Semester 2 of 2021-2022

Wednesday 12 January 2022

Principal Professor Sally Mapstone emailed all staff on Friday 7 January 2022 ahead of Semester 2 of the 2021-2022 academic year.

Dear Colleagues

Happy New Year, and I hope you were able to enjoy, or are still enjoying, a restful and restorative festive break.

I am writing to ensure you are aware of the proportionate revisions we have made to our plans for teaching in Semester 2, in light of the current challenges posed by the emergence of the Covid Omicron variant.

The detailed message below has today gone to all students from the Vice-Principal Education and Director of Student Experience, is published on our website, has been shared with all Heads of School and Units and Directors of Teaching, and will also be distributed via our Family Programme.

We remain committed to providing as much safe in-person teaching and experience as possible in our new semester, and we will keep our plans under constant review as we continue to plot a safe course out of the pandemic.

In brief summary:

  • We will begin the new semester the way we ended the old one, with no immediate change to the levels of in-person teaching and other activities. This reflects specific guidance from the Scottish Government which asked all universities not to increase proportions of in-person teaching significantly at the start of the new term while it assesses the risk from Omicron. The current view from government is that the widespread presence of the virus in the community and the data emerging in respect of hospitalisations does not require more stringent restrictions than those currently in place.
  • Most classes, tutorials, seminars and lectures of 35 students or less will continue to be taught in-person.
  • Specific remote provision will be made for students who cannot be in St Andrews at this time. All lectures given in-person in St Andrews will be recorded and made available to all students in the class.
  • Most of our large teaching activities must remain online at the start of semester. The Proctor and Assistant Vice-Principal Learning and Teaching will consider specific requests from Schools to deliver classes which are slightly above 35 in-person where this will have a significant effect on the student experience. This does not mean a wholesale, sudden return to very large lectures in-person, but is intended to help Schools and students in situations where there is a cluster of modules with class sizes in the high 30s and low 40s.
  • We will keep the situation under close and constant review, with a view to increasing in-person teaching and experiences for students after Spring Break, provided that is supported by public health advice and is in step with the direction of Scottish Government policy.
  • We will strongly encourage students, and staff, to take regular lateral flow tests, and to wear face-coverings when in company indoors. We will pursue a culture in which self-testing and mask-wearing are regarded as essential and socially responsible acts.
  • As a responsible public institution with a duty to our wider community, we will actively support efforts to flatten the curve of Covid infection to ease pressure on the NHS and other key services.
  • Staff who can work from home should continue to do so, in line with current Government guidance.

Levels of Covid infection in our community in St Andrews have remained very low over the festive break, but we must expect that this will change in the weeks ahead. The ONS estimates that one in 20 people in Scotland had the virus last week.

We are however very well prepared to meet the immediate challenges presented by Omicron, and to adapt as national guidance and policy changes, as we expect it will.

I will write to you again at the start of our new semester, and I again offer my sincere thanks to you all, and especially those who have worked over the break to review and revise our planning to ensure a prudent and timely response.

Sally Mapstone FRSE
Principal and Vice-Chancellor


Email to all students, Friday 7 January 2022

Dear Students

We are looking forward very much to welcoming you for the start of Semester 2 in St Andrews after what we hope was a restful winter break. We’d like to offer a special welcome to those of you who will be joining us for the first time.

As you will know, the recent emergence and rapid spread of the Omicron Covid variant across the world has caused governments and institutions to review their activities and Covid responses while we assess the developing evidence on the implications of this new variant.

This message sets out how we in St Andrews are responding, to ensure we remain in lock step with Scottish Government and public health advice, and to safeguard the health and wellbeing of everyone in our community.

It also contains key information for you about our new semester, and asks you to complete an important pre-semester checklist.

Although we have had to review our original plans because of Omicron, we are feeling positive about our new semester in St Andrews, and we hope you are too.

Please read the following information carefully, and we hope to meet as many of you as possible in St Andrews this year as we continue to learn how to live with the challenges of Covid, and follow a safe course out of the pandemic.

Best wishes

Professor Clare Peddie
Vice-Principal Education

Ros Claase
Director of Student Experience


St Andrews’ response to Omicron

St Andrews will respond to the challenges posed by Omicron prudently, responsibly and proportionately.

We will continue to prioritise the health and wellbeing of our students and staff, while maintaining our commitment to provide as much in-person teaching as possible, and a student experience as close to normal as any necessary restrictions allow.

As a responsible public institution, we will play our part in helping to flatten the curve of Covid infection locally and nationally.

This means:

  • We will not introduce any additional University restrictions in Semester 2, unless we are directed to by the Scottish Government, or the situation changes significantly. There is no current indication that any new government restrictions are expected.
  • We will begin Semester 2 broadly as we ended Semester 1, with similar arrangements for in-person teaching and labs. Most of our large teaching activities will remain online at the start of semester. The Proctor and Assistant Vice-Principal Learning and Teaching will consider specific requests from Schools to deliver classes which are slightly above 35 in-person, where this will have a significant effect on the student experience. Information on which classes will be delivered in-person and which will initially be delivered online will be made available via students’ Personalised Timetables. Please be aware that you will start to receive multiple standard emails as we update the timetable. Please check your personalised timetable regularly. We will do our best to have it up to date before teaching commences on Monday 17 January, but there may, as is usual, be changes made at the start and throughout the semester.
  • We will monitor and review the situation regularly, with a view to increasing the proportion of in-person activities, as we had originally hoped to be able to do prior to the emergence of Omicron. We hope to deliver larger lectures in-person after the February break for our students in St Andrews.
  • In all situations, we ask you to observe the University’s Covid Code in order to keep each other, yourselves and our community safe, which includes wearing an appropriate face-covering for any in-person learning and teaching activities.

Disruption

In the short-term, it is possible that some University services, for example catering and housekeeping, will be affected or temporarily unavailable because of absences due to Covid isolation requirements. Please bear this in mind. This is a challenge which will affect everyone in our community, and services more broadly, not just the University.

Covid levels in St Andrews have remained very low over the winter break, and while our aim will be to keep levels to a minimum, the experience of Omicron elsewhere suggests we might all expect some short-lived disruption to normal services.


Testing – Flow Before You Go

You must test for Covid before you return to St Andrews, and we will expect you to take a lateral flow test at least twice a week during the Semester. These are not University rules – they are an expectation of the Scottish Government. You should take a test at the start of every day on which you plan to attend in-person teaching and/or plan to socialise with those from other households, and also take a test at the start of every day following either of those activities.


Face-coverings

You must wear a face-covering or mask when asked to indoors, unless you have a medical exemption. This is not a matter of preference or personal choice, it is an expectation of the Scottish Government and the University that you will follow this guidance and show respect to your fellow students and staff.


Key dates

  • All residences reopen on Wednesday 12 January 2022.
  • Teaching starts on Monday 17 January 2022.

The University will continue to offer dual-mode teaching in Semester 2 of 2021-2022. This will allow students who are unable to attend in-person classes to start their studies through a blend of:

  • pre-recorded content
  • live, interactive online sessions.

Make sure you download the St Andrews Orientation App for a diary of events, helpful hints, access to advice and links to all the information you’ll need for your arrival in St Andrews.


Preparing for Semester 2

This section contains important information about:

  • Completing your pre-semester checklist
  • Joining your studies in-person or online
  • Travelling to and arriving in St Andrews
  • Your Covid vaccination status

Please read the following information carefully.

Whether you are a new entrant or a returning student, we need you to provide certain information as you prepare to start the semester. If you have not already provided this information, please do so now by completing our pre-semester checklist (detailed below) and, if your circumstances have changed, please update your information. Providing as much information as you can for each point of the checklist now helps us manage your safety, class timetabling, arrivals, transport, quarantine and isolation requirements.


Pre-semester checklist

Before you start the semester, you must provide the following pre-semester information to the University:

    • Engaging with your studies and updating your location of studies (using MySaint)
    • Travelling to St Andrews
  • Updating your vaccination status including boosters (using MySaint)

Please provide as much information for each point as you can for now. You should only complete the tasks relevant to you in the pre-semester checklist. You do not need to complete these in order.

If your circumstances change, you must update your information by revisiting each of these questions.

If you need to study online all semester you only need to complete task one in the checklist. Please note, however, that this is not possible on several programmes, including Medicine, and certain lab-based subjects, and you should already have been made aware of this by your School based on Semester 1 arrangements.

If you need further clarity on whether your programme can be delivered online, please get in touch with your School’s Director of Teaching.

We want to offer you the best support for your own personal situation, but we can only do this if we have up-to-date information about your circumstances. Please complete the tasks relevant to you as fully as possible. You must return to update the pre-semester checklist tasks if any of your plans change.


Joining your studies

If you are unable to join us in St Andrews at the start of the semester to engage with in-person learning you may start your studies through online pre-recorded content and live interactive provision.

You do not need to request permission to study online but you are required to keep your study location details up to date, however, once you begin to study in-person you can only move back to online learning with permission from an Associate Dean. If permission is granted, it will be on the basis that you are then committed to online study for the remainder of the semester.

It is especially important for planning purposes that you inform us when you intend to switch between online study and in-person learning, or vice versa. If your circumstances change before the start of the semester, please update your study location details in MySaint.

To minimise the number of classes involving both online and in-person teaching, students who are unable to begin studying in-person when the semester starts on 17 January may do so at two later dates: Monday 7 February (Week 4) or Monday 28 February (Week 6).

If you are required to self-isolate by NHS Test and Protect or our Covid Rapid Response Team you can undertake your studies online for the duration of your isolation period. You can find out more about support that is available when required to self-isolate from our Coronavirus FAQs.


Travelling to St Andrews internationally

The steps you will need to take in order to travel to St Andrews will depend on the vaccinations that you have received and the country from which you are travelling. You should read carefully the Scottish Government guidance on international travel to make sure you are taking all the necessary steps and check back regularly to ensure that no changes relevant to you have been made.

UK Government requirements have changed for travellers arriving in Scotland through UK Border Control. If you are arriving in Scotland from outside the UK, you will need to complete a Passenger Locator Form before you travel.

Scottish Government guidance on self-isolation may mean that you will not be able to attend in-person teaching as soon as you arrive in St Andrews. You should make provision for this in your travel arrangements. We recommend that you familiarise yourself with the Scottish Government’s guidance as this may be different to other areas of the UK and other countries. Arrangements for isolation for international students can be found via the Coronavirus FAQs.

The University is providing transport to all students returning to St Andrews for Semester 2 at a subsidised charge, which can be paid at the time of booking on our online booking system, where you can also book self-isolation accommodation if required.


Travelling to St Andrews from elsewhere in the UK

When returning to St Andrews from elsewhere in the UK you must ensure that, as a minimum, you take a lateral flow test three days before you travel and on the day of travel itself. Lateral flow kits can be collected for free at most pharmacies or ordered online. Once you arrive in St Andrews, you should continue to test regularly, especially before meeting up with others. Test kits can be collected from locations across the University.


Vaccinations

Whilst it is not a requirement of the Scottish Government, we strongly encourage all students to get up to date with your Covid vaccinations before arriving in St Andrews, including getting your booster dose.

As part of the UK National Health Service vaccination programme, we are working with NHS Fife to support access for any student who is not up to date with their vaccinations by the time of their arrival in St Andrews. Vaccine drop-in clinics will be accessible across Fife including at the St Andrews Community Hospital for first, second and booster doses. For students who need to isolate, vaccinations will only be available once their isolation period has ended. General information on vaccination for international students is available from the Scottish Government website.


Further contacts

If you have any questions about Covid travel restrictions, vaccination, self-isolation or testing, please contact the Covid Helpdesk on covidhelp@st-andrews.ac.uk or 01334 46 4146. Please email if you do not get an answer by telephone. In an emergency contact the Security and Response team on +44 (0)1334 46 8999.

If you have reserved accommodation at the University but are unable to join us in-person for the start of Semester 2, please email accommodation@st-andrews.ac.uk as soon as possible to notify staff of your intended arrival. Please note, to secure your accommodation, charges will still apply if you plan to arrive after the start of Semester 2.

If you have enquiries about self-isolation provision in University residences, please email residences@st-andrews.ac.uk.

If you are concerned about not being able to cover any out-of-pocket expenses, please contact the University’s Money Team on moneyadvice@st-andrews.ac.uk to discuss applying for financial support.

If there is anything we can do to assist with your preparations to arrive in St Andrews, please get in touch through the Advice and Support Centre (ASC) on theasc@st-andrews.ac.uk or 01334 462020.

The Orientation web pages also offer lots of helpful information and resources to help you settle in. The Students’ Association is also available to provide support as the new semester starts: please email president@st-andrews.ac.uk.

You are reminded to check your University email regularly and the Coronavirus Information pages, which are accessible via the homepage of the University website.


Email issued by Principal Professor Sally Mapstone to all staff on Friday 7 January 2022.

Category Message from the Principal

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