to return home can do so

We understand that some students, particularly those from overseas, may be anxious and you may be considering returning home. If you do decide to return home, you will not be penalised for doing so.

Queen Margaret University’s campus and halls of residence are open

Whilst we are changing our mode of learning and teaching and taking measures to be responsive to an evolving situation, QMU’s campus will remain open. We have had no indication from Health Protection Scotland or the Scottish Government that we should close, and buildings, services and facilities will run as usual.

Staff and students can be on campus and our library, specialist facilities, student services, refectory, the halls of residences and Students’ Union are also open. We will continue to monitor and comply with advice from Health Protection Scotland and take any necessary steps, including possible campus closure, if we are advised to do so in the future. 

All public events will be postponed from 23 March

This is due to the number of events already postponed and our commitment to the safety and wellbeing of our community. Public events, that is events with less than 500 people involving anyone from outside the QMU community, can continue up until 23 March since we have had no indication from Health Protection Scotland that there is a risk to our community at this time. Again, this position will be reviewed daily.

July 2020 graduation ceremonies will be rescheduled, most likely to autumn 2020. We will communicate further details when they are available. 

Dr Richard Butt, Deputy Principal, Queen Margaret University

15th March 2020

 

Supplementary Message for Health Students (also issued 15th March)

All health students who are currently on placement should stay on placement. Health students who are due to start placement on Monday 16th March should continue to do so. Students with concerns should contact their programme leaders or placement co-ordinators for advice from 16th March.

Supplementary message for ITE students (also issued 15th March)

We realise that students on ITE programmes will be wondering about the implications for their studies if placements are disrupted. The Scottish Council of Deans of Education will be holding a teleconference with the GTCS on Monday morning to discuss contingencies. We will update you as soon as we have more information about plans to minimise the impact on your studies.

 

 

12 March 2020

We know that many of you are worried about the COVID-19 outbreak and what it means for the health and safety of students, colleagues, and friends and family, wherever they may be. As the situation with COVID-19 (coronavirus) is moving fast, it seems timely to update you again.

 At the time of writing, the Scottish Government has said that it is not planning to close schools and universities, but that this option remains under review.  On the basis of that advice, we continue to operate as business as usual here at QMU, whilst also putting in place arrangements should that position change quickly.

There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection at Queen Margaret University, however this could change as the number of cases grows in Scotland. We are well prepared for this and we will let you know if and when we have a confirmed case in our community.

You will already know from my last message that the University has been preparing carefully for the potential impact of coronavirus across a number of areas. We are working hard to mitigate against the impact of any escalation in the situation, including considering the impact on teaching delivery over the next few weeks until the end of the academic session. This includes prioritising teaching that is essential to degree completion or professional registration. Importantly, however, we have activated all the necessary regulations that would allow boards of examiners to exercise discretion in coming to a decision on student progression and on degree classification, where not all of the work is available to be assessed.

Assessments

Assessments will continue as planned, unless the Health Protection Scotland guidance would make this inadvisable or Scottish Government measures make this impossible.

If required, some assessments, such as exams, may be conducted in alternative ways.  Wherever possible, such alternative assessments will take place on the same date as currently scheduled.

Registry, working with the two academic Schools, is planning options to be ready if and when needed.  The University will continue to monitor Health Protection Scotland Guidance and notify students of any changes to assessment as soon as those changes are required.

As you would expect, we are also making provision for supporting students in the residences who are self-isolating or unwell.

 How you can help: IT

As part of our planning, we have published information on our website on remote working tools for students and staff, with guidance on how best to use these tools. You can find this information here.

Over the next few days, we encourage you to ensure that you are comfortable using the remote working tools available to you.  This will help you in the event that we have to scale down activity on campus, and also help minimise demands on the IT team in such a scenario.

Among these tools are our Remote Desktop and Office 365, which includes all the standard Microsoft Office applications (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, e-mail etc). Unless you need to access applications that are only available through the Remote Desktop (eg. SPSS), we recommend that you use Office 365.

 How you can help: reporting

It is important that the University is made aware of any incidences whereby an individual connected with the University has been exposed to, or has been diagnosed with, coronavirus.

If you are self-isolating or have been diagnosed with coronavirus, it is important that you advise us.  If you are a student, you can complete the normal absence form within the Student Portal. If you are a staff member, please email the Head of Human Resources at ASmith2@qmu.ac.uk

Your health and wellbeing

Please be assured that foremost in our minds as we plan is your health and wellbeing. If you have any concerns related to your work, study or wellbeing at QMU not covered in our coronavirus FAQs, please draw on the standard support networks. For students, this includes your personal academic tutor and the Students’ Union. For staff, this includes your line manager, HR partner or trade union representative.

While it is natural to feel anxious when things are uncertain, and particularly as we are all bombarded with updates online or through the media, please do try not to worry unduly.  We should remember that health experts tell us that the vast majority of people who become ill with coronavirus will experience only mild symptoms. In terms of operations at QMU, you can rest assured that we are doing everything we can to minimise the impact of coronavirus on you.

Malcolm Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

10 March 2020

With the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK continuing to rise, I wanted to reassure you of the active steps that the University is taking around contingency planning.

While the situation is developing daily, we are doing all we can to be ready for all potential scenarios. The University’s Business Continuity Group is meeting frequently, most recently today. Membership includes the Principal and other members of the Senior Leadership Team, key service leads, the Students’ Union and TU representation.

While it is very much business as usual on campus, the Business Continuity Group is following closely all published national guidance, and preparing for various potential scenarios. In its planning, the Group is considering, amongst other issues, how best to safeguard student academic progression and completion, were teaching, assessment and other activity on campus to be impacted directly or indirectly, and how best to safeguard staff and student health and wellbeing. Underpinning this is detailed work to ensure that we have the necessary IT capacity and capability to allow the University to continue to function, whatever the scenario.

Please do keep an eye on our coronavirus FAQs, which we are keeping updated. Topics covered include personal travel, self-isolation, and placements. There is also guidance on the steps we can all take to protect ourselves and others, which, as you will know, focuses on frequent and thorough handwashing.

Malcolm Cutt
Director of Operations and Finance

Queen Margaret University

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