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Principal’s Covid message

In an email to all staff and students today (Monday 21 December), University of St Andrews Principal, Professor Sally Mapstone, said: 

I had hoped to be writing this week simply to wish you all a peaceful festive break, but it is the way of this pandemic that we should expect the unexpected, and always when it is least welcome.

You will have seen the emergency announcements over the weekend from the UK Government and the devolved administrations about the emergence of a more infectious variant of Covid in the south of England, the decision in Scotland to restrict cross border travel, and confirmation that a period of Level 4 restrictions will begin nationwide from Boxing Day, 26 December.

One immediate update on this is that we understand from the Scottish Government that students who still need to complete their move home this week within the UK may do so

provided that they only move once and stay in the same household until they return to their term-time household in January.

I know that you will have many more questions now and over the next couple of weeks about how this is likely to affect you as a student, or as a member of staff, what impact it may have on your travel arrangements, and the ways it may shape the University’s plans for semester 2.

The announcements cause new uncertainties for all of us, and those we are raising urgently with Government include but are not limited to:

  • The likelihood of any change to the currently published staggering arrangements for student return to university
  • Arrangements for the return of our international students, and students from areas of the UK where the new variant of Covid is known to be prevalent
  • The likelihood of any change to public health guidance and physical distancing regimens in light of the variant’s reported infectivity.

You will understand that I cannot give you answers to all of these matters just now; the speed of developments in the last 48 hours precludes that.

I want to assure you, however, that my senior team and I met over the weekend, and we will be working closely throughout the break with government and public health authorities to plan for all eventualities, and to ensure a safe return to teaching and research in the New Year, whatever form these activities may take.

We will, as ever, be guided by evidence and the material issued by Government, and by an unwavering commitment to the health and safety of staff and students.

If you are students staying with us in St Andrews over the break, we will be in touch with you very soon about our Can Do programme, and how we will support you under the Level 4 rules which come into force at the end of this week. Looking out for you during this unsettling period is a priority for us.

All of us have just come through a remarkable and challenging semester. We have managed to keep Covid levels really very low in St Andrews, and still excelled at many of the things which make this such a great University. We’ve been able to do that because of a concerted collective effort, a willingness to adapt and make sacrifices, and a determination to stay a step or two ahead of this virus wherever we can.

As infections rise in other parts of the country, we are ending the year with no reported cases of Covid in our university community, according to the latest report from our Covid Rapid Response Team and Public Health Scotland.

Our Covid Helpdesk will continue to provide advice and support to students and staff over the break, and we will keep our webpages updated where possible to reflect any changes in current policy or advice.

However uncertain the next few weeks may seem just now, we know we’ve been through this before, we know we can meet the most daunting of challenges, and we also know that a Covid vaccine will be with us in St Andrews through the Spring and Summer of 2021. This does have an ending.

That said, some of you of course are now dealing with profound personal disappointment over abruptly upended Christmas plans, just as many others in our community have had to forego traditional holidays and celebrations of faith earlier in this past semester. I am deeply sorry for you.

I know that many staff will continue to be on duty over the holiday, helping to look after our students, and to prepare for semester 2. This will be a very different festive season for many of you, and I thank you all for everything you have done, and are still doing, to keep our community safe.

My immediate concern is that you should all, wherever possible and wherever you are, try to make the most of your break when it comes, to rest and recharge if you can, and be good to yourselves.

I will be in touch with you all again as soon as we have more clarity on the implications of these recent developments on our plans for semester 2, and what these will mean for all of you and our University.

Sally Mapstone
Principal and Vice-Chancellor


Email from University Principal Professor Sally Mapstone to all staff and students on Monday 21 December 2020.

Covid community response

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