A message from the Vice-Chancellor
By: Harvey Atkinson
Last updated: Monday, 28 September 2020
Today (28 September) Adam Tickell, the Vice-Chancellor wrote to all students. You can read the full message below:
It’s now officially the start of term, one which I’m sure will be like no other.
I wanted to write to you all today, firstly to welcome returning students back to Sussex and also to introduce myself to those who are new. I know it’s an extremely unusual time, and we’re here for you every step of the way.
As a University, it will always be our priority to be transparent with you about issues affecting our community – and at this time, as we all are adapting our lives in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, this is more important now than ever.
I’m sure you’re aware of the reports of Covid-19 cases in universities in the UK, particularly those in Scotland. Whilst the number of cases at Sussex is low, and in line with the local area, it is really important that you are able to stay informed about what we’re doing if the cases at Sussex rise, as well as making sure you understand our own processes.
This email contains further information about the current low number of cases at Sussex and the action we will take if this rises. So please read this email right to the end.
Advice for coming onto campus:
I hope you have found time to watch our short video that gives you all the advice for coming onto campus. It takes less than ten minutes to watch and gives you all the health and safety information you need. Please visit this page on the Student Hub to watch the video and follow the other guidance available.
Thank you to more than 3,500 members of our community who have signed our Community Pledge – I’m sure those who haven’t yet signed up will do so this week.
Anyone in the University community (both staff and students) who develop Covid-19 symptoms must submit information on this form. This enables the University to closely monitor any Covid-19 cases, as well as to make sure those who require support are known to us.
Please also download and use the NHS Covid-19 contract tracing app. This helps the local health authorities to monitor who might need to self-isolate at any time. It’s very easy to use and we have QR codes across campus. You can find all the information here.
Working with the local Health Protection Team (HPT):
The University is in direct contact with the Surrey and Sussex Health Protection Team (often referred to as HPT). The Health Protection Team informs the University if any of our students have tested positive for Covid-19 (and we inform them of any that are notified to us directly). The HPT might also give us advice if they consider that action needs to be taken, particularly if there is concern that a rise in cases is emerging.
What happens in the case of a positive test:
If you do test positive, you will need to quarantine normally for ten days from the onset of symptoms. You will be given the exact number of days to quarantine by the NHS – and of course it is critical that you do this. In addition, all members of your flat/house (whether that is on campus or off campus) will need to self-isolate for 14 days from the onset of your symptoms. The isolation period is longer than for the affected person because the incubation period can be up to 14 days.
Working with the HPT, the University will be able to assess the risk level for any positive cases, and determine what other measures may need to be taken.
The same rule applies to staff. If a staff member has been on campus in the two days before the onset of symptoms, the University will liaise with the HPT to ascertain at the earliest opportunity the risk level and inform colleagues or students as necessary.
The number of positive cases at Sussex:
Here at Sussex, the number of cases we have had reported are low compared to other universities that have been the focus of media attention over the weekend. We do have confirmed reports of a small number (single digits) of cases amongst our community, with the majority of these people living off-campus.
I’m sure you appreciate that we need to protect the wellbeing of those people, so we won’t be sharing any more details of who they are.
This means that as well as the students who are positive, all of their housemates are also now in self-isolation, as per the Government guidance.
Whilst we feel comforted that those people who do have Covid-19 are experiencing mild symptoms, this may be a difficult time for you and I hope that you are receiving all the support you need.
You can find out what’s available to you on the Student Hub – we’re here to help you however we can.
How we will continue to adapt and respond:
At the present time, we are advised that the level of positive cases in our community is not at a level whereby it should change our current mode of blended learning for students.
However, if the number of cases rises to a point that we feel that we need to restrict movement around campus, such as reducing the number of indoor spaces where people mix (even with face coverings on) we will do that.
We have a clear plan in place for a range of potential changes, which is in line with guidance from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and the Department for Education (DfE).
Please understand we are not at that place. However, we will of course move to that position if we are advised to do so by the authorities, or before then, if we feel that based upon evidence, we need to do so.
Information on positive cases within the University community:
We have decided, in the interest of full transparency to provide you with details of confirmed positive cases amongst our community on a regular basis, on our website. This is to give you reassurance on our approach to openness, as well as to ensure that there is not misinformation about the number of cases. We will soon let you know when this will be published and when you can expect to see updates.
To protect the welfare of our staff and students, we will not be sharing any further details on the identity of those who have tested positive, or the location of residences if they are on campus.
Following all the guidance and rules:
I would like to thank all the students who are now back in the local area or staying with us on campus for your co-operation with following the rules (and the law), such as the Rule of Six, which means that no more than six people should be socialising either indoors or outdoors. I know this is challenging, as it means that those in campus residences are not allowed visitors at this time.
Whilst we did have a few breaches on campus last week, I am aware that these have reduced significantly in the past few days. I hope this continues as it means that you are all looking out for yourselves and each other. We do have the ability to issue on the spot fines for those who show significant disregard to the health, safety and wellbeing of those around them. These fines would start at £50. I’m hopeful that we won’t need to do this, as I’m sure like me you feel we are all in this together.
Keeping in touch with you:
I know that you will be very familiar with receiving information from the University, as Pro-Vice-Chancellor Kelly Coate writes to you each week. Please continue to read these emails.
I also hold a session once a term for students to book a meeting slot to provide me with feedback on being a student at Sussex. I will be sharing information on how to book a slot in the next few weeks.
I really want you to have a good term. I know you’re here because you want to learn – even despite of Covid-19 – and even at a time when a lot of our usual everyday life is very different and restricted in many ways.
We want to help you achieve your learning goals - and we’ll always be led by doing that in a way that is safe for you.
With very best wishes,