Messages from Professor Stuart WJ Reid, Principal of the RVC, (primarily to students and staff of the RVC) during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Due to the constantly changing situation, and the necessary on-going revisions to guidance and policies, most of the information in this archive will now be out-of-date and so no longer apllies.
See the Latest Message from the Principal and other pages in this section to see current advice and guidance.
Message from the Principal 25th February
It cannot have escaped anyone’s notice that the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday heralds a new phase in our dealing with the pandemic. We are still working through the implications of the many different components of the Roadmap, but there is no doubt that it is to be welcomed. The paper that relates specifically to Higher Education is here and I would urge you to read it very carefully.
For all of the optimism, there are still major issues that we and others will continue to address far into the autumn of 2021 and I remind you that the “stay at home” message is still writ large over the document. It is interesting that whilst the trailer for the announcement was very much “Data not Dates”, the reality is that the headlines are all “Dates”. Two things to note: First, the dates are prefaced by “not before” riders and this is important as our contingency planning will be around this caveat; second, the missing details from the “Data” element are the metrics by which success or otherwise will be judged.
The positive news is that we have anticipated most of the short term messages and, as a consequence, the decisions we had made around Term 3, and that are being shared this week and last with respective cohorts, remain in place. In fact, very little has changed in this regard as the guidance is clear – where learning objectives can be delivered online, then this should continue. Similarly, unless practical elements are scheduled for Term 3, return to campus should be avoided. For staff, the “work from home if possible” also remains, and as was evident from the Q&A session for staff, it remains to be seen what broader society decides is appropriate regarding vaccination status disclosure and ongoing testing. We, too, will have to consider how we best protect all who work in, or have occasion to visit, areas where social distancing is impossible.
What appears more progressive in the PM’s statement relates to social aspects of our day to day and for families and small groups this does look encouraging, particularly where vaccination has taken place. Larger gatherings will remain much more of a moot point, and even where these can occur, lead times, pressure on venues, social distancing and COVID secure arrangements will mean sporting events, concerts and the like will be very difficult to host normally in the short to mid-term. One cannot countenance book-ending this period of miserable lockdown with two Cheltenham-like events. As I say, vaccination will certainly speed up the return to normal but, with the schedule not due to reach all adults until the end of July, there is still some way to go.
Many universities have already made decisions to remain largely online until the next academic year, and organisations with significant numbers of international students are facing the complications of a whole new testing regime and increased restrictions. The timetable for entering or leaving the UK is currently very vague and it seems the Autumn may be the more likely first opportunity for non-essential overseas travel.
We will continue to make safety our number one priority and do what we can to work within the restrictions and guidelines and, in particular provide as much notice as we can in relation to the decisions we have to make.
Message from the Principal 19th February
The passage of time appears to be less and less linear with each month we spend living through this pandemic. With 4 million people infected and approaching 120,000 deaths in the UK, I feel embarrassed and frankly guilty to be complaining about my lot - but in reality we all have right to feel frustrated and let down by what life has served up this last year. It doesn’t seem to be getting any easier.
However, last Friday, I mentioned the first signs of Spring in the natural world outside my window and this week, through the information portals that provide views onto the wider planet, so, too, positive news on the impact of both the lockdown and the vaccination campaigns. Some way to go, for sure, but we will get there.
With the Prime Minister due to address the nation with his Roadmap on Monday evening, we have a number of different plans ready to refine in the wake of the announcements. I suspect that the focus will be on schools, but one can never be too sure. They used to say a week was long time in politics; these days 72 hours seems like an eternity and much can change.
One of the areas that undoubtedly will be mentioned is the approach to quarantine for international travellers. To be honest, it has become more and more complicated and I won’t try to itemise the regulations here. Please, if you are planning to travel internationally in the next few months, keep an eye on this page. Note that the rules on testing after arrival in the 10-day quarantine/self-isolation period are now tests at Day 2 and Day 8. The private Test to Release from Day 5 is still available. Note also that there is list of banned countries – you will not be permitted to enter the UK AT ALL unless you are a UK or Irish National and even then will have to quarantine in an hotel for 10 days (detail here). The private Test to Release from Day 5 is NOT available. All subject to change……
Away from COVID-19 issues, there has been good news this week – alumnus Dr Robin Franklin (BVetMed 1987) has been jointly awarded the King Faisal Prize for Medicine this year for his work in regenerative medicine in neurological conditions. A huge achievement and you can read more here; you may recognise Robin from the “Serious about Science” entrance display at Camden.
Finally, and a reminder that regardless of pandemic and despite lockdown, business must go on, congratulations to all involved in the successful renewal of the Advanced Accreditation for all our MSci Biosciences courses by the Royal Society of Biology. The news announcement is here.
That’s all for now - I will post again early next week once we have some clarity from Government. Actually, I will post again early next week….
Stay well everyone.
Message from the Principal 12th February
Variously attribute to Mark Twain, Nils Bohr, Samuel Goldwyn and Yogi Berra (amongst others), but probably of Danish origin, the saying “It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future….”, or similar, is always near the surface of my consciousness when I am writing these updates. A more vivid simile is attributed to the author and management guru, Peter Drucker who is quoted as saying “Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.” He also has some interesting views on Higher Education which may yet prove to be correct but one quote I think we can all agree on is “The only thing we know about the future is that it is going to be different”.
Here we go….
1. Term 3
As I mentioned last week, our attention is very much on what Term 3 will look like and, beyond that, how we prepare for the next academic year. By way of an update, some of you will be aware that we are involved in discussions with the RVCSU, Year Reps, Year Leaders and others as we continue our efforts in keeping people safe but ensuring we provide the necessary opportunities to meet learning objectives. We know that opinions are divided – some students wish to be on campus, some off; some are comfortable with blended delivery, some less so; some happy to travel or commute, others not. We also know that regulatory requirements and Government’s restrictions trump any desire on our part to deliver any particular type of provision and that this differs by both cohort and campus.
In short, and recognising that we are about 8 weeks away from the start of Term 3, with an understanding that Government restrictions may and probably will change – though in which direction no one can know - we will be sending out cohort specific plans early next week. I have no doubt that they will not satisfy everybody but you can be assured that no decision has been taken lightly and that our long term strategy is to ensure everyone graduates with the skills and knowledge they need and do so in line with their expected scheduled graduation.
In providing the Term 3 plans, I ask that you do not extrapolate this year’s Term 1 and 2 arrangements to the next academic year as clearly we have different issues to address as each cohort progresses and priorities mature.
I realise that this is particularly challenging for PGT students and we are addressing these issues with our partner organisations. Similarly, arrangements for PGR students, and particularly lab access remains a priority.
2. RVCSU survey
The RVCSU has been proactive in supporting the community by canvassing opinion from across the student body and their findings have been published. We had a very constructive meeting with the RVCSU and have issued a preliminary response as we work together to address the issues highlighted by the survey. I think it is fair to say that no single finding came as a surprise, but it has been really helpful to have student-led analysis of the situation and, within the limitations of any survey, a quantification of some of the factors associated with particular issues. Our initial response to the RVCSU survey is here. It may also be of interest to you to cross reference these to the survey we undertook on blended learning, the results of which are here and covers feedback on blended learning from the staff and student surveys conducted at the end of 2020. You will also find details of what actions the College is taking to address the issues that have been raised.
We will continue to work together to tease apart the several interwoven issues and look at how, collectively, we can best support the student body. I also acknowledge the enormous cost to staff in addressing the issues we face and the conditions under which they are being delivered – and, as I outlined earlier, in the certain knowledge that not all things we might wish to do are possible, especially with the shifting sands of the pandemic response beneath our feet. Maintaining morale will be key to the next few months.
3. Digital support fund
Please find details of our new Digital Support Fund which is intended to support students with the purchase of equipment and improved connectivity to allow them to engage fully with blended learning. Please note that applications need to be completed by March 26th and can include purchases to back to December 2020.
4. Secretary of State’s letter to OfS
For those of you with an interest in the regulatory side of things – and who want to witness first hand the potential erosion of the independence of the Office for Students, here is a link to a letter that was sent this week. Commentary from WonkHE is here. You cannot miss the rebranding of the “Teaching Grant” to the “Strategic Priorities Grant”. There is some anxiety in the sector that this, combined with the recent appointment of a Conservative Peer who will retain the Party Whip, might see us face additional challenges in the coming months. There is also an interesting blog by Paul Layzell, of Royal Holloway, on the subject of the OfS and regulation here. The RVC will work with all of our regulators and you can be assured we will be making the case for specialist institutions and for London based universities, arguing that the “levelling up” agenda, which one surely must support, should not be achieved by “levelling down” those located in the south east.
I hope you are staying well and keeping warm. The snowdrops are through and the blue tits and hedge sparrows are starting to look towards spring. Even the lighter evenings are slowing starting to return.
Have a good weekend.
Message from the Principal 5th February
Friday 5th February
The complexity of managing our response to the pandemic with changing Government advice on testing is, without doubt, increasing. We are expecting updated advice and milestones to be set by Government and these will be in addition to the significant changes in recent weeks.
I appreciate that there is a lot of information to digest and we are doing our best to direct you to the information that is relevant to you. Please do ensure you read it whether you are on or off-campus and whether you are students or staff. Inevitably, as we receive further information and guidance, we need to send you updated instructions, so please do read these further communications.
We have committed over £4M in our response to COVID to date: platform and content remodelling for delivery of blended learning online; additional student support; COVID secure changes to infrastructure; PCR and Lateral Flow testing; enhanced PPE; waiving of residence fees – and that is without taking into account additional staff time nor income losses we have absorbed in clinical areas. I wish I could say that the end is in sight but in truth the financial (and other) challenges we face will continue for some time. We are fortunate that the financing we put in place for campus developments has been something of a buffer on cash flow, but this can only be regarded as a sticking plaster. Very tough times, but we will prevail.
Updates for today are of a more general nature but are no less important for that…
We are committed to keeping everyone as safe as possible and our prevalence of c0.5% suggests that we have been successful to date. Thank you for the part you have played in this. As you will be aware, the approaches required and/or expected of us by Government are complex and dynamic but we have formulated an approach to testing that takes into account these requirements, as well as the special nature of a clinical environment, a fluid student population, the differing local circumstances of, and opportunities afforded by, our two campuses and the advantage and disadvantages of PCR and LFT technologies. The details most relevant to those of you who are being asked to undertake testing have been sent to you and are detailed on the website. However, two points:
- Take the test(s)
First, although we can only mandate testing in certain circumstances, part of our commitment to each other must be to take the tests that are on offer. I ask you to reflect on the downside of not taking a test and then being the one who unknowingly takes out a rotation group, your flatmates, your colleagues or your family members by being an asymptomatic case. For those of you self-testing, we have addressed the issue of false positive LFTs by providing follow up PCRs.
- Report the result
Second, taking the test is one thing, but the data arising from the test are every bit as important for the common good. Not only are we expected to report engagement with testing but we also need to be able to use the results to adapt our policies and plans week-to-week and particularly in making decisions about Term 3 and the next academic year. Students, please report the results of your tests – another part of your commitment to each other.
And, please, please, continue to observe all the Hands – Face – Space advisories. A negative test nor (in time) vaccination, will remove the need for these for some time to come. Also remember, that even if you’ve recently had a negative LFT, if the NHS Track and Trace asks you to self-isolate you must do so.
- Take the test(s)
- Term 3
We are working hard to bring plans together for Term 3. As I am sure you appreciate, the information and guidance provided by the Government are central to these plans, but we hope to be able to provide an update by Friday 12th February regarding our intentions. As always, they will be subject to change.
- Letter from the Minister
Below, you can download a letter I have been asked to forward. It is from Michelle Donelan, Minister for Universities and is addressed to all students. The letter raises a number of issues and we are seeking clarification on these through Universities UK. It is good news that the Government is providing additional support for student hardship.
- Some good news
It was great to see our summer school be flagged in the national press. The article is here.
- Interim VPs
With Professor Elliott standing down from the role of VP (Research and Innovation), after due process and in advance of the appointment of his successor, I am pleased to inform you that Professor Liam Good and Professor Richard Bomphrey will be taking on the part-time roles of interim VPs in Innovation, and Research, respectively. I am sure you join with me in wishing them well. The search for the new VP(R&I) is now underway.
As ever, thank you for your patience and understanding.
Have a good weekend.
Message from the Principal 31st March 2020
Recent postings have stimulated some heartening and very kind responses – my apologies that I have not responded to them all. I realise that they may be a bit rough around the edges, but my overriding desire is to get information out at the same time as trying to ensure that although we are currently apart, we are very much together.
Before the updates, I thought I would offer a small comment on the tests for the coronavirus associated with COVID-19 that are being talked about in Government statements and the media. I am neither a virologist nor immunologist so what follows comes with a warning … epidemiologist at large…
- Detection of the virus, or parts of the virus in people.
- Detection of immune response to the virus in people who have been infected.
The two are very different and serve different purposes. Let’s first deal with the tests that detect virus.
There are a number of different techniques that detect parts of the virus’s outer coat or detect the virus’s genetic material (RNA), or isolate whole virus particles. The main difference is the time it takes to perform these tests but they are all designed to identify people who are infected and likely infectious – these people may or may not have, or go on to have, symptoms - but the key is that they are responsible for the spread of the disease. We need these people to be isolated from people who are not infected. The test that detects part of the virus’s coat – an antigen test – will be the one that will ultimately be most widely used in the community as it is quick and simple. The other two require special lab equipment.
The second group of tests is where we measure the immune response in individuals. These tests rely on detecting antibody, usually in blood, and importantly identifies people who have been infected and who, if healthy and without symptoms or a current positive virus test as described above, are likely to be immune; they have been infected and have recovered or got rid of the virus without getting sick, and are most likely not susceptible to infection for some period of time...note that, at the moment, we do not know how long this period might be. This test will tell us much more about how far the virus has spread in our society – a bit like a fingerprint, the evidence is there, but the criminal has gone. This test will, in due course, be widely used in the community as it is relatively quick and simple too.
So, why is this important? Well, just as the virus test tells us who is likely to be infectious, the antibody test tells us who is now protected. The epidemiologists (not me) can then do clever things with their models, inferring all manner of things about the epidemic, when it will peak and how long it will last.
There is another really important issue with these people who have antibody – they can most likely work safely and when it comes to controlling the epidemic, they will have an important role in diluting the impact of infected people on those still susceptible.
You will remember that when I wrote previously about spread, I said that we needed to keep the number of people infected by each case as low as possible – ideally less than one on average. Well, if there are a large number of protected or immune people in the community then the chances of an infectious individual coming into contact with a susceptible person is less. Ideal! (Aside – becoming immune in the current outbreak requires one to have been infected; hopefully we will one day become immune by being vaccinated. Unless you are an anti-vaxer, in which case - good luck).
This is what is referred to as herd, or more tastefully, community immunity. For the epidemic to come under control we need a significant proportion of the population to be immune. If on average one case leads to three new ones, we need to ensure that at least two-thirds of the population is immune. If one case leads to two new ones, we need to ensure at least half the population is immune; for the equation, see a previous posting.
So, it is likely that the coronavirus is at the upper end of this, i.e., we need two-thirds to be immune. Actually, we can use a combination of physical distancing, isolation and people becoming immune as these all equate to being “protected” but clearly only those in the immune class can begin to get our society back on its feet in safety - and that’s why these tests are so important.
(I accept no personal responsibility nor liability relating to the paragraphs above 😊)
Here are today’s updates…
Alumni and our friends and supporters
I realise that we are all finding this very tough, but we also need to be mindful that our alumni are in an environment where many of them will be seeing real and dramatic impact on their businesses and livelihoods. I will be writing to them in the next 24 hours and I encourage any of you who are in contact with former students or members of staff to provide moral and emotional support wherever possible.
This has been one of the most complex issues given the range of contracts and circumstances and the need for consistency across the sector. These arrangements, approved by our Council, have been put in place having consulted with other universities and third-party providers following the changing advice from Government and the Office for Students. Wherever possible, we have tried to ensure consistency with other providers, and the arrangements outlined below take into account the duty of care placed upon the institution and our ongoing commitment to provide as supportive an environment for our students as possible.
Students in NSV, College Grove, College Close (where relevant)
- If you have left your room and taken your belongings, there will be no charge for Term Three.
- If you have left your room but your belongings are still in the room, there will be no charge for Term Three on the condition that, should we need to use the room e.g. for key workers or NHS staff, you are content that we put your belongings in storage. If you are not willing to agree to this condition, we will regard the room as occupied and payment will be due at normal occupied rates.
- If you are still in accommodation, normal charges will apply to the end of the contracted tenancy period but any extended stay beyond this will be free of charge up until the start of the next session. While you are in residence, should there be any change in your personal situation or your health you MUST update us via the Advice Centre immediately. It is important for you to remember that we will continue to maintain our essential facilities and that we have a duty of care to you; when necessary deliveries of food and essential items will be available to you.
Guidance on staying at home and social distancing for students in RVC accommodation
For students who remain in Halls, your accommodation room is considered to be your home during this period of lockdown so we would like to remind you of the need to comply with the guidance from the government on when you should leave your house(flat) and of the importance of social distancing at all times. See Staying at home and away from others (social distancing)
You should only leave the house(your flat) for very limited purposes:
- shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent 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, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
- travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home.
These reasons are exceptions - even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.
Your household is considered to be the students living within your flat. This does not include other students living on campus in other flats. As such, you should not be receiving visitors or guests, even friends or family unless this is an exceptional circumstance and this has been arranged and agreed with the accommodation office in advance.
These measures must be followed by all students remaining on campus.
Students in Other Halls (Mary Brancker, Mannequin, etc.)
To the best of our knowledge, the same or similar conditions and arrangements are in place at these other Halls. However, for clarification you should contact your provider
Students in Private Accommodation
With respect to students in private accommodation, we are lobbying the Government regarding rent holidays and other contractual issues and are bolstering our hardship funds for those in most need.
There is no best solution and the impact on the RVC is substantial.
We remind all RVC students in any accommodation that we are committed to supporting all students who remain in Halls.
Again, a reminder: If you develop COVID-19 symptoms and need to self-isolate please inform the Advice Centre immediately so we can provide the appropriate welfare support.
I am aware that everybody’s financial status is different, whether with loans or self-funded, and that those with part-time jobs will most probably not be able to work currently. Hardship will be found in many quarters and to that end we are seeking to bolster our Hardship Funds in order to provide support where it is need most.
Note: the Accommodation Team will be following up with an email in the next 24 hours so please hold queries until after that email.
Social media channels and the contribution of the RVC to the wider community.
Keep an eye out for a number of posts and tweets on our social media profiles as we contribute our support to the local and wider communities with PPE, equipment, volunteering and scientific advice. If there is anything you would like highlighted, please do let me know.
Message from the Principal 30th March 2020
With each passing day the advice from Government causes us to pause and reflect on the actions we have taken, the ones we have yet to take and the ones we may need to modify. Whatever else it is, even keeping up to date is a full-time job.
Somewhat slowly, every aspect of our lives is changing – meeting and greeting friends and colleagues, the frequent hand washing, queuing before entering supermarkets, you name it, it is probably different, and key amongst these is “social distancing”.
The sad thing is, as some have been pointing out – is that it is a misnomer and that it is physical distancing that is important. What is ironic in this is that what we need and crave - it is after all the human condition – is social closeness. And as is becoming increasingly evident is that the trick to getting through the next few weeks or, more likely, months is how we can keep that physical distance at the same time as maintaining the essentials of social closeness.
I am sure we all now get the fact the virus is transmitted from one person to another either directly in coughs and contact, or indirectly on contaminated surfaces. I am sure we all now understand that keeping distance and washing hands - and soap and water is best – are the essentials of ensuring we either do not become infected ourselves or infect others if we are carrying the virus. And, as outlined in my previous postings, keeping the number of people who acquire the virus from an infected individual to ideally 1 or less on average is the aim of the control measures we have in place.
But what about social closeness? Always remembering the two-metre rule and the need to self isolate when necessary, we are, however, largely social creatures. So, phone calls, emails, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Teams, even ordering small gifts online are all becoming so important in keeping the fabric our social lives going and holding the feelings of loneliness and isolation at bay. There will be occasions when you will feel that you can’t be bothered to make that call or send that text or message but it is almost certainly in that moment when you should do just that – you never know how much it will be appreciated nor how much it will keep you engaged with your circle of friends and acquaintances. So, whether you have got as far as playing online Yahtzee or watching synchronised Netflix episodes or even just smiling and saying hello to someone out walking albeit two metres away – we can and will make a difference and help each other through this awful time.
The updates will be continuing for this week daily as information becomes available and I will be writing a little bit more on the tests that hopefully will be emerging in the near future and how they might play into controlling the epidemic. But in the meantime, thank you for your continued patience and commitment to doing the right thing for the RVC but more importantly for you and yours.
Now make that phone call/email/text.
Message from the Principal 27th March 2020
Best laid plans….. later than hoped and sadly information that we were awaiting from third parties is still not available. But this is what I can tell you for now…
Dan Chan has written separately to BVetMed 4th year students regarding rotations.
- With clarity now emerging around travel restrictions, lockdowns and the likely extent of the epidemic, we are restructuring the year which will come into effect after the Easter recess (Monday 20th of April).
- We will be maximising the 30+ weeks of face-to-face rotations between September and May 2021 by rescheduling online electives RP2 and hopefully some EMS.
- Fuller details are in the email from Professor Chan
VN placements and exam preparations
Hillary Orpet will be writing separately to spell out the changes we need to implement including:
- On line assessments
- Suspension of placements
We are also in contact with the RCVS.
Building works at Hawkshead
RG Carter have made the decision to suspend work on site following recent announcements and requirements of Government.
Other RCVS issues relating to AHEMS/EMS
We promised you an update by today. There have been no further guidance notes issued.
We are still in conversation with third party providers as we seek clarification on the impact of the Government’s new requirement that any students still in halls now should remain and not travel home.
You (students) will have received the appended letter from the Minister via email.
Have a good weekend.
Message from the Principal 26th March 2020
As we go about addressing the very many issues that we now face, we are doing our best to provide assurance wherever we can. There are many aspects that are outside our control and the pronouncements of Government are requiring us to change and even reverse some of the decisions and actions we have put in place. We are committed to transparency and timeliness in all that we do recognising that the world changes around us.
Following feedback from you, I am aware that late afternoon and evening emails - such as this one – are not arriving at the best time for us to address the queries you may have. I am also acutely aware that each communication often raises a number of additional questions, depending upon individual circumstances. For that reason, the next detailed update will be issued tomorrow morning and it will be a lengthier communication as we seek to address some of the more complex issues.
What follows is more of a personal comment:
Keeping the whole community addressed and totally assured is impossible and we have been working through a list of priorities over the last 11 days; first, trying to ensure that those who are at greatest risk of infection are protected; second, advising action for those who are away from our campuses; third, putting in place plans that led to the depopulation our campuses; fourth, focusing on the needs of those graduating this summer, fifth ensuring those in non-graduating classes receive the education they need to graduate in 2021 and beyond….and so on. We cannot deal with everything at the same time and any responsibility for the order of those priorities rests with me.
The challenges at the RVC are significant but must be seen in the context of the issues being faced by others and especially our health care systems. It is worth remembering that as I write there are around half a million cases worldwide and 22,000 people have died globally; in China, Italy and Spain the numbers are numbing; in the UK, we have c.10,000 cases and 500 people have died; in the USA there have been over 75,000 cases, 1000 deaths and the unemployment rate is the highest in history. A third of the world’s population is in lockdown and 90% of all schools are closed globally. These are extraordinary times; tens of thousands of people are losing loved ones and millions of people are losing their livelihoods.
I cannot adequately express my thanks for the efforts very many people are making – it is easy for nobody. Moreover, the emails of thanks and appreciation that many of you – especially those in our student body –have sent are both moving and humbling, particularly when I know that those who have written are, like the rest of us, inconvenienced, unsure and concerned. We all are.
I can say a few things without any risk of contradiction.
- The next two years will be different for everyone – both in the short term and in the longer term as we address the aftermath of the epidemic.
- We are all working to ensure that the RVC remains a place where students can learn and where people can work in an organisation that emerges from this global crisis solvent and sustainable.
- We will do all we can to ensure those who study here leave well trained, meet the standards expected of them and do so in line with their original schedule.
- You have my absolute commitment, and those of my senior colleagues, that we will do everything within our gift to see you through this.
I ask for your patience and understanding.
Message from the Principal 25th March 2020
With our campuses all but closed save for the continued sterling efforts of those dealing with essential functions and those working in the clinics – and a huge thank you to those who are dealing with the clients and animals in need of emergency and urgent care - there is a surreal feeling to both campuses. I know they will return to normal and our job is to ensure we all do our best to adapt to the temporary arrangements without losing sight of the bigger picture and a vision of the RVC to which we all want to return. So, wherever you now find yourself and whether you are staff or student, we must focus on doing whatever it was we were doing before but now doing it at distance, remotely and online, as far as is possible. For a time, this must be our new norm.
Today’s meeting of RVC Council was an important one – the very first held by video and teleconference – and there were important updates to be provided and decisions to be taken. A quick aside for those less familiar with our structure: Council is a group of people largely from outside the RVC, who give their time for free and hold me and my colleagues to account for our actions. Council also has amongst its numbers two elected members of academic staff and the President of the Students’ Union. It was a good meeting.
Baroness Young, our Chairman, asked me to convey to you all - staff and students - her heartfelt thanks, and those of Council, for all the efforts that you are making and for the way you are dealing with the hardships the current situation is inflicting upon us. There is no doubt that we have made huge strides in remodelling our day-to-day and Council was good enough to endorse what we have been doing. We will need their continued support and patience as we come to terms with our new normal and I can assure you that we could not ask for a more understanding group of individuals.
Council have taken a position on this but we are still speaking with third party providers. More information cannot be provided now, but will follow. We will endeavour to update you by the end of this week.
In common with other universities, the question of tuition fess has been raised.
- As it stands, the Office for Students requires us to find alternative means of providing the teaching and learning opportunities that will lead you to your successful graduation
- For most, this is transforming the learning aims and interactions into online modalities which will include LectureCapture, Personal Capture, digitally enabled interactions, tutoring, webinars, forums and video conferencing.
- We are investing heavily, both in terms of staff time and resources, in ensuring our infrastructure and materials are fit for purpose.
- We are not considering tuition fee reduction as we provide you with a commensurate, if not identical, educational experience.
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
The Home Office issued a press notice yesterday (Visas extended for those currently unable to return home due to COVID-19) which covers various visa-related issues:-
- Visa extensions - now available until the end of May (from end of March initially). An extension can be obtained by simply emailing CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk to provide your personal and visa details with confirmation that your visa has expired
- In-country visa switching is now permitted across all routes for those who are currently in the UK and whose visa expires/d between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020
Students and sponsors will not be found non-compliant if they undertake online provision. “In light of the current advice on self-isolation and social distancing, the Home Office is also waiving a number of requirements on visa sponsors, such as allowing non-EU nationals here under work or study routes to undertake their work or study from home”
RVC doing its bit
We will be discussing tomorrow how best we an assist the nation and our communities at this time of need.
No doubt there will be more from Government this evening but, again, I provide reassurance to you that we are ready to adopt new directives and adapt our existing practices for our common good.
Stay safe and well
Message from the Principal 24th March 2020
Last night I commented that the most recent announcements are dramatic but are an extension of what we have been doing as a community at the RVC to limit the spread of the virus. This is absolutely the case.I take you back to one of my early emails where I tried to explain the theory of the science behind the control. Here it is restated.
- If each infected person during their illness infects only one other person, the infection remains stable in our population. It does not go away.
- If each person infects only two people, we have an epidemic. 1 becomes 2 becomes 4 becomes 8 becomes 16….
- That is why we must keep our distance – it is our duty to avoid coming into contact with others where there is a chance that we or they might be infected. In doing so we stand a chance of getting the average number of people infected per case down to less than 1.
- Even if we can reduce that average number towards one, it will at least slow the epidemic and give the NHS a chance with those severely affected. This is what is being referred to as flattening the curve.
It is that simple. Stay away from others. Please.
Here is today’s update….questions as usual to the Advice Centre.
Volunteer rotational students:
- Professor Chan will be writing to all of you who so kindly volunteered to assist in our clinical services.
- Following the most recent announcement from the Prime Minster, we are now of the opinion that the responsible action is for us to suspend our plans to have student volunteers in our hospitals for at least next three weeks.
To all students currently on placement in the UK
- Due to recent Government restrictions, all placement activity is now cancelled.
- If you are currently at a placement and have been unable to arrange continued accommodation at that placement you must return home immediately.
- “Home” means your primary UK address; if your only residence in the UK is RVC accommodation you must return to RVC. Please inform the Advice Centre if you have returned to RVC accommodation.
- If you must travel because you cannot remain at your placement, please do so in private vehicles wherever possible and avoid using public transport.
- Please also advise the EMS, AHEMS, Rotations and Veterinary Nursing Placement team as appropriate of your current placement status.
- Of course, as a professional courtesy please ensure that your placement provider is aware of your plans.
To all students currently on placement outside of the UK
- Please ensure that you keep up-to-date with UK government advice re: return to the UK.
- Please also ensure that you are adhering to local government travel advice.
- If you need further information, guidance and support, please contact the Advice Centre.
We cannot at present confirm how this urgent requirement to leave placements may affect your professional programme requirements as we need to consult with the RCVS. Please bear with us whilst we seek further clarification. We will provide a further update on this by Friday 27th March 2020.
- Yesterday, there was some confusion around my communications and I apologise for the lack of clarity and in some cases, cross-emailing in the late evening.
- Taking on board your feedback, we are looking to modify the arrangements whereby you need not return to empty rooms yourselves given the Government‘s ruling on non-essential travel.
- We also are recognising that there are several different arrangements in place with regard to occupancy. Our current proposal is to offer a sliding scale of reductions from 25% to 100% for
- RVC-owned accommodation, or where it was booked through us.
Given the significant financial impact on the RVC, we are seeking approval from Council which meets tomorrow morning.
- Please do not email about this as I cannot provide anything further yet. I will update you as soon as I can.
We appreciate that the whole situation is causing disruption and hardship for many and that every facet of the RVC is affected. Every new Government announcement brings new challenges, but we will work to ensure we remain sustainable as we support all our community as best we can.
Message for all Post-graduate Research Students - 24th March 2020
Further to the Prime Minister’s announcement and the Principal’s email last night, we have taken the decision that we need to close the research laboratories for all activities with immediate effect. I realise this will be difficult for a number of you who are in the middle of experiments you consider essential for completing your thesis work but this is a national emergency to which we must respond responsibly. We do want to reiterate the reassurance we sent out last week to all research students regarding their degree programmes and advice we gave at that stage, much of which is still relevant.
- Please continue to liaise closely with your supervisor over specific arrangements regarding your PhD and working from home as productively as possible. We fully appreciate that these restrictions will affect each student in differing ways, depending on the nature and stage of your project.
- As the labs are now closed, if you have outstanding lab work that is the only remaining aspect of your thesis work that needs completing, discuss how essential this work is to your thesis, how long it will take and how this fits in with the revised time line for your thesis
- Contingency plans should be discussed with your supervisor and, where necessary, put into place to ensure that you complete your PhD within the stated studentship period. If productivity is impeded due to the current situation, it is imperative that any delays are well documented and the impact on progress clearly outlined. This should be shared with the Graduate school at the earliest opportunity. The College will view such delays sympathetically and ensure that research students are helped to progress to completion and discuss possible options with the funding bodies where needed. A recent statement released by the UKRI can be found here.
- It is our intention that viva voces go ahead as planned. These will be conducted remotely where the student and examiners are in agreement.
Please ensure that your emergency contact details are current and that you regularly check the information on COVID-19 here on the RVC website and Intranet, each of which is reviewed daily.
Please do bear in mind that this is a fluid situation that is changing on a daily basis and we will therefore be reviewing all advice on a regular basis and communicate with you and your supervisors as and when appropriate. Please keep in regular contact with your supervisor over this period.
Jonathan Elliott and Kristien Verheyen
New requirements for Staff as per PM's announcement - 23 March 2020
You will, I am sure have seen, heard or read the news and the Prime Minister's announcement. It is a game changer in many ways but is also an evolution of the precautions and plans we have been putting in place.
We will have a fuller interpretation tomorrow (Tuesday) but it is clear that if you can work from home you must. There are some exceptions and we are seeking to clarify these.
You can travel to work if your role or activity is essential to the business and you cannot do that activity from home. This would include but would not necessarily be limited to those providing:
- safety or security roles
- essential animal care
- emergency or urgent care to patients
- essential systems maintenance, cleaning or infrastructure operational support
- essential transactional and business processes that cannot be done from home
The key in each case is that you MUST maintain distance even if you have to come into work - No sitting, drinking, eating or socialising together.
We will issue more guidance as we can. You should contact your line manager or Hospital Director if you are in any doubt as to whether you should be coming in - but please remember they will be acting, for now, only on the basis of information that is generally available. The default is that you work from home, as per the Prime Minister's direction.
I realise this is a difficult development but one that I am sure will limit the spread of the virus for the benefit of us all. We have a duty to play our part in helping in the control effort and seeing this thing through.
Very many thanks for your continued co-operation.
Message from the Principal 23rd March 2020
As I have been saying over the last week or so, our advice will be updated in a number of places. With each issue, I post the new message in my blog and as an email; it also appears on www.rvc.ac.uk – and the team are doing an outstanding job on the inter and intranet to ensure the latest advice is then transferred to the individual headings that are specific to the different groups in the RVC – you do not need to go fishing through my messages for the most up-to-date information.
Here is today’s update.
Situation at the RVC
Further to my posting yesterday, we have been notified of a second confirmed infection.
- The student has not been on campus since 13th March.
- The student was in Mary Brancker House until 18th March but had no contact with other students.
- The student left the UK on 18th March and was tested positive 20th March.
- The student is currently without symptoms.
- On this basis we consider the onward transmission from this student to be unlikely. We remain vigilant for other cases, but it is possible the infection was acquired during travel.
Restaurants and cafés
Further to the warning I provided on Friday, I can now confirm that:
- We are moving towards closing café facilities.
- Restaurants will remain open but will be for take-away service only.
- For snacking and soft-drinks we are advising you to bring your own if you are required to come into work; we intend to scale back vending machines given the risks for transmission of viruses at these facilities.
- We will be issuing guidance on prioritisation of cooked food services – those who are in accommodation and those required to attend work will be receiving first consideration.
- Where possible and to keep interaction to a minimum please consider eating at home wherever possible.
Working from home
- Just a reminder that where possible and in agreement with line managers, people who can work from home should now be doing so.
- Note that there will still be a requirement for individuals to attend work where their roles cannot be conducted from home. We ask for your patience and flexibility in keeping the RVC functional – we all need to make an effort in this regard and we will consider all manner of flexible working to allow this to happen.
NAVLE – testing 2020
The International Council for Veterinary Assessment (ICVA) have updated their information regarding the April schedule of the North American Veterinary License Exam NAVLE) testing window.
- The latest information can be found on the NAVLE website https://www.icva.net/news-and-updates/
- Students registered to take the NAVLE during the April testing window can defer taking the test until the 16th November – 12th December 2020 testing window at no additional cost.
- Testing Centers worldwide will be closed from now until 15th April.
- The ICVA have sent a message to all NAVLE candidates informing them of the current situation and students currently scheduled for 13th, 14th, or 15th April to let them know that they have authorised extensions of the testing window in order to facilitate rescheduling.
- For queries or support with NAVLE contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to those students who have responded to our surveys with regard to your intentions. We recognise that some of you will choose to stay. We will continue to support you regardless of your decision.
- For those of you who are choosing to leave:
- In line with some other universities, should you choose or have chosen to leave we will not charge you for term 3 accommodation fees of the 2020/21 academic year (1st April 2020 until the end of your contract date), providing you:
- depart from your room and hall of residence no later than 23:59hrs on Tuesday 31st March 2020;
- notify us of your departure
- return your key(s) and/or access keys/fobs and hall ID cards
- clear your room of all belongings.
- In line with some other universities, should you choose or have chosen to leave we will not charge you for term 3 accommodation fees of the 2020/21 academic year (1st April 2020 until the end of your contract date), providing you:
- For those of you who have already left:
- For students that have already departed and notified us, cleared your room and handed in your keys/fobs – we will cancel charges from 1st April 2020.
- For those of you who have already departed, but could not clear all of your belongings:
- In order for you not to be charged for term 3 of the 2020/21 academic year, you will need to ensure that you have cleared your room of all belongings by 1st April.
- Some may wish to give permission for their friends/relatives to clear the room on your behalf – we will work with you to ensure this can happen.
- We are also happy to assist in clearing your room and putting belongings into storage. Please contact the Accommodation Office. We will work with you to ensure this can happen.
- Your deposit (if there are no fees outstanding) will be refunded. We are working on the mechanism and timing for this.
Note that we will provide more specific advice within the next 48 hours.
As we deal with the immediate issues day-by-day we will be moving our efforts to ensure that our contingencies in the mid-term are robust and that our ability to resource the changes required is secure. Clearly, with the pandemic picture changing daily we may have a need to reshuffle priorities and defer some projects as we bring others forward.
Please be assured that we are doing everything that we can to ensure we all remain as safe as possible, that we contribute to the national effort in controlling the epidemic and that we keep the RVC running and ready to respond, providing a “place” of work and study both now and whenever these challenges abate.
With all best wishes
Message from the Principal 22nd March 2020
I am writing to you with several important updates.
Self-isolation, shielding and protecting vulnerable people
- There is important new guidance issued by government here.
- It relates to actions you are advised to take and arrangements that you should put in place if you belong to one of the groups considered to be extremely vulnerable on medical grounds.
- The definition of "extremely vulnerable on medical grounds” is laid out in the advice but the posting also makes clear that it is a decision for the individual.
- We cannot provide advice to you on this matter. If you have questions, they should be directed towards NHS 111 or your own medical doctor if they are providing advice.
The situation at the RVC
- Many things have changed in the last week and we are trying to ensure that all our information is timely, transparent, current, consistent and concise, as well as observing our legal requirements with regard to regulation and individual confidentiality. With respect to the status of COVID-19 within the RVC community:
- Several people are self-isolating because they believe they have had contact with someone who has COVID-19.
- A number of people are self-isolating because they have mild respiratory signs.
- A very small number of people are off work ill with more severe respiratory signs that may, or may not be COVID-19; as the Government is not testing, it is impossible to say whether they are COVID-19 positive or not; there is a good chance some will be.
- We have, over the weekend, learned that one student who currently has mild signs has tested positive for COVID-19.
- The student has been off campus since 6th March except for a brief visit on 11th March.
- The signs began on 18th March.
- As far as we can gather, although individuals may be positive for longer, most are only infective in the 1-2 days immediately before clinical signs are evident.
- Given timelines and as this is a single case, there is every chance this infection was acquired away from the RVC.
- The student has acted very responsibly, is self-isolating, has told friends and contacts, and has alerted us.
- To the best of our knowledge, none of those in contact on 11th March – over 10 days ago - have shown signs.
- What action do you need to take? None, other than to remain vigilant and follow hygiene recommendations.
- With regard to this case please do not contact the Advice Centre or email me as we cannot provide any further specific details.
Graduation and the Graduation ceremony
We did indicate we’d try and clarify whether or not our July Graduation Ceremony would go ahead and we apologise for being 48 hours late with this advice
- We are postponing the graduation ceremony scheduled for this July. This does not affect your ability to “graduate”. In our system, it is the official posting of results that is the event that formally signals you have successfully obtained a degree. We will endeavour to hold a celebratory event at some time in the future
- I realise how upsetting this will be for many of you – as it is for us. It was a very difficult decision. Please understand that our priority is your safety and we want to provide you with clarity to be able to plan as best you can.
Professional declaration and registration with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
- The RCVS have advised that the declaration and admission to the Register will be carried out remotely/online/digitally-enabled where necessary.
- They are working with the Veterinary Schools Council which represents all the UK schools to establish a protocol suitable for each school.
- You will not need to attend in person to register.
In line with Government statements, with regret our gyms will be closed from 12 noon on Monday until further notice. We will be posting advice on walking, running, cycling and home exercise in the coming days - hopefully, as the weather improves, there will be greater opportunities for getting outside. Enjoy the sunshine today.
Message from the Principal 20th March 2020
MOSTLY FOR STUDENTS...
Of all topics, these have been the most complex and created the most confusion. Note that they are not entirely under our control, but we have leave to do what we deem necessary under our own curriculum. Here is the current advice – it is subject to change. We will issue clarification on any issues early next week.
- For all pre-clinical students (BVetMed1, BVetMed2, GAB, Gateway and intercalating BVetMed students): No new AHEMS bookings will be approved for the Easter period.
- You are still not permitted to book and attend AHEMS placements for term time, when you should be completing course work online.
- AHEMS bookings for summer placements are currently being processed; this situation may change.
- Note that we have relaxed our restriction on where AHEMS takes place. You may book AHEMS outside the UK in the summer break if it is safe and convenient for you, notwithstanding any local restrictions.
NB: The intent of all these points is to remove from you any obligation or encouragement to do AHEMS or EMS for the foreseeable future that may place you or communities at risk of viral infection. The Government guidelines are very clear – non-essential travel is to be avoided and social distancing is a requirement. We need to encourage you to follow these guidelines – they may become law.
Clinical EMS Update for BVM3 and BVM4
- Booked EMS, or EMS that you have commenced, may be completed if safe to do so and this will count towards your total weeks.
- You may continue to gain clinical experience, if it is safe for you to do so, but this will not, as things stand, be recorded formally as weeks of EMS towards your total. This recognises that some may have access and others may not.
- Therefore, EMS can still be booked, but will be registered as ‘experience only’. There will be no limit on ‘experience only’ weeks of EMS overseas.
- This means for BVetMed 4 students, if you are unable to attend IMR, you can use this time to gain clinical experience.
- For BVetMed 3 students, you are NOT able to gain clinical experience during term time, as you will be expected to be engaged in completing coursework online.
- Note that we have relaxed our restriction on where EMS takes place. You may do EMS outside the UK if it is safe and convenient for you, notwithstanding any local restrictions.
- We will update this as we get clarification and as the advice from RCVS changes.
NB: The intent of all these points is to remove from you any obligation or encouragement to do AHEMS or EMS for the foreseeable future that may place you or communities at risk of viral infection. The Government guidelines are very clear – non-essential travel is to be avoided and social distancing is a requirement. We need to encourage you to follow these guidelines – they may become law.
Please - we don’t have a crystal ball and as the pandemic progresses, these guidelines will undoubtedly change several times.
Rumours surrounding the Finals being “harder” as they may be open book are nonsense. As I said in my last message, we will get details out as soon as we can.
- As mentioned yesterday, this has been clarified.
- The link to the RCVS statement is here: https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/news/coronavirus-vn-council-agrees-temporary-suspension-of/
- If you are in a non-graduating year, you will progress to the next year. Where possible we will administer a formative assessment. Regardless of the formative assessment, those with resits in this position will need to understand that they will need to seek support to address performance in the coming year.
- If you are in a graduating year, there will be a summative assessment, but it will be delivered by remote access online. We do not yet know the exact timing or format.
- We have not received guidance on this matter and have not decided how degree classifications will be decided.
- We have an emergency paper with Academic Board that will allow us significant flexibility in allowing people to graduate on schedule.
With the reduced number of people on campus and to protect those working in these services, it is very likely that we will be reviewing how we support those on campus. We will be making these decisions early next week.
- People should prepare for the fact that services will be altered or reduced (e.g. catering and bus services).
- People should prepare for the potential suspension of non-essential services (e.g. library and gym access).
US Federal Loans
- We have received advice that those in receipt of US Federal Loans will have these loans honoured.
- We have received advice that tuition may be provided at distance and online.
We are working through arrangements to assist those leaving RVC accommodation with no intent of returning before the end of the academic year. Please bear with us on this issue, particularly around finances.
MOSTLY FOR STAFF...
Working from home and other issues
Staff will have received an email from the COO and Heads of Academic Departments with important guidelines for working in the coming months. Based on our values and agreed behaviours, it recognises that this is not easy for anyone and we all must share the burdens and challenges we face as equitably as we can. I commend it to you.
You will have been alerted to a FAQ/Q&A prepared by HR. The really useful resources can be found here https://intranet.rvc.ac.uk/information-and-services/coronavirus/faqs.cfm
An email from Professor Boswood outlines why we have decided to defer implementing the significant changes for a year. I am sure no one is surprised given the effort that is being invested in changing the way in which we work and deliver our teaching, as well as anticipating significant staff absences over the coming months.
Safety and security
A wee reminder that we all have slightly altered responsibilities – with many fewer people around on our campuses, we need to be vigilant be that for fire, accidents or security related issues. You will all have received an email regarding fire safety.
It’s been a week like no other in my professional life. One of the busiest, one of the most demanding, one of the most stressful but, ironically, one of the most rewarding. Witnessing the entire community of the RVC pulling together has been a humbling experience; we have a long way to go on this one, but with your continued patience, understanding and commitment, we will be just grand. Enjoy the weekend whether it is self-isolating, social-distancing, with loved ones, indoors, in the garden, online to friends or trying to get Netflix to work properly….
In your debt,
Message from the Principal 19th March 2020
First to staff...
Before I launch into specific issues and point towards a much longer document from the COO and Heads of Department that will be posted on Friday, I again say a huge thank you - I really do appreciate the impact that the current situation is having on our workplace and work and personal lives. As someone who lives alone, I also recognise that the loneliness of no social contact is real even before any enforced bed-rest or self-isolation comes in to the picture. It is hard for us all. The impact of the schools’ closure is huge and largely uncharted territory for most families. As Ian’s document will point out, it will be for each of us to do what we can to ensure we meet family obligations as well as obligations to those people beside whom we normally work. We are a team in peace time, we need to be even more of a team in times of strife.
We are working on a FAQS Q&A page that hopefully will cover most issues. We will keep updating and developing these as the situation progresses. We know though that, in many instances, there are no answers that will be to everyone’s satisfaction, but we are doing our best.
With specific regard to further restrictions, there is a good chance we will have to scale back still further in Camden especially as public transport is reduced and we may have a London focused lock down. Those of you still doing some work on site, or with duties or supervisory roles should be planning for these further changes. I am sure you are.
For academic staff, please do your utmost to continue delivering your teaching to our students; we have a certain amount of slack from both the Office for Students and our professional regulators, but they are requiring us to submit plans and reports of how we are discharging our duties. Hopefully the information and support provided to you already, and that which will be coming, will help us all to get the best out of Moodle or whatever and however we do our delivery.
And for tutors, the very human and personal contact that you have with your tutees will be every bit as important as the academic mentorship – our students, like us, are experiencing something of a tsunami of change and will be looking to us for support and assurance.
Finally, I have been overwhelmed by the good-will and selflessness so many have shown. Honestly, l have no words…..
Second, to all the students...
Here are the latest specific issues - you have all been tremendous, especially as we have struggled to capture all the nuances of every course (and getting some stuff wrong!); your response to our efforts has been amazing.
As you might imagine, yesterday’s announcement of schools’ closure and possible further restrictions in London require us to think again about arrangements. Believe me when I say I understand how frustrating and confusing it can be when guidance changes, but we are living through times that need us to adapt to the most recent advice – I beg for your patience and understanding.
This message is being sent to everyone, but we will be updating the specific parts of the intra and internet webpages - note that you can see the advice without logging on to the intranet or being on campus by going to www.rvc.ac.uk.
Here we go …..
VN students on placement
- Veterinary nursing students’ placement requirements have been relaxed by the RCVS.
- Students will still be required to complete the skills log but do not now need to meet the total hours requirement.
Students on taught programmes
Please read the following carefully; for the purposes of this communication
- Graduating year means you are due to graduate this year 2019/20.
- Non-graduating year means that you are due to graduate in 2020/21 or later.
- Formative assessment A “formative” assessment is an assessment that will help you to understand how well you are doing. Whatever the mark, it is not a barrier to progression in the course. You may receive a numerical mark and/or find out how you performed relative to your peers; if appropriate, you may be encouraged to seek advice on how you could improve your performance.
- Summative assessment means an assessment that can be a barrier to progression unless the pass mark is achieved.
ALL face-to-face teaching (EXCEPT 4Th YEAR ROTATIONS – SEE BELOW) is suspended until August 31st at the earliest.
- For those NOT in a graduating year ALL SUMMATIVE assessment is suspended. Wherever possible and sticking where we can to original schedules, we will provide FORMATIVE assessments.
- The formative assessments will be accessible remotely online.
- There will be no physical presence required on campus.
- This relates to;
- BSc 1
- BSc 2
- ?BSc 3 (non graduating)
- Graduate and Accelerated
- BVetMed 1
- BVetMed 2
- BVetMed 3 NB (note change re summative versus formative in Dr Hewetson’s email)
- All VN examinations in years 1 and 2.
- As we work through these arrangements, we cannot tell you exactly the format of the formative assessments. PLEASE DO NOT ASK/EMAIL– we will contact you.
- We will be considering how the move to formative assessment will impact final degree classifications and the allocation of points for the award of honours at a future date. Please do not send queries about this in response to this e-mail.
- We will work with those of you who have issues with IT resources or connectivity.
- We will work with those of you who require additional support.
***** What this means in practice is that all students in non-graduating years will progress to their next year of study. We expect all students to engage with the formative assessments wherever possible and remain in contact with lecturers and tutors*****
Graduating year - Final year BSc/some MSci
- We are planning to deliver online SUMMATIVE assessments that will determine whether or not the outcomes of the course have been achieved.
- Specific information about the format of these assessments will be provided on or before the 3rd April 2020.
- You will be expected to submit your written projects as per the original schedule – we will be writing to you further about this.
- We encourage you to continue studying towards your examinations with the assumption that they will be taking place.
Graduating year - Final Year BVetMed
- As per previous messages, we are working towards a SUMMATIVE assessment that will satisfy accreditation standards.
- As it stands, it is likely to include a remotely administered online open book assessment similar to the papers you would have taken in person in June.
- We are looking at ways in which we can provide portfolio and overall review performance to satisfy day one requirements.
- We cannot say more at present.
Graduating year – other degree programmes
- For other graduating students including FdSc veterinary nursing students, BSc veterinary nursing students (3rd and 4th year), taught MSc students, MSci students and MVetMed students, further information will be provided before April 3rd by your course director.
- You should assume that you will be undergoing summative assessment.
For all pre-clinical students (BVetMed1, BVetMed2, GAB, Gateway and intercalating BVetMed students):
- No new AHEMS bookings will be approved for the Easter period.
- You are still not permitted to book and attend AHEMS placements for term time, when you should be completing course work online.
- AHEMS bookings for summer placements are currently being processed; this situation may change.
Clinical EMS Update for BVM3 and BVM4
- Booked EMS or EMS that you have commenced may be completed if safe to do so and this will count towards your total weeks.
- You may continue to gain clinical experience, if it is safe for you to do so, but this will not, as things stand, be recorded formally as weeks of EMS towards your total. This recognises that some may have access and others may not.
- Therefore, EMS can still be booked, but will be registered as ‘experience only’. There will be no limit on ‘experience only’ weeks of EMS overseas.
- This means for BVetMed 4 students, if you are unable to attend IMR, you can use this time to gain clinical experience.
- For BVetMed 3 students, you are NOT able to gain clinical experience during term time, as you will be expected to be engaged in completing course work online.
- All rotations are now suspended until 1st September 2020.
- We will work with you to provide you with learning materials accessible/for use remotely throughout this period and, as far as possible, in keeping with your existing time-table.
- Volunteers may still attend the QMHA and Equine Hospital as per previous communications.
Interns and residents (PGDip VCP and MVetMed)
- We are grateful to you for your continued efforts for patients and clients. (I can’t over state this)
- You will have received a specific communication from Dr Barfield, Professor Lipscomb and Professor Chan today.
Tier 4 visa holders
We are writing to you to offer reassurance about your status should you be absent from campus or the UK during this period of national disruption.
More tomorrow on accommodation etc……
And please save queries and emails for tomorrow. Thanks!
Message from the Principal 18th March 2020
Thank you all so much for your patience as we battle our way through a list of changing priorities. Do please forgive me if you feel you, your constituency or year group have either not been mentioned specifically or have not received a more targeted email. Our overarching priority has been to depopulate our campuses, reduce face-to-face interaction, protect those of us out in the community on RVC business or fulfilling educational requirements and provide what clarity we can ….at the same time as ensuring continuity of our business and meeting the obligations placed upon us by the regulators.
There is huge pressure on all of us, staff and students, particularly as we cope with new working and learning practices and cover for our colleagues who are self-isolating or unable to work.
I can’t say it enough - but thank you all.
So, to today’s updates:
Undergraduate taught programmes
There will be no face-to-face delivery of teaching until August 2020 at the earliest. Delivery will be online with remote access wherever possible. We realise that this has implications for travel and accommodation and we will come back to you on this.
Undergraduate and taught postgraduate degrees with a research component
- BSc year 3 students (including final year BSc VN students)
- MSci students
- BVetMed RP2 students
- MSc students
- In order to minimise risk, it is necessary for all prospective projects for which the gathering of data require either laboratory work, attendance at RVC campuses, travel or face-to-face meetings to cease for the remainder of this academic year. Projects that have already been embarked upon and for which partial data are already available should be written up as incomplete projects with an explanation of how further experiments or data-gathering would have been conducted. Projects that have not yet been embarked upon should be modified to a suitable desk-based or literature-based project.
- Students unsure about how to proceed should contact their supervisor, or if a supervisor has not yet been allocated, the relevant Course Director or Year Leader.
- Students, when submitting a project for assessment, should include a concise statement (that will not be included in the word count) outlining whether and how their project was altered as a consequence of these changes.
- Students can be reassured that this alteration will not adversely affect their chances of success. Disruption to projects and last minute changes to projects will be taken into account when they are being marked.
PhD and MRes students' vivas
There has been separate mailing to PhD students from Jonathan Elliott:
- Postgraduate research students (MRes and PhD) – if you are due to complete your studentship, we will be contacting you to organise how your viva will be conducted
- You can expect that normally this will be held remotely for the time being.
We are reviewing key aspects of campus services including Advice Centre hours and arrangements, catering and bus services. There is no doubt that changes will be necessary so please keep your eyes open for updates.
- Please speak with your Line Manager if remote working is problematic in terms of IT provision. Please, wherever possible use the new portal rather than a VPN for accessing your resources.
- We will all need to be flexible with respect to working conditions and environment and of course, there are some key roles that will continue to require presence on campus at least for the moment. More information will follow.
We have provided updated information to both referring vets and clients. Information for each service can be found in the relevant section here https://www.rvc.ac.uk/veterinary-services
- At the moment, it looks highly unlikely that we will be able to host the ceremony. NOTE; this does not mean you will not have graduated – in our system the posting of the results is the key event indicating that you have successfully obtained a degree. We will of course endeavour to hold an event at another time. WE WILL CONFIRM THIS BY THE END OF THIS WEEK 20th March 2020.
- For BVetMed and veterinary nursing students, we are in consultation with the RCVS with regard to professional declarations and admission to the registers. Again, we will come back to you.
Term dates 2020/21
We are seeking to confirm these as soon as possible.
Advice to prospective students
We have agreed the following message
“I want to personally take the opportunity to update you about your RVC offer, given the current COVID-19 situation.
At the present time, like most universities, we have had to cancel all visiting opportunities to the RVC until further notice. This includes next month’s Offer Holder Days the annual RVC Open Day in May. We really want you to have the opportunity to see our amazing facilities, meet our wonderful staff and students and get a feel for the RVC and so we are developing virtual experiences in place of these events. We will be in touch shortly with more information about how you can connect and access these events.
We also realise you may have questions about enrolling with the RVC and commencing your studies later this year. We are working very hard to put plans in place for new students to be able to enrol and access an RVC education this autumn. We realise times are very uncertain, but we want to ensure there are no additional barriers to you securing a place at the RVC!
As soon as more information becomes available, we will be back in touch, but please do also check the RVC website for updates at www.rvc.ac.uk
The RVC Admissions team will remain available throughout the coming weeks; if you have any urgent questions, please get in touch via the contact details below.
Thank you for your patience during this time and we hope you keep safe and well.”
Please note, that with changing advice from government, it is almost certain that we will have more major updates in the coming days. We have just seen information regarding the closure of schools after Friday and we will now consider the implications of this. Please look out for the update.
This final note is really important
I appreciate that we all have concerns and that some of these are specific, some are general, some are urgent, some are less so. The reality is there are many of us who have similar questions and we would like to gather these in as we are finding it impossible to provide personal replies to every query. For this reason, if you are a student could you please send ALL queries that relate to the COVID-19 situation to email@example.com and we will collate and respond in dedicated mailings and a dedicated web page as soon as we can in office hours. If you are a staff member, could you please contact your line manager in the first instance.
From tomorrow we will also establish a FAQ page that will be helpful.
Thanks again for all your understanding.
Stay safe. These things pass.
Message from the Principal 17th March 2020
Two mass emails from me today; Please see the main site for more updates. Note that Jonathan Elliott sent a targeted email to the research community at RVC)
POSTING 1: 4th YEAR ROTATIONS
(Note, Dan Chan followed up with more detail)
Dear 4th years,
Further to government advice and the changing COVID-19 situation:
- We are now suspending all clinical rotations (on-site and off-site) with effect from 8pm tonight, 17th March 2020.
- The suspension is for the period through to Monday 20th April, in the first instance.
- We will be alerting our rotation partners ASAP.
- This suspension will not impact on your progression and we will be working with you to address any issues.
- Any clinical student who wishes to volunteer in our clinical services on the Hawkshead campus should contact Dan Chan (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further information.
Thank you all for your understanding; there will be more detailed information to follow, so do please hold any queries until then.
POST 2: AHEMS/EMS/ASSESSMENT/ACCOMODATION/ CAMPUS ACCESS
(Note Karla Lee and Hillary Orpet followed or are followingup with more focused emails)
Due to the significant change in government advice and ensuing restrictions, we are refining and modifying our advice.
- A 4 week suspension as per email 16th March 2020.
- We strongly recommend that all students follow the government advice and limit all unnecessary travel.
- If you choose to attend AHEMS placements, this is done with you acknowledging the risks and that you will take all necessary measures to ensure your own health and welfare.
- Given likely future restrictions, AHEMS placements that you are already on, or have booked and attended in this four week period will still be counted – this is modification of some existing advice. However no new placements within this initial 4 week period will be approved.
- We cannot say what will happen beyond this period; you can arrange placements but the situation may change.
- A 4 week suspension as per email 16th March 2020.
- We strongly recommend that all students follow the government advice and limit all unnecessary travel.
- If you choose to attend an EMS placement, this is done with you acknowledging the risks and that you will take all necessary measures to ensure your own health and welfare.
- Given likely future restrictions, EMS placements that you are already on, or have booked and attended,in this four week will still be counted – this is modification of some existing advice. However no new placements within in this initial 4 week period will be approved.
- We cannot say what will happen beyond this period; you can arrange placements but the situation may change.
- Karla Lee will be emailing additional detail later this evening and no later than 6pm.
- We are petitioning RCVS to allow us flexibility. We are expecting news today or tomorrow.
- We are committed to supporting you and any student who has concerns should contact the Advice Centre.
- We are cancelling the next sitting of VN final OSCEs; we are awaiting guidance from RCVS as to whether these need to be rescheduled or alternative means of assessment arranged.
- All assessments – with the exceptions of those listed below - due to take place between now and August 2020 in the first instance will be delivered online allowing remote access.
- Physical attendance on campus will not be required or allowed.
- The exact format will be notified in due course but all students should continue to study towards assessment on the planned date.
- We reserve the right to push back or cancel assessments. In the case of a re-scheduling to a later date we will give you a minimum of 30 days’ notice before the new date.
- The exceptions are:
- DOPS – these are due to complete by the end of Wednesday and those involved should have received separate notification.
- VN final OSCEs – as noted above, the next sitting is cancelled – we are awaiting guidance from RCVS as to whether these need to be rescheduled or alternative means of assessment arranged.
- We reserve the right to use partial completion regulations to allow graduating classes to complete in time for the summer graduation. This relates to all courses and would include project work
Accommodation and campus access
- At the moment our campuses remain open but depopulated as much as we can.
- We appreciate that some of you will continue to live on campus during this time and we are committed to supporting you.
There will be a summary of today’s messages in my blog and soon after on the RVC’s inter and intranet.
Thank you all for your continued patience. If you have questions could you please read the email again and, unless it is really urgent, save them for tomorrow. Thanks!
As ever, stay safe,
Message from the Principal 15th March 2020
This communication contains important information for everybody. Please remember as you read through the arrangements we are making, that we are acting in the best interests of everyone at the RVC and the wider community. Some may be inconvenienced with the changes that we require, but I am sure you will understand.
Advice for everyone
Please continue to observe all current advice from PHE and the NHS. Please maintain the good practices of hygiene, social distancing and especially hand washing. Be considerate. Please keep up to date with the recommendations about self-isolation.
General advice for students on taught programmes
There will be no face-to face teaching or assessment from 9am, Tuesday 17th March. This does NOT include DOPS and VN OSCE or first year VN placements who will be contacted separately. This week we will upload materials online to the best of our abilities so please check Learn and watch out for emails from staff and check the intranet. Your progression will not be disadvantaged by content that might be missed this week.
Whilst we recognise that some may need to stay on or visit campus, we recommend that you come to campus as infrequently as possible. You should feel free to go home if possible.
Given the difficulty associated with international travel, any international student who wishes to return home is free to do so and we will support you as best we can. Be aware that returning to the UK may be very difficult for some time - which is beyond our control. Again, we will support you as best we can.
EMS and AHEMS
All requirements for EMS and AHEMS are cancelled for a period of four weeks in the first instance. There will be no detriment to your progression as we are suspending our regulations. We are in discussion with the RCVS and there is a possibility that this period may be extended. Should you wish to continue in your EMS or AHEMS, it is for you to make that decision – for example, I am aware that some AHEMS are associated with payment.
Please refer to the separate email from Professor Chan.
Final Year BVetMed
Note that the final year OSCEs ARE cancelled; please refer to the separate email from Professor Chan to follow.
Further to recent communications regarding reducing the number of people on campus, line managers will be working to ensure as many people as possible work from home for periods or on rotation. This will be done as quickly as possible in the next few days in a way best suited to each team and in the interests of continuity of RVC business. This includes PGR students who may be part of your research team. Please liaise with your line manager in reporting an absence due to illness of any kind or self-isolation.
All elective procedures have been cancelled for Monday 16th March and this is likely to be extended. We will focus on emergency and urgent care. Working patterns in the hospitals will be flexible as will the way in which rotational students are accommodated.
PGR students, interns and residents
Please liaise with your supervisors over specific arrangements and work from home wherever possible.
From the start of next term, we are looking at ways in which we are modifying our didactic teaching and associated materials in ways that will facilitate remote interaction and learning. Similarly, we may be using alternative approaches to administering our assessments. We will update you about this by 31st March.
We have now set up a dedicated webpage regarding Help and Advice for RVC students.
Thanks for all your understanding.
With all best wishes, as ever,
Message from the Principal 23rd December
Further to yesterday’s email and the additional briefing from the Minister this morning, here is a summary of what you should expect regarding returning for Term 2. Please note that very little has changed from those arrangements already in place and which can be found on the website and intranet.
Until the review of 18th January…
Government advice is:
No students to return to campus before the 18th January EXCEPT:
- Veterinary students and veterinary nursing students already expecting to return – so please remind yourself what arrangements are already in place for your year cohort.
- Students already on campus over the Christmas/Winter Break.
- Students already travelling or committed to travel from overseas to the UK (unless they can change their arrangements at no cost).
- Students who have mental health and wellbeing considerations.
- Students who do not have safe or appropriate study space away from university.
- For those students in these categories study space and library to be made available.
- Teaching will be face to face only where necessary.
- BSc 1, and 2 off-campus until 18th January review.
- BSc3 and MSci 4 with planned lab work – we do not have definitive guidance yet for these groups. We will update again on Monday.
- PGT off-campus for Term 2 as previously planned.
- Research students are advised as staff – work from home if you can; you may come to work if you cannot do your job from home.
Again - it is important to note that this is broadly in line with our existing plans up to 18th January.
Please, please, please ensure you have checked your emails for information regarding AST (and alternative arrangements) for your cohort. You need to be aware and take action as necessary regarding:
- Booking Asymptomatic Test (AST) (preferable)
- Self-isolating instead
- Self-isolating when coming from overseas
Those who have received PCR tests should follow the instructions and ensure you provide us with the proof of a negative result (or contact RVC and NHS track and trace if positive).
Who knows what the review of 18th January will bring, or the coming months, but I restate our commitment to making timely decisions as best we can based on available data and, above anything, to making your safety and wellbeing our priority.
Wishing you and yours the best of things in 2021.
Message from the Principal 18th December
Friday 18th December 2020
Knowing that most are short of time…
A reminder that testing will be taking place in January and we will be contacting all cohorts again at the start of next week with reminders including details of scheduling and bookings.We encourage you to make your booking soon and you can find the details you need in the email we sent and/or on LEARN.
As noted previously, we have considered the risks associated with returning to campus and the sensitive nature of some of our working environments. For this reason, we will be requiring 14 days where we have previously done so until the end of January. Note that these arrangements are subject to change at short notice and are dependent upon prevailing disease incidence. You will receive a cohort specific email to confirm arrangements after travelling from overseas for Term 2 regarding self-isolation. Please check these before returning to the RVC. Also note that we will not be accepting negative PCR at day 5 as a means of shortening the period of self-isolation.
We remain committed to everybody’s safety.
RCVS and new BVetMed graduates
I realise that there are some concerns about the new approach the RCVS is taking to supporting new BVetMed graduates form summer 2021. I would like to allay these concerns as this is a development of the existing PDP support that is already in place. It is a significant improvement on a scheme that frankly was not working too well and was planned long before COVID and the misconceptions around the impact of COVID emerged. Professor Chan and I will provide further briefing next week and the RCVS will be running a session to answer any questions in January.
A massive thank you to everyone who took part. It was such a fun thing of which to have been part. Rev. Andy, Sarah and Paul …and everyone else … well done! It’ still up on YouTube for those of you that would like to have a look.
One more communication early next week before I give you a rest over the break.
Have a good weekend.
Posted by Professor Stuart Reid, Principal, The Royal Veterinary College on 18-Dec-20
Message from the Principal 11th December
Top tip: I don’t know any epidemiologist who is intending to go shopping on Oxford Street this weekend. Just saying.
We are reviewing the latest announcement from the Government regarding the move from 14 to 10 days self-isolation and seeking the science on which this is based. We have hitherto adopted a precautionary approach given that some of our activities cannot be conducted socially distanced and, for the moment, we are maintaining this position.
A wee reminder to students who have not yet completed the student blended learning survey that it can be accessed . We’re keen to understand how things are going for students with blended learning at this point in the term. We’d appreciate you taking a few minutes to answer the short questionnaire to feedback specifically on your experience to help us with our planning for terms 2 and 3.
We also have a survey for staff and so a request to those of you who have not yet completed this to do so here Blended Learning Teaching Delivery Staff Survey. This forms part of the 12 Days of Blended Learning leading up to our INSET day on December 15th.
We will provide an update on testing plans for January by early next week.
The 2020 edition of Eclipse, the RVC Alumni Community Magazine is now available in hard copy and online. Here is a link to the online version
If anyone would like a hard copy of the magazine, please email the Alumni Relations Team email@example.com and we will pop you a copy in the internal/external mail. The magazine is a great snapshot of the amazing things the RVC and its alumni have been up to over the past 12 months. It has been a truly challenging year but one also full of amazing stories and people.
A reminder that the RVC Online Christmas Carol Concert, led by Rev. Andy is on Thursday 17th December at 18.00hrs GMT. You will have received an invitation and joining instructions.
Have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you are doing.
Message from the Principal 4th December
Friday 4th December 2020
As I mentioned last week, RVC Council met recently and, as has been my practice in the past, below you will find the introductory briefing I provide to those volunteers who provide us with advice and governance oversight. More of that later.
Before I get to that, I want to say a huge thank you to those who have been involved in providing testing for students and, particularly, those students who have engaged with the service. The results so far – completely anonymous to us – do appear to confirm the very low prevalence in our community and this is a real testament to the responsible and professional approach everyone has taken to the way they conduct their lives. It is a long time since we drafted the resilience statement and our pledge and, whether people signed up formally or not, the evidence suggests our community has delivered to those expectations. Thank you.
This week has, once again, demonstrated both the challenges and the frustrations of dealing with “just in time” political decision making. The Government’s publication of the staggered return to campus in January, and the expectation of widespread testing – both without any forewarning that this was to appear – were just the most recent examples. I hope it is of some reassurance to you that we had taken those decisions, or were prepared for the consequences, by announcing our own staggered return some weeks ago and by engaging with the Lateral Flow testing initiative from the outset.
I have compared a lot of the reactive policy that has emerged as being akin to a game of tennis – you see the ball coming, you hit it back and, at best, you do so with a view as to how it might returned to you next in the rally. The reality is that we are engaged in a game a of chess and that unless we are thinking three, four, or five moves ahead, we will never get ahead of the game. Actually, 3-D chess!
We continue to do the best we can; we won’t get everything right and for that I apologise, and we will continue to be challenged by aspects of provision – digital and otherwise, again as this week has demonstrated. However, we are getting there, and we will continue to improve and refine the way we conduct our business for the benefit of all.
Anyway, enough for today. Here is the introduction to the Council papers:
“We are heading towards the end of a term that has been like no other. In trying to draw together the many strands of life at the RVC, one runs the risk of placing undue emphasis on the exceptional events and circumstances that, frankly, occur daily. Yet, for most of us, the RVC’s core objectives of education, research and clinical service remain unchanged and whilst we may be forced towards different perspectives and different approaches in our delivery, we must maintain focus on the learning of our students, the generation of new knowledge and the care of our patients. In doing so we ensure livelihoods are supported, careers nurtured and life at the RVC sustained. All the rest is detail.
There is no doubt that Government has stepped up its involvement and its interactions with the sector; initiatives on asymptomatic testing and managed student travel for the winter break are the most recent examples. It will be interesting to see how Westminster’s plans for the new calendar year playout with no real sign of even over-arching expectations … even though we have already had to give fairly detailed notice to our own students. And this is perhaps our biggest challenge –students require - deserve - adequate lead time to make arrangements, book travel and find accommodation, and late breaking announcements, however well intentioned, throw stressed lives into further chaos. Most students plan weeks ahead, many of them months in advance, and the complexity of non-traditional curricula overlaid with the restrictions of the pandemic make due notice all the more important. This, we have sought to provide, but it is only a matter of time before we end up on the wrong side of new-hatched policy.
With regard to testing, we will be providing asymptomatic testing at the RVC for people who are clinically normal with respect to COVID-19. Initially to facilitate informed decision-making for students returning home in December, the likelihood is that the major benefits will be in the new year. Evidence from the USA, where the academic year is further progressed than our own and where the prevalence in students appears to be higher, suggests that universities who implemented asymptomatic testing have brought infection rates under control more rapidly than those universities who did not. There are significant issues associated with interpretation, the anonymous nature of the tests and communications but, on balance, the benefits outweigh the challenges.
As the rest of this report and the papers compiled for this meeting of Council suggest, we are in a significantly better place than we had expected back in late spring of the year. The financial position is positive but, with the current lockdown and other restrictions probable in early 2021, I urge caution and a reminder that we are still committed to the savings we outlined prior to the pandemic. Expect more on pensions and pay awards in the coming months.
One other reminder - that our priority continues to be the safety and wellbeing of our staff and students. We have undoubtedly been fortunate…but we have worked hard to make ourselves fortunate and I pay tribute to the efforts of the whole community. At the time of writing, with 12 student cases reported in approximately 95,000 student-days, the measures in place and the behaviours observed have been successful in keeping RVC safe this term; the arrival of students in January with no experience of our campuses since March will require renewed focus. The pandemic has no memory and, as the saying goes, the virus only has to be lucky once; we have to be lucky every day. We are working hard to stay lucky.”
Updates for today…..
Return to campus
As you will have seen from the recent Government announcement, there is now a formal requirement for a staggered return. We are not anticipating significant changes from the arrangements we have already published. We are, however, working through the details of how we can make quarantine and self-isolation work to best effect and least inconvenience, and although we have been told that testing will be required, we have not yet been provided with any detail.
- 2020 Asymptomatic Testing for Students The testing site available to Camden students at Student Central at Student Central on Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY will now continue testing until 11 December. You can book a test here: https://london.ac.uk/test-and-trace Testing in our RVC Hawkshead Testing Centre ends next Monday. Those of you with any queries about this testing, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 2020 Asymptomatic Testing for Staff We will be able to make available a limited number (approx 120) AST tests for staff, PGR students and Clinical Training Scholars who have regularly been on-campus at Hawkshead on 11th and 14th December (10 am to 1 pm on each day). Priority will be given to those staff who have been working in a group environment, for example teaching and in clinics. Those interested should email email@example.com by next Monday 7th December.
- Asymptomatic testing for students returning to campus or placements for Term 2 in January Following the recent Government announcement, we have started to plan for testing to be offered to students upon their return to campus. As we have done for Term 1, this will be offered at Hawkshead by the RVC and via the University of London for those based in Camden. Further information regarding dates and booking information will be provided to students by the end of week commencing 7 December.
This year we have two Christmas carol concerts scheduled with the first being the RVC Christian Union and Music Society Virtual Christmas Carol Service on Monday 7th December at 7pm which will be live on their YouTube channel. This will be followed by the RVC Online Christmas Carol Concert, led by Rev. Andy on Thursday 17th December at 6pm. There is an opportunity to contribute either individually or as a group to one of the carols and it would be great to see as many students and staff as possible join in! For more information on how to add your voice to the choir please email firstname.lastname@example.org by next Tuesday 8th December. We will require your contributions by 11th, please!
Pop-up Christmas shop at Boltons Park Farm
There is still the chance to order your turkey or gifts and decorations. Link is here. Details of opening times of the shop (Wednesdays to Friday each week) can also be found there. And finally – I know many have been finding it hard these past months but should you wish to help others who may be in a less fortunate position over the coming period, there are lots of ways of helping. Possibly extending the “charity begins at home” maxim, this site facilitates local volunteering and contributions. Charity, of course, is needed very far from home, too.
More next week…
As ever, and particularly those preparing to be travelling home, have a good weekend.
Message from the Principal 19th December
Saturday 19th December
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement this afternoon regarding the creation of a new tier of restrictions, and alterations to freedoms over the Christmas period, whilst we await the formal publications of the new rules, I thought it sensible to let you know our current interpretation. I realise that there is huge frustration, anxiety and disappointment - all of which I share – but I do understand that aspects of this pandemic may have changed, and restrictions may need tightened. We can debate on another day whether this should have happened earlier… ….
The reassurance I can offer is that much of what follows is similar to the November lockdown, but I also appreciate that the changes this time will mean logistical and emotional upheaval for many.
Here is where we are:
If you are at home or away from campus, please follow the rules in place local to you. We will issue more guidance on returning after the break once we learn more about the detail of new rules and their duration.
If you have chosen to remain local to the RVC, Tier 4 rules will apply. This means that there can be no mixing of households. However, if you are alone in a flat or room, you may form a bubble with another household (flat or room) as long as this is the only bubble to which you and they commit. This will be for the duration of the current restrictions. If you are remaining in Halls of Residence over the Christmas holiday, Dr McGonnell will be contacting you individually early next week.
|f you are BVetMed student on Rotations or EMS at the RVC, this will still go ahead. However, a reminder that you cannot now travel away again to a lower Tier until at least 31st December.
If you are on EMS elsewhere, it will be for you and the practice to decide whether it goes ahead. I am not expecting any additional comment from the RCVS at this stage.
Please contact Advice Centre (email@example.com) if you have any concerns
As it stands, the arrangements appear to be much as they were for the November lockdown:
Work from home if you can.
If you cannot do your job from home, you can come on to campus.
It is permissible to travel from a lower Tier to your place of work if you cannot work from home.
Please keep in touch with your line manager regarding your personal requirements and arrangements.
In the case of those working in the clinical environment, Professor Chan is reviewing the level of PPE required in light of the recent announcements and will communicate any changes directly to those staff affected.
The arrangements are as for the previous lockdown.
That’s enough for a Saturday evening. Turkey sales will go ahead as planned (though quite what I am going to do with a 14lb turkey for one, I do not know. I will give it my best shot…)
Stay strong, one and all, wherever you are. These things pass.
Message from the Principal 27th November
I can hardly believe we are closing in on December but as is usual, this week has seen one of our Council meetings and the sign-off of our Annual Report and Financial Statements. I know that the Chairman, Baroness Young will be writing to everyone before the end of the year to say a more formal thank you, but she did ask me to pass on Council’s appreciation for the way in which you all have managed to keep the RVC on track right through the pandemic – staff and students. It is certainly true that we have financial challenges ahead – in common with the rest of the country – and we will need to be alert and make the changes required to adapt to a period of austerity. However, for the year gone, our performance on all levels has been remarkable given the impact of COVID on every aspect of our lives.
I did promise a little more on the testing that we are putting in place at the behest of Government to expedite student travel home for those students who have had on-campus delivery this term. As you will be aware from other communications, it is voluntary, requires two tests three days apart and the results are confidential to the person tested. Whilst it is voluntary and uses antigen detection technology (referred to as Lateral Flow), the two negative tests together ensure a 99% certainty that one is clear of the virus. A positive test in either of the two has less certainty and that is why a confirmatory PCR test is required. For the full epidemiological explanation see the foot note to this message. Students being offered the tests will have received separate information. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries.
Two pieces of good news. First, despite all the additional efforts associated with COVID-19 business as usual must go on and I am delighted to say that we received reaccreditation from the Royal Society of Biology - more details below in the updates. Second, I attended the Times Higher Education Awards virtual event last evening. Usually a glitzy affair at the Grosvenor Park Hotel, this year it was on-line with the presenters all dressed up in their glad rags but presenting from their back bedrooms. For all that, it was a fun hour but made all the better by the judges’ choice of the Outstanding Achievement Award. This year, breaking with the tradition of the recipient being an individual usually approaching retirement, the judges decided that the Admissions Teams of all universities should be recognised for the way they dealt with the crisis around the A-level debacle last summer. It was a nice touch and well deserved.
Updates – some important ones….
1.0 Tiers post lockdown
As many will have already noted, both Camden and Hawkshead will be in the new Tier 2 post lockdown 2. Statement is here.
A reminder to all of our students - You will have received dates by which we ask that you travel (if at all possible) if you are intending to travel home or to friends for the holidays. Note that there are exemptions to the travel window (waiting for a test result, prearranged travel, access to private transport etc). Note also that there are concessions available for you if you want to change your travel dates. Statement here.
A reminder that it is a good idea to get tested according to the Government Asymptomatic testing if you are travelling home in the UK (see above). Please note that if you are travelling to an international destination you should check the country’s testing requirements before travel. Many require a PCR negative test within 72 hours of travel. This is your responsibility and should be arranged privately. Here is a current list of country requirements. And here are couple of suppliers of private testing – we are not recommending any of them but provide them as a pointer to the kind of organisation out there (and the costs) - here and here.
Although anyone who requires a private test and “fit to fly” certification to return home must organise this themselves, the RVC will provide support up to £100 against a claim accompanied by receipt and “fit to fly” certification for any of our students. More information on claiming will appear here by noon 28th November. Financial advice and support can also be accessed through the Money Matters team.
- If you are symptomatic (signs of COVID-19), you should access a NHS PCR test;
- If you are asymptomatic (no signs of COVID-19), you cannot access a NHS PCR test;
- If you are a student planning on travelling home or to friends, are asymptomatic and have been receiving on-campus education or you have been living in halls, you should access the LFT facilities as per instructions issued; note that you cannot access the LTF if you have signs of COVID-19
- If you have a positive LFT, you should access an NHS PCR test;
- All other tests, including those associated with travel, should be accessed privately.
4.0 Returning to the UK; testing and reduced quarantine arrangements. The RVC position.
As announced by Government earlier this week, from the 15th December, those returning to the UK may reduce their quarantine/self-isolation period by taking a PCR test on Day 5. Please note, just as we did in the early days of the epidemic, as this only assures c.88 per cent freedom from infection, this will not apply to those returning to the RVC. Mixing of student cohorts, greater density in halls and the unique working environment of our clinical settings means that, for the time being, we are insisting on 14 days regardless of test status.
This applies to all staff and students.
We will update you if the situation changes. Thanks for your understanding as we continue to place your safety first in our considerations.
5.0 Voluntary severance
Staff who attended the Town Hall Zoom meeting last week will be aware that I spoke to the issues around our earlier plans for voluntary severance in the face of COVID-19 for those unable to return to work.
With the announcement of potentially effective vaccines and the Chancellor’s commitment to support salaries through to 31st March 2021, not to mention the additional lockdown, it is clear that the landscape has changed.
Rather than asking individuals to make pressured decisions at a time when the job market is flat at best, and having discussed the matter with our Recognised Trades Unions, we think it best to suspend the scheme until such time as there is greater clarity on vaccine availability and other developments in the new year. We will continue to support all salaries through to 31st March (or contracted end-date if earlier), regardless of whether we qualify for the Chancellor’s scheme and we will keep on file the applications we have received to date. We will also be rolling out our revised Working from Home policies which I am sure will assist in decision-making about our futures.
As mentioned above, following a rigorous independent assessment of our BSc/MSci degree programmes by the RSB we are delighted that we have retained our accreditation, confirming that our science courses provide a solid academic foundation in biological knowledge and key skills, and prepare graduates to address the needs of employers.
The panel members were extremely impressed by the students they spoke to and highlighted a number of areas of good practice:
- Excellent research environment that leads to strong research-led teaching and support for high quality research opportunities for students
- Preparation of students for their period of practice through progressive project experience at earlier levels
- Strong support for students on placements
- Modern curriculum that prepares students well for diverse career paths
- Personalised feedback to support student learning
- Responsiveness to student feedback
- And our linking of research to teaching in the programme was a considered sector leading! Well done one and all.
7.0 Thank you
I have had some of the nicest notes and emails in recent weeks and I am grateful for the feedback which I have passed on to those for whom it was intended. And, as I have said many times before, we know we do not get everything right – not for want of trying – so I am grateful for your patience, understanding and willingness to be flexible. For those unable to attend the Zoom Staff Town Hall, here is a link to most of the questions we addressed. Finally, thank you too, to those who have taken part in the quiz nights – and yes, I know it was competing with Strictly. I am hoping we won’t have too many more weekend evenings shut away from friends and family, at least for the foreseeable future, so I am not intending to run any more for now. But who knows what the future may bring…? 😊
As ever, have a great weekend
Footnote: Epi theory to the testing regime This is entirely optional reading….
The testing we are using to enable student travel home in accordance with Government guidelines uses Lateral Flow Technology. This is a rapid antigen test and it is much less sensitive than PCR.
According to the literature I could find (NB these are all approximate and I am only using it to illustrate the theory) the tests are about 75% sensitive and about 99% specific. This means that out of 100 people with infection it will pick up 75 of them; in 100 people without the disease it will correctly identify 99 of them. All good so far if we want to identify truly negative people. Not so great for positives. Note also that the tests perform pretty much the same in symptomatic and asymptomatic people. This is important because we are only using the Lateral Flow tests in asymptomatic people.
Now suppose we require two tests, three days apart and we make two rules:
- To be considered negative, you must have TWO negative tests
- To be considered positive, either one of TWO tests can be positive. If the first is positive, you don’t need to do the second.
So how does the specificity look now? If both must be negative this is an “AND” – both test 1 AND test 2. To get the combined specificity we multiply the two specificities together; Sp1*Sp2. In this case, 0.99* 0.99 = 0.98. So still a very good result; at 98% this means only two false negatives in 100.
In the case of sensitivity, only one has to positive, so this is an “OR” – either test 1 or test 2. To get the combined sensitivity in this serial testing, the equation we apply is Se1+Se2-(Se1*Se2). In our case with a sensitivity of 0.75, this gives a combined sensitivity of 0.93. So, this is much improved; only 7 in 100 will be missed if we tested 100 infected people.
However, the more useful things to know are:
- In all the positive test, what proportion are truly positive – The Positive Predictive Value?
- In all the negative tests what proportion are truly negative – The Negative Predictive Value?
….and for these we have to consider the problem of prevalence of infection – and I have posted in this previously.
For this, I am only going to illustrate it using the combined specificity and the combined sensitivity; as I say, I have laid out the way we calculate PPV and NPV previously so rather than doing it again, I am going to use this really useful site - https://kennis-research.shinyapps.io/Bayes-App/ . Have a play with it.
Now we know the prevalence is likely to be low in our student population so let’s look at two scenarios:
- Prevalence of 5%
This gives a PPV of 71% and an NPV of 100%; that is to say, nearly 30 percent of all positive tests will be wrong…. but all negative tests will be correct.
- Prevalence of 1%
This gives a PPV of 33% and an NPV of 100%; that is to say, nearly two thirds of all positive tests will be wrong…. but all negative tests will be correct.
So, the test is really good at telling you that you are negative….and you can travel home to family and friends in confidence that you are not an asymptomatic carrier. It is not so good at the positives and that is why the PCR test, which is c.100 percent sensitive, is used as a follow-up. (As an aside the sensitivity of the Lateral Flow is higher when virus is present in greater amounts, but I have ignored that in this illustration.)
Hope this helps.
Message from the Principal 20th November
Friday 20th November 2020
My apologies for the late posting ….
Those of you following national news stories will have seen the good news of a couple of the vaccine candidates showing really promising results. If these prove to be as good as they at first appear, then clearly, the landscape is changing.
It is important to recognise that a vaccine or vaccines will not be the solitary solution to emerging from the pandemic and it is very likely that a number of the “new ways of living” will persist for the mid to longer term: Indeed, the pandemic has accelerated some technologies and approaches that would eventually have become part of our day to day, anyway.
The other thing that we need to remember is that the vaccines reported thus far are being assessed against whether they prevent disease occurring – NOT, at the moment, whether they prevent infection occurring. This we will learn in time. It is also the case that, when the vaccines are rolled out, any campaign will be targeted at those most at risk. This will probably still reduce the R (average transmission) and K (clustering) in places like care homes and will certainly protect those working in healthcare. However, we will still need to try to keep the spread in the unvaccinated part of the population under control. And of course, some people may choose not to be vaccinated and this could well be problematic…but we will cross that bridge when we get to it.
Part of the issue with COVID-19 is that many people - those under 25 and children, can carry the virus without showing symptoms. We don’t really understand why this happens, nor do we yet know whether the virus is causing longer term damage but doing so “under the radar”. This is one of the aspects the Government is trying to address as we move towards the winter break, with increased likelihood of travel and family gatherings. It is for this reason that we are engaging with the national initiative and will be providing testing at the RVC for people who are clinically normal with respect to COVID-19.
Initially to facilitate informed decision making for students returning home in December, the likelihood is that the major benefits will be in the new year. Evidence from the USA, where the academic year is further progressed than our own and where the prevalence in students appears to be higher, suggests that universities who have implemented asymptomatic testing have brought infection rates under control more rapidly than those universities who have not. There are significant issues associated with interpretation, the anonymous nature of the tests and communications but, on balance, the benefits outweigh the challenges.
We will be offering testing and it will be a voluntary scheme with detailed instructions for students following early next week. Tests will commence on or after the 30th November and will be organised according to any travel dates that may be scheduled (see below). The test will be available for students (in the first instance) at Hawkshead and for our Camden cohorts we are collaborating with colleagues at the University of London on a centralised testing facility. The test provides an answer in about half an hour and is best taken as two tests, 3 days apart (I will spell out why two tests are important in a later message). NOTE these tests are STRICTLY for people WITHOUT symptoms and are voluntary. More information to follow and we plan to roll this facility out to staff, potentially later in the year and in 2021.
Updates… IMPORTANT ones
End of term arrangements
Further to my message last week ALL students, WHO CAN, will be expected to return home in the week 3rd – 9th following Government guidelines EXCEPT:
Those on rotations. Note that the Government has provided exemption for those on clinical rotations/placements. These will continue until the 18th-20th December depending on the rotation. The Government requires that attending these rotations should be optional. More on this next week.
Those on EMS - for students with planned EMS, these placements can also go ahead assuming you want them to and of course with the agreement of the EMS provider.
Those with travel already booked (planes, trains)
Those who can travel by private car rather than public transport even if it is after the 9th
Those electing to stay on campus over the winter break
Further detailed advice for all cohorts will be issued early next week including travel window allocations.
As mentioned above, asymptomatic testing will be made available as an option for all students who are currently receiving “on-campus” education. We encourage you to take up this option and we will be communicating further information on testing dates for the period from 30th November early next week. They will available or accessible for students from both campuses.
Thank you to those of you who have given us feedback to last week’s communications regarding arrangements for next term. If you have yet to complete the survey, please do. Your comments have been discussed and considered and as a result some cohorts will have (or will shortly be) receiving further information via email or posted on LEARN. In particular, there is further explanation regarding the importance of engaging with scheduled practical sessions.
And if anyone wants a quiz this lockdown weekend, I’ll run one 7pm on Saturday. As before, email email@example.com by 12 noon Saturday and I will send details by 3pm. Usual rules and prizes.
Have a good one.
Message from the Principal 13th November
One of the crazier weeks amongst pretty crazy weeks.
We have posted a huge amount of information and so I will keep this summary brief.
Arrangements for the period up to and including the winter break
- As per Government guidelines, teaching will be moving online for everyone in our undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes for the period from no later than 9th December up to 18th December. This is EXCEPT BVetMed 5 and VN students on placement.
- For these two groups we are awaiting further information from the Government, as teaching cannot be provided online.
- Although the Government has defined 3-9th December as a student travel window, if you are international student with booked flights outwith this period, you do not need to change your plans.
- EMS that is due to take place can still occur with agreement of both student and provider.
- As things stand, the RVC will continue to host EMS, but this is subject to point 2 above.
- Research students can continue to access laboratories as currently.
- We will publish more detail as we receive it from Government, so please hold questions until then.
Term 2 arrangements
- We are working our way through the many queries we have received and will bring any additional information that is required to you next week.
- For postgraduate students, there is information here.
- We have updated many of our FAQs for students with links embedded into various emails you will have received. Please pay particular attention to those covering Blended Learning. David Church will be emailing information to staff.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to our Remembrance Event on 11th November. The recording is still available here, and this year’s war poetry available in my main blog.
Thank you also to everyone who took part in last week’s delayed Halloween Lockdown Quiz. I’m not running one this week but will plan one for next.
Have a good one,
Message from the Principal 11th November
Wednesday 11th November 2020
Further to my email earlier today regarding the Government’s plans for the end of term of English universities, I am sorry to inform you that we do not yet have clarification and I am as frustrated as you are.
1. What we know
The Government is intent on reducing the likelihood of spread of the virus due to travel at the end of term.
a. Government is promoting widespread testing using a lateral flow test, but this now appears to be risk-based and targeted with high risk and high prevalence being prioritised.
b. The RVC has registered interest in participating.
Teaching and travel
a. All face to face teaching is to stop by 9th December.
b. The 3rd to 9th December is designated a student travel window.
c. It is all but certain that all teaching (bar those on rotation or clinical placements) must move online.
d. Medical students on clinical placement appear to be the only students with exemption.
e. Students may remain on campus over the winter break.
2. What we don’t know
• We do not know whether the RVC will be provided access to the new screening test
• We do not know whether our students on rotation or clinical placements need to leave their placements by 9th December.
• We do not know how we are required to stagger departures in the 3rd to 9th December.
• We do not know what the Government is planning for January. I suspect the Government doesn’t either.
• We do not know if the restrictions apply to EMS.
3. What we are doing about what we don’t know
We are speaking with RCVS, DEFRA and the Department for Education seeking clarification.
Please be assured that we will do all we can to seek the clarification that we all need in order to be able to make plans. I will update you again on Friday at the latest, or as soon as I receive additional information. Thanks for your patience.
Message from the Principal 10th November
Tuesday 10th November 2020
Quick list of pointers today…..
There has been a lot of information circulated regarding our preparations for 2021 and this has been sent directly to year groups and also posted in Learn so do please look out for those messages. A small reminder – for all that there has been a massive amount of effort invested in getting these arrangements announced, I am acutely aware that a single press release from Government can require us to rethink and re-plan at very short notice. We remain committed to the safety and wellbeing of all students and staff as our first priority, even if these plans are subject to change for reasons beyond our control.
An example of just such an announcement is the news the Government released today regarding the end of term and blanket testing of the student population. We have only had about 12 hours more notice than the BBC so we are working through the implications for the RVC and the different groupings, but suffice to say we will be engaging with Government and ensuring we benefit from any approaches to screening/testing as long as they are workable. More on this in coming days.
January 2021 issues
• Our current plans are here or here.
• Undergraduate information has been circulated by email today with a link to a survey. Please do take the time to respond to the survey.
• If you have queries regarding Term 2 please contact your Year Leader or the Advice Centre
• Postgraduate information will follow later this week.
• Information for international students required to self-isolation prior to Term 2 is here
EU/EEA and Swiss students need to be mindful of their changing citizen rights in light of Brexit and the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. For further information, please visit our Brexit intranet pages.
We have provided more information including FAQs on blended learning here
More later in the week.
Message from the Principal 6th November
Friday 6th November 2020
A very short update today as there will be quite a lot to digest next week….
A huge thank you to everyone for their co-operation and resilience as we step back into a period of greater restrictions. I know it’s not easy, so look out for each other.
Please complete this if you possibly can. Those of you who haven’t will have received a reminder email this week.
I know it’s difficult with lockdowns, elections, Brexit etc…. but please try and be careful when emailing or using social media. Some messages land not as they were intended, so please take a moment and read it again before sending. It only takes a moment to prevent unintended hurt. If it was intended, then we can have another conversation….
Quiz night returns
As I missed running it last weekend due to the PMs announcement, I have a pub quiz style Halloween online quiz. As we are now locked down again, and depending upon interest, I will run it this Saturday evening 7pm-8.30pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org by NOON on Saturday the 7th November and I will then send out invites by 3pm.
Have a good weekend.
Message from the Principal 2nd November
Further to my email at the weekend, I promised an update and here it is based on what we know at the moment. However, I do want to make a few important points before addressing specifics.
First, we are not in the same situation as we were in March and April of this year. Although the infections are going in the wrong direction, the prevalence is less and the R number lower.
Second, we know so much more than we did in the spring:
- We know that clustering and super-shedder events are a real thing for COVID-19.
- We know that workplace and learning space transmission of the virus is very low.
- We know how to construct and run COVID-secure facilities and businesses.
- And we know that the basics of masks, social distancing and fresh air are effective barriers to transmission.
So the points that follow hopefully address some of the questions that you might have but also restate the fact that we are open, will continue to put your safety and wellbeing first and we are working with our regulators to keep our guidelines up to date based on the most recent information.
Advice regarding November Lockdown
- Work from home if you can. Check with your line manager regarding specific arrangements. As a university we are open so all student facing services and activities are to continue including face-to-face teaching where it is timetabled.
- Face coverings to be worn at all times indoors unless:
- In a private office whilst seated and socially distanced from others.
- Eating or drinking socially distanced from others
- The Government has asked that you do not return home ahead of the lockdown. They are asking this in order to prevent wholesale movement of people around the country with the potential to spread the virus.
- All social arrangements will be as for the rest of England.
- Exercise outdoors or visit an outdoor public place - with the people you live with, with your support bubble or, when on your own, with 1 person from another household
- Gym closed
- Restaurants to serve carry-out only or strictly enforced single seating.
- Face coverings to be worn at all times indoors unless:
- In a private office whilst seated and socially distanced from others.
- Eating or drinking socially distanced from others.
- In your social accommodation bubble.
- Those studying on rotations on IMR should, as far as possible, continue doing so.
- Those on EMS should, with the agreement of the practice, as far as possible continue to do so.
- Those on VN placement with the agreement of the practice, as far as possible, continue to do so.
The Veterinary Schools’ Council is making a statement, probably tomorrow, encouraging all students to continue with their studies as currently scheduled and, in COVID-secure environments, continue off-campus rotations and placements. Where students are unable to complete rotations and placements, the schools will work with the individual to find alternative arrangements and remediation. We also expect RVCS to support this position and work with the wider profession to ensure provision.
As I say, the situation is very different from the spring and I hope these guidelines go some way to allaying anxiety. Dan Chan will be in contact with rotation students with specific details.
You will be aware I also made a commitment to provide additional information early this week regarding our plans for January 2021. With the announcement of the lockdown and additional guidance from Government, we are postponing publishing the revised detail until November 9th at the latest. However, the timelines and schedule I outlined on Friday currently remain unchanged.
There will undoubtedly be more updates during the week.
Message from the Principal 31st October
It’s a little while since I have written to you at a weekend and I apoligise for doing so. Equally, I realise that there will be many who do not see this message until Monday, but I wanted to write promptly to provide reassurance in the wake of the Prime Minister’s announcement this evening of a month long lockdown from Thursday 5th November until 2nd December. Schools and universities are to remain open but clearly there will be impact on our day to day activities. However, let me be clear - we are open.
Those of you familiar with my comments in the blog and weekly emails will be aware that we have always been alert to the likelihood of increased restrictions as the country continues to deal with the pandemic. Whether those restrictions would be local, regional or national was always the great uncertainty, that, and the timing of announcements and the notice that would be given. We have our answer.
Somewhat ironically, my message of yesterday spoke of our plans for January and the way in which we were phasing a return to campus for more of our students, and we have also been working on a clearer working from home policy for staff. For the avoidance of doubt, we will continue to develop these plans although we do now have to consider how the month-long lockdown in England plays into our overall strategy.
I confess that the leaked news and the content of the PM’s briefing have come as a bit of surprise given the very recent 3 Tier approach and about which I wrote previously. However, I want to reassure you that we have also been planning for this eventuality and we have shown – you have shown – that we can do a lockdown, can do it well and can come back from a lockdown effectively and, above all, safely. And we will do so again....
The announcement that universities are to remain open is, of course, a major difference and so the arrangements will not be the same as the last lockdown. This poses a number of different questions for us to answer and we will be doing so over the next few days ahead of the imposition of restrictions on Thursday. In some cases, the answers will require advice or assistance from others – such as our regulators - and whilst I have established contact this evening with the powers-that-be, it will be a couple of days before we get clarity on all aspects. In particular, we need advice from the Office for Students and from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons on issues such as what is regarded as essential in terms of delivery, how we deal with EMS and external placements with private businesses, and expectations around clinical services. There are a number of others, but that is not for this evening.
What I do want to say tonight is that I am proud of the way the RVC has dealt with the challenges of the pandemic to date, proud of the efforts made by you all, and proud that, so far, we have been able to keep case numbers very low indeed. You have all done that which was asked of you and I can ask for no more than that. Thank you. We do now need to play our part in observing the new restrictions in our business and private lives and I ask for your patience and understanding as we work through the complexities the lockdown brings. I will write to you again on Monday with any new information and with the guidance as it develops. I realise that many of you will have specific questions that relate to particular circumstances and I ask that you hold these back until we have had a chance to provide a fuller briefing.
Please be assured that, as with every other decision we have made or plans we have put in place, your safety and wellbeing are our primary concerns as we keep the RVC safe and sustainable providing education, research, clinical care and employment.
One final plea, I recognise the frustration that loss of freedom brings and empathise with those in the isolation that the new restrictions will cause – and I also acknowledge the temptation of making the most of those freedoms that may be suspended during the next four weeks; but please, please think very carefully about how you approach “one last night out”; we have done so well up to now and I know we can maintain it for each other and particularly to protect the most vulnerable.
That’s enough for a Saturday evening. Have a good one.
All best wishes, as ever,
Message from the Principal 30th October
You are no doubt aware that I am not inclined, and for the most part not allowed, to post blogs of a political nature. Looking back through the messages of recent months – indeed through all the messages I have posted – the closest I have come was in relation to the potential impact on the RVC of our departure from the EU. I have also commented on some decisions taken by our political leaders during the pandemic. Importantly, in both cases, the focus has been not on party politics but on specific issues or policies. So… to the election taking place next week in the USA and a word to our many American students and colleagues, although the generic message is for us all. To be clear I have friends who are Democrats and I have friends who are Republicans. I probably have more of the former than of the latter.
You might surmise my political leanings from that, and you may well be correct. However, this comment is not about the politics. Whatever the outcome, there will be people who will be devastated; upset, disappointed, even fearful. There are policies and debates in this election that are emotionally charged and divisive, in as much as the views represented are binary and, in some cases, polar opposite with little or no middle ground for compromise. One hopes common sense and a respect for humanity will see us avoid the extremes of behaviour disagreement and disappointment can fuel. So, whilst I do not expect a result to emerge quickly on 3rd November, look out for each other and, regardless of party, always try and take the high road. It is not political allegiance that binds our community together at the RVC; it is a shared vision for the benefits science, education and clinical care can bring to society and the planet we occupy. As always, for those particularly affected, our Advice Centre is here.
As you know, we have been monitoring the phased return to on-campus teaching this autumn very carefully. I am hugely grateful to everyone for all the efforts that have been invested in making the process as safe and efficient as possible. We have also been working hard to finalise plans for 2021 and we will be writing to each programme and year group separately throughout next week with details of our current plans for your teaching arrangements from January 2021.
Note that the changing face of the pandemic and national and international restrictions mean that these are our CURRENT plans and they are subject to change should external factors dictate otherwise.
As I say, the detail will follow but in seeking to provide a safe on campus experience for as many as possible we have started our considerations with our undergraduate students. Note that clinical rotational students (BVetMed 5) and BVetMed 4 should already have their schedules. For all other undergraduates we will be providing a modified on -campus experience that will not require anyone to be on campus or travel back to the UK before 4th January and we will be phasing the start of teaching from 11th of January. Depending upon programme and year and, in order to allow for self-isolating, all teaching will be online for the first two weeks, again depending upon programme and year. We do appreciate that some may not want to return to campus and we will work with you to establish what can and cannot be done and how we might address essential assessments. Note that this may lead to some delays in progression, but we will do all we can to explore work arounds.
So, please, no emails with specific questions. We will be providing the details next week. For post graduate students, several of our programmes are delivered in partnership with other organisations and we are working through options with them; again, we will provide more information next week but expect that most of our post-graduate teaching will continue online next term.
See one, do one, teach one……..
Our 4th year VN students are currently undertaking their BSc year. Some are working in practice as RVNs as they are completing their core modules, elective modules and a research project. Within the core module that is currently running, we discuss the role of clinical teaching and how to support students in practice, now that they are qualified. In non COVID-19 times, we would offer them the opportunity to meet the 1st years in the CSC and pass on their wisdom. This year, it has not been possible and so we asked them as a formative activity to create a resource for the first years, teaching them something that they would have found useful in their first week of practice. You probably won’t be able to access all of the materials but the outcome is amazing! Have a look.
Hope you all enjoy the weekend.
Here is a Halloween related link.
Message from the Principal 23rd October
Friday 23rd October 2020
Spoiler alert… there are no updates at the end of this message
One of the issues with writing weekly on the impact of COVID-19 and the ways in which we are dealing with it is that I find myself skipping over the more difficult strategic epidemiological questions that arise…dealing with the urgent rather than the bigger picture “what ifs?” “what nows?” and “what do I really think?”.
For the most part, what you see is what you get. All of the decisions we have made have been with two major aims: 1) to keep everyone safe and 2) to ensure that livelihoods are protected and that careers progress. Of course, there are all manner of details embedded in the second point as it is only by addressing the lot of both student and staff populations that we can ensure the meeting of learning objectives and graduation, as we need a sustainable environment and complete staff cohort for that to happen.
That said, there are many FAQs or not-so-FAQs that play around in my head most days and a lot of these relate to the question “if one was making the national decisions, what would one do differently?” Here are a few of those….. it is a stream of consciousness and unreferenced.
Q1 Where did it all go wrong?
That’s an easy one. We knew it was coming. We didn’t do enough, early enough. Our preparedness and our logistics and our health system were not where they should have been. And we have also lost trust in those making decisions. We can blame it on Barnard Castle or on broken promises, but the real answer lies in the preparedness. We just were not ready, and that lies with successive administrations and is regardless of political colour.
Q2. Did China and the WHO do everything they could in the early days?
Almost certainly not. We all have 20/20 vision through the ‘restrospectoscope’.
Q3. Why is China now in such good shape given that it started there?
In short, and not withstanding their communications with the rest of the world, they acted quickly, they locked down, they tested like there was no tomorrow and they had the ability to make their people do as required. Notably, we didn’t and we don’t.
Q4. Should we have locked down and was it a waste of time?
With what we knew then – a) yes and b) no. With what we know now – a) yes and b) I hope not…but that’s based on what has happened subsequently.
Q5. But it only really affects old people, right?
For sure, in this country, the average age at death associated with COVID-19 is 82; the average age at death for non COVID-19 related deaths is 81 and currently there are more people dying from influenza and pneumonia than COVID-19 related causes. And of course, the problem with mortality and humans, is that it is ultimately 100%. But this ignores several important issues and ones that we frankly do not fully understand. There are unexplained morbidities and deaths in much younger cohorts and we simply do not know what repeated cycles of this virus will cause in our population. Remember that the virus has the ability to attach to receptors in cells in lots of different body systems, so we are not just talking about a respiratory disease. We also know that viruses can change and an uncontrolled epidemic of SAR-CoV-2 (the virus behind all this) could well lead to new versions of the virus circulating.
And, citing average ages ignores that there can be significant distributions around those average figures.
Q6. Is a second wave inevitable?
Yes. And no. So, the summer months and the impact of the national lockdown had us in a really good place. In my view, another short-term lockdown (or circuit breaker) at that point would have been a real opportunity to reduce what was a really low prevalence to something even lower. But, hey ho.
So, let’s look at every other infectious disease that has respiratory components. Guess what, they come and go and often associated with the season. So, yes, the natural undulation of infective waves was expected, but not perhaps the close to tsunami levels that might occur if we get it wrong.
Q7. What are the chances of vaccines coming to our rescue?
I was fortunate to hear Dr Anthony Fauci address an audience earlier this week and, without going into all the details, there are around 11 different vaccine trials ongoing using three different vaccine approaches. Given the incidence of the infection in the areas where the stage 3 clinical trials (the last stage before approval) are being conducted, the results should be known by mid-November this year, with the first real deployment early in 2021. So yes, there are grounds for optimism.
But - and it is a big “but”- v vaccines are not enough. We need a healthcare system that works, with good tests and with logistics that can deliver…. and probably most importantly, a population that will accept vaccination. There will also be a need to consider equity – who gets vaccinated first? A pragmatic view, and one supported by the modelling work, is that the vaccines should go first to those most vulnerable and second to those most responsible for spread. However, this ignores the international aspects of policy as many of the most vulnerable both to the health effects of COVID-19 and the economic impact of the pandemic are in low and middle income countries (LMICS) where healthcare systems are less able to support the infected. There is much thinking to be done.
Q8. Other options?
There have been lots of advances in our approach to treatment and there is a rather blurred line in the deployment of some of the antiviral drugs and the antibody therapies that can prevent infection as well as reduce the severity of infection. It is fair to assume that the longterm solution will require all the different approaches.
Q9. And what of One Health?
So here is where the real answer lies. Those of you who have heard me speak on One Health in a scientific context will know that rather than refer to the human/animal/environmental triumvirate manifestation of One Health, I prefer the FAO’s three levels of a One Health solution. This framework requires a technical level solution (like a good test or a good vaccine), a social level (like good behaviours, such as observing social distancing and lockdowns) and an institutional level (like laws and government policy and international funding) … and it is only when all these three come together that one has a full One Health solution.
Now if we refer back to some of the other questions and answers, one can perhaps understand why countries like China and Taiwan – who did large scale testing early, who required masks and lockdowns early and who made laws and invested massively – are in a better place than others, like us, who did not invoke any of these three levels early enough.
Q10. So, is it science or politics that has failed?
Of course, biological science is only one aspect of science and the social sciences are equally important in our considerations; science, in general, can provide answers but equally we must acknowledge that there is no single solution nor one absolute truth. If there has been a failure it has been the inability of the sciences to communicate their answers clearly and quickly in a way that politicians could understand and implement quickly; and an inability of politicians to listen and hear the important messages. There was also failure in our preparedness – those countries who had experienced recent epidemics and who had invested in healthcare systems and logistics were able to dust off policies and procedures quickly. We were not, and even a country like the USA, with its wealth and its plans, could not get its act together.
At the end of day, it doesn’t really matter who got it wrong - we all did. And it is now in our hands to get it right. We have made it harder than it needed to be, but we can still do it.
So, what is the answer?
Like many intractable problems, one might say, if one wanted to get to a societal free from COVID-19, one wouldn’t start from here…. But here we are. So, I take us back to things that we know work:
- Wear a mask
- Observe social distance
- Avoid crowded places
- Wash your hands
- Outdoors is better than indoors
If we ALL do this, when we can, it will make huge difference. And even if you don’t think it will make a difference to the global picture, it may well make a difference to your personal one.
Have a good one
PS I reserve the right to change my opinion on any and all of the issues discussed in this posting…..
Message from the Principal 16th October
There is no doubt that we are entering a new phase in the pandemic. Nights are drawing in, temperatures are falling and the idea of only meeting some friends and family outside becomes less attractive with each passing day. Whether the Government’s latest approach will help remains to be seen and from a purely biological standpoint it seems the view is “not enough”. Nevertheless, we can all do our bit to ensure we do what we can to protect each other from the consequences of spread at the RVC and amongst our own communities, be that clinical disease or having to go into self-isolation as a contact.
Epidemiologically, the thinking moved on some time ago from considering the R value – which is creeping up and indicating that things are less under control now than previously – to looking at the K number. This measure really helps us understand that transmission is not uniform across the population and that in the real world some people or circumstances are responsible for much more spread than others. So, if the R number is 1.5, this means that 1 person gives rise to one and half new cases on average. However, the K number might suggest that one person in a busy pub gives rise to 15 cases so there must be 9 other infected people out there who give rise to none, for the average R value to be 1.5. Clearly preventing those clusters is the important thing and that is what the new restrictions are trying to achieve. (One word of warning: the smaller the K number the more likely it is that we have this clustering or super-shedding – it reflects the fact that more infections are coming from a smaller number of people. Some more here.)
Thanks for all you are doing. Tier 2 for Camden is hard enough – let’s try and stop it moving to Tier 3.
Doing our bit in Tier 2
Imelda McGonnell is emailing students with further guidance to what has previously been issued regarding preparedness, and expectations regarding behaviours, particularly now we have new restrictions in place. The Government rules are here, rather helpfully unlabelled with Tier numbers (you can’t make this stuff up); you are looking for the “High” level. “Very High” is Tier 3.
We will be making a number of decisions in the next 10 days or so with regard to arrangements for how we intend to approach 2021. Obviously, these are somewhat dependent upon the national picture, but we will continue to put your safety first and provide as much flexibility and choice around work and study as we possibly can. We will make these public as soon as we reach decisions and not “save” them for a weekly posting, so do look out for them. Thanks, as ever for your patience and understanding.
Notwithstanding the change in Government policy, Cindy Pike will be posting confirmation that the RVC will continue full recompense for all staff, whether furloughed or not, until the end of the calendar year. We will be reviewing the situation again during December, but the December payroll will be as currently.
Thank you to those staff members who attended the “townhall” earlier in the week.
The answers to the questions posed are here.
Hope you all have a good weekend.
Message from the Principal 9th October
Regardless of the topic one might choose as subject matter, there is no doubt that the pandemic touches each one. Over recent years, the increasing recognition and importance we place on mental health and wellbeing has been a significant part of the agenda at the RVC, and with the professions to whom we are most closely aligned. With a focus first on the need to destigmatise the whole subject, second on supporting those in need and third on understanding the root causes of factors that compromise our mental health and wellbeing, there has been a huge investment of effort.
So much of recent writing and advice has been targeted towards protecting each other from infectious disease that there is a danger we forget the other epidemics with which we are faced – and mental ill health and lack of wellbeing is, for sure, close to if not top of that list. Of course, good mental health is not just the absence of illness or a mental health condition – it is the positive approach to our own wellbeing and the ability to enjoy life, particularly in this time of social distancing, vastly altered social and working lives and self-isolation and lock down.
Just last week I was reviewing the outputs of a research day hosted exactly a year ago under the veterinary Mind Matters initiative and paused to reflect on how different the report might read if it was being written today. With COVID-19 and notably Black Lives Matter bringing the interplay of major stressors into sharp relief this weekend and with World Mental Health Day on Saturday, we should all take the opportunity to reflect on our own state of mind and that of those closest to us.
There are lots of resources out there…
- For students: Learning and Wellbeing had put together a wealth of information for WMHD here.
- For staff: We have Care First, providing a range of services including counselling support and daily webinars on maintaining wellbeing. Information is on our wellbeing at work page.
- More COVID-19 related: The NHS link is here.
I have no doubt that there are more trials for us ahead, but I do know that these things will eventually pass and we will move to a renewed way of life without the current restrictions. Patience, understanding and looking out for each other will be what will get us there – that, and being kind …..and, at this critical stage in the pandemic especially, doing the right thing. Thank you for that.
More updates early next week.
Have a good, safe, considerate and kind one.
Message from the Principal 2nd October
Friday 2nd October 2020
One of the things we have tried to do throughout the COVID-19 crisis has been to make big decisions based on the evidence available and to make them early. This has not been to everyone’s liking – or rather some of the decisions have not been to everyone’s liking – but we have been driven by our commitment to the precautionary principle, our desire to allow as much time as possible for people to plan and ultimately our prioritisation of safety and wellbeing. I don’t see that changing.
There are two important issues to note from the recently published Imperial study, which is based on random sampling of the population, suggesting the R number may be coming down – from c1.7 to 1.3. First, that the R number is still above 1; the epidemic is still growing. Second, that your chances of encountering an infected person “walking down the street” is 1 in 200. A prevalence of 0.5 percent may appear small, but it does mean there are close on a third of a million people out there in the UK, currently positive. Now is not the time to let up our efforts.
As we are currently dependent on NHS and/or private testing, we are also developing our own in-house capacity to supplement, rather than replace, external provision. Given the vagaries in both the logistics and consumables as demonstrated at the national level, this will not be straightforward, but we increasingly think it is a sensible investment.
Although our focus has very much been on the many things that have been required to start the academic year, we are now addressing the major issues surrounding end of term and, importantly, January. We will be communicating our plans as soon as we have clarity and understanding of the outcome of the next two weeks as we welcome more students back to our campuses and commence blended learning in earnest. As I have said previously, we do not have a crystal ball and, whilst some of the negative consequences we have seen elsewhere in the country were totally predictable, we need to ensure our decisions remain evidence-based to ensure safety and the quality provision of our courses and services.
Changes to campus
Even for those returning back to Camden and Hawkshead, daily life is very different with various restrictions, as you might expect. Here is a link so you can see some of the physical changes we have had to make as we continue on the journey of phased return.
RCVS EMS and AHEMS guidance
This has been updated and can be found here. Jane Tomlin is also writing to BVetMed3.
Please get it if you can. Claim procedure available here.
Black History month
For those that missed it, there is a joint message from the RVC and RVCSU here.
Have a good weekend – looks like autumn is here!
Message from the Principal 25th September
Friday 25th September 2020
If this is the first of these messages you have received, welcome; if this is the first you have read in a while, welcome back; if you are tired of reading them, I’m sorry but I will be continuing with them for some time….and for everybody else, thank you for your interest and continued support as we rise to the challenges of a new academic year, wherever you are.
There is no doubt that there are different opinions as to what is the best way of controlling the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, at the same time as protecting the economy and jobs. There is also uncertainty about the long-term impact of infection on younger people – we simply do not have the data. But for all the differing views and uncertainty, there are some facts: First, cases are increasing, even when one takes into account increased testing. Second, we know that the virus does cause damage even in people who show only mild symptoms. And taken together, these two facts mean we need to be cautious and to continue to take action as a community.
The announcements of the Prime Minister earlier in the week and the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, if anything, reinforce the decisions and actions we as an organisation had already taken: Low campus densities, working from home as appropriate, blended teaching delivery regardless of whether on or off-campus, suspended social activities… we have maintained our focus on safety and wellbeing at the same time as delivering opportunity to work, learn, research and treat. And we will continue to do so.
My message of last week was blunt and I make no apology. With the situation in Scottish universities a stark warning, we need to ensure that the behaviours and attitudes of everyone are in line with our pledge, and that no individual or group – whether staff or student, on-campus or off – puts others at risk or undermines the massive sacrifices and efforts so many have made since the start of the pandemic. With the imminent threat of more widespread curfews and more strict interpretation of the ‘rule of 6’, please do the right thing, be seen to be doing the right thing and expect to be reminded to do the right thing.
Importantly, the restrictions can be short term IF we all stick to our guns – but if we don’t take them seriously, there is a chance that society and our sector will see restrictions in place for some time to come. It’s that simple. We must choose the side of caution.
****IMPORTANT Influenza vaccination****
For many years we have offered flu vaccinations to sections of our community and this year we were to extend that offer to everyone. Without expressing my personal frustration explicitly here, my disappointment at learning that there are insufficient national stocks for us to be able provide this service is profound. So…PLEASE… if you can, organise your own appointment as stocks become available either through your GP or at a pharmacy. It may be that we can access vaccines later in the winter, but there is no guarantee.
Why bother? Well here are a few good reasons
Flu can be debilitating. Were there to be a number of cases at the RVC we might not be able to continue all our activities
By being vaccinated you protect yourself but, as importantly, you protect others – including some people who may be especially vulnerable
By lessening the likelihood that there will be a flu epidemic, there will be more acute beds available in hospitals for those with other diseases, including COVID-19
Finally - and probably stating the obvious – getting the flu and COVID either at the same time or one after the other, would be bad news.
So, please do get vaccinated if you can – and if you have to pay the £9-£12 pounds get a receipt and we will refund you. As they will be individual claims it may take some time ……..
Keeping up to date
We realise that the information we are providing to you is coming through a variety of channels and sometimes is duplicated. We also recognise that, with the volume of information and the changing nature of the environment in which are operating, we have generally sent everything to everybody. Over the next few weeks, we are going to be refining the way we send out our messages. Email will remain a formal route, so please do check your emails regularly – we will be tailoring the messages so you receive general announcements but only with updates that are relevant to you. For students, Learn will be the primary repository and we will endeavour to ensure that we provide pointers to information rather than wholesale duplication. For staff, email will be the primary route, but everything will also be posted on the intranet. Key information is also posted on the website in our dedicated COVID-19 section.
What happens if….
One of the generic questions that surfaces – quite understandably – is the “what will happen if…”
What will happen if there is another national lockdown? What happens if there is a local lockdown? What will happen if we have positive cases on either campus?.... and so on.
Given the huge variation in specifics and timings it is difficult to provide simple answers. However, we have been working with, and been inspected by, the local public health officials and have submitted outbreak plans to the Government. What I can say is that we will continue to follow the expert advice and where we deem it necessary, to protect all our people and our business, we will go a step further. We know we have some big decisions ahead of us but our commitment to our students is that we will do everything we can to deliver the learning opportunities required for you to meet the expected standards and to get your degrees on schedule. We will also do everything we can to ensure we support our staff and their livelihoods. Our collective success is dependent upon us all, with staff and students being able to work and study. But above everything is the imperative that we all stay well.
That’s all for now – I suspect more changes are on the way so please watch this space.
Have good weekend.
Message from the Principal 18th September
Periodically, it is sometimes better to be to the point.
1) Observe social distancing of 2M whenever you can. Inside or out.
2) If you can’t observe 2M, wear a mask or face covering. Inside or out.
3) Only exceptions:
a. If you are exempt
b. If you are in your accommodation” bubble”
4) If you are eating then see (1) and observe the Government’s requirements with regard to mixing which, at the time of writing, is that no more than 6 people should gather inside or out. I realise that education is exempt, but this is with regard to teaching and learning; it makes sense to approach dining in the same way as private households and restaurants are expected to behave.
As we continue to adapt both our campuses to allow us to work and study within these guidelines, there will be more changes. Additional areas are being opened up to allow people to relax and/or eat but in other places we will need to restrict some seating arrangements which effectively force people to contravene our rules.
Please, please make every effort to honour the RVC Commitment. I am sorry that there will inevitably be inconvenience - but we have to make every effort.
Have a good weekend.
Message from the Principal 11th September
Changes to our campuses continue apace and for those of you returning either to study or work, please look out for directions and updates. I can’t overstate four aspects of our expectations of everyone: Don’t come to work or study if you feel ill; wear a mask when inside or when social distancing outside is not possible; observe social distancing at all times. The physical changes we are making to the buildings will count for nothing if we don’t all play our part. To assist in this we have summarised our Resilience Commitment as a simplified Pledge. If you have not already signed up please do so here. Thanks.
There has been a lot of talk about testing and there is a lot of confusion about who, when, and where.
- We are not screening everyone – in common with most organisations – as the false positive rates of the current tests would inevitably see unnecessary actions taken.
- We are screening selected groups of students who are entering defined bubbles off campus.
- We have access to both public and private supply of tests for those staff and students who either have symptoms or who may have come into contact with a COVID-19 positive individual. We have developed a Notification Policy and Test and Trace protocol in the face of potential positives and are submitting our Outbreak Plan to the Minister, as requested of all universities, outlining our internal arrangements and collaboration with the local authorities’ public health officials.
Other things we have been doing:
- We have developed and will be distributing updated information for visitors to our campuses. The form to be sent to your visitors is here.
- We have been working with Universities UK ensuring we are up to date with all Government briefings and ensuring our voice is heard as we face special challenges as a Specialist Institution.
- We are preparing information leaflets and posters that will appear as part of a communication campaign over the next few weeks. The remodelling of our blended learning continues apace ahead of the start of the new Academic Year with lots of changes on Learn.
With new restrictions coming in on Monday, there is likely to be a real threat of people trying to get one last big social gathering in before the deadline. Please, please, please don’t. I completely understand the frustration but if this weekend does see major gatherings and parties, we can expect the new restrictions to be in place for a long time and local lock downs inevitable. That would be bad; today’s news on the R number being somewhere between 1.2 and 1.7 is all it should take for us to pause and do the right thing.
Finally, as we continue to welcome back our own students, with many of them self-isolating, please continue to look out for each other face-to-face where permissible and digitally where necessary.
Stay safe and well everyone.
Message from the Principal 4th September
Friday 4th September 2020
Only two specific updates this week, but I do want to say a huge thank you to everybody for their continued patience, persistence and willingness to adopt the many different safety measures we have in place over both our campuses. As our students are returning over the next few weeks, it will be for us all to keep up the effort.
Looking back over the last few months it is remarkable what we have been able to do together, even though we have been apart. The apparent enormity of the task at hand and the mountain of things to be done seemed swamping back in March – and to be honest, I don’t think we knew the half of it – but step by step, decision by decision, action by action we got through the lockdown, completed the old academic year and set about preparing for a new style of university life in the new one. Mapping out all that needs to be done or maintained runs to many pages, but it is because we all have our part to play and no one person is responsible for the lot that achievement has been, and will continue to be, within our reach.
There are many clichés that one might use - “Rome was not built in a day”; The journey of a thousand mile begins with single step”; and my favourite Scottish one, “Many a mickle maks a muckle” – clichés are clichés because they reflect common wisdom. Each small contribution adds up to a massive effort and it is only when one turns around and reflects that one can really appreciate the distance travelled collectively. Even setting the metaphor aside for a moment – at the start of lockdown I decided I would try and walk a 5km loop from where I live as often as I could. With nearly 6 months gone and averaging 5 times each week, that’s over 600km! Without even trying! Even these updates – never would I have set out to write 45,000 words, but here we are. Step by step.
So, as we commence the next leg of our journey, we know that whilst there will be challenges, we will be up to them and that, step by step, we will continue to get the big things done for the good of everyone. And for all it has been some time since we may have seen each other, it’s a pleasure and privilege to be making the journey with you.
Out of office message
Just a wee reminder; given we are variously on and off campus and some are taking annual leave, we need to ensure we have consistent and informative messages for those who might be seeking to contact us. To this end, Cindy Pike will be circulating a template to bring a more uniform and professional format to our Out of Office messages. Please watch out for it.
Our pledge to each other
Thank you to the many who have signed up to our Resilience Commitment. We are working on a precis version which captures the major points in a single aide memoire – it is in draft form at the moment but covers the following points
Protecting myself and others:
- Wearing a face covering and other PPE as required
- Abiding by social distancing requirements
- Observing hygiene measures (regular hand washing and disinfection of my workspace)
- Monitoring myself for signs of COVID-19 (cough, aches, fever etc)
- Informing the College immediately, seeking immediate medical advice and having myself tested for COVID-19 should I have any of these symptoms
Protecting our community:
- Observing scheduling and access control measures in our buildings
- Behaving appropriately and responsibly in social settings on AND off campus
- Challenging and, if necessary, reporting inappropriate behaviours
- Being tested for COVID-19 and self-isolating when appropriate or requested to do so
- Participating in influenza and other preventive medicine schemes
Do look out for the glossy version when it appears in the next week or so.
Finally, as ever, wherever you are and whatever your plans, have a great weekend.
Message from the Principal 28th August
As we come to the end of the “official” summer months, I know many of you have been working towards the start of the new academic year with little or no break since the end of the last one. In this I include both students and staff as the reality of our situation is that next year is going to be different for us all.
I have moved away from saying “new normal” for a couple of reasons. First, what we are doing is anything but normal and the majority of it very different from the ways we have taught or learned previously. Second, I am sure that things will change yet further as we adapt to the opportunities and challenges of a different environment that has altered how we interact both in a physical context, as well as digitally. This will mean those teaching will be adapting to new styles of delivery, and those learning, adapting to new ways of studying, with, for example, individual student-paced curricula replacing traditional timetabled class-paced courses. Above all, it will mean a real effort across the RVC with everyone taking personal responsibility for their individual contributions in a way we have not been required to previously.
With U turns on a number of issues in government, it has been rather interesting reading the independent SAGE report on how we are expected to open up universities safely. A lot of it will be very familiar to those who have followed along as we have announced our plans for the autumn, and it is comforting to know that, on just about every point, the plans we put in place some months ago have been endorsed by the advisory group. Where there are slight differences, we have ensured we have gone for a more robust approach that makes sense in the context of the RVC – for example, rather than infrared screening of temperatures of arriving students, we have instead provided individual thermometers. Similarly, and as I mentioned last week, our testing for now will be targeted. Certainly, the difficult decision to keep campus densities low has been justified not only by the report but also now by the actions many other universities are taking. The whole report is here.
And if you are wondering what the R number is, have a look here. Remember, we need it to be less than 1.
This week’s updates, in no particular order…
Michele Milner has provided an important document drawing together the changes in approach we have been rolling out over the summer and will be continuing into the new academic year. It was emailed to all teaching staff earlier today.
Those going into BVetMed 5
A well-attended seminar of over 200 attendees took place earlier this week seeking to address concerns and uncertainties around the imminent start of BVetMed5. I hope the vast majority of issues were addressed although I am well aware that it is impossible to cover all aspects and difficult to address more complex individual circumstances. Thanks for your patience and understanding as we work though logistical challenges in the face of evolving Government advice.
Making a good thing better
One of the challenges we face is ensuring we look for more efficient ways to streamline aspects of our business. Ian Darker will be outlining to staff the changes we are making in bringing together a team to look at ways we can improve ways in which we handle data and systems in our dealings and administration.
Finally, for now – safe travels if you are on your way back to us and best wishes for the Bank Holiday Weekend.
Message from the Principal 21st August
Another week, another set of challenges. The situation with student admissions has been fraught, to say the least, and many across the sector are struggling to cope with a wholly inadequate series of decisions by the powers that be around the A-level results.
Sadly, however hard it has been for us to deal with the situation – and a massive thank you to Vikki Cannon and her team - there are many young people who have been left in limbo during a period that is of great anxiety even in normal times. I have a feeling that we will be living with the consequences of this admission cycle for some time to come and it is important that we do everything we can to support our prospective students, both now and when they eventually join us.
A few words on testing. Many of you will be aware that certain groups in society can access testing for the presence of COVID-19.
Up until quite recently this has mostly been reserved for people with symptoms (reminder to self - humans have symptoms; animals have clinical signs), in some cases those who have, or suspect they might have had, contact with an infected person, and front line and essential workers. Although screening of otherwise healthy individuals is of relatively limited value, as it only tells you the answer at that moment in time, there are some instances when one might want to be as sure as one can be that individuals are virus free – more on these specific circumstances in another update. Suffice to say for now, we are arranging limited access to testing of asymptomatic individuals and have been in discussion with both private and public sector laboratories… another piece in the jigsaw of making the RVC as safe as we possibly can. I will provide more detail as the arrangements become clearer.
Finally, a reminder about face coverings. We now have people arriving back and in self isolation in our premises. The least the rest of us can do is wear our face coverings. I think I may have mentioned this before….
Response to the pandemic
Following the student survey on our handling of COVID-19 related issues earlier in the summer, Professor Boswood has posted this summary.
Keeping us safe
We have drawn together and updated our safety information and it can be found here.
Thanks again for all your efforts - I know it has been doubly difficult during this period with people taking well earned holidays and I am grateful to everyone for their patience and understanding.
As ever, have a good weekend.
Message from the Principal 14th August
I am sure that nobody can have missed the debacle of the handling of school leavers’ results across the country. How it will play out in England and Wales now appears even less clear than in Scotland - but the reality is, despite protestations from the university sector over the last few months, we have arrived at a point where significant numbers of young people have been disadvantaged, and those from historically less high performing schools, disproportionately so. That many students have got into their first choice university is of no consolation to those who have not.
There is no doubt this will take time to address and potentially the impact of this year will continue to play out in next year’s cycle, so we must all be flexible and do what we can to work our way through the complex and sensitive nature of the problem. The RVC will be playing its part. It is a stressful time of year for everyone, even in normal circumstances, so it will require patience and understanding aplenty.
Students are the lifeblood of a university, and at the RVC we have been working flat out to ensure our processes and procedures – from first arrival, through early course inductions and teaching sessions to Students’ Union activity – have been modified with safety and wellbeing a priority. It will be different for at least a few months and today we are publishing the temporary changes we are making for those in their first year in the light of the most recent scientific advice. We have published it here and we are also writing to prospective students. We will be contacting returning students soon. Please do access the relevant information, be you staff or student, as it relates to your course or courses.
The effort will continue over the next several months - and I am aware that many have foregone holidays, not because of travel restrictions but out of a commitment to doing the very best for the whole RVC community. That commitment needs to be recognised and supported by us all doing our bit to seek ways in which we can share burdens or innovate as we prepare for the new academic year.
Finally, in consultation with both our Students’ Union, the broader RVC community and our Council, I am pleased to formally launch our COVID-19 Resilience Commitment. It is available here and I am grateful to everybody who contributed. We drew on examples and experiences from around the world in creating what must be a living document as we go about our lives in a way that is respectful of the needs of others in the face of the pandemic. There is a link for you to make your own commitment, and I encourage you to do so.
As mentioned above – information for all new/prospective first year students is here.
Formally launched today, it is available here.
Campus arrangements Please be mindful of the fact that rules and restrictions are subject to change – do please keep checking for updates.
Staff individual COVID-19 risk assessments (mandatory)
Thank you to all those who have completed these important forms already. We now have a FAQ page here so, for those of you with outstanding returns, please note the extended deadline is 26th August. Any queries to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
And finally, finally, welcome back to those students returning to campus and the immediate area in order to self-isolate ahead of rotations. We have missed you.
Have a good weekend.
Message from the Principal 7th August
Some rather direct messaging this week:
- Please check your emails regularly. Generally speaking, important issues are highlighted by email and in one or more of the other locations, e.g., intranet, LEARN and the website, that we have been using to post messages throughout the pandemic since March. E-mail remains the single most important route by which we will issue updates and alerts, but not the only one.
- My weekly emails are not the only emails for which you should be looking. Although I have endeavoured to highlight most issues over the last 5 months, there are others who are communicating essential information.
- If you are asked to contribute information, please do so. I absolutely appreciate that we are all flat out in coping with our individual circumstances but for us to put in place appropriate logistics and, more importantly, safety measures, we do need your co-operation, please.
- Please be patient. We have got, and will continue to get, some things wrong. Some of this will be due to changes in the external environment, some will be due to the fact that we overlook something – but rest assured, it will not be due to lack of care or commitment to you; we are not making the decisions we are making or putting in place the plans that we have developed to annoy, inconvenience or disadvantage anybody. We are acting for the common good and to ensure everyone’s needs are addressed – but especially everyone’s safety.
- In the same vein, there is a saying that one is only as good as one’s last decision - the challenge the world is facing, and in some quarters failing to address, is huge. We may not have got everything right up to this point, but I do know that we have done better than many. But, it will require continued effort by everyone if we are to avoid the worst of the impact of the pandemic.
- We need you to do the right thing OUTSIDE the RVC. The ways in which we conduct our social and personal lives with respect to the pandemic can have massive consequences for life on the campuses of the RVC. You may not agree with all that Government is asking of us nor the restrictions that we are putting in place at the RVC and that is entirely your prerogative. However, as we move to opening-up our campuses, these measures are not being put in place for the fun of it and, in keeping with our RVC Charter and our Behaviours Framework, we will be expecting everybody to comply unless in given specific dispensation.
- Our Resilience Commitment which I sent around in draft in my last email will be launched next week.
- Underpinning principles for all
- We are doing all we can to ensure we have testing in place that we can use appropriately.
- Testing for presence of virus is currently expensive and the results take several days to return and are only ever a snapshot at the time of testing.
- Testing cannot and will not be a substitute for self-isolating. We may eventually be able to use testing to shorten the self-isolation period but it cannot be used to avoid having to self-isolate following travel from non air-corridor countries or prior to entering clinical facilities following any international travel (or as required otherwise at the time as we recognise things may change).
Sorry this has been a bit of a list – and it does apply to everyone. We continue to work to ensure we are taking all reasonable steps to allow studies to progress and keep livelihoods supported and I am massively grateful to you all for your co-operation.
I hope you all have a good weekend and if it is as hot where you are as it is in Hawkshead, don’t forget the sunblock.
PS Quiz night returns this month…watch this space.
Message from the Principal 31st July
And the confusion continues…..
Just as we expected, the Government is changing advice and implementing restrictions in response to its reading of the number of new cases occurring in locations both at home and abroad. These will be the first of many and it means that we too will need to continue to update our plans and advice. Please, everyone, check your emails regularly over the summer.
We are in the middle of conducting an institution-wide risk assessment, focusing on the needs and expectations of each of us as individuals, as we work towards the start of the new academic year. I appreciate that there will be anxieties in some quarters and we will be seeking to allay those concerns and accommodate specific circumstances as best we can. Please do complete any survey you might have received (or will receive) in order that we can be proactive in our arrangements.
For those of you with specific questions about holidays following the new advice from Government we have added some material to the Q & A pages here.
I also draw your attention to two other important matters:
- First, the deadline for expressions of interest for the role of Chair of our Athena SWAN self-assessment team is now 22nd August, recognising many people are currently taking holidays. Note also, that we are happy to consider this as a job share role. Please contact Dr Christine Thuranira-McKeever should you wish to discuss the opportunity informally.
- Secondly, with reduced number of people on campus it is more important than ever that we remain vigilant and aware of fire safety risk; the mandatory refresher module is available here. The password is RVC-Fire2020. Please complete it as soon as possible – it only takes a few minutes and it may save your life, or the lives of others.
Finally today, I append the next draft of our COVID-19 Resilience Commitment – thank you to all who commented on the earlier high level draft – I similarly welcome feedback on this version.
As ever, stay safe and have a good weekend.
Here it is….
Royal Veterinary College COVID-19 Resilience Commitment
This document lays out the RVC’s institutional commitment to resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognising that it will require the efforts of all staff and students, it itemises the expectations placed on all of us, as individuals, as we work together for the common good and the health and wellbeing of the whole RVC community.
The RVC will:
- Prioritise safety and wellbeing
- Use science-based rationale
- Implement risk-based planning and protocols
- Provide our community with PPE and other COVID-19 critical control materials
- Deliver high quality teaching, research, clinical care and professional services
- Work towards our Strategic Plan 2019-21
- Meet all our accreditation standards
- Take all reasonable steps to prevent and control outbreaks of COVID-19 at the RVC
RVC staff and students are expected to:
1. Assume personal responsibility to safeguard the whole RVC community
The RVC is committed to the safety and wellbeing of everyone in the RVC community as well as contributing to broader societal efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. This requires that we are all informed of, and committed to, the standards and behaviours that will minimise the impact of the pandemic and suppress its further spread. It is a personal obligation as well an institutional undertaking.
All staff and students are expected to commit to the issues raised and the standards laid out in this document.
Risk assessment a personal responsibility
Formal risk assessment will be managed through our departmental structures and institutional health and safety procedures. However, it is also a personal responsibility to consider the risks to ourselves and others as we go about our daily lives both within and outside the RVC. When considering potential impacts on risk arising from any activities, any queries should be raised in the first instance by staff with line managers, and by students with the Advice Centre.
Protection of vulnerable individuals
In putting safety and wellbeing as our top priority, the RVC recognises that some members of our community, or closely linked to our community, may be more vulnerable and at higher risk from COVID-19 than others. In addition to the institutional support for these people, both staff and students are expected to make themselves aware and be respectful of the characteristics of vulnerable groups and act accordingly.
2. Implement individual health and safety practices and protocols
Central to the control of the spread of the pandemic is the observance of robust biosecurity protocols. Personal adherence to national and institutional guidelines and rules is an expectation of us all.
Supply and use of RVC face masks and other PPE
The RVC will supply face masks for all staff, students and necessary visitors. The wearing of these masks is mandatory in some places. Where other PPE is required – for example in clinical, laboratory or public facing roles - the RVC will supply appropriate kit as necessary.
Continued observation of hand washing and disinfection
In common with many other pathogens, infection can be acquired by transferring the coronavirus from surfaces to one’s mouth, nose or eyes. Strict adherence to hand washing and disinfection minimises this risk. Disinfection points are distributed throughout our campuses and can be found at all points of entry and these should be used regularly. Regular hand washing should be observed.
Observation of social distancing and other behaviours
Throughout the pandemic, reduction in aerosol transfer by maintaining physical distance from others has been of critical importance. Despite the relaxation of national guidelines, due to the fact that some in our community are required to work at distances less than 1 metre because of their roles, the RVC requires more stringent measures to remain in place. These are:
- 2 m wherever possible
- 1 m with masks, unless you are within a social bubble in accommodation for on-campus students.
Compliance with quarantine requirements and self-isolation where required
In the case of active infection, contact with infected people and some forms of travel, there is a requirement that, in addition to national requirements, RVC staff and students must observe quarantine and self-isolation rules. These are subject to change.
Compliance with testing and contact tracing
Where testing and contact tracing are not legally mandated, staff and students are still expected to comply with any RVC-specific requirements deemed necessary to ensure the safety of the broader RVC community. In the event of non-compliance, the RVC reserves the right to refuse entry to its campuses.
3. Observe instructions and restrictions in physical spaces
The RVC has taken the difficult decision to phase the return of some student cohorts to our campuses. We are focused on ensuring the population density in our physical facilities is monitored and contained, and that the flow of people in and around our buildings and wider campuses is properly managed. This is complemented by our commitment to all our students that we will continue to deliver a quality education, providing them with all the opportunities needed for them to meet the required learning objectives of their programme. To this end, a major focus will be on a blended approach to teaching.
Campus density restrictions
The RVC will establish protocols for maintaining social distancing within our built environment, ensuring that population densities are controlled and the movement around our internal and sensitive external spaces are managed in line with best available evidence.
Commitment to redesign learning spaces
With social distancing a primary consideration, the RVC is redefining and reconfiguring its learning spaces to ensure that risks to staff and students are managed appropriately. This will entail the repurposing of some larger spaces for smaller group use and increased use of blended delivery of teaching, even for those students on campus.
Prioritisation of practical and clinical sessions
Given the nature of programmes offered by the RVC, inevitably there are aspects of some courses that cannot be delivered as effectively remotely as when on campus or in face-to-face settings. As a consequence, we will be rescheduling some courses to allow those subjects which require face-to-face teaching to take place during the period of phased return to campus. However, this will not prevent our programmes addressing all learning objectives required over the course of the academic year.
Observation of group size and learning bubble requirements
With a change to both environment, scheduling and mode of delivery, and with the safety of both students and teaching staff as a priority, we will be defining group size and learning bubbles, wherever possible. These will be enforced on both campuses.
Re-organisation and re-prioritisation of accommodation provision
In managing the return to campuses and the need to preserve spare capacity as contingency for quarantine and isolation, we will ensure equality of opportunity for all. The provision of RVC accommodation will be tailored to the needs of the whole community allowing for control of population density and maintenance of social bubbles. There will be a phased access to RVC halls which will not place any applicants for accommodation at a disadvantage by being in a later returning cohort.
Consideration of the needs of others to work in the same/contiguous spaces
Respect for others and flexibility in our working and living environments are paramount. With a commitment to protecting each other and the need to observe social distancing, with or without face coverings depending upon the environment, it may be the case that there will be exceptions to the prescribed requirements. There will be a clear rationale where this is the case.
4. Advance our educational, research and clinical missions in a safe and responsible way
Coping with the COVID-19 pandemic means that we must find ways of allowing people to fulfil their working roles, pursue pathways to achieving qualifications and strive towards career aspirations. This will require a considered, balanced approach to the risks and opportunities of our new and changing environment where we ensure the pillars on which we build our mission - discovery, dissemination and delivery - remain protected and at the heart of our strategy. This we must do at the same time as making safety for all a priority.
Safety as a priority over all other considerations
The safety and wellbeing of students, staff and those visiting our campuses will be remain paramount. Whilst maintaining this ethos, we will be flexible and innovative in our approach to the delivery of our core activities to protect the ongoing continuity of our business.
Minimising risk wherever possible, whilst recognising that zero risk is not possible
Life’s decisions involve risk, but it is incumbent upon all of us to minimise the negative aspects of risk, wherever we can.
Assessment of critical career, needs-based access to laboratories and clinical caseload
With the multi-faceted nature of business at the RVC and the variety of timelines that apply to those involved in different training programmes and at different career stages, there will be occasions when priority for access to facilities is granted to those on time sensitive schedules ahead of others.
Rescheduling and shift-based approach to all facilities
In order to control population density on both campuses, flexibility will be required in both working and studying timetables. With extended opening hours and the need for repeat sessions due to group sizes, both campuses will see activity taking place outside what were previously considered normal working hours. This will require patience, understanding and flexibility from everybody. Workload will be distributed fairly, but it may be the case that job descriptions and roles are temporarily modified or relaxed for the good of all.
Apply robust safety protocols for dealing with our collaborators, clients and necessary visitors
Visitors to the RVC will be expected to follow our protocols and will be issued with advice regarding appropriate PPE and face masks at the point of entry to each campus. Embedded contractors, such as those working in catering, security together with those working on construction are expected to observe the same standards required of RVC staff and students whilst on our campus. Within defined working areas, further appropriate, industry-standard measures may be applicable. These stipulations are designed to reduce the likelihood of a visitor introducing infection to our campuses as well as ensuring we discharge our duty of care in protecting them from any risks arising from our environment.
5. Be flexible in expectations and aspirations, recognising the wellbeing of all
Management of the RVC’s response to the pandemic has required many changes to the way in which we conduct our business or learning - be that in our teaching, in our research laboratories, in our clinics or in the wide range of our professional services. In the acute phase of the crisis, flexibility and a willingness to put the common good ahead of individual interests were emblematic of the esprit de corps upon which we were able to call. This selflessness and generosity will be critical as we continue to adjust to the consequences of the pandemic.
Managed return to campuses
With competing curricular priorities and the need to manage population density on both campuses, we must prudently control the return of both staff and students, at least until the start of 2021. There will undoubtedly be frustrations and disappointments for some, but compromise and flexibility are paramount in maintaining the wellbeing of the whole community.
Provision of quality blended learning and teaching options
The RVC is committed to providing all its students with a high quality education and, to this end, staff are working hard to ensure that existing curricula are delivered effectively through a blended approach. In some instances, this will require new teaching skills in our staff and new learning skills in our students. We will work to support both staff and students in this transition.
Altered priority for accommodation
Wherever possible, the RVC will seek to meet the needs and wishes of its students with regard to the provision of accommodation. In addition to the assessment of need and the ballot normally in place, consideration will also be given to COVID-19 related priorities when it comes to allocations prior to the new academic session. No student will be disadvantaged in the allocation process by virtue of their on-campus/off-campus status during Term 1.
Phased, flexible and altered timetabling
In keeping with the need to control the number of people on our campuses, the flow of people through facilities, social distancing and defined group sizes, there are planned changes to teaching timetables that will affect both students and staff. These relate to access to physical teaching spaces as well as aspects of blended synchronous and asynchronous delivery. Compromise and flexibility will be required by all involved in our teaching programmes.
Safe scheduling of laboratory access
Throughout the pandemic, the RVC has maintained its core laboratory facilities and services. Since the lifting of national restrictions, we have worked hard to allow a controlled recommencement of our research activities, with phased access to laboratories and equipment and the implementation of prioritised booking systems. This approach will continue into the new academic year and will require the understanding and patience of research staff, technicians and students engaged in research activities. We will be innovative and resourceful in the way in which we provide training in a safe way for those new to certain research techniques.
Working from home and/or on campus
Key to the RVC’s approach since the onset of the crisis has been the commitment to ensuring that those who can work remotely do so. The lifting of national restrictions and the encouragement to return to the workplace allows for greater flexibility, but it will be necessary for remote working to continue for some and this will be at the discretion of line managers. In some instances, there may be an absolute need for presence on campus; this too will be at the discretion of line managers, subject to any individual vulnerabilities, shielding or special circumstances. Care will be taken to ensure an appropriate balance is struck between individual needs, preferences and operational requirements.
6. Anticipate and plan for emergencies, outbreaks and other contingencies
With the likelihood that, at some point, there will be students or staff who acquire infection, the RVC, besides co-operating with any requirements of the local health services, will have a variety of response plans designed to address situations ranging from individual cases to cluster outbreaks. These contingencies will include a range of options from individual or group self-isolation through closure of one or more facilities, to campus and institutional shutdown. This will require understanding and co-operation from everyone at the RVC.
Measured responses, based on current scientific evidence, will be central to controlling any suspected outbreak. Initial actions will include options for immediate cessation of movement of people on and off campuses and consultation with local disease outbreak specialists. As has been our approach throughout the pandemic, early action and the precautionary principle will be at the heart of any intervention. Personal readiness will be an important contribution to success.
Recognising that preventing further dissemination of infection is the top priority in control, early temporary closure of facilities or isolation of individuals, even presumptively, will be initiated in the case of a suspected local breakdown. Adherence to restrictions will be paramount should they be implemented and planning for such an eventuality, a sensible action to take at a personal level.
The RVC will, wherever appropriate and possible, require the use of testing to confirm the presence or absence of the coronavirus infection, including the testing of in-contacts who may be asymptomatic. In the first instance, this is likely to be PCR testing, but may be extended to other types of tests as they become available and ‘the science’ supports their use. As far as is possible, compliance in any testing or screening programme is expected from all members of the RVC community.
The RVC, working with Health Protection England and other relevant bodies, will seek to control any outbreaks of COVID-19 that may occur at the RVC. This will include, but not be limited to, requiring enhanced biosecurity and hygiene measures, self-isolation, quarantining of groups of people resident on campus, restricting access to, or closure of, specific facilities and partial or total closure of both campuses. Furthermore, should preventive measures become available, such as vaccines against the coronavirus, the RVC has an expectation that, as far as is possible, all members of the RVC community will engage in any preventive programme. To protect the RVC community against other infectious disease outbreaks this winter, the RVC will vigorously promote influenza and meningitis vaccination, where appropriate.
If you would like to read earlier messages see Previous messages from the Principal.
Message from the Principal 10th of July
Message from the Principal 10th July 2020
A big week – the conclusion of our academic year is now upon us, we have only the final meeting of Council next week to go and that will be 2019/20 at an end. I will offer more next week about the year, but in the meantime, a massive thank you to all those involved in our online graduations. It was a huge team effort and the three events we hosted were greatly appreciated and had a real sense of celebration and appropriate gravitas. And, of course many congratulations to all our new graduates. For those who missed them, the ceremonies are still available here.
A very important updates today, so I will cut the preamble:
Requirements for face masks/coverings
In line with our ongoing strategy to prioritise the health and wellbeing of our entire community and with increasing numbers of people on our campuses, I am writing to advise everyone of a change in policy with respect to face masks/coverings. We can all make a difference to the safety of our environment and I ask you to make adherence to this policy part of your contribution to our community.
Our current guidelines on social distancing are:
- 1) 2 metres distance still advised wherever possible, indoors or out.
- 2) Where 2 metres is not possible, face masks should be worn by all parties.
We are now extending the advice regarding face masks: The advice is advisory from week commencing 13th July and will become mandatory during the week commencing 20th July.
Face masks/coverings must be worn at all times when on either campus:
- When inside in shared air space (i.e., not when sitting alone in an office). Masks may be removed in long term shared office areas where 2 metres social distancing can be strictly observed...
- When outside, when 2 metres distancing cannot be observed.
Who this applies to:
- Embedded contractors e.g. catering team, security and bus service providers
Who this policy does not apply to:
- Students in an RVC-approved social bubble. Note that social bubbles are not defined in the workplace and relate only to accommodation arrangements.
- Contractors whilst working within the Hawkshead construction site.
- Those with special exemptions (see Policy)
This policy will be advisory from next Monday, 13th July and people are strongly encouraged to wear their own masks. It will become mandatory during week commencing 20th July or whenever the first batch of RVC supplied masks arrive and have been distributed. We will continue to update you on this date and also provide details on how we will be distributing the masks.
The full policy is available here.
Message from the Principal 3rd of July
Is it just me, or are the weeks passing even more quickly? What does appear to be happening is that the Government is making more and more changes to many of the restrictions under which we have been operating and that means we must consider each one as it applies to us. Making life even more complicated, is the need to take into account the rules being laid down by various administrations - Scotland, Wales, the EU, the USA etc. We will need to develop positions on how we will deal with, for example, travel abroad and this we are doing.
I have written a bit about the Reproductive number, Ro, previously – that is, the number of new cases a single case gives rise to during the time the person is infectious. Another concept, the force of infection - the rate at which susceptible people become infected - is a function of both the Ro and the number of infectious people out there, or prevalence. At the moment, we are trying to establish what the prevalence of infection is in different parts of our society as this will give us an idea of the rate at which new cases will arise, given we have a good idea of Ro. And, that means testing. More on this another day, but in essence, for all that the force of infection may be low, it does not mean that the infection cannot take off again. It is truly like a forest fire being brought under control – one spark on to dry grass and away we go … and as we know it can take some weeks for this to be evident, as many infections are asymptomatic. There is a great piece in the New York Times about how the infection spread in the states. Fascinating and concerning… here.
On Tuesday 7th July we will be celebrating with more of our newest graduates who are formally marking their transition to the ranks of alumni of the RVC.
- At 11am, the celebration of our FdSc and BSc Vet Nursing class of 2020 will take place.
- At 3pm the celebration of our BSc, MSci, GradDip, PGDip, MSc, MVetMed, MRes, MPhil, PhD students at.
Both ceremonies will be hosted on YouTube and will be available to view at www.rvc.ac.uk/graduation.
We had great feedback from our previous ceremony on so please do try and ‘join us’ in celebrating the classes of 2020.
Let us know….
A massive thank you to the students who responded to the survey on accessing remote learning and student support services. This was conducted earlier this term via the Advice Centre and was designed to assess how you were adapting to working off-campus in the very early stages of lockdown, as we made the emergency transition to remote delivery.
The focus now turns to how we can provide you with a flexible and engaging educational offering this autumn. We are committed to welcoming you back to the next academic year with a quality programme tailored to the curricula, needs and circumstances specific to your course and year. We can only do this with your feedback. Each and every one of you has a voice, so do let us hear it by completing the short survey emailed out last week from the Vice Principal for Learning, Teaching and Assessment. We plan to follow up with a survey of post graduate and research students in the near future. Thanks!
I am so grateful for all your efforts in observing both the national restrictions and our own preventive measures. We need to keep vigilant and ensure we do not undo all the good and negate the sacrifices we have all made. I have every confidence that we will continue to place the highest priority on our own health and the wellbeing of others.
Have a good weekend; you don’t have to go to the pub just because you can. Just a thought.
PS I am considering having one more end of session Quiz - I will canvas opinion next week.
Message from Principal 26th June 2020
It has been a while since I wrote on the current COVID-19 situation.
Here’s a thing. There is not one person I know – and I know many - who is working in the field of infectious disease control or public health who is relaxing their vigilance or adherence with regard to measures that might prevent them or their loved ones from becoming infected with the coronavirus associated with COVID-19.
Here’s another thing. The physical distancing has indeed been reduced to “1 metre plus”, whatever that means. Somewhat ironically, most London based Government departments continue to enforce a work from home policy where possible – and will do so for some time.
Our interpretation of “1 metre plus”, which was, after all, brought in to support businesses which could not function with a 2 metre rule and not as a free-for-all, should be this:
- Continue to observe 2 metres whenever you can – including outside.
- Ideally observe inside too and unless the people with whom you are in contact are part of your “bubble”, wear a mask.
- If you must be at less than 2 metres, unless the people with whom you are in contact are part of your “bubble”, wear a mask.
I’ll leave it there. Political and economic views may have changed. The science hasn’t - at least not yet.
In the time since we sent out the plans for the phased reopening of our campuses, we have received several letters asking for us to reconsider. Many of these letters have been generous in their thanks for the way in which the RVC has responded to the pandemic to date – at the same time as questioning our response as we plan for the next academic year.
To be clear, our number one priority is your safety – be you a student, a staff member, a client or a visitor – and we are doing everything we can to assess and minimise the risks of bringing people back to the RVC as soon as we can, ensuring that we reorganise curricula to ensure nobody misses out.
Comparing us to other universities is difficult and I caution against reading too much into the general announcements and chatter on social media. We are a smaller, specialist institution with a clinical programme and have a less extensive estate over which to spread activities; we are located in London and, at Hawkshead, we are effectively a campus university; we also have an international population of students and staff. Finally, we know that we will continue to have a reduced workforce, with some people unable to work normally for a variety of reasons.
I am sure that no-one wants to be knowingly responsible for the spread of the COVID-19 to, or within, the student and staff population, and it is for this reason that we are taking a phased approach. We know that by reordering timetabling, adopting a blended approach and ensuring home working continues where appropriate, we can keep population density and therefore, risk low. And, everybody gets RVC masks!
We will, of course, be keeping the situation under review and we will adapt our plans accordingly with the assurance that we will give as much lead time as we possibly can – it has been the guiding principle of all our decisions to date.
I know that not everyone will be happy, and I am sorry that this is the case. So again, I ask for your patience and understanding; but more and more, I am asking for your trust. As I think I have said publicly before, I can live with people’s disappointment and frustration; I cannot countenance losing anyone to the virus through our actions.
Many congratulations to Alice Morrell RVC LIDo PhD student who has won the UCL 3 min thesis competition, an event open to all UCL associated PhD students. Really well done!
Following the approval of Academic Board, we have posted information regarding how we will deal with future awards and classifications in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The information is here: https://www.rvc.ac.uk/about/coronavirus/faq-2#panel-general-practice-and-principles
I realise it is some time since we held the open meeting for staff on zoom but, as promised, here are the Qs&As - https://intranet.rvc.ac.uk/information-and-services/coronavirus/staff-q-and-a.cfm?view=8#list
Until next time….
Message from the Principal 16th June 2020
I am pretty certain that there were not too many of our community queuing outside Primark or any of the other stores that have opened up to shoppers this week and, whilst I understand the real pressure there is on livelihoods and the country’s economy, I am pretty sure those involved in disease control advice did not advocate for this approach. Of course, we cannot condemn how one sector behaves and then expect different standards when it comes to our own and that is why we are taking the steps we are in planning for phased re-opening of our campuses.
As we move into summer, there will be a huge amount of work to be done as we prepare for a new academic year and it will be important that we learn from others as to how we can do this as safely as possible, at the same time as protecting jobs and ensuring degrees are achieved.
In this regard, we are watching how universities around the world are addressing the challenges; learning from the Australasian institutions on how testing and quarantine is being applied in a low prevalence environment and where the academic year is a good 9 months ahead of ours with respect to operating in the pandemic; learning from North American institutions as they commence their first semester 2 months before ours and as they open up clinical rotations in the face of increasing, rather than decreasing, prevalence; and learning from other sectors – such as from the outbreak on a US Navy aircraft carrier where a community of young fit people were exposed to the virus – reinforcing the critical importance of distancing, the use of masks and the hidden spread in asymptomatic infections. All these are informing our plans.
I recognise that many of you will be frustrated or anxious, possibly in equal measure, at the different decisions we have had to make and the actions that we are taking and there are no absolute answers for many of the questions that we are being posed by the current situation. Rather, it is the balance of probabilities and the assessment of risk that we all need to consider, remembering also that some of the issues are beyond our direct jurisdiction, sitting instead with the Government or our regulators like the Office for Students and the RCVS.
But amidst all this uncertainty, we will prevail and I am delighted that this Thursday at 5pm BST sees the first of our graduation celebrations for 2020. Online for the very first time with the promise of an in-person ceremony in the summer of 2021, the details can be found below. I do hope you will be able to join our newest ambassadors as they mark their transition from student to graduate life and set out on the next phase of their journey. Many happy days to look back on; many more to come.
Our BVetMed class of 2020 formally mark their transition to graduates of the RVC on Thursday 18th June 2020 at 5pm BST. Do please join us at www.rvc.ac.uk/graduation as we celebrate each and every one of our newest alumni and members of the veterinary profession. The ceremony will be hosted on Youtube and will be available for those unable to join us at the time.
We will also be broadcasting our other two ceremonies on Tuesday 7th July 2020, so please make a note in your diaries.
PGR research awards
A massive thank you for all those who took part in the PGR Day and special mention to our winners:
Narrated PowerPoint Presentations (voted for by College staff and students):
- Joint Winners: Joana Aguiar – “Does neutering drive the development of hyperthyroidism in cats?” and Jenny Wilshaw – “Degenerative mitral valve disease – differentiating stable and progressive cases”
- Runner-up: Camilla Strang – “Antibiotic usage on UK dairy farms: improving data capture and exploring drivers”
Presentation abstracts (voted for by College staff and students):
- Winner: Eleanor Karp-Tatham – “Understanding population, genetic and antigenic diversity of the poultry red mite to improve prospects for vaccine development”
(Note that no runner-up prize is awarded in this category)
Posters (judged by a panel of academic staff):
- Winner: Alice Morrell – “Movement patterns and navigational strategies of Zebra (Equus quagga) in Botswana, Africa”
- Runner-up: Ane Goikolea Vives – “Development and plasticity of structural and functional networks in the mouse brain”
- In addition, the judges wanted to mention as “Highly commended”: James Sweet-Jones – “Signatures of Selection in Genomes of Native Welsh Sheep Breeds”
Graphical abstracts (judged by members of the Researcher Association):
- Winner: Joshua Hui – “Spatiotemporal pathogen-host interactions during African swine fever virus infection”
- Runner-up: Emily Smith – “Protecting tendon cells from inflammation to improve tendon regeneration”
Impact statements (judged by Head of Knowledge Transfer and Impact and Head of Graduate School):
- Winner: Bethan Savagar – “Working towards the global eradication of Peste des petits ruminants: a modelling approach”
- Runner-up: Andreea Radulescu - “Causes and management of pain after osteoporotic fractures”
…the very welcome news that we have been successful in our bid to the Wolfson Foundation seeking support for our “Science for the Planet” capital programme at Hawkshead, to the tune of £1.25M. Really great news.
Message from the Principal 11th June 2020
I confess that I do not have a clue what is now driving the decision making in Government. From a purely epidemiological point of view there does not seem much sense behind some of the lifting of restrictions, although I fully realise that isolation, mental health and wellbeing and economic factors are now playing heavily into the new policies.
As I have said previously, we will continue to do what we believe is necessary to provide a safe working and learning environment, even where that goes beyond Government guidance. There is no doubt that the national picture is of an epidemic that is slowing but, in these instances, I think the best analogy is of a forest fire that is being brought under control – it takes a single spark and the wildfire takes off again, often with as great an impact as the original, if not greater.
We all have responsibility for our own safety, but we also have a responsibility for the safety of others. Social distancing, the use of masks and isolating when necessary will remain part of our day- to-day as we take steps back to a more normal way of life.
The changes we potentially face as an organisation in the coming months have significant financial consequences and I will be writing more on the several scenarios we are considering. Central to these is our ability to deliver quality education in a blended fashion that will continue to attract people to the RVC. We will be investing heavily in this area as well as in efforts to make our campuses safe for everybody at the same time as we face cuts in funding from Government and pressures on income in our clinical activities. It will not be easy, but we are well placed to deal with these challenges and in a stronger position than very many in the sector.
As I said, more on this next week.
Returning student Programme and Year specific schedule updates
Details on scheduling of return to campus are now available on Learn.
Updated on FAQs
As ever, stay safe.
Message from the Principal 9th June 2020
Message from the Principal 9th of June 2020
I think it’s fair to say that the last few days have been a revelation of the kind that no-one wants. Following on from the statement on Friday regarding Black Lives Matter, I, and I am sure many of you, have been made aware of racist incidents that, frankly, make me weep. Some of the testimonies are horrific. I am grateful to those who have had the courage to speak up and I am aware that this is probably only the start of the process of exposing attitudes that have absolutely no place in society, nor at the RVC.
We are now creating a task force to address our own failings with respect to racist behaviours. We will need broad representation and a number of different fora that will allow for opinions to be aired and a clear action plan to be put in place. We will not fix this overnight and it will take sustained effort; it is something we must all own.
Clearly, there are some immediate needs – like a better reporting system and better support – and these we will put in place, but there will be so much more required, and it will be for the task force to bring forward the detail.
But let me say this: If you are the person who uses racist language or any number of racist terms when addressing or referring to our BAME colleagues; if you can’t be bothered to learn somebody’s name because it’s unfamiliar or more difficult to pronounce; if you abuse BAME serving staff in local restaurants; if you think it’s acceptable to use novel collective nouns to refer to BAME colleagues or students…. the list goes on …. if you are any of these people, you are not welcome here.
Such has been the reaction to Black Lives Matter, we have slipped on several milestones to which we had committed, including the yea-specific plans for the next academic year. I am very sorry about this, but please bear with us as we get the final details together. Whilst we have announced that we will be commencing teaching as planned in the autumn, together with the phased return to campus of different years and programmes, we are now targeting tomorrow for the more detailed posting.
There will be messages from HR providing updates on the Job Retention Scheme and furloughing.
Research at the RVC
Just a reminder that we have started a phased, restricted opening of our laboratories.
Stay safe and be kind.
Message from the Principal 1st June 2020
Message from the Principal 1st of June 2020
With the immediate crisis management now evolving to mid and longer-term planning, the RVC and the sector at large are having to adapt rapidly to a very different reality. With the underlying principles for the next academic session about to be made public, we have a range of proposals for how we open up our academic infrastructure in a measured, phased and safe fashion. The issues may cause anxiety for many as we will not be able to provide every detail at this stage. However, a safe, sustainable RVC is paramount and, as recent postings make clear, our plans need to be robust but flexible. As I have trailed in these last few weeks, we have some difficult decisions to make regarding events that are scheduled to take place 3 to 4 months in the future.
What follows is a summary of current thinking based on the information we have available to us and the likely restrictions we will have placed upon us by Government. We will be writing to each year/course group separately in due course with more detail and the rationale for the decisions we are taking and with specific Q&As. However, given that the booking of accommodation and travel may well be priorities for many, I wanted you to be aware as soon as possible of the generalities.
- Underpinning principles for all
- Staff and student safety and wellbeing will be a priority.
- Commitment to academic schedules towards graduations will be maintained as far as is possible.
- Population density and occupancy rates which allow for appropriate social/physical distancing will be maintained.
- The RVC is committed to a blended delivery of curricula to all students which combines on and off campus activities delivered flexibly so students can engage when it suits them.
- The RVC is committed to providing adequate support to staff to enable them to deliver blended programmes.
- Maintaining the RVC in a sustainable fashion in the mid to long term.
- Start dates
- Both campuses will be active from the planned start of the academic year 20/21.
- Our aim will be to minimise population density wherever appropriate.
- All teaching for ALL years will commence in line with published timetables.
- Where necessary, quarantining of arriving/returning international students will be arranged and paid for by the RVC.
- Working practices for staff
- Our aim will be to minimise population density wherever appropriate
- Line managers will work with individual colleagues to assess the potential for working from home – full or part-time.
- There will be some roles that will be required on campus full-time.
- Arrangements will be agreed to manage work profiles for those unable to attend due to shielding or other legitimate reasons.
- Support will be provided to staff to enable them to deliver blended programmes. This will take the form of programme-focused staff development sessions in late June and ongoing content development support throughout the summer.
- Physical presence on campuses – continuing students
- Our aim will be to minimise population density wherever appropriate.
- Up until 31.12.2020, where it is possible to deliver learning objectives in a blended fashion, materials will be accessible online, wholly or in part, depending on course and year.
- Populating the campuses will be done in a phased fashion and will be staggered according to the need for on campus presence to deliver learning objectives, and our capacity to learn and adapt facilities accordingly.
- Specific dates for continuing students:
- On campus early September: BVetMed5.
- On campus mid September: if necessary, quarantine of returning international students.
- On campus late September: MSci and those BSc3 students (where access to lab facilities before January for research projects will be essential), BVetMed4.
- Gateway progressing to BVetMed1 to be announced with the announcement for new students by 9th June latest.
- On campus early January, BSc2, BVetMed2 and 3, FDSc, BScVN2, 3 and 4 (except those nurses needing to access RVC clinical facilities in order to undertake clinical placements).
- Note that “on campus” is not synonymous with “face-to-face”; delivery will be blended which is defined as a combination of online educational materials and interactions, with small group on-campus opportunities.
- Physical presence on campus – other programmes and new students
- Announcement will follow.
We simply cannot know what the world will look like in September and beyond, but we have no option other than to make plans underpinned by the precautionary principle. I realise that in making the decisions about how we conduct our business we may be introducing anxieties and inconveniences into an already uncertain world.
Please understand that the arrangements will always have to be flexible and capable of response to an environment that is difficult to predict – for good or bad.
In practical terms, those cohorts that will be receiving the blended delivery whilst wholly off campus until January would be well advised to consider their accommodation needs and the contracts that are signed. Please contact the Advice Centre to discuss any specific queries email@example.com. We will work with you to address your needs as we realise RVC accommodation is part of the overall provision.
Some universities are encouraging all students back to the towns and cities in which their universities exist; we are not. Some of you may wish to return to the local area but we will be controlling access to the campuses rigorously and only those with permission will be allowed entry.
For those students we are scheduling to receive on-campus delivery, in your best interests we will be expecting your attendance, subject to official guidelines.
Physical distancing, occupancy rates, population density and, where necessary, isolation will be paramount in allowing us to ensure we sustain our educational mission. We will support our students in their development towards graduation and will do so in a way that addresses the safety and wellbeing concerns of all.
We do not have additional information at this stage, but we will provide more specific detail by 9th June.
Thanks again for your patience.
Message from the Principal 29th May 2020
Message from the Principal 29th May 2020
It has been an interesting week with an extraordinary Academic Board and preparation for a meeting of Council next Wednesday. You might think that the need for rapid decisions in a continually changing environment would see a slackening of our regulatory and quality assurance processes – in fact, the opposite is true. Standards, in time of crisis, often fall victim to shortcuts and short-term measures, and maintaining our fiscal and academic integrity is paramount to emerging from these times as still one of the best of our kind.
It is true that things have been, and continue to be, more difficult than previously and it is without doubt the case that we have all struggled to adapt to working, studying or even just getting on with life, during the lockdown. We have had to make some big decisions, sometimes ahead of Government guidance, or at least clarity. Whilst none of them were easy, compared to the intricacies that we face as we unpick our way back to a more open society, they were undoubtedly relatively straightforward if daunting at the time. Closing a campus is a cake walk compared to opening one up again.
The other reflection on actions we have taken is that they truly never were to everybody’s satisfaction - and occasionally to nobody’s – given that they were always the best compromise between risk on the one hand and inconvenience on the other.
With exams already upon us and with A level results for prospective students imminent, it is inevitable that people are now looking towards graduations for those leaving us and the next academic year for those continuing or starting their journey with us. There is no doubt that the face of education has been changed for ever by the pandemic. The natural evolution to the blended approach to curricula and campuses has had an injection that will see an acceleration towards student-paced, rather than class-paced delivery and learning. Of course, this will not happen overnight and investment in development will be required as a matter of priority. But we also must remember that for the foreseeable future we will also be living with the threat of a resurgence of the virus and so the educational aspects of our planning must be married to the logistical and practical aspects of a functioning university community.
What I am coming to is, wearing my epi hat just for a moment, that the management of the physical space will dictate the whereabouts of both staff and students but that regardless of where either may be located, the educational delivery will be very similar – with the obvious exception of key practical and clinical aspects. So, you will not see me speaking about face-to-face much – more about on campus and off campus where, in both cases we will be using a blended approach to our interactions. The R number remains at the foundations of our thinking.
In considering the practical aspects, just as we needed to make decisions about events several months away when we started out on this phase in our history, so, too, will we need to make decisions in the next week or so that will relate to our lives in September onwards. This is especially true for our continuing students who will have accommodation concerns to address in the near future, as well as other issues such as travel and the like.
We will be seeking to repopulate our campuses in a measured way where, in maintaining social hygiene, physical distancing and population density we keep numbers of both staff and students controlled as we learn to live with new arrangements. This will mean year groups and programmes starting at different times and we are finalising these arrangements for posting on Monday. You will be aware that other universities are making similar announcements and there is a significant variation amongst the approaches. Our best efforts are being applied to develop and apply measures that are based on epidemiological and risk mitigation principles, with a commitment to evidence-based decision making ……rather than decision-based evidence making that we have seen in some quarters recently.
As ever throughout this crisis, I ask for your patience as we deal with the complexities.
Updates for today…
Here is the link I referred to regarding the staged, limited opening of laboratories.
RVC Women’s Rugby Football Club
Next weekend, the RVC WRFC will be running the equivalent distance of London (Twickenham) to Cardiff (Principality Stadium) to raise money for the charity Refuge. “One woman in four will experience domestic violence at some point in her lifetime and two women are killed each week in England and Wales by a current or former partner. Refuge supports around 6,000 women and children on any given day, experiencing domestic and sexual violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, stalking, trafficking, prostitution & so-called ‘honour’ based violence.”
So, this Saturday is my birthday – and rather than spending money on a card and flowers for me ??, please think about supporting our women as they don their running shoes next Saturday.
Here is the link.
Have a good weekend – and for those in the final phases of revising – good luck.
Message from the Principal 26th May 2020
On risk and responsibility...
I am sure that many of you have been as bemused as I have been by the antics around Westminster this weekend. “Bemused” actually doesn’t even come close – try furious, sad and depressed; all are more accurate. As I think you are aware, Principals and VCs are expected to stay politically neutral in the views they express, and I want to make clear that I am commenting exclusively as someone who has the words ‘public health’ in my specialisms. I am also, like all of you, one of many who have sacrificed a great deal to observe the lockdown guidelines of the last 10 weeks.
I am not going to comment in detail on the multiple – and there were multiple - failures in judgement made by the Special Advisor nor whether or not the motivation that lay behind the actions was, or was not, borne of genuine need. Rather, I reflect on the carnage that would have been visited upon us all had everybody behaved in the way he did, with an R number soaring beyond 3 and the virus transplanted from the UK epicentre of the outbreak at that time, to points distant. I also reflect on the many decisions that we have all had to make, some personal, some professional, as we have sought to protect each other from the very worst of the risks that COVID has brought. In thinking of those decisions, some of which we’ve had to make quickly and with limited information – ranging from suspending face-to-face teaching at the institutional level, to the very personal decisions around social distancing from those with whom we are normally close, or self-isolating when we only have a hunch we have been in contact with an infected person – thinking of those decisions and the many options we face in life in general, what is clear to me is that very often there isn’t always an obvious, single, right choice. But there is usually a wrong one.
We all make mistakes – goodness, don’t I know that – and probably more so when we are under pressure but, fortunately, forgiveness and rehabilitation are the graces that we are gifted as humans to bestow and accept. It is, however, harder to grant either when the wrongs are compounded and an apology absent. The lack of contrition yet another, and perhaps final, wrong decision in this sorry episode.
So, what can we take as a positive from all this? Well, for me it is the deal of pride that I take from having witnessed the selflessness, generosity, sacrifice and compliance which you all have demonstrated these last few weeks as we have coped with the challenges of lockdown. We are certainly entering a new phase of the response to the epidemic and that generosity of spirit and commitment to the common good will be required for some time to come. However, I do know, that for all the difficulties at home and work, it is the caring, kindness and professionalism you have brought to the RVC that will see us through. That, and people making the right choices, even if they aren’t always obvious. For that I am very, very grateful.
Updates for today…
Sports and Wellbeing Centre (SAWC)
The SAWC will re-open this Thursday 28th May for residents at Hawkshead only. I draw your attention to the information published here and ask that those of you intending to use the facilities please observe these guidelines closely.
Phased Laboratory returns
We will be circulating guidelines and SOPs for the phased return to laboratory access. This will remain on a limited basis and will require careful planning.
Contingency statement on veterinary education
The Veterinary Schools Council has published a statement regarding the impact of COVID-19 on veterinary education. It is available here.
FAO: Good news
I am delighted to inform you know that we have had our FAO Reference Centre in Veterinary Epidemiology designation renewed for a further period of four years. The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations is the major intergovernmental body that leads the international effort to defeat hunger. Our role in supporting the FAO’s mission, together with our OIE centre status, places us uniquely in our sector and emphasises the critical importance of animal health and disease in the wider public health and sustainability agenda. Congratulations to Professor Javier Guitian and his team.
Thank you to everyone who took part in the “Pub Quiz” on Saturday – and, in a close competition and a tie break ending, congratulations to Helen and Andrew Thorpe who triumphed. Well done!
Message from the Principal 21st May 2020
Last week, I made mention of the fact that we were considering options for later in the summer and into the start of the next academic year. The key word in this sentence is “options”, plural, as there can be no certainty about what we may be allowed to do, what we might be capable of doing, what we might want to do and, ultimately, what we end up doing. As I also said, a crystal ball would be a great thing, but they remain in short supply at the moment!
All the actions we have taken to date – from the recalling of our students on placements and the closing of our campuses ahead of lockdown, to the recent publication of SOPs for the use of tennis facilities and the phased opening of laboratories – have been driven by the priority of the health and wellbeing of all at the RVC. Importantly, each and every one of these decisions has been based on an assessment of risk – both the likelihood of a bad thing happening, and the impact of that bad thing if it were to happen – informed by what available data and external advice has been accessible. Mostly, this has been qualitative, with personal experience and opinion leading the way, but increasingly, as society gets a better understanding of the virus and its consequences, we will see more data assisting us. For example, we know that the virus does cause disease in young people but there is no doubt that the overwhelming burden of disease is in older people; for example, we are told from available data that at the end of lockdown approximately 1 in every 400 people in the general population were infectious, whereas in healthcare workers was much higher. We also have data on the consequences of infection at one end of the spectrum where the loss of life has been truly awful; at the other we now know that the R number in London on 15th May, perhaps surprisingly, was around 0.4 suggesting that the epidemic is coming under control at least locally (although what happens to that following easing of restrictions remains to be seen).
So, why am I labouring this point? The reason is that ultimately, as we move through the summer, we will have to consider many with regard to how we conduct our business, taking into account the changing risks and the mitigations we can put in place to minimise those risks.
Of course, we live with risk every day; we ride bikes, drive cars, travel in planes; we eat sushi, rare steaks and processed foods; we forget to wear sun block, we drink alcohol, we don’t exercise enough. And some of us never learn and still run carrying scissors; life involves risk. So when it comes to infectious disease things are similar – less than a third of us had a ‘flu vaccination this winter; we travel to parts of the globe where diseases like rabies and malaria are endemic; and mostly we know to avoid other people with obvious signs of disease although until recently, we were less good at isolating ourselves.
And so, to COVID-19.
The reality is that the concept of establishing zero risk is just not possible and, even if it was, it is unlikely it would be compatible with a meaningful modern existence. Risk is peculiar because our perception of risk is tempered by the impact if things do go wrong – bad consequences generally bestow a higher perception of risk than trivial consequences. Similarly, our perception of risk is modified by what we read and hear – there is no doubt that the mainstream media has a huge role in influencing the way we feel about risk. And here is the rub – it is the perceived risk that is the big issue, it is how we feel about risk that triggers our fears and anxieties, it is our personal interpretation of risk that leads us to making decisions.
We are currently looking at how we can gradually open up our campuses minimising the risks as we do. This will entail keeping the size of populations on campuses under control to allow social distancing to be maintained. We are developing a range of models where in some we continue to do online teaching where we can, like lectures, allowing teaching that requires on-campus or face-to-face presence - like rotations and lab use - to take place. We are looking at ways in which we can reduce commuting, ways in which we use masks, ways in which we can quarantine effectively, ways in which we can phase return, ways in which we can provide safe accommodation, ways in which we can use either or both campuses and their different locations to maximum advantage and, collectively, ways in which we can keep the RVC doors, providing education, advancing science and delivering clinical care.
So as we move towards summer and the next academic year, we will all have our say - informed by those who regulate us - and we will all have our part to play ensuring we remain sustainable in this new world; ultimately, we will have personal decisions to make about our attitudes to risk. But be assured, it is minimising the risk that is the fundamental ethos upon which we are building the plans to ensure our long-term survival and success at the same time as contributing to the delivery of the education, clinical care and research to which the RVC is committed.
And so, to the updates…
Jonathon Elliott has emailed information on the development of plans for a gradual opening of our research areas.
Sports and Wellbeing
With new guidelines emerging from Government very recently, we are now aiming to have the Hawkshead SAWC partly open in the latter part of next week. Access will be for those people resident on the Hawkshead campus as the safety and hygiene arrangements are rather complex and demanding.
Just a wee reminder that you still require permission/authorisation to gain access to either campus. For staff, this is from your line manager; for students, other than those living on campus, this will be by arrangement to collect items from accommodation as previously posted.
The return of Quiz night
As two weeks ago, I will be running an online “pub quiz” from 7 to 9pm on Saturday 23rd May - rather early for those out west and very, very early for those out east… sorry! It will be on Zoom so if you would like to take part (but note the earlier cut-off for registering):
- Please email firstname.lastname@example.org by 7pm BST on Friday 22nd May.
- Please just send a blank email with PUBQUIZ in the subject line.
I will confirm registration by midnight on Friday and issue joining instructions by 1pm Saturday. Feel free to form WhatsApp teams if you like or sign up as social groups or individuals. All welcome.
Have a great weekend.
Message from the Principal 19th May 2020
The constraints of the last months have had an impact on us all – but how we have reacted and the way in which we have dealt with the challenges have been diverse, variable and, above all, highly personal. Similarly, we can expect that we will experience in ourselves, and witness in others, a range of emotions as society starts to relax some of the conditions we have had imposed upon us. For some, it will be relief at a sign that perhaps things are improving; for others, anxiety and even fear that the consequences of the next phase of the pandemic may take away safeguards and preventive measures that we have come to find frankly comforting, if inconvenient. And, for very many of us – and I include myself here – I expect there will be a combination of the two that may vary day-by-day or setting-by-setting. All the more reason then, for us to reflect on our own mental health and wellbeing as we seek to deal with a different set of stressors and yet more change whilst looking after ourselves and helping those around us.
This week is Mental Health and Wellness Week and our colleagues in Learning and Wellbeing and Human Resources will be posting information on a number of topics including “The importance of self-care” and “BE Kind – COVID19”. Do look out for the notices as they appear during the week. The first message is here.
We recognise that exercise plays an important part in both physical and mental health so with the change in national policy we will be opening the tennis courts at Hawkshead from midday on Wednesday and shortly after that, at a time to be confirmed, parts of the Sports and Wellbeing Centre. Note that these will be open for campus residents only and there will be strict access and hygiene measures in place. In the case of the tennis courts, we will be following the LTA guidelines; in the case of the SAWC, we are putting in place schedules, social distancing, hygiene measures and additional cleaning. Again, information is available here. At the moment, I am sorry that we are unable to open the facilities at Camden. Safety, heath and wellbeing remain our priority.
Later this week, there will be targeted emails relating to laboratory usage and, more generally, I will be setting out some of the financial considerations resulting from the pandemic and the changes we expect to have to make to the way in which we learn and work over the coming months. And finally, with another bank holiday weekend upon us, I will be running another quiz night on Saturday evening for those with no better offers! Sign up details on Thursday.
Stay well; be kind – to yourselves.
Message from the Principal 14th May 2020
Message from the Principal 14th May 2020
Collection of belongings from Halls
In the heat of the early days of the crisis with uncertain timelines and ill-defined horizons, many were either stranded away from RVC accommodation or chose to leave their belongings in the hope of returning in the not too distant future. As days turned to weeks turned to months, we are now at the point when retrieval of belongings left in Halls is possible – a position confirmed in a communication from Government which can be read here.
Every organisation will be different and those in private Halls or in accommodation owned by third party providers will hopefully be hearing from those organisations separately. Today, we are posting information for those who may wish to come and collect items; note that it will be strictly regulated to ensure we follow the Minister’s guidelines and discharge our duty of care to students in residence, staff and those clearing their rooms. On no account should anyone arrive at either campus without having made an appointment; entry will not be granted as safety is the absolute priority. The information is here.
A view of the future?
One of the great imponderables is how long the epidemic will last. Oh, for a crystal ball! The truth is that even, with the relaxation of some of the restrictions, we do not know what our new “normal” might look like.
As I hinted yesterday, there has been a huge amount of planning taking place as we consider the various options that might be possible, or necessary, as we move through the summer and into the next academic year. With challenges unique to the London area such as commuting and public transport, we do not have clarity as to exactly what life will be like in general, let alone at work or study. With regard to our educational programmes, we are considering how we might optimally combine the best of an on-campus and carefully managed face-to-face experience, with the benefits of off-campus and online teaching and learning, such that we can continue to deliver high quality education to all our students. Tailoring to each year and each degree programme will require a rich tapestry of offering, keeping density as low as we can, at the same time as providing the learning opportunities wherever our students might be located. We are planning for all eventualities as we strive to welcome back our continuing students and welcome, for the first time, our freshers into a community that is vibrant, supportive and safe with not just a blended curriculum, but also a blended campus, where the distinction between our physical and digital environments are continuum for staff and students alike.
Clearly, this is not an overnight project and we will need to retain both resilience and flexibility in equal measure as we adapt to an external world that will continue to change around us. Phasing and scheduling will be important and the portfolio of options we are developing will ensure we maintain the RVC as open and progressive and where we place the highest priority on the quality of our education, research and service …. just behind the safety and wellbeing of our people.
It will be a challenge, but I know we are up to it.
Message from the Principal 13th May 2020
Message from the Principal 13th May 2020
Further to my message on Monday of this week, the recent announcements from Government and the accompanying guidance issued over the last 48 hours, it is apparent there remains considerable levels of confusion. With the interpretation of what is now possible versus what is desirable, and the lack of detail around what the extension of the Job Retention Scheme might mean in economic terms, we will undoubtedly see different organisations working in different ways.
For the RVC, we have had some experience in finding ways of working to ensure our essential services have continued – in particular, those working in the clinical area have been at the forefront of coping with the challenges of social distancing in a working environment. How, or in many cases if, we decide that it is necessary and safe to open other aspects of the RVC, will also be influenced by other factors such as shielding and childcare. In anticipation of the lifting of some restrictions, and now informed by them, we have been working on a range of different scenarios, the implementation of which will depend upon evolving government guidelines and will certainly require phasing.
Having reviewed the current documents released by Government, besides the general social conditions, we will be providing guidance over the coming days, and most likely weeks, as we monitor the situation. Nevertheless, here are some key messages:
- For most, nothing changes at the moment.
- If you are working from home, you should continue to do so.
- If you are currently furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme, the situation has not changed and we remain committed to the arrangements in place until the end of July at least.
- Our campuses are still closed to staff unless you have specific and essential need to be there, and have been given permission by your line manager to attend. It is not clear whether police will be checking on workers travelling, but one should certainly carry proof of identity and evidence of your authorisation to be travelling to work. Without such authorisation, you should not travel.
- Our campuses remain closed to students other than those already living on our property.
- Students should not return to campus without explicit permission, even to collect belongings – doing so puts those living there at risk. The Government is working on a scheme to allow collection of belongings, but the details have not been released and will need complex protocols with respect to scheduling and physical access.
- We are working on protocols and processes to allow our research laboratories to open on a very limited basis. This will include prioritisation, strict scheduling, flow management through physical spaces, risk assessments and control of absolute numbers. We do not anticipate this commencing before 1st June 2020.
- Social distancing remains paramount and it is highly likely we will be introducing a “mask” policy.
- We will be opening some social areas – such as the tennis courts at Hawkshead – but again this will be on a very restricted basis limited to those living on campus.
Other Government advice should still be followed (e.g., travel advice) and we will keep this under review as there is clearly differential impact on our two campuses.
With the relaxation of restrictions at large, there will be more people on the roads, and we may find increased traffic on our Hawkshead campus with both clinical facilities and the construction site open. Security is always a challenge in these circumstances and petty theft a risk – please be alert and do not hesitate to contact security should you see anything suspicious.
Thank you again for all your efforts, but especially for your patience and understanding. We will provide further advice as we can - safety and wellbeing remain our first priorities.
Message from the Principal 11th May 2020
Listening to the Prime Minister last night one might be tempted to think “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose” – the more things change, the more they stay the same…but in reality, there is a distinct possibility, subject to the clarification that we have been promised, that there may well be an awful lot of things done differently in the coming weeks. The major issue would appear to be that it will be the diversity of interpretation of the new guidelines that will be the biggest conundrum – be that at the personal or institutional level.
Two comments at this stage: First, the need to keep the “R” number less than 1 is absolutely critical and whilst we tend to talk about this at the national level, it remains true in smaller settings – it only takes one region, village or organisation to let it creep above 1 and the whole epidemic can spark off again. Clearly, with variation in the interpretation of the new rules, there is a real chance that this may occur. We must be vigilant. Second, lockdown is not and never has been a “cure” – it was designed to slow the rate of acutely ill people presenting at NHS hospitals and overwhelming the health care system… and this does appear to have been achieved, at least for now. What it has certainly not done is banished the virus from the community; we know that from the fact that are new cases arising even with lockdown. The virus is circulating in the population and relaxation of restrictions will mean that it will spread so we must redouble our efforts to protect ourselves and others from exposure. Hand hygiene, social distancing and more widespread use of masks to protect others will, I suspect, be with us for some time to come.
Our priority will remain the safety and wellbeing of the RVC community, those closest to us and those we serve. Physical health, mental wellbeing and economic sustainability are all part of the consideration we face as individuals and as members of larger groups, ranging from families to socially connected units and the whole College. The decisions will remain complex and may well be subject to change as we formulate plans in the light of the new information from Government. We will consult with representatives of the different groups that make up the RVC recognising that no one solution will fit all our environments and circumstances.
There are many things that one might criticise about the Government for the way in which it has handled the epidemic to date - but we are where we are. What we must do now is make sure the efforts and the sacrifices of the last two months are not wasted and I reassure you that we will be doing everything we can to make sure that the RVC is as safe, sustainable and welcoming as we possibly can to staff, students, clients and visitors.
Degree classifications for 2019/20
Today, we are posting important information regarding degree classifications. We have worked hard to ensure that we are applying the “no detriment” ethos and are combining best practice as far as we have been able to discern from other universities. In some instances, this means a change in position from that which had been communicated earlier in the crisis – but rest assured that the change offers greater flexibility and is more inclusive.
We are working on the detail for subsequent years and we will provide an update before the end of the academic year.
Well done Hayley Quigg (BVetMed3) who managed to climb the equivalent of Mount Everest on her stairs to raise money for the NHS. Read the full story: Alnwick fundraiser 'climbs' Mount Everest in her own home to support NHS and you can support her efforts on her JustGiving page: Hayley's Stairway to Everest. Amazing!
Thanks to those who took part in Saturday evening’s “pub” quiz. Georgia, Laura and Maddie (BVetMed3) were the winners after a tie breaker. And, it appears the technology worked just fine!
More later in the week.
Message from the Principal 7th May 2020
Message from the Principal 7th May 2020
We find ourselves involved in a struggle that one might describe as a war against the virus that has spread around the globe. I have no doubt that we will adapt and eventually deal with the current threat to our way of life, just as we have to previous threats in previous generations. So, as we head into the holiday weekend and the marking of VE day, it is perhaps most appropriate for us to remember exactly this - although never, ever forgetting the cost, we have the resilience and the fortitude and the enterprise and the commitment to overcome life’s challenges, in whatever shape they come. And, whilst we may be separated physically, it is when we come together, physically or otherwise, that we are at our strongest. However you choose to mark this anniversary, for me, it is the looking forward in our current circumstances that is the most important.
Today’s communications cover a number of issues ranging from regulations around deferrals and interrupting studies to messages that are of significance to all of our researchers, given that we find ourselves in unusual and difficult circumstances. Here they are….
Deferrals and interruption of studies
Emma Burchfield has posted the current situation with regard to how the RVC will be approaching the issues as they relate to those students who may find they need to defer or interrupt their studies. The information is available here.
- Can I defer my assessments?
- Can I request an interruption to my studies?
- Can I request an interruption to my research studies?
Our research community
New messages were sent by Jonathan Elliott to the research community with important information regarding our approach to ensuring a proper process to accessing laboratories should the lockdown restrictions be relaxed in the near future – we await the Government’s announcement on Sunday. Together with Kristien Verheyen, he also provided a briefing on scholarship extensions and a possible phased return from lockdown from the research student perspective, again dependent upon restrictions being relaxed.
Karla Lee emailed updates regarding the RVC’s position on EMS for BVetMed3, hopefully providing reassurance as we continue to work with the RCVS as they adapt their approach.
Dan Chan has emailed information on the sign up options for the huge range of opportunities over the coming months for those engaged in rotations.
Finally, recognising that several of us find ourselves in small groups or even alone, I am planning a pub quiz for this Saturday evening. The questions are the easy part…the tricky bit is getting the technology to work, and that depends upon the number of people who might take part. I am happy to run it for 3 people to 3000 but obviously it will require different platforms.
I am planning on running it between 7pm and 9pm BST, this Saturday, 9th May. If you would like to take part, please email email@example.com by 9pm BST on Friday 8th May. Please just send a blank email with PUBQUIZ in the subject line.
I will issue instructions depending upon the size of the response. It will either be hosted on Zoom or by questions released by timed emails. Feel free to form WhatsApp teams if you like or sign up as social groups or individuals. All welcome.
Have a great weekend,
Message from the Principal 5th May 2020
With a bank holiday ahead of us and a new announcement from Government imminent, it is sometimes difficult to work out exactly where we are in our journey towards dealing with the COVID-19 issues. In speaking with friends and colleagues, on zoom or equivalent, it seems that people fall in to one of two camps. The first, possibly to distract from the current situations are actively creating their bucket list of things that they will do once life takes a step towards normality; the other live life in the moment seeking to make normal and finding pleasures in the day for fear of a bucket list being too distant a promise. I am sure the reality is that everyone does a bit of both as the mood and day to day challenges and victories allow.
I also sometimes forget that for all the things we are doing – be that studying, teaching, tutoring, supporting, organising, writing, communicating – each and every one of us, student and staff member, is doing it from the confines of our home offices/dining rooms/kitchens/bedrooms/sitting rooms or wherever we are when we are accessing the RVC digital community. We may, in our mind’s eye, place people at their work desks or offices or lecture theatres – but the reality is rather different. Throw on top of that the distraction of family members, wobbly internet and/or IT, time zone vagaries, the lure of the kettle or daytime TV and the cat or dog who won’t leave you alone and, for many of us, the sheer, damn loneliness of our current circumstances, and it is all the more remarkable that we are finding our way through this. It’s an ongoing monumental effort for everyone and we should be proud of how we are all coping.
There are several updates, some of which have been some time in coming given that they require the input and oversight of other bodies, but here they are.....
Staff annual leave
This is a very difficult situation to manage as we do require that we all take some leave even during the lockdown. This is for several reasons - most importantly to ensure we safeguard our health and wellbeing and avoid burnout in these strange and intensive working conditions – but also to avoid the potentially destabilising effect of everyone trying to take all their leave after the restrictions are lifted. We simply do not have the capacity to have this happen at the same time as keeping our programmes and facilities running. Clearly, there will be some exceptional cases, but our general approach was laid out in the email sent to staff last evening.
In common with other cognate institutions and following Government guidance, the RVC is not reducing fees for the 2019/20 academic year. Full details and a position statement on 2019/20 tuition fees, supported by the SU, are available in the FAQ. However, in recognition of the significant hardship that many will endure in the coming months, we are freezing our 2020/21 fees for undergraduate taught programmes at the 2019/20 levels. This applies to taught UG degrees and PGT where the RVC is the sole provider. We are in discussion with our partners where PGT is a shared provision. In the case of PGR fees, we are taking our lead from UKRI.
In addition to the fee freeze for current students, we are also fixing the tuition fees for new students commencing 2020/21 at the 2019/20 levels.
Further to recent communications and briefings, we are confirming that there will be a physical “in person” graduation celebration with all the pomp and ceremony that befits an RVC graduation. Given that the likelihood of large social gatherings taking place in the UK anytime this calendar year is close to zero and the pressure on suitable venues will be high given all the London based universities will be trying to reschedule, we are currently looking at a separate ceremony for 2020 graduates at our Graduation Day on 12th July 2021 in Royal Festival Hall. We will confirm this as soon as we can and certainly before the end of this month.
To mark this year, we will be running a virtual event for our 2020 graduands. We are looking to hold these on the following dates at a time to be decided to allow most graduates located in different time zones to take part in the celebration.
18th June 2020, afternoon
FdSc and BSc Vet Nursing
7th July 2020, late morning
BSc, MSci, PGDip, MSc, MVetMed, MRes, MPhil, PhD
7th July 2020, afternoon
Again, we will confirm date and time but in this case by the end of next week once we have audited and built the necessary IT requirements and can provide you with fuller details.
For those students who will be registering with the RCVS, this will take place electronically and will be managed by the RCVS. The President will still provide an address at the relevant virtual celebrations described above. You will be receiving a letter from the RCVS, hopefully within the next week with further information regarding the membership registration process.
Learning and Wellbeing
Yesterday, Michele Milner emailed information on various aspects of wellbeing for everyone as well as details on additional support, through the Advice Centre, on financial matters. There was also information made available with regard to teaching continuity resources.
The Advice Centre will also be distributing a survey to seek student feedback on the online and remote learning experience thus far.
RVC and the community
Besides various bits of clinical kit and scrubs, we were also able to send 100 pairs of RVC socks to the NHS Heroes in scrubs at the Lister Hospital to keep their toes warm as they go about their important work. With apologies to Kings of Leon, these socks are on fire….
With all best wishes,
Message from the Principal 1st May 2020
Your opinions matter
Thank you to the many that responded to the survey we ran. We are still trying to do things as well as we can given that many issues are dictated by external forces and many require the cooperation of third parties. Here are four summary figures form the analysis of the responses – clearly there was much more in the text comments (Q5) and we are working to address the issues raised.
There were almost three hundred responses – thank you to each and every one of you who took the trouble to engage.
I understand that, unfortunately, some implied from my promise yesterday of an update next week that we were not planning any physical graduation event given that our July 2020 celebration cannot take place. Graduation day is of huge significance to everyone at the RVC and there has never been any intention of not holding a physical celebration – the issues have been related to what is possible in terms of timing and venue.
To be clear, there are many different groups that graduate at the RVC - PhD students, BSc and Masters students, vet nursing students and vet students, and even our honorary awards - and we need to find solutions that work for everybody. This includes the need and/or desire for those making professional declarations to have contact with the RCVS either electronically or physically. We also have a diverse and dispersed community that will be returning to parts of the globe distant to the UK who will variously find it difficult or even desirable to return to London for a physical event at a later date.
Next week, we will provide details for possible timings of both a virtual AND a physical event that graduating students will have the option of attending – one, either or both. We will also give more details for those who have to deal with the RCVS and professional registration.
As I said yesterday, more next week.
AHEMS and Clinical EMS
With the student body being widely dispersed and with modification of restrictions now being reconsidered by different authorities in different parts of the world, we have today issued new advice with regard to the booking of placements in the light of these changes. These new guidelines have been emailed to those for whom they are relevant.
I remind you of the support available to RVC students in financial need. Please apply if you feel you meet the criteria, particularly if you have been affected financially by the Coronavirus.
And so to epi….
As an epidemiologist, I am often asked “why do you bother?”. The second most common question is about models and whether they are any good. We know that there is controversy around the models that have been used to predict what will happen in the current pandemic and the truth is as Box said “All models are wrong, but some are useful. I thought you might like to see this site which is a great way of learning how the timing of intervention can work in relation to the reproductive number (Ro) of the virus, i.e., how many people are directly infected by a single case, and the effective reproductive number (Rt) of the virus which is how many people are infected by a single case once we take into account social distancing, lockdown etc….. and eventually vaccination.
The site is here https://gabgoh.github.io/COVID/index.html
I suggest you leave the settings largely as they are but do three things:
- Move the vertical line (labelled 1 in my screen grab below) with your mouse and see what happens to the epidemic. If you move to the left you are making your intervention earlier (e.g., South Korea); to the right and you are leaving things until later (e.g., UK and others).
- Move the slider (labelled 2 in my screen grab below) to change Rt to show how things like the effectiveness of social distancing and lockdown can change the shape. Once you have moved it, go back and move 1 again.
Hopefully, you will see that early intervention and/or reducing Rt (by moving the slider 2 to the right) have huge impacts on the number infected (in pink) the number in hospital (light blue) and the number of deaths (dark blue).
For those feeling confident, go in and change things like population size and lots of other parameters. Don’t worry, you can’t break it; to reset, just reload the page. All the maths is at the bottom of the page. Enjoy. And remember all models are wrong, but some are useful.
[All credit to Gabriel Goh (firstname.lastname@example.org @gabeeegoooh) and those he acknowledges: Steven De Keninck for RK4 Integrator, Chris Olah, Shan Carter and Ludwig Schubert wonderful feedback, Nikita Jerschov for improving clarity of text, Charie Huang for context and discussion.]
Here is the screen grab with labels:
The site is here https://gabgoh.github.io/COVID/index.html
Finally, I am planning a pub quiz style event for late next week. Watch this space.
Have good weekend, stay well and be kind,
Message from the Principal 30th April 2020
For all it has been a busy week, the list of important updates is relatively brief. But before I get to them I want to acknowledge the amazing achievement of Professor Alan Wilson FRS, on his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society. The whole news release is here but for those less familiar with the scientific community, it is about the highest level of recognition that can be bestowed in the UK on an individual for their research achievements. It really is wonderful news for his discipline, his profession, the RVC, but most of all for Alan and those closest to him. Well done, Alan!
We have published an update on Health and Safety issues and support on the Intranet: Working from home
As you may be aware, the “graduating“ act for the RVC is the posting of the results approved by the exam board. This is all that is required “legally”. We then subsequently have a “hooding” ceremony which we refer to as Graduation Day and which is essentially a celebration; sadly, this year we will not be able to hold this event and we are looking at a number of options as to how we mark this rite of passage virtually. We will be providing more details next week.
For those who are also registering with the RCVS we now have plans in place for this to happen electronically and in your own time, but we will still be seeking an address from the President and a means of making the declaration component meaningful for those who wish to mark the moment. Again, we will confirm details next week.
Hilary Orpet has published important information regarding placements which is available on Learn: VN Placements.
Preparing for next week
Just a wee reminder to students that you should look at your teaching area in Learn for advice on how and what to prepare for the coming week.
More tomorrow….and something on modelling….
Message from the Principal 27th April 2020
Message from the Principal 27th April
The week ahead is a busy one with some key meetings – as part of the Veterinary Schools’ Council, we will be meeting with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to discuss the possibility of further dispensations as well their view on the registration of new graduates this summer.
Each school has slightly differing needs and arrangements, so nothing is straightforward. Closer to home we are also holding an ad hoc meeting of the RVC’s Finance and General Purposes Committee to consider the financial impact of the pandemic as well as the mid to longer term mitigating actions we might take.
There have been a number of updates since I last provided a list; these have included:
Veterinary Nurses C15
Hilary Orpet has drafted information regarding virtual placement activities.
Adam Osgood has issued a number of emails regarding exam arrangements.
With emails from both Lisa Thurston and Bradley Cobb, information has been provided on formative assessments as well as exceptional circumstances and deferrals.
Academic researchers and Research Association
Jonathan Elliott has provided an important update regarding the Government’s Job Retention Scheme as it applies to different granting bodies.
Learning and Wellbeing
Michele Milner emailed all staff regarding Zoom and student support for remote learning. She also emailed all students, today, about remote learning, study skills and a guided relaxation webinar.
And finally for today …
It is heartening to know that so many of you are so easily distracted from Netflix and Nintendo and I was particularly impressed by the ranges of title by which I was addressed.
This week’s offerings included Gracious Overlord, Excellency, Quiz Lord, Excellency, Lord Stuart Almighty and Supreme Leader. Sadly, and flattering though they may be, having checked with the Rev Andy and, in the case of the last one, the governments of Iran and North Korea, others already hold the copyright tomany of these.
The entry that referred to me as sneaky was deleted. The one which included pictures of cats was included in the prize draw even though it was wrong.
But seriously; thank you to the 378 folks who entered, and thank you so much for the many positive comments. There were 210 incorrect and 168 correct answers. This week’s answers ranged from 9 to 100, with a special shout out for the person who offered 21.16.
I am delighted to say that the two winners are:
- Kelley Wray (BVetMed5)
- Anthony Siever (IT Camden)
And so to the answer:
- Caterpillar: 1 point per body segment
- Flower: 2 points each (including when on caterpillar’s head)
- Clock: face value
(5+2) + (5+2) + (5+2) = 21
6 + 6 + (5+2) = 19
2 + 6 + (5+2) = 15
6 + [(2+2) x 5 ] = 26
The answer is 26
Thanks for all your efforts last week in making it a success on so many levels.
Message from the Principal 23rd April 2020
Message from the Principal 23rd April
Thank you to everybody who responded to the survey which closed last night. As ever, there is a range of views, from the very positive to the critical, and it reflects the highly personal impact of the pandemic on us all - we are not all facing the same challenges or having the same experience.
One of the criticisms that relates to my updates is that they are too long and contain information that is not relevant to everybody. There are two reasons for this – and for which I make no apology: First, the news cycle and the daily decision making simply did not allow for drafting, checking and partitioning, with the real danger that we might miss someone in a segmented delivery. We also have many overlapping communities. I also took the view that it was important for the whole of the RVC to see what was being done for everyone and what the issues were across the organisation – as well as allowing cognate groups to see what was being said to others.
But for those that have not got the time to read the whole communication, I remind you that we have been using bold headers to allow for you to pick out the important bits of relevance to you and, every day, the message is split down and posted to the relevant subject and year group headings on the intranet and, thus far, on the internet.
We will work through the responses and try to put right what we can and do more of what appears to be working. In the meantime, thanks for your patience and for all your comments.
For the sake of clarity, there is no essential message in the rest of this email, so you can stop reading here should you so desire. 😊
In the early days of the epidemic I wrote a little bit about herd or community immunity and vaccination; more recently I wrote about the different tests. What I want to mention today, is how scientists and clinicians judge the usefulness or effectiveness of the tests. For the sake of simplicity, I will constrain this to a test that tells us whether or not we have the virus as this is important for managing patients and also for protecting healthcare and other essential workers who may be exposed to infected people or who may themselves be a risk to others if they themselves are infected.
The important starting fact is that no test is absolutely 100 percent correct all the time and there are two types of measures we use to assess how good or bad and useful a test might be.
Sensitivity and specificity
The first type relates to the performance of the test itself and it tells us how many people from a group of infected people the test correctly identifies as infected – this is the sensitivity of the test. Similarly, we want to know how many people in a group of uninfected people the test correctly identifies as uninfected - the specificity of the test.
So, if we tested 100 infected people and the test correctly identified 90 as infected, we would say the sensitivity was 90 percent. The ones it got wrong we refer to as false negatives. If we do the same with 100 uninfected people and it correctly identified 95 as being free from infection, we would say specificity was 95 percent. The ones it got wrong, i.e., said were infected and they were not, we call false positives.
Clearly, the ones the test gets wrong in either direction are important - the false negatives won’t self-isolate or won’t get the correct treatment; on the other hand, the false positives will be stressed unnecessarily and may self-isolate or be treated when there is no need.
The impact of how much infection there is in the population
Sensitivity and specificity are all very useful and tell us something about the test itself. But in the real world, we want to know something a little bit more. We want to know the confidence we can place in the result of the test. So now I am asking the question – if I am presented with 100 positive test results, how many of them will really be positive? Similarly, if I am given 100 negative test results how many are really negative. We call these the positive and negative predictive values and they really describe how useful a test is when it is used in the real world. If I go to the doctor tomorrow and test positive, what the doctor and I want to know is how likely that is to be correct.
Whilst all these measures are related, the sensitivity and specificity of a test are constant – they don’t change. The other two measures, the predictive values, do change and it depends on how common the infection is in the population. A positive test in an hospital population where there is lots of infection, is more likely to be correct than a positive test in the middle of the countryside. A positive test in London is more likely to be correct than in New Zealand, etc., etc. The predictive values depend upon sensitivity, specificity AND prevalence.
What we really want is a test that is good even when there is little infection around as this is the basis of any early detection or any final stage eradication plan – when infection is less common. At the moment, we don’t have tests that are readily available in high numbers that meet this requirement.
And that’s one of the reasons that there is so much controversy around testing. One final word: It’s worth noting that many things can affect the outcome of a test besides the test itself; the way in which a sample is taken, stored, transported and handled can all contribute to outcome.
[For anybody still with me and who hasn’t lost the will to live, the paragraphs above are illustrated below.
Take a population of 1000 people where we know that 400 are infected, i.e., the prevalence is 40%. Now let’s use a test with a sensitivity of 80 percent and specificity of 90 percent; we can construct this table.
|Infected people||Not infected people|
|Test positive||320 (true positives)||60 (false positives)||380 (all positive tests)|
|Test negative||80 (false negatives)||540 (true negatives)||620 (all negative tests)|
Sensitivity: 320/400 = 80%
Specificity: 540/600 = 90%
and we can calculate ….
Positive predictive value: 320/380 = 84%
Negative predictive value: 540/620 = 87%
Now let’s assume that the prevalence is only 10%, i.e., 100 of the 1000 people are infected….
|Infected people||Not infected people||Total|
|Test positive||80 (true positives)||90 (false positives)||170 (all positive tests)|
|Test negative||20 (false negatives)||810 (true negatives)||830 (all negative tests)|
Sensitivity: 80/100 = 80% (same)
Specificity: 810/900 = 90% (same)
Positive predictive value: 80/170 = 47% (Much worse)
Negative predictive value: 810/830 = 98% (Better)
In this example, when infection is rarer (10%) you may as well toss a coin when it comes to identifying infected individuals, with this test.]
As a reward for getting to this point – a takeaway dinner for two is again on offer.
The competition is open until 6pm British Summer Time, Friday 24th April.
Do not email me directly.
No cheating allowed.
First answer only accepted.
Second answer not accepted.
Third answer definitely not accepted.
No marks, but my personal appreciation for witty or complimentary comments.
I don’t need to see your working.
One prize only this time so no need to specify staff or student.
Email your answer to email@example.com
Feel free just to put the answer in the subject line.
Here it is…
Message from the Principal 20th April 2020
With very little by way of changes over the weekend, today is a rather briefer message – but a huge thank you for some very touching responses to my Friday posting.
Welcoming back our students has moved me to record a video message – a big step for someone once told he had the perfect face for radio! The short clip is below:
Dan Chan will be emailing an updated timetable for the schedule to rotations.
BSc Biosciences and Gateway students PDI module
Claire Russell has emailed regarding the forthcoming workshop.
Claire Russell has emailed with important information regarding placements to those students to whom it is relevant.
Your opinion matters
Just a wee reminder that the survey closes at 8pm Wednesday. The link is here. Thank you to those who have already responded.
More anon. Stay well,
If you would like to read earlier messages see Previous messages from the Principal.
Message from the Principal 17th April 2020
So, Friday…. It is with a real sense of excitement and pleasure that I can say how much we are looking forward to welcoming the majority of our students back next week. It will be the first virtual start to a new term in the history of the RVC and it will mean a whole new way of working and learning. Although we won’t be meeting face-to-face, you are all very welcome back and I want to acknowledge all the effort that has got us to this point, as well as your patience as we deal with the inevitable glitches and frustrations that I am sure we will encounter. It is new territory for us all - challenging, exciting, a little bit scary but a real testament to the resilience of us all and the RVC’s ability to respond.
A few updates to end the week….
As intimated yesterday, RG Carter will be returning to the Hawkshead Campus. A fuller message is here.
Your opinion matters
Again, as trailed previously, we are keen to know how we can best serve your needs with regard to the current situation. The link to the survey is here. Please note the deadline for responses is next Wednesday evening.
BVetMed5 Day One Skills Assessment
We are simplifying the process of gathering information about Day One Skills. This compulsory exercise is to address aspects of the programme that would, in part, have been assessed by the OSCEs which we have not been able to run this year. Details are in an email that Dan Chan is sending out today, with additional guidance and resources available on Learn on Monday next week.
Have a great weekend. Updates next week will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday …. unless something urgent arises.
Message from the Principal 16th April 2020
The good weather continues and so do the updates…..
1. Today, we have sent a further communication, as promised, to our alumni, a copy of which I append. It might interest you to know that we have received several messages of support from our graduates and it is heartening that even as they deal with their lives and businesses in the face of COVID-19, they still have time to think of us.
2. Yesterday, again as promised, we sent messages to BSc1 and 2 on assessments, as well as an update on electives for BVetMed 4 and 5.
3. Today, BVetMed5 have received an email regarding their Finals Part 2 Written Exams.
4. We have posted additional advice on how to get the best out of online learning. It is available here:
- What IT set up do I need for remote learning?
- How should I prepare for my teaching sessions?
- What sorts of activities are included in online learning?
5. I thought I might use today’s message to share a little about the Government’s Job Retention Scheme (JRS). The RVC, in common with most universities, is looking at how best we might seek support from the resources that are being made available to ensure we protect as far as is possible, our financial sustainability.
The JRS effectively allows the RVC to reclaim a proportion of the salaries for jobs that are not deliverable in the current environment. It has no direct impact on the employment status of staff but recognises that, other conditions notwithstanding, these roles are currently not deliverable (redundant) at least in the short term.
The employer can reclaim up to £2.5k per month or 80%, whichever is the smaller, per role that is “furloughed” - that is to say, the employee remains paid and employed, but is not required (or allowed) to work, as there is no work to be done, or it cannot be done in the current environment. This scheme therefore is to prevent people being laid off – hence the “job retention” in the title.
Although no definitive decisions have been made, with our finances under increasing pressure, I will be speaking with our Chairman to recommend we consider using this approach in a limited fashion. It will of course sit beside the reduction of spend we have implemented in a number of other areas, such as non-essential routine maintenance and a freeze on non-essential recruitment; my overarching objective being to ensure we emerge from this period in our history solvent, sustainable and with a complement of staff able to start back in earnest when the opportunity occurs.
I must stress that our approach to using the scheme will be limited and targeted. It will be neither necessary, nor possible, to furlough substantial numbers of staff, and all such decisions will be by agreement with those affected.
More detailed information on the approach we intend to take can be found here https://intranet.rvc.ac.uk/information-and-services/coronavirus/faqs.cfm?view=4 and the scheme will only be relevant to those approached directly by their managers in the coming weeks to consider furlough options.
6. Volunteering has been a difficult issue to deal with as it encompasses a range of different options and requirements. We have developed a detailed document which is available https://intranet.rvc.ac.uk/information-and-services/coronavirus/faqs.cfm?view=6.To those who have volunteered lab-based skills, we have submitted to a central registry and we are just waiting to har from the third party co-ordinator to see who, if anyone, will be required.
7. With the confirmation that the lockdown has been extended, there will undoubtedly be some changes to way in which we are allowed to operate. For example, the RCVS have published updated advice on how general practice can function, and the guidelines for the construction industry have also been amended. In the case of the former, we may well see a change in the nature and volume of cases being presented to our hospitals. In the case of the latter, RG Carter are likely to return to Hawkshead next week having adopted a range of biosecurity and sanitation measures as required to protect their workers and the wider community.
8. Finally, here is what we sent to the alumni:
Further to my message to our alumni of 2nd April, herewith a link from our CPD unit to some free online Webinars, totalling 18 hours of CPD:
- Webinar Plus: Building resilience to the challenges and pressures of practice
- Webinar Plus: Finding ways to thrive (not just survive) in veterinary practice
- Webinar Plus: Euthanasia and bereavement - understanding and supporting your clients, your colleagues and yourself
- Webinar Plus: Overcoming challenges to communication in practice
These webinars, sourced from successful RVC CPD courses we have run over the past couple of years and will run in the future, are aimed to support the enhancement of the hugely important non-clinical skills that every veterinary professional needs. The focus is on communication skills, issues relating to managing our patient, the client and ourselves during challenging consultations, such as euthanasia, and building resilience and well-being. We hope that those of you not in clinical practice or working in the veterinary profession, will also find some of the content useful to you too.
If you have not already registered with our CPD unit, you will need to do so before starting the course. Our Alumni Relations team will then send you an access code. This code will need to be applied at the checkout in order to watch the webinars.
I really hope you are able to make use of these resources. We will continue to do all that we can to ensure you feel connected to and supported by the RVC in these strangest of times, and as ever, we appreciate any feedback you might be prepared to offer.
Until our next communication, stay safe and well.
With all best wishes,
Message from the Principal 14th April 2020
Latest Message from the Principal 14th April 2020
I hope that, wherever possible, you were all able to get at least some respite over the long weekend and that the good weather enabled you to get some fresh air.
With no definitive update from the Government, our planning for the mid-term has been prudent and we continue to adapt to doing things in a rather different way than that to which we been accustomed. Even so, the new ways in which we are learning to work are, themselves becoming more “normal” by the day and whether by Skype, Zoom, MS Teams, Adobe Connect, GoToMeeting, WhatsApp or FaceTime, there is no doubt that business will never be the same again.
As has been the case recently, the updates are a series of information points or prompts.
Hilary Orpet will be writing to VNs with an update, as promised.
Mike Hewetson will be writing today with an update for BVetMed3, as promised.
A reminder to please check with your Head of Department if you wish to volunteer. We have a list of people and skills assembled and submitted with regard to laboratory activities – we now await the call from the authorities. In the case of NHS volunteering, we must ensure that higher risk activities do not subsequently place others at risk once a volunteer returns. More guidance is on its way.
We are working in a number of ways to ensure we continue to support our local community, be that through provision of meat and eggs from our own farm through to continuing to assist the local planning authorities with regard to the Local Plan. More on this soon.
We need your feedback
Given the unusual circumstances, we hope that we are getting most things right in the ways we are working, in how we reach decisions and how we then communicate with the RVC community. But I do know that we have made and will continue to make mistakes and get things wrong and so we need you to tell us what things you like and what things you would like to see done differently.
To this end we will be sending out a short questionnaire before the end of this week so that you can let us know.
That’s all for today…
As ever, Stuart
Message from the Principal 9th April 2020
Message from Principal 8th April 2020
With a few days “off” for many of us, I am all too aware that essential services and our clinical services will continue to provide cover and assistance. Thank you. And to everyone, whatever your role, I can only, once again, express my thanks for your patience and perseverance – whether you are the one waiting for information or the one providing it, the monumental effort of many people has allowed us to prioritise and deal with issue- by-issue on what has sometimes felt like shifting sand.
It is worth remembering that we are part of large sector - one that shares the many challenges COVID-19 has brought – and wherever possible, given our unique position, we have adopted best practice and tried to align ourselves with our colleagues elsewhere.
Furthermore, however big we feel our own issues might be, it is clear that the economic impact and unemployment statistics are truly awful and those dealing with the disease first hand, be they patients, healthcare workers or families of those afflicted, have significantly bigger stresses. And many have lost loved ones.
I know that there are frustrations and disappointments ahead but I also know that our collective effort is ensuring that the RVC is doing its very best for its staff, students and the communities we serve.
Message from RVC Chairman Baroness Young
Before I get to the updates, our Chairman, Baroness Young asked me to bring you this message:
As the most unusual of long weekends arrives, I am writing to thank you all – staff and students – for the way in which you have contributed to the RVC community’s work to meet the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
I have been in regular contact with Stuart, other senior colleagues and members of Council, and it is clear that a huge number people across the organisation have been making enormous efforts to ensure we continue our vital work in teaching and learning, supporting students, research and urgent clinical services as best we can, at the same time as contributing to the national effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.
The RVC is a venerable college and must have seen many pressures in its time but none quite as serious and global as this. I am greatly encouraged that the RVC’s staff and students will continue to show the enterprise, commitment and sheer hard work which is already protecting the safety of the RVC community and the College’s future for the good of teaching, research and services. Thank you for your hard work in this shared effort, especially at time when you are also concerned for family and friends. I and my fellow members of Council are exceptionally grateful and wish you and yours some relaxation over the break however that can be safely done, and continuation of the great spirit you have already shown in the weeks ahead.
With all best wishes and stay safe.
Barbara, Baroness Young of Old Scone
Chairman of RVC Council
And so, to the updates…
Final BVetMed exams
- We promised you an update this week.
- BVetMed5 will receive, or will have recently received an email from John Fishwick.
- The email contains details of arrangements and will be followed next week with additional information.
AHEMS and EMS
- We are sending updated information to the BVetMed years affected.
- This takes into account the most recent announcements from the RCVS.
- We had a very productive meeting with the RCVS today.
- We will provide an update after the holiday weekend.
- There will be specific cohort mailings before then, so please look out for them and also refer to Learn.
- The rescheduling of rotations involves the delivery of the electives.
- We will provide an update on the delivery, Tuesday next.
Timetable for updates (subject to change)
Please note that these are dates by which we will provide information. The update we provide may be that there is no new information.
All VN students
VN and BVetMed
Arrangements for RCVS Registration
All 2020 graduands
Alternative Graduation celebration
Interns & Residents
And so finally, adding to the words of the Chairman - thanks again. Whatever your tradition at this time of year, I wish you and yours at least some rest this long weekend.
As ever, Stuart
Message from the Principal 8th April 2020
Message from Principal 8th April 2020
Today’s update contains a number of pointers to information that will be appearing elsewhere or where emails will be targeted at specific groups in our RVC community.
Follow up to the letter from RCVS President regarding AHEMS/EMS
- We will be writing to the students affected by the relaxation of the RCVS requirements.
- These arrangements are still subject to change but they will not become more arduous or restrictive than currently stated.
Specific information for Ross and St George’s students
- We are aware that there are some specific requirements that are expected of these students.
- We are in contact with your home institutions seeking clarity on these requirements and how flexibility might be brought to bear around these arrangements such that all accreditors’ standards are met.
- We will be writing to you with the information we have before the end of this week.
- Again, these arrangements will be subject to change.
Post-graduate research students
- In addition to the information being supplied to you through your supervisors or direct from VP Research and Innovation, we have compiled some FAQS
- These FAQS are available here.
Timetable of updates to Student related information (subject to change)
- We undertook to keep you informed as best we can in a concise, transparent and timely fashion.
- In providing a timetable, we seek to reassure you that matters do not get lost or forgotten about.
- We will update you even if there is no new information available.
- The list is not yet complete due to changes in information we have received; we will publish this tomorrow.
- We will be bringing more detailed guidance of relevance to those who may be thinking of volunteering, particularly with the NHS.
- We will be asking for risk assessments to be carried out as we do need to protect our local community should a volunteer seek to return to the RVC having been in a NHS clinical environment.
- This guidance will be available next week; in the interim please consult with your Head of Department prior to volunteering.
- With the current unusual circumstances, we need to try to keep as many of our processes as “normal” as possible.
- One of these is the need for us to continue to take leave, most importantly for our own wellbeing, but also to ensure we can manage cover during and after the current restrictions. All staff will be receiving, or will have received, an email outlining arrangements with regard to this issue.
Message from the Principal 7th April 2020
including Letter to Veterinary Students from President of RCVS
Almost predictably, the moment one decides to reduce frequency of updates, in comes a reason to honour the commitment to bring news as soon as we can.
As I mentioned recently, we have been in frequent and regular contact with the regulators. In particular, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) sets standards for both veterinary medicine and veterinary nursing students. The regulations they govern have been posing challenges to the already busy curricula in the current environment.
This update relates to veterinary medical students and the issues of AHEMS and EMS. It provides further relaxation and flexibility for students at different points in their studies. As I hope is evident, the RCVS are mindful of the issues and have been working with all the schools represented by the Veterinary Schools’ Council to find solutions to the challenges brought about by the pandemic, at the same time as maintaining standards and public confidence in the programmes we are offering and the quality of our graduates.
To this end, today we received a letter from the President of the RCVS to be sent to all veterinary medical students: The letter can be found appended to this message.
Please note that although less specifically mentioned, the challenges of AHEMS in veterinary medicine years 1 and 2 are still very much on the table for discussion. Similarly, we have a meeting in the next week to address the issues facing VN placements.
Letter from RCVS President
7 April 2020
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.rcvs.org.uk
Dear Veterinary Student
Re: Temporary suspension of EMS regulations, to support veterinary students during the Covid-19 pandemic
Further to my letter of 16 March, I am writing to update you on the situation regarding EMS regulations. In March, when the temporary changes to EMS requirements were first agreed in response to the emerging COVID-19 situation, the immediate focus was on supporting final-year students and removing barriers to graduation caused by the pandemic. We agreed to keep the situation under review for all students, and in light of the additional measures imposed by the Government on social distancing in the last few weeks, we have now considered the EMS requirements further.
Consequently, I’m writing to inform you about the further measures now agreed by the RCVS which are intended to support students at this difficult time and which I hope will offer further reassurance. The suspension of EMS will of course continue during this period when social distancing measures are in place.
First, the initial proposal to allow for a shortfall of four weeks for those of you in your final year of your programme has now been extended to eight weeks. Therefore, provided that you have undertaken a minimum of 30 weeks’ EMS so far throughout the five years of the degree course, you will not have to make up any further weeks prior to graduation.
We also recognise that even once the Government relaxes the current constraints, which itself could be within months rather than weeks, opportunities for students to catch up with EMS may be limited in the short term, as things begin to return to normal. Therefore, we have taken the decision that all current fourth-year students should not be prevented from graduating, providing that you have completed your 12 weeks’ pre-clinical EMS and at least 50% (13 weeks) of clinical EMS, in addition to also demonstrating that you have achieved all RCVS Day One Competences.
Although longer term impacts on veterinary business are currently unknown, it is reasonable to assume that there may be longer term challenges around EMS placements. For those of you in your third year of study, it is envisaged that the impact for you is likely to be less than those in the fourth year. However, we recognise that there may still be challenges around meeting the full EMS requirement depending upon how quickly EMS opportunities return to normal. I would like to reassure you that, should this be the case, we will also consider changing the EMS requirements for students currently in their third year of study. We will actively review the position for third-year students once a timeline for relaxing the current lock-down constraints has been released from the Government and the long term situation around the COVID-19 pandemic becomes clearer.
The longer term impact on students currently in their first or second year is likely to be less than for those in the latter years of study; it may be that opportunities for pre-clinical EMS return at an earlier stage than for clinical EMS, as the farming industry continues to operate. We will continue to keep the situation for these students under review, and be supportive.
Any further updates will be posted on the RCVS website www.rcvs.org.uk, and communicated to you via your school.
I hope you are keeping safe and wish you well as this difficult period continues.
Dr Niall Connell President, RCVS
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Belgravia House 62-64 Horseferry Road London SW1P 2AF T 020 7222 2001 F 020 7222 2004 E email@example.com www.rcvs.org.uk Patron: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Message from the Principal 6th April 2020
Whilst we have been focused on the immediacy of our day-to-day RVC business, as I flagged last week, there is a now a deliberate shift to ensure the decisions we made and the actions we took remain valid and can be implemented in a fashion that supports the longer term.
What does this longer-term picture look like? Well, you won’t be surprised when I say that we simply do not know for sure and to some extent we, like everyone else, are involved in a guessing game where the rules keep changing and we are required to think in a way that is a combination of chess and poker. We need to take calculated risks, but we need to do so in a strategic fashion in a complex environment.
The rules to which I refer come from several sources – the rules Government sets; the rules society expects or can tolerate, and the rules that only the virus knows…and it is this last one that brings so much uncertainty as we do not understand exactly how the virus will continue to behave in our communities. There is one thing for sure; these times will pass, things will get better and, as I have said consistently, our job is to ensure that when the conditions allow, we, the RVC, have an organisation that has weathered the storm, is open for business and is in fit shape and financially sustainable.
As will be evident from the news, many businesses are finding things really hard, if not impossible, and many more will do so in the near future. We are in the fortunate position of having several different sources of income and a variety of ways of delivering to our students, clients and other stakeholders; we also plan prudently. All that said, we will be looking at number of measures to ensure we maintain adequate cashflow and take mitigating actions to protect the business and ensure sustainability. And all this as we make the necessary investment in some areas to maintain the income sources that are less affected and upon which we increasingly depend at the current time.
Amongst measures we have already taken, I include the curtailing of spend on capital works, the reduction in the use of external consultants commensurate with need, a near total freeze on staff recruitment, the consideration of how we plan holiday approvals in the event of an extended lockdown period and, most recently, if and how we might take advantage of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme (JRS).
Most employers and, within that, all universities, are considering these and other measures and I will be writing more on this in the days and weeks ahead. My overarching objective is to maintain the RVC as a solvent, functioning organisation that looks after the interests of all its staff, students and clients as best we can and see us through this dreadful situation. More anon.
One thing we cannot forget is that we continue to function in a very highly regulated environment and I want to provide reassurance that we speak with most of our regulators weekly, if not more frequently. From the Office for Students to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the American Veterinary Medical Association, in membership organisations such as the Universities UK, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and importantly the UK Veterinary Schools Council - we are working with them all to ensure, that collectively, the changes and adaptations we are making meet the requirements and expectations of the sector. It is not easy but in nearly 20 years of leadership in Higher Education and the professions, I have never seen a more collegial and collaborative effort, I have never experienced more goodwill and generosity, and never such a collective desire to share the burdens and commit to a common good. It is hugely reassuring to me and I hope, in turn it provides you with some comfort in the knowledge that this is very much a sector-wide team game.
Finally, just a word about deadlines and update for students; we will be bringing these out with my next message but some of you may receive targeted emails, as I know BvetMed3 did today, as more detailed information becomes available.
Stay safe and well,
Message from the Principal 3rd April 2020
I start this message with the updates…
BVetMed 4 and 5
You will be receiving an email on or before Monday next week from Dan Chan regarding your specific situations.
As I mentioned yesterday, with the acute crisis communications phase now moving towards an implementation and monitoring phase, we have instituted a number of Working Groups that will be working to address our new reality and with a focus on the near-future and mid-term challenges. These do not supplant our existing administrative structure and should not be regarded as fixed term. They will be in place until 31st May at which time we will review our needs.
- Admissions, including recruitment and student number planning
- Wellbeing and support during pandemic for both staff and students
- Staffing and Employment matters
- Clinical – including financial performance
- Rotations and External partnerships, including EMS/AHEMS and VN Placements
- Teaching, Learning and Assessment in the online environment
- Communications (internal and external) – including student liaison
- Finance and infrastructure
- Governance and Regulatory issues
The groups will be co-ordinated centrally to ensure consistency of decision making and communications.
Timetable of updates
Acknowledging that uncertainty raises anxiety levels and also how much we depend upon your patience, we are preparing a list of deadlines by which we have undertaken, or will undertake, to provide you with updates. As I say, it will not necessarily be complete and I am sure we will not hit every deadline, l but I want to provide reassurance that matters are in hand and do what we can to manage expectation and reduce stress. We will publish this by Tuesday of next week.
A huge thank you to the 879 staff and students who competed in the puzzle I set yesterday. And congratulations to the 260 who got the correct answer. And the winners are:
- Staff: Anna Riddle
- Students; Kimberly Tam, Sarah Cole and Loaise Manger
Congratulations to you all. It was genuinely a wonderful surprise that it turned into such a massive community event, with so many of you contributing.
And finally, the most touching one of all was the person who asserted that, should they win, they wanted the prize to go to somebody else. And if only for that alone, this has been worth it.
Have great weekend.
Message from the Principal 2nd April 2020
A few more updates as the team continues to draw together different strands for different audiences. Thanks for your patience and co-operation – we are moving from a single crisis committee to a number of smaller working groups in order that we can focus on more detailed implementation of the plans we have agreed. I will provide more on these in future posts. In the meantime, here are today’s updates….
A massive thank you to Jade and Steph at the SU for helping us get a Student FAQ page set up. The more observant of you will also note that we have redesigned this COVID-19 website section to make it easier to navigate.
Rules concerning visitors
A reminder that there should be no visitors to RVC buildings or student accommodation, other than for essential reasons. We posted the following today:
For students who remain in Halls, your accommodation room is considered to be your home during this period of lockdown so we would like to remind you of the need to comply with the guidance from the government on when you should leave your house(room) and of the importance of social distancing at all times. See Staying at home and away from others (social distancing)
You should only leave the house for very limited purposes:
- shopping for basic necessities, for example, food and medicine, which must be as infrequent 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, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
- travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home.
These reasons are exceptions - even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.
Your household is considered to be the students living within your flat, but does not include other students living on campus in other flats.
Please, these measures must be followed by everyone including students remaining on campus.
We should be mindful that we are all experiencing hardship – those of us currently at the RVC, but so too our alumni. Many of our former students will be in businesses of different kinds that will have been affected badly by the restrictions – some will be furloughed, some perhaps have lost their jobs and of course, we are all at risk from the health impacts of the coronavirus.
Today, we sent our alumni this message.
It is strange to think that we are only days into the pandemic and yet our world has changed almost beyond recognition. And whilst our immediate focus has been on the day-to-day issues of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of those under our direct care at the RVC, we are mindful that the wider RVC community is suffering hardship and challenges in both personal and professional life. I can assure you that our alumni have been very much in our thoughts.
The difficulties of maintaining social fabric when we are required to be physically distanced are many, not least because it is almost the antithesis of the human condition and, however good our IT and social media skills might be, they will never replace that need for face-to-face interactions. At the other end of the isolation spectrum are those who are confined with others in situations that may be cramped or stressful. At the RVC we have been trying to help everybody attend to their wellbeing with advice on exercise, other pastimes and healthy connectivity at the same time as providing as much structure and support as we can whilst collectively translating our activities to the digital environment.
Most of our staff are now working from home, all of our students are now off campus except for those in our Halls unable to return home, all of our students on placement are relieved of obligation thanks to the RCVS, and with our essential staff and bolstered security, we strive to continue working as close to normally as we can.
With our campuses very quiet, our lecture theatres empty, laboratories on maintenance and even the QMHA now starting to slow with emergency and urgent care only cases, we are seeking ways in which we can support our broader community.
- We have created a register of staff able to offer research and laboratory skills to the COVID-19 research and clinical efforts - these people are now being deployed.
- RVC equipment that can be offered to the NHS is logged, and already being supplied, through a central Government plan.
- Our telemedicine provision is providing veterinary care to our clients and assisting referring vets.
- And a number of ad hoc yet important initiatives are in place to support those around us.
Specifically, with regard to our alumni, we are planning on mounting a programme of free-to-use webinars – more information to come! Our planned Impact Report will be extended to bring you some recent developments and happier news – a kind of mini summer version of Eclipse - and we have our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linked-in profiles to keep you appraised on the fly.
So, wherever you find yourself, and whatever your immediate circumstances, I want you to know that you are in our thoughts. We will do all that we can to keep engaged with you and, when the danger resolves, do anything we can to get us all back and functioning again.
With all best wishes to you and yours,
For those of you who wish to know more about the specific actions we have been taking and to access something of a running blog on the RVC’s response, please visit www.rvc.ac.uk/about/coronavirus
I am mindful that the daily updates have been shorter and have contained less detailed and urgent messages than in the early days of our crisis management. There is a huge team of people involved in getting us into shape for our new way of working and I am grateful to you all – the support of those in delivering the infrastructure, systems, software platforms and trouble-shooting has and will continue to be critical as those responsible for content and services adapt to our new world. Thank you to everybody.
With the move towards more “work in progress”, I am proposing moving the updates to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday frequency from next week but will, of course, bring anything of a more urgent nature as and when needed.
Message from the Principal 29th January
More on testing…
There is significant confusion as to the “whys” and “hows” of testing and I am using this update to address this issue only. As ever, and mostly beyond our control, these are subject to change.
1. Why are we offering AST using the Lateral Flow test (LFT)?
We are doing this for four reasons
- Because the Government requires it
- Because it provides information on the general level of infection in our community
- Because it can provide some reassurance to individuals
- Because if positive and followed up with a PCR test, is a quick accurate confirmation of asymptomatic infection
We are NOT doing it
- To use as a ticket to class except in clinical situations where social distancing cannot be maintained
- To place an unwelcome burden on you
It is not mandatory, expect in those clinical instances mentioned above, but we would strongly encourage you to do the tests for the good of the whole community. We are paying for LFTs and the PCR tests used to confirm an LFT positive. Note that this PCR is over and above that offered through the Government scheme.
We ask that you report your results in order that we are able to make informed decisions both at the RVC, but also Governmental level, in trying to control outbreaks and beat the pandemic.
The essence of the asymptomatic testing is that we understand matters at a population level, not the individual.
2. Why is the approach different on our two campuses?
The Government has required us to engage with a new, regular AST scheme. Given the scale and level of investment required as well as suitable space and availability of workforce, several organisations in the Bloomsbury area clubbed together with the University of London and at Camden we are contracted to this testing centre. If it is more convenient, using a test facility local to you is an option open to you where one exists. Local Authorities currently offering LFT are listed here.
We attempted to form the same arrangements at Hawkshead with our neighbours, but this has not proven to be possible. Instead we had a small testing facility of our own that is being wound down as phase two of the Government scheme (test on return) here ends and we move to regular, twice weekly testing. Furthermore, over 50% of the students on the Hawkshead campus are distributed widely on clinical rotations and would not be able to regularly attend the same site. We took the decision that distribution of self-tests was the most appropriate approach.
We are dealing with staff differently as we did not have assurances they would be allowed access to student testing sites when we had to take the decision.
3. Will I be refused entry to campus class if I do not have a negative test result?
Frankly, no. In an ideal world we would all be able to check every day whether we were positive or negative. Clearly this is not the case. A test result is only valid on the day the test was taken so ANY set of test results is an approximation to the true state of nature. We do strongly encourage you to do the right thing and have regular tests, but the decision is yours (excepting those in clinical environments). Whilst a positive would require you to self-isolate until a PCR negative confirmation, lack of an AST test result would not preclude you from class.
We are doing our best to work within Government requirements and the differing expectations and needs of very different environments, cohorts and communities. Everything we do is being risk assessed prior to any decision being made – and I remind you again of the very low prevalence we have had in our community throughout. We want to keep it that way and monitoring our community in the way we are strongly recommending will help us to do so.
You will have already received or will shortly receive information about the testing available to you. Please read this carefully and follow up any specific queries to those listed as contacts.
4. Have the rules changed with regard to Face Masks and Social Distancing?
No. This is really, really important. You must continue to act as though you were infected. The rules are here. Each and every one of us has responsibility to follow these rules.
I know this hard and I know we are all struggling to keep this all going, many of us at our wit’s end with the twists and turns of both the virus and Government. The news on vaccines is positive and I know from what we have achieved so far that with continued patience, understanding and trust, and a recognition that this is a community wide effort, we can and will get there.
Have a good weekend and stay safe.
Message from the Principal 22nd January
A couple of comments given the recent updates this week.
There is no doubt that regardless of testing programmes and the vaccination roll out, there are signs of a more co-ordinated national response. We will continue to play our part and, where necessary, make RVC-specific arrangements or interventions over and above national guidelines. Safety remains our priority.
There is clearly some confusion around who is deemed an essential and who is deemed a critical worker, and the most recent interpretation is that anyone involved in the delivery or support of education for exempt subject areas, is deemed critical and is allowed to come to work. They may also be able to gain access to schooling for their children but this is at the discretion of schools. We will provide supporting documents for anyone who wishes to pursue this option.
Whatever, and wherever we are and regardless of whether on or off-campus and no matter wither tested negative or vaccinated, we must continue to follow our pledge and resilience commitment. Chris Whitty’s plea to behave as though you were carrying the virus is a stark but helpful image and one that will remain good advice for some time to come. I do believe that we are potentially at the turning point in our fight against COVID-19 and we are here because we have been doing the right thing. Please, let’s stick at it. With a prevalence of 1% in our RVC community, we have cause to be grateful, but the virus has no memory and we must remain vigilant.
Have a good weekend.
Message from the Principal 21st January
Updates only today…. all about testing..
Rules for those arriving from overseas
Following additional advice, we are modifying the self-isolation rules and testing for those returning to the UK from overseas. The modified advice (notably 2a option of my previous posting) is as follows:
The rules from 18th January are:
- If you are travelling from overseas to England you must have a negative COVID test before travelling, in line with Government requirements.
- You must self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival. No test is required for you to leave self-isolation if you have done the 10 days. This also applies to those who arrived prior to 18th January and who were originally asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
- You can shorten the 10-day period after arrival by obtaining for yourself a private PCR test from a Government approved supplier, and testing negative. The earliest you can take this test is on day 5 after arrival. If you test positive you must self-isolate for 10 days from the day you took the test.
Asymptomatic Testing at the RVC
- We are nearing the end of the second of two phases of asymptomatic (AST) testing for students and some staff. Phase one was designed to reduce risk around students ‘returning home’ for the winter break and phase two, which will be completed over the next couple of weeks, is to manage the risk of those returning to face-to-face activities on campus. In addition, we have distributed PCR tests to some targeted groups.
- We are grateful to the staff and students who have enabled the delivery of this activity, particularly those working in our own testing centre at Hawkshead.
- We are now moving to introduce phase three which will provide for more regular testing of on-campus students and some staff. From week commencing. 25th January, tests will be made available to c 250 ‘front line’ staff in the first instance. Student tests will be made available from approximately 1 February. Students returning to campus before that time, or during the first week of February will be included in the current AST provision through our site at Hawkshead and the University of London.
- The UoL test site will continue into March. The RVC Hawkshead testing centre will close in February when we move to ‘self’ testing.
- Tests will be distributed from designated collection sites. We will be issuing a supply of tests in each batch to each individual which will cover a significant period of time. More details to follow on:
- Collection dates and places
- Instructions and information about the tests
- Links to reporting mechanisms for students
- These regular tests are an important new tool in our personal and institutional risk management which should help reduce the risk of transmission of infection amongst our community. However, it is vital that we all understand that this is just one tool. None of us can become complacent and change our behaviour just because we have had a negative test. We must assume it remains possible for us to come into contact with the virus at any time and pass it on to others unless we continue to follow the Covid Resilience Charter. Hands, face and space are as relevant as ever.
Lockdown quiz this Saturday. Details later in the week.
Message from the Principal 16th January
Update Saturday 16th January 2021
16 Jan 202
With sincere apologies for intruding on your weekend, I am writing with changes we are making to self-isolation rules following recent scientific evidence and advice provided to us by Public Health officials. We are also changing the rules regarding self-isolation for travellers following the introduction of test before travel and the removal of travel corridor status for all countries. This applies to both staff and students; the reason for posting this evening is that some of our students are making ready to travel back to RVC.
A) Self-isolation rules
We are also bringing self-isolation rules into line with Government requirements, moving from 14 days in some circumstance to 10 days in all circumstances. The reason we are doing this is because of the latest scientific evidence and having taken advice from the Public Health officials. It will also make the rules simpler, consistent and easier to follow.
1. If you feel unwell you should self-isolate and take the NHS PCR test. You must self-isolate for 10 days from when you started to feel unwell.
2. If you are identified as being in contact with a positive or suspect positive case, you must self-isolate for 10 days unless the suspect case proved to be negative.
- In the case of the person being confirmed positive you must self-isolate from the date you had contact.
- Should you become symptomatic during the 10-day period, you should take a PCR test and if positive, isolate for 10 days from when you started to show symptoms.
3. If you have a Lateral Flow Test as part of RVC’s testing programme and it is positive, you should self-isolate for 10 days from the date of your positive test.
In addition to the new advice, we will be expanding our Lateral Flow asymptomatic testing programmes for both campuses and for both students and staff. We will be providing more details on this expanded programme next week.
B) New rules for international travellers returning to the RVC
The rules from 18th January are:
1. If you are travelling from overseas to England you must have a negative COVID test before travelling, in line with Government requirements.
2. You must self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival and
2a. We will provide Lateral Flow tests for you on days 7 and 10. These tests must be negative before leaving isolation. If either one is positive you must self-isolate for 10 days from the day of your positive test.
2b. You can shorten the 10-day period after arrival by obtaining for yourself a private PCR test from a Government approved supplier, and testing negative. The earliest you can take this test is on day 5 after arrival. If you test positive you must self-isolate for 10 days from the day you took the test.
3. We realise that the changes in the restrictions in the UK will be a particular problem for those coming from countries previously having corridor status and who have already booked travel. We are aware that the testing options of 2a and 2b may not provide a solution for everyone, so there may be some returning students that will be prevented from attending their first classes. We will do all that we can to schedule to allow you to attend any session you might miss.
We will be posting this information on our website but please note that we are still experiencing some problems arising from Friday’s issue. This seems to be a Mac/Chrome issue so please use Safari or Firefox to view. The travel specific information for returning term 2 is here.
Enough for a Saturday evening.
Message from the Principal 15th January
Striking the balance between too much and not enough is tricky. I am aware this has been another week with a lot happening and quite a bit of communication from Government, the regulators and for individual groups within the RVC.
With further change now required of us, and again very little notice, I am as frustrated as you and very sorry for the inconvenience that this means for both staff and students. As ever, I am grateful for your patience and understanding as we try to adapt to the new restrictions at the same time as keeping you all safe.
And despite best efforts, things happen beyond our control; today’s nationwide issue with JISC that prevented access to LEARN was unacceptable and we will be taking this up with the external bodies involved. I am particularly sorry for those who were in full exam mode and we will be making it clear to those responsible just how stressful this whole debacle has been.
A few updates…
The virology of the pandemic
I am delighted that our very own Dirk Werling has provided an excellent FAQ on the virology of the pandemic. This too is changing and I am sure Dirk will keep us appraised as the significance of the variants becomes apparent. Dirk’s words of wisdom are here.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
I can’t speak for others, but I am finding this latest lockdown tough. Actually, really tough. The challenges of needing to respond to sudden changes can be very unsettling for all of us, and even though we have been here before, this seems rather different. Please remember that you can access support through the Advice Centre; using online tools and through 5 Ways to BE Well events and activities. Find out more about all or our online wellbeing and mental health support, here.
We are really pleased to be hosting guest speaker Dr Pragya Agarwal who will be addressing the issue of unconscious bias and how it impacts day-to-day life on January 21st 7pm-8pm.
For anyone interested in a lockdown pub quiz evening with the usual prizes, I will be running one next Saturday 23rd. More next week.
The level of anxiety in society is enormous. This month has seen Brexit, the turmoil of a change of administration in the US, elections in many countries and, of course, all of the issues associated with the pandemic. Whether they are happening on our own doorstep, or further afield, we cannot know or fully understand how these impact on one other. However, we have more in common than that which separates us – and as my Granny, generalising, used to say, “We all wear pyjamas.”
Very best wishes
Message from the Principal 8th January
It has been quite the week for communications and Zoom meetings, so I am not posting anything more today, other than to say thank you. We don’t know what the next few weeks and months will bring, or what changes we might have to make, but I do know that these things eventually do pass.
On a rather more personal note, this week marks my 10th anniversary at the RVC as Principal. It is a pleasure and privilege to be part of an organisation that is home to so many talented, committed and generous people - both staff and students - who make the RVC what it is today. The current reputation of our institution is built on the shoulders of those who preceded us; I have no doubt that the way in which you are all responding to current challenges is ensuring that the RVC will prevail and remain pre-eminent internationally for those who follow us.
With thanks and best wishes.
Message from the Principal 5th January
With apologies that this is arriving later than I had hoped and also for the fact that we have had to make some decisions without being able to consult widely, or provide as much prior notice, as we would have liked....
Further to the announcement of national lockdown, we must revise our existing plans for Term 2.
As you will be aware, we have, for some time, planned a reduced campus density for Term 2 with access strictly controlled and the requirement to be on-campus only for those activities which cannot be conducted online. These arrangements were largely already in line with both the new advice from Government and statements by the likes of UCL. The latest announcement of a further lockdown does not change things dramatically. There are however, changes for some.
There is very little evidence that transmission of the original virus occurred in learning and teaching spaces or in the working environments of the RVC. Similarly, the transmission in accommodation also seems to have been rare. However, it may be that the new variant will pose greater challenges.
The Government has come to the view that a national lockdown is necessary and in order to prevent the mass movement of students, only those students who are in exempt subject areas or circumstances can return to campus. The wording that is relevant in the Government advice is “future critical workers”.
In addressing these new restrictions, it is important to acknowledge that we are seeking to balance several factors in reaching a revised plan for Term 2. In rough order of priority:
- We must consider first the safety of staff and students
- We must abide by national regulations where explicit
- We must support the spirit of what the Government is trying to achieve by the lockdown
- We must ensure that we meet the expectations of our professional regulators
- We must provide access to learning opportunities that allow students to progress and graduate
- We must do all this in a sustainable fashion
- Students – teaching and learning
For students, arrangements until further notice will be:
- BSc 1, 2 and 3: off-campus as per Government requirements*
- MSci 4: veterinary research laboratory placements as planned, as permitted
- Gateway: off-campus as per Government requirements*
- VNs: all as planned, subject to RCVS confirmation
- GAB: continue as per Term 1 with adjustments as necessary, as permitted
- BVetMed 1: continue as per Term 1, adjustments as necessary, as permitted
- BVetMed 2: continue off-campus as per Term 1; those already here or committed to travel will have access to some campus facilities (e.g. library)*
- BVetMed 3: restricted on-campus essential only, as permitted
- BVetMed 4: off-campus, as planned.
- BVetMed 5: rotations as per Term 1, as permitted
- PGT: off-campus, as per Government requirements
- PGR: on-campus veterinary research laboratory work by arrangement, as permitted
- BVetMed AHEMS/EMS: these can proceed provided both you and the EMS provider are content to go ahead. The RCVS will be issuing additional guidelines soon - hopefully this week
*Indicates a change from previous plans.
We will continue to ensure that those activities and learning outcomes that are a requirement for graduation and professional registration are offered. IT IS ENTIRELY within your right to defer from these activities, and there may be some who are unable to attend, but this means you might not be able to progress, graduate or register with your professional body in line with the current timetable. The delay may be days, weeks, months or in some cases perhaps a year. These timescales are not within our gift, nor is it easily within the professional regulators’ to dispense with these requirements. Remember the regulators are there to protect the public, not the professions.
We will be contacting you by cohort over the next 48-72 hours with any updates and more detailed arrangements.
NOTE: As we have learnt from experiences to date, despite our best planning, circumstances can change due to factors beyond our control. We will be reviewing the situation on a daily basis and will make changes to these arrangements as required or as we see fit. This may be at short notice.
Testing for students
Our current plans for testing those returning to campus are unchanged. Please ensure you have booked your tests if this applies to you.
2. Staff – working arrangements
In line with Government requirements:
“You may only leave your home for work if you cannot reasonably work from home.
Where people cannot work from home - including, but not limited to, people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction, or manufacturing - they should continue to travel to their workplace.This is essential to keeping the country operating and supporting sectors and employers.
Public sector employees working in essential services, including childcare or education, should continue to go into work.”
In other words, work from home if you can; if you cannot, with agreement of your line manager, you may come to work. This includes those whose home working environments or circumstances are not conducive to work.
HR, on request, will provide letters that can be presented if challenged. For those required to attend and who may want their children to attend school, the RVC regards you as essential/critical workers and it may be that some local schools, at their discretion will accept this letter and therefore permit children to attend.
HR will be writing to all staff with more detailed information within the next 72 hours.
Inevitably, there will be disappointment, frustration and anxiety related to these arrangements. I can only stress again the first bullet list above and the many aspects we are seeking to balance. Whilst I am sure that there will be questions arising from this communication, can I please ask that you keep any queries until the more detailed group or cohort specific information is issued.
Thanks, and stay well.
Message from the Principal 4th January
Happy New Year to you all – sorry to be leading off 2021 with this brief update….
As you may have seen, the Prime Minister has just announced that we are returning to a lockdown that looks very similar to the first one of last March. We were already planning for additional restrictions, so we are well prepared for these latest interventions – however, the precise details of this lockdown have not yet been made available to us.
I realise that uncertainty raises anxiety but please be assured that I will be writing again tomorrow once we know what is required of us and those with whom we should collaborate. We will continue to deliver our educational programmes, but it is certain we must now refine our plans for on-campus delivery.
In the meantime:
- Work from home if you can – if you cannot, you are permitted to come into work in agreement with your line manager.
- If you are a student on clinical placement or rotation, continue to attend unless you hear otherwise.
- All other rules etc., as per the Government website.
- If you are due to have a test tomorrow prior to starting back on campus this week, please attend your appointment I will write again tomorrow by 12 noon.
Thanks, as ever, for your patience.