Messages from Professor Stuart WJ Reid, Principal of the RVC, (primarily to students and staff of the RVC) during the COVID-19 outbreak. Read previous messages from 2022 here and previous messages from 2020 here.

December 2021

Message from the Principal 29th December 2021

Message for Students

I hope you are all enjoying a break over the festive season. The following paragraphs contain important information regarding the return to campus in January.

We are writing to you now as we appreciate you need as much time as possible to plan. We had anticipated some kind of additional advice from the UK Government and the imposition of additional restrictions such as have been witnessed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but, as I am sure you are aware, this has not come to pass and nothing is now expected before the New Year.


Although we had been planning – as required by our regulators – for a return to full face-to-face delivery, in the absence of additional guidance we are taking the decision that until 28th of January at the earliest and unless directed otherwise by the Government:


  1. Our campuses will be open and the existing mask and social distancing requirements will be maintained.
  2. All lectures will be digital– the delivery may vary depending on course, subject and lecturer; lectures will mainly be asynchronous and pre-recorded (as you have been receiving) unless indicated otherwise.
  3. The timetables that have been issued to you for the first few weeks will not be significantly amended but you will receive further detail from your course and/or year leader in the New Year, particularly regarding the scheduling of face-to-face activities.
  4. For all subjects, wherever possible, all other teaching modalities (e.g., all practical classes, laboratory sessions and clinical rotations) will take place as planned. Enhanced PPE (e.g., masks and visors) may be required as will regular testing.
  5. Note that we will not be able to implement full social distancing for all of these sessions (this has been the case for clinical work since early in the pandemic); hence the need for regular testing and enhanced PPE.
  6. Where possible, all placements should go ahead as planned.
  7. Laboratories will be open for all planned teaching (including undergraduate research projects) and for research students.

These arrangements allow everyone to continue their studies as best we can under the circumstances – we anticipate that a significant number of people will be self-isolating at the start of term having encountered the virus whilst away from the RVC. We also expect that some people might choose not to return immediately.


It is critical that you test before your return to campus – with one test in the 24 hours prior to your first on-campus teaching session. It is more important than ever to engage in twice weekly testing during the term time and uploading the results to the NHS and also the RVC if this is requested for your cohort.


It is increasingly clear that those who have had three vaccinations are well protected against serious disease and we strongly suggest that if you have chosen to remain unvaccinated and are not exempt, you should start a vaccination course immediately. We are reserving the right to request disclosure of vaccination status in some specific circumstances and whilst we are not currently asking for this information, we will be continuing our use of LFD test result disclosure for some, if not all, classes where in person attendance is required.


The rationale behind all of these arrangements is to try to ensure a) we protect your health and wellbeing and b) we ensure we can maintain a staff complement sufficient to be able to deliver the teaching. Lessening the contact on campus reduces the likelihood of positive cases and in-contact isolations.


This update is provided so that you can plan as best you can with our current knowledge. It is impossible to be certain about the coming weeks and it is very likely that there will be announcements from Government on 1st or 2nd January and we will provide additional information  in the New Year. At that time, we will also be able to provide more course and year specific details so thank you for your patience and understanding.  In the meantime, I wish you the best that the season has to offer.


With thanks, as ever,



Message from the Principal 21st December

Tuesday 21st December 2021

Reflecting on the last 12 months, there is a feeling of déjà vu – massive uncertainty, the inability to plan as we would like, a certain apprehensiveness, and all set against the background of political and social shenanigans that are, frankly, beyond comprehension to many of us. Taking some solace from the fact that we nearly got back to normal and that, despite the emergence of the most recent variant, vaccination and booster rates are high and effective at preventing serious illness, one hopes that the positive aspects of the holidays imbue a bit of badly needed optimism. A new year and a new start await.

In previous blogs at Christmastime, I’ve written about both the comedy and the pathos of the season, the kindness and the sacrifice, the sentimentality and the tradition. Certainly, this time last year, I did not expect to be writing with the threat of disruption hanging over us again but, here we are.

So, for this year, three very small vignettes…

The first is of overt criminality. As a student in Glasgow, the plantations of fir trees blanketed over the Scottish hills were a short drive from the flat I shared with a classmate. What could be easier than procuring a tree for our Christmas celebrations by getting dropped off in the dead of night, suitably attired in camouflage fatigues, complete with face paint? With the tree selected pretty much by sonar in the pitch dark, duly felled and dragged to the roadside, it was salutary to discover that size does matter - there is no way one can fit a 14-foot tree into a Ford Fiesta. And the camouflage and face paint are not a good look when you are stopped by the local constabulary for driving with the hatchback open, trailing half a tree along the road.  Not a good evening.

The second is of incompetence. Still a student and my first attempt at roasting a turkey.  All good … 4 hours 30 minutes … last hour, no foil … one hour resting ….. skin golden brown – but…ugh…..gravy….. strangely synthetic. Turns out protocol dictates that the giblets (and their plastic bag) should be removed before roasting. Pizza as usual.

The third is, well, the third is back to sentimentality.  A year later, in my first job in the north of Scotland, the community was small, traditional, and entirely rural. Things happened as they had always happened and if it wasn’t as they had always happened, then certainly it was as they had happened for a very, very long time. And so it was, on a frosty Christmas Eve int the tiny church at Chapel of Garioch, pronounced “Chapel Geeree”, on the slopes up to ancient Bennachie, the Mountain of the People of Cé. Unlike other places which had moved the Watchnight Service to earlier in the evening to avoid inebriated Christmas Eve revellers, the midnight service was, indeed, held at midnight. Working at the local practice and on duty that evening having attended a call to a lambing (see Xmas Blog 2012), I snuck in just as the strains of the first carol were drifting out of the church door into the cold night air.

With almost all of the local farming families represented, young and old, it had the feel of a community gathering rather than a religious service and there was a something of a rote to the readings and the hymns – happening as they had for generations.  Eventually, with the clock approaching midnight, the lights were dimmed to extinction and the old church and its spartan altar were left illuminated only by the flickering candles as the Minister called for two minutes of silent reflection, welcoming the dawn of a new day and Christmas. Somewhat unusually for a time of year when coughs and sneezes are common, the silence that descended was as profound and reverential as any, and the seconds ticked slowly by.

And then came the moment of magic – just as the two hands on the clock were perfectly aligned at the vertical, somewhere in the midst of the hushed, assembled masses came the cry of a baby. Clear, perfect, and poignant, regardless of one’s belief.

Now, I have no idea whether this was stage managed or not, but the stir that than passed through the folks gathered there was palpable. I doubt anyone present has forgotten it. The recent winter solstice in an ancient community, the juxtaposition of a decorated tree in the Presbyterian kirk, the imminent new year and new start … and a baby’s cry. Christmas had arrived.

Whatever your culture and traditions, whatever your customs, and whether you celebrate this holiday or not, I thank you for what you given to our community at the RVC, and I wish you and yours happiness and health for the festive season - and a fresh start to a new year that will bring you negative COVID tests and only good things. That, and a Christmas tree that fits your sitting room and non-synthetic gravy.

As ever,


Message from the Principal 20th December 2021

Message for Students

Following the Cabinet meeting chaired by the Prime Minister today and the significant rumours circulating, we thought it important to update you with our current plans regarding your teaching in January.

  • As things stand and, in the absence of any announcement of new restrictions today (Monday 20th), at this stage we remain fully committed, if at all possible, to providing the greatest possible choice of learning environments. Our plans are, therefore, unchanged and the intention is that all teaching will be “on campus” from the start of next term. We realise that some of you will prefer to continue to access recorded versions of materials where these are available and this will, of course, be absolutely fine.
  • There are also no plans at present to change rotation teaching or for the cancellation of EMS or other placements.
  • The continuing uncertainties the new coronavirus variant is creating, especially the dramatically rising numbers of infected individuals needing to self-isolate for 10 days even when asymptomatic, may yet see further restrictions imposed or impact on availability of teaching staff.
  • As a consequence, we are continuing to explore contingencies as to how we can best prepare to increase the proportion of your programme that is delivered online and decrease student and staff densities on campus should we feel this is necessary.
  • We will be writing to you again with an update no later than the 31st December. If there are changes at the national level before then, we will contact you as soon as we can.

We hope you all manage to have an enjoyable festive season, free from disruption.

As ever,


Message from the Principal 9th December 2021

Here we go again… well, no, actually ….

I will spare you personal comment on some of the allegations and revelations of the last few days but with the announcements yesterday, I suspect many of you are thinking “What now?”

Briefly, the three points from the briefing are:

  • Masks in public places mandate extended
  • Working from home guidance (no mandate)
  • Vaccine passports in some venues

The good news is that, frankly, at the RVC, we were pretty much there anyway.

  1. Masks
    Masks have been mandated indoors here for over two weeks. We just need to observe the mandate…including in cafes and restaurants.

  2. Working from Home
    We have a working from home policy in place and whilst this will be tweaked as government advice changes, we remain an organisation that has both students and clients and professional services that require in-person attendance, whether that be for all or part of the time. This is acknowledged in specific exemptions for Higher Education. Over the next 24 hours managers will be reviewing arrangements in their areas to facilitate a, temporary, managed transition to homeworking where this is operationally viable. Note that if you cannot do your job from home you are allowed - indeed expected - to work on campus. This relates to PSD and academic members of staff – there is no blanket working from home requirement. Those with an agreed work pattern under the working from home policy who do now transition to a greater degree of homeworking will be expected to revert to the agreed pattern as soon as government advice permits it. There will be additional communications around this; you may wish to speak with your Head of Department or line manager.

  3. Passports
    It is likely there will be separate specific advice for universities, but we have expected compliance with vaccination ever since it became available and our students have been amazing and fastidious in their testing for attendance at teaching, sporting and social events – so again, I am not expecting much of a change there – the honour code has served us well.

And just to be clear, we have received specific instruction that in person and face-to-face activities should continue in universities, subject to local risk assessments. We have also received guidance that vaccinated international students who were previously treated differently from vaccinated home students are now to be treated the same with regard to isolation rules after COVID positive contact. Note that there are no specific changes regarding travel but there may be a review around 17th December so please keep checking emails, our website and the Government website.

As regards more general comment – the announcement that there will be daily testing rather than self-isolating after contact with a COVID positive is to be welcomed as is the already-in-place requirement for pre-travel testing. However, promoting more working from home at the same time as seemingly encouraging Christmas gatherings (!), social and sporting events appears contradictory.

There is much still to learn about the Omicron variant - both good and bad, I am sure - but the practices and processes we have in place will, with modest modification, continue to allow us to carry on life at the RVC as close to normal as possible. We remain vigilant and responsive, and of course things may change, but for now it is not “here we go again!”

As ever,


PS And please get your booster as soon as you can!

Message from the Principal 3rd December 2021

Exams for some, studying towards exams for others, some heading home soon, others working on until later in the month or beyond…. but everyone pretty exhausted.

The twist and turns of the pandemic continue to make life unpredictable and challenge our planning processes – the emergence of the Omicron variant being the most recent “fly in the ointment”. The conflicting advice that is issued by the different authorities to whom we answer is frustrating and I ask for your patience as we try to navigate our way to solutions that do the best for everyone.


Vice Principal McGonnell will be sending out information for students regarding travel arrangements and restrictions. To be perfectly honest, we have no idea what will be in place next week never mind next month, so please keep an eye out for what applies to you and your own circumstances. If self-isolation requirements do become an issue, please do not worry - we now have a whole year’s experience in dealing with rescheduling placements and the like, and we will work with you to ensure all obligations and requirements are met.


The Government has given clear indication that asymptomatic testing centres will be wound down and that testing will be home-based. With regard to the holiday period, of particular importance is to ensure that you do an LFT before you travel home and, again, before you travel back to the RVC. Please pick up a kit from either campus before you go if you need one. If you are unable to come to campus to collect a kit, you can order one directly from the NHS. And please remember to keep reporting your results.

Next term

It is perhaps, even more difficult to provide certainties than it was last January and recognising the tension between our regulators’ requirements, the undefined impact of the Omicron variant and the evident heterogeneity of opinion within both student and staff populations, we are planning for the worst but hoping for the best. In the next two weeks we will be providing further course-by-course and year-by-year direction on what we think will be possible next term but, aside from being sure of starting dates, we all have to accept that the plans, we some of which we have already communicated, may need to be changed. Not what any of us had expected, and last minute changes are not ideal for anybody, but we are where we are.

From the Chaplain

The traditional RVC Christmas Carols and readings at St Pancras Old Church will take place in The Parish of Old St Pancras on Monday 6th December with music provided by the RVC Choir. This year's event has limited seats available to allow for physical distancing. Evidence of a negative lateral flow test will be required from all ticket holders within 24 hours of the service, and masks will be required for the duration of the service.

Please ensure you get your tickets on the event ticket link or on this link.

Each person attending will need their own ticket.

Once all tickets are allocated, the Eventbrite listing will be closed. However, the service will also be livestreamed, so you can watch at home. Details of the livestream will be published at a later date. For further information, contact Andy Marshall, the RVC Chaplain and Interfaith Adviser.

24th December

I am pleased to say that 24th December will be an additional day of Annual Leave for all staff. I realise some of you have already booked it as leave – please ask your line manager to cancel this for you. For those who are unable to take the day as leave, you will have a day added to your annual leave allowance in lieu – this is only where work does not allow one to take the 24th as annual leave.

For students, this means that our campuses will now be closed on 24th December and our staff unavailable to answer queries. We will be writing to you next week to provide you with information about contact details during the holiday closure period.

I will write again before the end of term or should there be significant developments or news regarding the recent variant. However, in the meantime, I do want to reassure you all that we will get through these current difficulties: Having had the privilege of recent briefings and in particular looking at the enormous advances in our understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and how to prevent it causing disease, the whole sector is geared up in a way that would have been unimaginable 18 months ago. We just need to remain steadfast, vigilant, prudent and, above all, patient

As ever,


November 2021

Message from the Principal 29th November

As will be evident from the news over the weekend, there have been significant developments with regard to the emergence of a new COVID variant.

The UK government is rolling out a number of new restrictions. Although we do not yet know the transmissibility of the Omicron variant nor the severity of disease it causes in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, it is clear that there is sufficient concern to implement at least temporary changes to our own organisation.

The most significant factor is the requirement for even vaccinated people to self-isolate should they be identified as a potential contact of someone infected with the Omicron variant.  As well as possible disruptions to our face-to-face teaching and business operations, this could also have massive impact on travel plans over the coming break.

As a consequence, with immediate effect:

  1. Masks must be worn at all times indoors at the RVC including public areas and social learning spaces regardless of social distancing.
  2. Masks may be removed only to eat; if drinking, masks should be worn and lowered only momentarily and then replaced immediately.
  3. In private, permanent offices, masks may be removed if seated and socially distanced from others.
  4. Masks may be removed when in student accommodation only when with usual occupants.

It is likely that we will maintain this arrangement for the remainder of this term and to the end of the calendar year as a minimum.

I am very sorry for the inconvenience this will cause but I am sure you understand the need for us to respond to the risks both to health and to travel in the coming weeks.

As ever,


Message from the Principal 5th November

Multi-tasking is difficult, and whether it be using a mobile phone and driving or revising a document in front of the television, at best we do things less effectively and at worst we commit a crime. Research suggests that we switch between the two activities and so are not focused sufficiently on either… although this does assume a roughly equal divide of effort and that must surely depend upon what is on the telly at the time.

Leaving aside the deliberate decision of trying to do two or more things simultaneously, being distracted is a hazard of modern life and the continual flipping away from our primary tasks because of email alerts, texts or the like, even momentarily, can have significant negative consequences. (As an aside, there are several examples of selective attention/distraction out there including basketball games like this old one …. But one of the best is here).

Of course, the opposite of this is where one topic or issue excludes all others. It does seem that this has been the case during much of the last 18 months with the swamping impact of the pandemic driving all other issues to the margins of consideration. And understandable though this might be, events like COP26 are a timely reminder that there are other major challenges to which we must remain alert as we juggle the competing interests of the urgent and the important, and critically focus on those issues which are both urgent and important.

As we move towards a new calendar year, we need to remember that there are many others “shows in town” and although we have some way to go in dealing with COVID-19, our future will be dependent upon how we address the challenges that have been less imminent and how take the opportunities that we are presenting themselves to us anew in our very different world. At the end of this month we will be seeking our Council’s approval for our plans for the next 5 years, a process that began well before the onset of the pandemic and involved many from across the RVC. Even looking at the first 12 months – opening of the new buildings at Hawkshead, formally securing university status, publication of the strategic plan 2022-2027, face-to-face graduation celebrations, new curricular developments, the outcome of the Research Exercise Framework, our Athena SWAN resubmission… the list is already a long and exciting one. What was I saying about multitasking?


  • A reminder that we will be observing Remembrance Day on both campuses at 11am next Thursday.
  • I fear that with growing numbers of positive cases, we may be headed back to mandatory masks indoors in at least some of our settings. We will be looking at the situation again early next week but the signs are not great.
  • My thanks to those members of staff who had opportunity to express their views through the UCU’s recent ballot. Recognising the challenges faced by the sector on pay and pensions, as well as the constructive relationship the has with its recognised Trade Unions, we will continue to work together, acknowledging the results of the ballot.
  • The latest edition of Eclipse is due out soon so please keep a look out for that

Have great weekend. It’s getting chilly…

As ever,


October 2021

Message from the Principal 22nd October

Like I say, a rough summary; all are good options, depending on specific circumstances.


Remembrance Day 11th November

We will be marking the Armistice with two events this year – one at Hawkshead and one at Camden. Social distancing and masks will be expected, particularly in Camden which will be indoors.

  • Camden:  Please arrive in time for a PROMPT 10:55 a.m. start in the reception area nearest the Memorial Plaque.  The service will be conducted by Andy, the College Chaplain and Interfaith Adviser.
  • Hawkshead:  Please arrive in time for a PROMPT 10:55 a.m. start at the flagpole near the entrance to the restaurant.   Please dress appropriately for the weather. Please feel free to join either the Hawkshead or Camden gathering ... whichever is most convenient for you.

Graduation With the strong expectation that next summer will see society in a place where mass indoor events can be held, we have signed contracts with Central Hall, Westminster for our graduation celebrations next July.

So, please note 13th and 14th July 2022 in your diaries and expect updates in the next few months on the detail.

As you will be aware, two graduating cohorts did not have the chance to celebrate with family and friends at a formal “hooding” ceremony so we are canvassing the likely attendance of our alumni to ensure we can organise things appropriately over those two days.

We are delighted to be returning to Central Hall, located right in the heart of historic Westminster, opposite the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. I am excited already.

That’s all for today; sincerely hoping that we can avoid Plan B… the best way of doing so is adopting the recommended measures voluntarily.

Have a great weekend.

As ever,


Message from the Principal 8th October

It is a real pleasure to see so many people back on our campuses as we continue the transition back to a more normal way of life.  Thank you for continuing to make efforts to keep each other safe. I know that messages from different sources regarding ‘ COVID protocols’ may still be confusing and, if in doubt, the best course action will be the cautious one.

The last seven weeks have seen a total of over 150 people in our community affected directly by COVID-19, either by testing positive or having to self-isolate. This is almost certainly an underestimate as our testing is not as widespread nor as frequent as it could be, but the bottom line remains that even with our vaccination coverage in excess of 90%, the virus is still with us.  

A few updates for you….

Black History Month

Hopefully you will have seen the message from RVC SU, Animal Aspirations, RVC Equality and Diversity Committee (EDC).

“October is Black History Month (BHM) in the United Kingdom, a month that celebrates the contributions and achievements of black people and communities, throughout the globe. BHM gives us an opportunity to learn more about black history and culture, and to celebrate the contributions of our black communities. This month is also a time when we should reflect on and reinforce our commitment to fighting racism.  We celebrate BHM with recognition of the value of diversity and inclusion in our College and beyond.

This year’s theme is ‘Proud to Be’ and the RVCRVC SU and Animal Aspirations are all pleased to stage a series of events that will celebrate and showcase the invaluable contributions, experiences and heritage of our black community. These will include resources for students and staff, invited keynote speakers, and film screening.” 

Do please look out for announcements regarding events and take part in the activities which make such an important contribution to life at the RVC.

World Mental Health Day

The 10th October is this year’s designated World Mental Health Day and we have a range of resources available across the RVC. Please see Dr Thuranira-McKeever’s post on Message of the Day; there is something here for everybody. Here are links to two workshops:

Emotional Resilience Skills Workshop – student (27th October 2021)

Emotional Resilience Skills Workshop – staff (2nd November 2021)

European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education (EAEVE)

I am delighted to let you know that, although we await the official letter, the most recent visit by the European System of Evaluation of Veterinary Training went well and we are recognised as fully Accredited by the European Committee on Veterinary Education. The process, delayed enormously by the pandemic, has required heroic efforts by very many people to whom I am enormously grateful. 

Athena SWAN survey

Please, if you have not already done so, take few minutes to complete the online survey, links to which have been emailed to staff. It closes tonight.

Finally, this week saw the most recent meeting of the RVC Council, the people who volunteer their time to oversee our governance and to whom I report. It was a good meeting and Council provided their preliminary approval to our draft Strategic Plan – the document that will chart our path for the next 5 years. It has been through a number of iterations involving dozens of staff and students over the last couple of years. I will be sharing more of its content in coming weeks but, in the meantime, you might like to have look at the previous plan which will soon be coming to an end… more anon.

Enjoy the warmer weather this weekend. The leaves are starting to turn…..

As ever


Message from the Principal 1st October

The Mask Conspiracy

I will be writing with more updates early next week but in the meantime….

Masks and why we are taking a slightly different approach to some.

  • Spoiler alert: Wear a mask if one or more of these apply:
  • You ae unvaccinated
  • You are with others or in a poorly ventilated space
  • You cannot maintain 1M+ social distancing

Stopping the spread

The emerging science is pretty clear: To avoid getting COVID-19 or giving it to others, in order of efficacy:

  1. Get vaccinated
  2. Seek well-ventilated places where others are also vaccinated
  3. Maintain physical distance (>1M) from others 
  4. Wear a mask
  5. Regular LF  testing

The UK Government has lifted many restrictions but does allow any organisation to do its own risk assessment and put in place measures that will best protect its people and activities. This update relates to the RVC and our efforts to keep the show on the road… and the role number (4) has to play in these efforts. 

There has been much said and written about masks – quite a lot of it wrong and conspiratorial in nature , including the idea that they don’t work. Sorry, they do. 

For those interested in the science around the bullet list, you don’t need to believe me -  this link will take you to Trisha Greenhalgh’s excellent Twitter thread, with references and other supporting materials. She is Professor of Primary Care at Oxford University. 


Our aim  has always been:

  • To protect, as far as we can, everyone here from the serious biological impacts of COVID-19
  • To ensure we continue to deliver our teaching, research and clinical services in a working environment that is safe and mitigates against the risk of outbreaks that would see the suspension of any part of our business, for the benefit of students and staff.

We have been really successful as an institution in keeping the incidence of positive cases low throughout the pandemic and we just need to ensure we are assiduous in the next few months and focused on the basics of infection control. I thank you all for the part you have played in this.  So, given that the vaccination campaigns have been well supported by the whole RVC community (thank you again!) and that, as far we can, we have addressed ventilation and population density on our campuses the one factor that remains is the use of masks. 


Masks, properly worn, do offer protection from the virus but the main reason they are still being promoted by many, is that they reduce the spread from people who may be carrying the virus, many of whom may not be aware they are infectious. Spread is predominantly by aerosol, so we wear the mask to protect others.  

Remember, we need to factor into our considerations that even vaccinated people can be infected, often without even knowing it, and can spread the virus. Although you may be vaccinated or may be in an age group that is unlikely to suffer serious consequences of infection, it is for those around you that we are expecting masks to be worn… and that includes at coffee time.

Keeping it all going

Why is the RVC doing things differently to some? Well, to be frank, it is now a lot about keeping our activities going – if we have an outbreak in our community, regardless of where it started, it is likely that our staff will be most severely affected. If staff are ill and therefore off work, amongst other things, there can be no teaching, no provision of clinical services, no cleaning and no food. And after the 18 months we have had, I am sure we all want to avoid yet more disruption to life in and out of the RVC. That is why the testing of staff and students is important and why masks must remain part of our lives for a little while to come. We need to stop the virus spreading at the RVC, even though we have very good vaccinal coverage - and thank you to those of you who have completed our surveys. 


Returning to the list above: If you are vaccinated, in a well-ventilated space with few people and none within 1M+, feel free to ditch your mask, wear it under your chin, around your arm, in your pocket, wherever.  However, if any one of those conditions is not met, please, please, wear a mask at the RVC, unless of course, you are exempt.

Thanks – and with apologies if this message has not been clearly communicated before; it is not for want of effort.

Wishing you all a good weekend.

As ever, with best wishes 


P.S. Some of you will be aware that the Scottish Universities are now mandating masks for students at all times indoors unless in an accommodation bubble. I am really hoping we can avoid taking that step by making masks our default setting – if in doubt, wear it. And although it needs to come off when in the act of eating or drinking, if near others, please replace your mask as soon as you can. 

September 2021

Message from the Principal 27th September

With the new term and extraordinarily warm glow of the autumn sun upon us, it has been wonderful to see lots more people back on both our campuses this week - welcome back to you all but especially those who have been absent for the longest time. Keeping us all safe and healthy remains our priority so please read the paragraphs below – even if you think you know what our regs are…they do change.

Here we go ….

1.     Lateral Flow Tests

All staff and students coming onto campus should take a LFT test twice weekly and report results to the NHS.  Some cohorts, who have been advised, will also need to report their results to the RVC as well. 

Staff are asked to note they should procure their own test kits from now on, which are free and can be ordered online or collected from a pharmacy or test site.  Further information on the RVC’s LFT test requirements, access to test kits and how to report your results can be found here.

Students can continue to collect lateral flow tests from SAWC, 2 - 6pm, Monday to Friday, or Hobday Reception, 9 - 5pm Monday to Friday.

2.     Face Masks – this is important

Please see here

  • In line with Government advice we are choosing to maintain the wearing of masks in crowded areas and where social distancing cannot be applied such as

          o When moving around in buildings.
          o In offices and other workplace settings (including teaching and lab spaces) where maintaining distance between individuals is not possible.

  • Additional PPE such as visors or eye protection may be needed for practical teaching sessions. Students will be given further instructions by year/course leaders.
  • Facemasks are required outside on campus:
    • in congested areas
    • In outdoor learning environments where social distancing cannot be observed.
    • In social settings the use of face coverings is encouraged where social distancing cannot be observed but recognising the risks are lower, particularly if you are vaccinated
  • Face coverings are not required:
    • When seated in offices or other work spaces (including teaching or lab spaces) where social distancing between individuals can be maintained
    • When eating or drinking
    • Private shared offices should allow for masks to be removed when seated

Where the wording social distancing is used, the RVC requires at least 1 metre (1m+).

3.     Flu Vaccine

To ensure the continued health of our staff and students, the RVC is offering a free flu vaccine service (using FluXpress) for all staff and students and vaccine clinics will be available on both campuses.  I would encourage those who can to have the flu vaccine, to help keep yourselves healthy and to prevent the spread of flu to family, friends, fellow students and colleagues.  Further details can be found here.

4.     DfE/OfS Student Vaccination Survey

We are grateful to those staff and students who completed the previous COVID-19 vaccination surveys to help us plan delivery for Term 1. We have recently been asked by our regulator, the Department for Education/Office for Students, for student COVID-19 vaccination data and we now need to conduct another survey for this purpose.

This survey has been sent to new and returning students this afternoon so please look out for this email. We recognise for some of you this will be your third survey and we are grateful to you all for your participation.

The survey is also available here

5.     Travel

Anticipated changes to Government travel rules are awaited and we will keep you posted.  In the meantime, please continue to follow the Government’s current rules.  Information for students leaving or returning to campus can be found here and will be updated when any Government changes are made.

So once again, welcome back if you have been away and to everyone, have a great weekend.

As ever,


Message from the Principal 10th September

Friday 10th September 2021

Recognising that information overload and fatigue are a big part of this pandemic, I ask your forbearance. In the coming weeks there is going to be a considerable number of communications.  As far as possible we will be targeting those for whom the information is most relevant and flagging key messages through these updates.  In addition to direct emails from Year Leaders and line managers,  a reminder that the most up to date advice is on the website ( and course announcements pages on  LEARN for students with some additional information for staff on the intranet.  Keeping up with the changes can be a challenge, so please do be alert to communications from us.


If we are to get through the next term and into 2022, we are going to have to remain committed to the principles we established early on, protecting each other but trying to get back to a more normal social setting. I cannot guess what Government might advise in the coming weeks, but there was some very clear steer from the Secretary of State earlier this week. We will be doing things in a staged way through the first term and adapting what we do in response to infection rates and public health advice.  Some of the decisions we have to make with regard to things like timetabling have to be made several months in advance and, with precautionary principle in mind, actions can sometimes lag prevailing advice.  Our aim is to keep everyone as safe as possible as we all return to campus. 


All that said, there are some common-sense fundamentals which apply at work or home.


  1. Get vaccinated, unless exempt. Thank you to all those who have responded to our surveys as it does look like we have very good coverage.
  2. Wear a mask wherever you cannot observe a 1M social distance from those around you. It frankly doesn’t matter where – inside or outside, teaching space or social space – if you are in a crowded space or within 1M  of others of unknown infection/vaccinal status,  you should wear a mask unless eating or drinking.
  3. Keep testing.
  4. Self-isolate when necessary.

One final point today on vaccination. The apparent unfortunate contradiction between the those looking specifically at vaccination and those responsible for overall population health has clouded the water with regards to what is best. Spoiler alert  - there is no best, it is about balance and the common good. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has not recommended vaccination for school children because the health benefit to the individual child is not significant, i.e., they may get infected but do not get particularly ill.  That is fair enough when we look at protecting the individual – we get vaccinated against tetanus not to stop an epidemic of tetanus but to protect the recipient of the vaccine.  The JCVI was only looking at the individual.


However, in epidemics where an infection is contagious and passes from one person to another, things are different – here, although we do vaccinate to protect vulnerable individuals, we are also vaccinating to stop the spread of the disease. In other words, although children may not be particularly ill if they become infected, they can still infect others who would become ill. (For those who remember the earlier blogs on the R number, infected children contribute to keeping that R number above 1 and the pandemic going.)  And that is why some countries are vaccinating down to 12 years of age and our own CMOs are most likely arguing the same as they try to protect the whole population, not just the individual.


Enough for a Friday. Have a good weekend.


As ever,



Message from the Principal 3rd September

With increasing numbers of businesses and venues insisting upon vaccination, it is not at all clear to me where requirements for universities will finally land. Furthermore, with parts of the world that once thought that lockdown and strict quarantining was the answer, now recognising that vaccination and a “living with” approach will be necessary, the normalisation of vaccines in our day to day is likely to continue. With viral disease control programmes - including small pox, measles,   cervical cancer, annual flu… etc etc in human health and the likes of Rinderpest and canine parvovirus signal examples in animal health, perhaps it is only a matter of time before the hurdles, in some quarters, to the vaccines we are using against SARS-CoV-2 are overcome and we create the safest environment we can – be that at the RVC or elsewhere.

We will be keeping you up to date as the Government makes clear its direction to universities which we expect to be informed by the return to school of the under 18s. Not only are we watching carefully the situation in Scotland where schools returned a few weeks ago, we are also in close contact with universities in the USA and Canada who have also returned to session…. not without their challenges.

Watch this space….


  1. Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Nursing
    Congratulations to everyone involved in securing RCVS accreditation. Great effort!
    The recent pandemic delayed visit by Professor Lekeux was a positive event and whilst we will not know the outcome until the end of this month, I am grateful to those whose contributions allowed the RVC to put its best foot forward.

Stay well and enjoy your weekend.

As ever,


August 2021

Message from the Principal 20th August

The self-isolation paradox

Earlier this week I provided an update on self-isolating with the relaxation relating to those who are “double vaccinated”. We  then received a number enquiries in relation to “single shot” vaccines like the J&J vaccine available in the USA. We have now received clarification that the new rules only apply to those who have been vaccinated under the UK NHS scheme. All others must continue to self-isolate as before if they are contacted by NHS track and trace or if they have had contact with a known positive as laid out in Government guidelines.

Note that this should not be confused with quarantine arrangements for people coming into the UK with bona fide protection from a single shot vaccine from the USA – there is now no need to quarantine/self-isolate on arrival if you are travelling from Green or Amber Countries and are fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine in Europe or the USA… but you must still test pre departure and post travel.  As ever, I remind you that these rules change so please do make sure you check before you travel.  You can find information on our website here and from the UK Government here.

I understand how frustratingly complicated and, at times, confusing these rules can be.  We will do our best to provide you with updates but do ensure you are regularly checking the UK Government website for information relevant to you.

Some observations

With schools due to start the new academic year in the near future, the vaccine roll-out will not have reached the under 16s by the time their students return.  What this will mean for infection numbers is difficult to predict. Certainly, the spike that was predicted following the lifting of restrictions in July did not come to pass but there is a view that the schools being out and the huge number of people either “pinged” or self-isolating following events like the Euros meant that there was potentially less mixing than might have been expected.

Our own test will come as we move to the next academic year and although I know there may be frustrations, we have been planning and timetabling for several months aiming to restart term in a positive, but controlled manner. What we cannot afford to do is throw away all the benefits our approach has, over the last 18 months, brought us. Looking more widely, the very many personal and professional sacrifices people have made could very easily be made meaningless if we end up back in a place where restrictions need to return.  I hope that staff and students will be able to work together to ensure the wellbeing of our community as we gradually relax restrictions.

The appalling events of the last week in Afghanistan surely put some of our challenges in perspective and they also illustrate just how quickly situations can change and reverse years’ of effort.  As ever, if any of your have been personally affected, please do let us know. We are here to support you all.


A very quick reminder that Professor Pierre Lekeux Director of the European System of Evaluation of Veterinary Training will be visiting our Camden Campus one Wednesday and Thursday next week. EAEVE is one of our accreditors; please make Professor Lekeux welcome should you encounter him during his short stay with us.

I hope you all have a good weekend.

As ever,


Message from the Principal 16th August

As expected, information regarding the most recent lifting of COVID restrictions may cause some confusion  and there is complex and potentially conflicting advice on the Government website and announcements.

We are largely following the Government advice, but for the avoidance of doubt:

These rule changes apply ONLY to those who are DOUBLE VACCINATED in the UK, or are under 18, and who are coming on to RVC campuses or are on rotations (including those on placements with our partner practices and centres).

  1. Routinely, you should continue to perform  LFTs twice each week and if you are a student, report the results to the RVC and the NHS. Advice is here.
  2. If you are contacted unexpectedly by NHS Test and Trace, do as instructed by them.
  3. If you know that you have had close contact (for more than 20 minutes) with a confirmed positive, say in your home, at work or socially then:
    1. You are advised to do a LFT but you must also obtain an NHS PCR test (either at  a testing centre or have it mailed to you), (unless you have had a recent COVID infection), and act on the result
    2. If the LFT is positive, you should self-isolate until you get the PCR result
    3. If the LFT Is negative, you do not need to self-isolate whilst you are waiting for the result of the PCR test
  4. You should continue to use the RVC Test and Trace.

If you are not double vaccinated, you should continue to observe the previous rules and self-isolate.  If you have any queries please email

As ever,


Message from the Principal 6th August

With many folks taking a break over August, I intend to keep the updates to the essentials….

 1)     Vaccination status and testing

  • As ever, our priority is to keep everyone in the RVC community as safe as possible: This is where we are currently, and what is planned:
  • We are encouraging everyone who is eligible, staff and students, to ensure they take up vaccination opportunities as soon as they become available.
  • We will be surveying again (launching next week) to try to estimate vaccination coverage as it will make a huge difference to how we approach the latter part of the summer and autumn.
  • We continue to support the Government’s approach to regular, twice weekly, testing.

In general, we will be following the Government’s guidelines with regard to requirements/disclosure of vaccination status. However, in some areas we may require, rather than simply encourage, lateral flow testing. This will be communicated to those to whom it applies at the time. We will provide further more general advice when we have completed the new survey.

 2)     Travel

We will be following the Government guidelines on restrictions and testing requirements associated with travel. Please check websites if you are travelling. We strongly advise against travel to red or potentially red countries.

 3)     Laboratories

We have relaxed the restrictions around laboratory access with PPE remaining a requirement. Those requiring access should use the simplified logging system which will remain in place until the end of September at the earliest. Note that this means that social distancing will be for local and individual interpretation but with PPE in place.

We continue to encourage people back to both campuses in line with the changes many are instituting in their personal lives whether that relates to travel, one to one interactions or larger social contact settings.

I hope these messages find you in good health whether you are working, studying or taking a break and whether you are local to RVC or in farther flung places.  With A level results upon us, the annual cycle starts again in earnest this coming week.

With every best wish


July 2021

Message from the Principal 23rd July

One never really knows where to draw the line in the sand as we move from the end of one academic year to the start of another. The reality is that the business cycle continues and for many – both staff and students – there is no real start and stop. I do realise, though, that where it is possible, people will be travelling home or taking vacation and, at least for a while, taking a short break from studies and work.

The last weeks have seen our exam boards completed, our graduation ceremonies conducted and the last Council meeting of the session convened.  As has been my practise, I append to this update the introduction of my report to our governing body which says a little about my reflections on the last 12 months.

But before I get to the updates, a final “thank you”. It has been a strange year and we could not have got through it without effort, patience, compromise and sacrifice from everyone. And if you are having a break, home or away, enjoy it – you have most certainly earned it.


1)     Vaccination

A reminder that for full protection in the next academic session, we are at, or near, the point where one should have had one’s first inoculation.

2)     Working practices

With many conversations and briefings current, and whilst we are adopting a gradual approach, our expectation is that, in the fullness of time, the majority of us will be working on campus most of the time. It may seem a long way off and we will remain alert to external factors, but our main businesses of education, research and clinical service are very much “in person” activities for all.  

3)     Amber country travel

The recent announcements from Government are not always clear and on occasion we have taken more stringent views. However, with recent changes now in force we are aligning our policies to that of the Government with regard to travel, self-isolation and testing when returning from amber list countries. This includes those retuning to clinical environments on the presumption that PPE is being used in that context. UK Government guidance is here. Note that EMS outside the UK, other than in one’s home country, remains restricted given the acute, severe difficulty in rescheduling should a country’s status change. 

That’s it for now. Have a great weekend.


 And here is the introduction to July 2021 Council papers….

 And so, we reach the end of, perhaps, the strangest academic year in living memory. From start to finish every decision, every action has taken place against the background of the pandemic, influenced not only by the immediate impacts of the crisis but also by a planning context of huge uncertainty. But here we are.

There is no doubt in my mind that, had we been offered a crystal ball in the autumn of 2020, in which one could see the situation in which we now find ourselves, I think we would have been rather sceptical.  With no vaccine on the horizon and with every effort being diverted towards transforming our emergency digital response into a cohesive blended approach of curriculum delivery, the portents were overwhelmingly negative. Laboratory based research remained extremely difficult and our clinical services were busy but challenged by the need to keep all those safe working in the close proximity of the clinical environment.  We might have been sceptical, but we would have jumped at it! And somehow, with the advent of the vaccination programme and an assiduous commitment to safety, the weeks have passed and the academic and business cycles have continued. For the most part, we have hit our targets, and, thus far, have avoided the waves of positive cases seen in some other universities.

To think that we are “through it”, though, would be folly. We may have moved on from the time when our strategic plan was simply to survive, but the nature of variants will continue to threaten our community and the need for us to see all our students vaccinated, whether returners or new comers, prior to the start of the next academic session is critical. Our plans are for as much face-to-face activity as possible and, together with a revised working from home policy for staff, we hope that life in 2021/22 will allow us to embrace the heterogeneity needs of both our student and staff populations. Government policy, the Department for Education, the Office for Students and the CMA will continue to shape the nature of our offering, but we will work together to ensure our response to the next phase is as robust, flexible and safe as previous ones.

It would be remiss not to offer thanks – to Council whose oversight allowed us to do what was necessary during the last year; to our staff who have continued to go “above and beyond” in every aspect of life at RVC; and finally, our students.  Led by SU President Quentin Wedmore, the students have been patient, constructive, collegiate and committed in making the best of a year that nobody could have foreseen. 

Message from the Principal 14th July

First, congratulations to all our newest graduates – the online celebrations of the last two days mark the end of a very different academic year and one in which we should acknowledge, more than ever, the remarkable achievements of so many people in ”making the grade”. Quite remarkable!  And in recognising the successes so, too, must I thank you all for your efforts in keeping the RVC more than just afloat during the last 16 months – we have had our moments, but I have never been prouder of what we have managed to do together.  Thank you so very much.

The messages continue….

With the Prime Minister’s announcement still to be fleshed out with the minor detail of exactly how things will be made to work from 19thJuly, we have a job to do. There are enormous rifts appearing between scientific advice and political desire and, even supportive right of centre media are hedging their bets when it comes to which way to call the decisions; see this analysis in the Telegraph, for example.

So, what for the RVC? We must keep our messages simple, clear and under review and we must do what we can to address the requirement and desire to reduce restrictions….. but in a controlled and safe way.

  1. Vaccinations are the answer
    They may not be perfect, and they may not answer every question, but they are the best solution we have. We have professional and moral obligations to protect each other so unless you are exempt, there are really no good reasons not to get vaccinated as soon as you can.

    It is also apparent that the PM is suggesting the vaccinal status or a negative test result should be considered in some businesses that bring people together as a requirement for entry. Although we are not yet at that stage, we will be considering it, particularly in our clinical areas.

  2. NHS COVID-19 app
    With the vast majority of positive contacts now occurring outside our campuses, we are extending the advice we currently have in place in some of our clinical and teaching areas. Whilst it will remains a personal choice,  when in places where PPE is mandatory, for example in clinical areas and some laboratories,  it is our recommendation that staff and students disable the NHS COVID-19 app.  Elsewhere on our campuses the advice is unchanged, although the utility of the NHS app will be significantly further reduced with the lifting of restrictions on 19th July. PLEASE NOTE – we do require that everyone continues to use the RVC test and trace for reporting positive tests results and notifications to self-isolate.

  3. Distancing
    Clearly much will change in the coming months but in our learning and research spaces we will be working with a 1 metre plus rule, meaning that a minimum of 1 metre should be maintained where possible, in our gradual return to normal. Our rationale is that the time spent in these areas can be of significant duration and we are aware that there is still risk and anxiety; the same thinking applies to lecture theatres which we will not be reopening in the first part of the academic year. We need to retain flexibility but also to be able to plan effectively and so I expect this arrangement to be in place through until the end of 2021. This does not apply to social spaces or accommodation and office spaces though in the case of the last of these please see the comments below about face coverings.

  4. Face coverings
    In line with the PM’s most recent statements, we are choosing to maintain the wearing of masks in any indoor areas where the 1M+ rule cannot be applied, unless eating or drinking or in social/accommodation bubbles. Private shared offices should allow for masks to be removed when seated, however, consideration should be given to the configuration of office furniture to ensure that 1m+ plus is maintained. We hope to be able to relax this further later in the year. We will also be requiring face coverings in outdoor learning environments where 1M+ cannot be observed. In outdoor social settings on campus we will encourage their use where 1M+ cannot be observed but recognise the risks are lower, particularly if you are vaccinated (see 1 above).

    Please note that face coverings should continue to be worn in all research laboratories in keeping with our current guidance; for Camden and for Hawkshead.

  5. Clinical Service Delivery
    For the time being, in order to protect staff and to facilitate the care of animals as a priority, we will continue to ask clients to wait outside our hospitals and to be masked when speaking face to face with staff or students.

  6. Returning to campus for work
    As you will be aware from previous postings, we recognise that there are likely to be sensitivities for some time and we will be phasing in the new Working from Home policies  through individual consultations, balancing the needs of the individual and the needs of the RVC, and expecting a consistent approach to managing risk in our work and personal time.

    Please remember that working from home and flexible working are not the same. Our pre-existing Flexible Working arrangements remain in place to help facilitate the needs of those whose caring and/or other responsibilities require a formal flexible working arrangement.  If you are in this position, you should apply for flexible working in the normal way.

That’s all for now but I hope this gradual return to normal will provide assurance that the RVC will not be approaching the 19th July or the start of next term with a “big bang” approach. Safety is still our number one consideration and we will be guided by risk assessments as we prepare academic year 2021/22.

Wishing you all a good weekend

As ever,


Message from the Principal 2nd July

Updates only today…

  1. Increase in positive results
    Please be aware that the Delta variant continues to cause concern. Although somewhat less than in other universities, we have seen a significant uptick in positive test results on both our campuses and in both students and staff. Please ensure that you engage with Test and Trace – it is central to our ability to keep our community safe and well.

  2. Extension of concession on VISA requirements for international students
    The Government has extended the concessions with regard to in-country requirements for international students until April 2022. The primary reason for this appears to be a desire to provide flexibility around travel to the UK in September. I do not expect this to be a huge issue for us at the RVC, but it allows for a useful fallback position if required. However, what it does reinforce is the need for caution relating to the autumn and the need for as many of our community to avail themselves of vaccination as soon as possible. Yesterday, we circulated information about a walk-in vaccination centre at The Alban Arena, St Albans for staff and students, 18 yrs and over in Hertfordshire. For those of you interested, this closes as 4pm today. No appointment is required.

  3. Opening of the gym in Camden
    If all goes according to plan, we will be opening the exercise facilities at Camden next week. Please look out for the announcements.

  4. Graduation celebrations
    A reminder that our graduations will be taking place on the 12th and 13th July. More information can be found here 

Wishing you all a good weekend

As ever,


June 2021

Message from the Principal 25th June

The nature of the pandemic continues to change and many of you will be aware of the enormous surge in positive test results for the delta variant in some parts of the country. Of particular note and relevance to us is the fact that, in places like Durham and Cambridge, the student populations appear to be significantly affected. Vaccination and testing; testing and vaccination….. and reporting, please!

Just on the testing issue, though, one of the questions that comes up is “just what does 85% effective/efficacious* mean?” It is really important to understand how the original trials were set up and what was considered a “good” outcome. In short, what the researchers were looking for was a vaccine that prevented significant clinical disease – so, it was not “no symptoms at all” and it was not “no evidence of a positive test”.  The good outcome was simply that the person did not get poorly. Some people will be familiar with this from experience of flu vaccination. Each year, it was still possible to have clinical signs of flu even if one was vaccinated but, in general, the symptoms were milder than if one was not vaccinated.  I will have something to say about flu in the coming weeks.

When we then consider the “85%”, for example, element, this refers to how the vaccine performs in a population of people.  It does not mean that an individual is 85% protected; it means that in 100 people, the vaccine was effective in 85 people. And you will know from what Professor Werling has put up on the website previously, the vaccines work in a variety of different ways. And that’s when we get on to considering how long protection lasts, what’s the best combination, how they perform in different age groups and what impact prior infection might have  - all issues which we are only now able to address as the pandemic plays out over time.

For all the rather gloomy headlines, there is still a lot of good news out there. All the vaccines are really good at preventing the most serious symptoms and death; side effects appear to be rare; vaccination does appear to reduce the ability of a vaccinated person to spread the virus; and in vaccinated people who have had COVID-19, whilst reinfection can occur (and there are thought be around 16,000 or so of these people), clinical disease is not apparent or rare in most cases.

As ever, without the crystal ball but knowing viruses continue to change, it is not possible to say what the future will look like definitively. But we do appear to be getting there, albeit gradually.

Here is information for students wanting to book vaccinations.




Future plans

We had a helpful meeting with the SU and listened to the concerns that the Officers raised and that followed discussions at several other fora including LTAC and SDC. As regular readers of this update will be aware, we are planning for the new academic year to have face to face activities returning for all years in all subjects (unless online by design) as far as we can do so safely and within whatever restrictions are in place at the time. The notable exception, in the short term, is likely to be lectures where full lecture theatres in the absence of full vaccination remains a large risk. As I have also written previously, retaining the best and appropriate aspects of a blended approach to delivery will ensure we continue to accommodate the diversity of learning preferences and adopt the best approaches, dependent on subject.  We will be offering cohort specific briefings in the coming weeks. Furthermore, with sufficient vaccination coverage and full engagement with testing requirements, I can see few barriers to a fuller RVC social life returning, whether associated with the curriculum or organised by the SU.  


Graduations 2021

This year’s online Graduation celebrations will run in a similar format to that of an in-person graduation day and, for the relevant cohorts, will include an opportunity for you to make the RCVS declaration. The dates are:

  • 12th July 2021 – BVetMed Graduation – 2.00pm BST
  • 12th July 2021 – Veterinary Nursing Graduation – 5.00pm BST
  • 13th July 2021 – Postgraduate Graduation – 2.00pm BST
  • 13th July 2021 – BSc and MSci Graduation – 5.00pm BST

More information about how you can view the ceremonies will be circulated shortly.  Meanwhile, more information can be found here.


Feline Pancytopaenia

A massive thank you to all those involved in breaking this important story to the world. It is an important example of how the combination of world class clinical acumen and an institutional reach to our colleagues in practice was able to identify the urgent need for regulatory action following the deaths or serious illness of now over 350 cats countrywide. A special thank you to Karen Humm and Barbara Glanemann for their leadership in what has been a traumatic experience for owners, clinical staff and especially the cats. The full story is here.


Professor Fiona Tomley CBE

Having not issued an update last week, I realised I only posted this on Message of the Day - I am delighted to share the news that Professor Fiona Tomley has been appointed CBE in the Queen's 2021 Birthday Honours. I am sure that you all join with me in congratulating Fiona on this fantastic recognition.  Full story is here!


And finally…

For lots of good reasons, for years the RVC has issued its degrees under the degree awarding powers of the University of London.  Rather disappointingly the official degree carries none of the RVC livery. While this will remain the case for the foreseeable future, this year we are also issuing, for the first time, a certificate that records completion of the relevant course at the RVC. Very much in line with the other certificates we already issue ourselves, the embossed parchment bears our armorial bearings and, as well as perhaps being more familiar to us, is arguably more aesthetically pleasing than the formal version.  


With the only positive result achieved by the Scottish football team being a COVID one, I’ll put the kilt away for the time being. I can live with disappointment; it’s the hope that gets to me….


Have a good week end.


As ever,



Message from the Principal 11th June

Mainly updates ….. at the risk of repeating myself:

Testing - a reminder for students

A reminder for students - please, you must comply with testing and reporting if you wish to take part in clinical work,  practicals or face- to-face teaching where social distancing cannot be observed. This is not an option. Ideally, we also need this engagement from all students on campus as we have to report our figures to the Office for Students weekly  - and this in turn may play into possible restrictions next term.

Planning  for next term

We are planning to do everything we can do safely face-to-face, notwithstanding national guidelines at the time. The notable exception will be lectures, which are unlikely to be in lecture theatres until early 2022.  We will be holding town hall Q&A by cohort to address any questions you may have around flexibility of delivery and the best of blended approaches as restrictions lift. Watch this space.


We know we are sending you lots of information and some may look to be repetitive or not relevant to you.  BUT please, please read it.  Things change slightly, often at short notice, so please, follow us  and check the latest guidance on,  for example, on testing.

EU Settlement Scheme – application deadline 30 June 2021

Students from the EU/EEA and Switzerland (excluding Ireland) need to be mindful of their changed citizen rights resulting from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU – please see our Brexit information pages on the intranet for further information. If you have been residing in the UK since at least 31 December 2020 and need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to regularise your stay in the UK, please be aware that application to the scheme closes on 30 June 2021. Please do apply as soon as possible – there will no doubt be a surge of activity towards the end of June on the application site which could result in difficulties in completing your application by the deadline and your ability to remain in the UK.

Staff from the EU/EEA and Switzerland (excluding Ireland) who have questions or concerns regarding their UK residence status should contact the HR Team ASAP.

And finally… don’t forget the sunblock.

Have a great weekend

As ever,


Message from the Principal 4th June

Half-term week for some, revision time for others, business as normal for many, it is sometimes difficult to believe how quickly Friday comes around. The inevitability of the shifting traffic light system causing frustration and the apparent contradictions we see emerging as restrictions lift are sadly clouding the massive progress that has been made. With the Pfizer vaccine now cleared for use in younger age groups, we really can start to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel – proper daylight and not the headlights of a train coming towards us.

We need to keep doing the right thing and reaching for the top of the wall a few feet too early is something we simply must avoid. Who knew that holding an international football final in one country featuring two clubs from a different country might not be the best idea…..?

One of the issues that seems to be causing some confusion is that of vaccine efficacy. I’m going to write more on the subject next week – and in particular on the difference between individual and population aspects - but, in the meantime, here is a link to a rather technical piece that appeared in the Lancet. There is an older more general piece here. Both worth a look if you have the time although I know time is the thing that seems to be in shortest supply…

Finally, good luck and best wishes to everyone facing major exams in the next few weeks.

Have a good weekend.

As ever,


May 2021

Message from the Principal 28th May

Further to the recent important update about cybersecurity, here are a few more for you:

Face masks outside on campus

We have updated our guidance simply to state face masks outside need only be worn outside where national requirements on social distancing cannot be met. Hurray!

Testing and reporting

Engagement with the Government’s requirement for asymptomatic testing continues to dwindle. If we want to see all of our activities return more fulsomely, and in particular social and sporting ones, we need to ensure that we are doing all we can with regard to compliance. Whilst a “test and participate” would be one option, were we to see, say, 80% compliance, it is conceivable at that point activities could resume without the need for any checking. We are some way off this at the moment.

Future plans

The next academic year may seem a distance away but we are petitioning Government to issue some clarity around their expectations of the sector. With some form of testing anticipated as people return, and with larger organisations potentially opting for phased arrivals, we are currently developing a range of plans for the autumn. From what I have written previously, you will know that vaccination coverage is going to be key, closely followed by any variants that may be circulating at the time. Without a crystal ball, exactly which eventuality we will have to address is impossible to identify, and the slightly frustrating expectation of government that we should be definitive in our plans, when their advice is not, does not help. Nevertheless, and as some will have noted from Professor Boswood’s email earlier today, we continue to plan for doing everything we can do safely, at the same time as having contingency for more challenging circumstances.

Good news

The Office for Students has recently published a new set of data that combines two key measures of student success: the predicted completion rate and the progression of recent graduates to employment or further study. This new data set, named PROCEED (projected completion and employment from entrant data) supports prospective students with making informed choices about their higher education.

I am delighted to report that the RVC is the 10th highest ranked of all UK universities, and 8th when one considers progression alone. This provides evidence that students from all of our courses are well equipped to succeed while they are with us and as they progress into their chosen profession.

That’s it for now. I hope you are able to make the most of the long week-end.

As ever,


Message from the Principal 14th May

A rather briefer but important message today.

With the lifting of some restrictions on 17th May and the letter circulated by the Minister to students copied below, we continue the journey towards a more normal life. Only this week VP McGonnell wrote with arrangements for the start of some in-person SU activities and the limited and careful opening of the Buttery at Hawkshead.

To be clear and for the avoidance of doubt, throughout the pandemic the RVC has been in the privileged position of being able to offer some face-to-face teaching to some year groups, based on learning objectives and delivery options. A few key points:

  1. Safety is still our number one priority
  2. We have not been, and for the foreseeable future, will not be offering large scale lectures. This remains the case across the sector.
  3. The special challenges of protecting both staff and students working in clinical environments, where social distance is impossible, means we will continue to make the mixing of populations from our two campuses restricted for the foreseeable future.
  4. Future relaxing of restrictions will depend upon us being able to demonstrate we are controlling spread of infection. This requires everyone to follow the Government guidelines on self-testing AND reporting of results.  There can be no lifting of restrictions with our current testing and reporting rates.
  5. With the new Variant of Concern from India now threating ambitions later in June, we MUST remain cautious. We have done so much and worked so hard, it would be a tragedy to throw it all away at this stage.

With Mental Health Awareness Week coming to a close, I hope that you find the time, and the weather allows you, to enjoy what nature - this year’s theme - has to offer.

With all best wishes, as ever,


Message from the Principal 7th May

Who knows where the travel restrictions will end up in the coming months but I am sure we are all grateful that at last we will get to go slightly further than our own immediate surroundings, and do so with a clear(er) conscience. Seeing my own daughters for the first time in 6 months – and getting a haircut – most definitely high points for me in recent days.

Last week, I hinted at the issues in India and surges in comparatively well vaccinated populations like the Seychelles. This morning’s news of greater numbers of positive cases now being reported in many African countries is no surprise to those who have experience of healthcare systems and surveillance in developing nations and serves as a reminder of why COVID-19 is referred to as a pandemic. “Little England” is a dangerous enough term in both political and economic contexts – but it is positively dangerous when one considers that diseases caused by micro-organisms are not constrained by geographical or political boundaries. As an organisation (and as individuals), we need to recognise our responsibilities as global citizens and do what we can to support those less fortunate than ourselves at home and abroad. All the models are currently predicting another peak in cases in the autumn and for all that we are definitely ‘getting there’ as a community, our commitment must be to do the right things and to see the job through to completion.
Completely changing the subject, a recurring issue for some time has been the nature of the degree certificate issued upon graduation from the RVC. As some of you will be aware, the degrees offered by the RVC are issued under the degree awarding powers of the University of London (UoL). The reason that we operate in this way is due to the relationship we have with one of our accreditors and the Veterinary Surgeons Act (1966). In the legislation, the regulator only recognises organisations that carry “full” university status – as defined in 1966. Clearly, things have moved on and the original intent of the regulation is now pretty much defunct. However, the acquisition of university status by any UoL member institution has been blocked by Government until very recently and we are in the process – long, drawn-out and complicated though it is - to ensure we do obtain the standing for ourselves, whilst remaining within the federation of UoL. So much for background!

It is really heartening that so many of you hold the RVC identity so dear and the absence of the RVC crest from degree parchments is a disappointment – a view I share. We had thought we would have received our university status by now, but COVID, the machinations of the Office for Students, the Department for Education and the Privy Council has not allowed this to happen – although we do believe we are at the final hurdle and that all we now need is the signature of the Secretary of State. As I mentioned earlier, we are not alone in this regard. In the absence of this final approval, it is a little trickier to manage the way forward for a new certificate given legal restrictions and the need to guard against confusion, false certification and fraud. We do understand the strength of feeling and the passion the issue generates and have been working towards both short and longer term solutions. Please bear with us – if we can do something, we will.


1. Survey feedback and welcome to Term 3
All undergraduates should have received an email from Vice Principal Boswood with summary feedback on the recent survey.

2. Thank you (one)
A huge thank you to all those involved in the assessments we have been running in recent weeks The logistics around all our examinations have been massively complicated due to COVID-19 and, for practical assessments like the OSCEs, the efforts of everyone to conduct these safely whilst maintaining standards has been enormous.

3. Thank you (two)
A number of weeks ago we asked you provide us with some intention of how you intended to engage with the vaccination roll out here. I am delighted to say that 96 percent of students and 97 percent of staff had either been vaccinated or intend to get vaccinated. This is *so* important as it provides us with the assurance and confidence to plan for our next academic year on the assumption, with current knowledge, that the overwhelming majority of our community will be protected. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

4. Congratulations
There have been several pieces of good news recently. Many will of you will know and remember Renate Weller who left us a few years ago to join CVS in the corporate sector. This week the school in Calgary announced Renate as their new dean. Operating a distributed system and the newest of the Canadian veterinary schools, Calgary is fortunate to recruit Renate – and we wish her every success in the next chapter of her career.

Closer to home, the RCVS elections took place earlier in the spring and I am delighted that Dr Louise Allum was successful in her bid to join Council. The position is personal and Council members do not represent their organisations – nevertheless having our own people involved in steering the professions is reputationally important and of course, more importantly, a huge credit to Louise. 

Finally, Lavinia Economu (BVetMed5) has been recognised for her leadership in diversity related issues and the activities of Animal Aspirations. Receiving the Student Community Award, Lavinia will be honoured at RCVS Day in July. Many congratulations.

5. Reminder
Referencing my thanks under item 3 above, please, please, please can students remember to log the results of the LFTs. The Government has made it abundantly clear that the lessening of restrictions on our sector will be evidence based and the best evidence we have is the very low prevalence of true positives in our student community. We continue to argue the case that the restrictions in place are now out of step with what is happening in the community at large but there is no doubt the low reporting levels are being used to maintain the status quo at least until 17th May and, my worry is, potentially into next academic year. Please report results here.

6. Mental Health Awareness Week
I know that there are activities planned associated with this national awareness week, but please do take time to take care of yourselves and those around you. Some links here, herehere and here. And support here and here.

And finally, this summer I will be standing down as Chair of the Trustees at The Donkey Sanctuary, a relationship that started with my PhD in 1988. Tomorrow is World Donkey Day. Donkeys are enormously important in other parts of the world and there will a number of releases featuring the overseas work of the charity. See here. For those who wish to know more – Trigger Warning – with some very graphic footage there is a feature, covering the work of several charities and released by the World Veterinary Association, here. Alternatively, and referencing point 6 above, if you just want the therapeutic effect of watching donkeys in Sidmouth Devon, go here and here.

Have great weekend.
As ever,


April 2021

Message from the Principal 30th April

Musings only today: It can be a funny world, sometimes. The fits and starts of news spawned by the twists and turns of the pandemic inevitably lead to a lumpiness in the importance and urgency of these weekly updates. Even the working groups we appropriately put in place to address the various aspects of RVC business and how we responded to COVID-19, we are now deliberately settling back into the more regular rhythm of our existing committee schedules. Emergency budgeting is replaced by more considered and less volatile forecasting as we prepare for the end of 2021’s  academic and financial years and the start of the next. Of course, other parts of the world are suffering terribly, and we must remain vigilant, but I do sense a shift closer to home.

Yet, for all this, we know our world is changed forever and the lessons we have learned from the last 12 months will reshape the university sector in a way few could have imagined. Notably, changes that might have taken years have happened in months and practices that may have persisted for decades have gone, almost in the blink of an eye.

One thing that has not changed is our desire to be at the forefront of what we do in all our subject areas and all our activities. To this end, in the autumn we will be agreeing with our Council a new 5 year plan that is based on discussions that started well before last March and will be the guide for what we hope to achieve, and how we hope to achieve it, in the coming years. Whether it is the continued investment in biosciences in Camden, the cementing of our international reputation, or the replacement of capital stock that is no longer fit for purpose, we have to look beyond the immediate issues of COVID-19. With changes in accreditation standards and new ways of studying and working, creating headspace and efficiencies to allow the investments we need to make to stay at the top of our game will not be easy. However, I have every confidence that we will continue to respond to whatever the post pandemic, post Brexit environment throws at us, moving the RVC forward.

For all that many things have changed rapidly, it is worth reflecting on the counterpoint – that Higher Education has been around for millennia, and that the RVC has been on the same site in Camden since 1791; that’s three years after the First Fleet arrived in Australia, the year the patent on the steam boat was granted, the year that Mozart’s Magic Flute premiered, the year Robert Burns published Tam O’Shanter, and it was pretty much in the middle of the French Revolution. Notably, we were here before the Act of Union created the United Kingdom and before the American Civil War. Since that time, we have seen two world wars, humans on the moon (allegedly), pandemics of influenza and HIV, and England winning the World Cup (apparently). We have even seen the UK join and then leave the EU, and we have had nine monarchs. I am not going anywhere near the advances in science we have witnessed.

And, through it all, we have continued to discover, to educate and to treat.  I don’t see those three things changing any time soon.

Thanks for being part of it. Have a great weekend.


As ever,


Message from the Principal 16th April


  1. IMPORTANT: Vaccination status and intentions
    Despite my pleas to everyone to complete the anonymous survey on COVID vaccination, about 1000 people have yet to do so. It is just about impossible to plan our way forward without this information and we will be forced to assume non-responders are not getting vaccinated. If that is the case, very little will change at the RVC in the coming months. Please complete the survey now.

  2. Cybersecurity
    The University of Hertfordshire has recently been hit by a massive cyber attack that has forced a closedown of most of its systems. This follows attacks on the Universities of Northumbria, Newcastle and Portsmouth…. and these are the ones we know about. Please take special extra care as we continue to access our own digital infrastructure remotely; this is particularly true if you are not currently using Multiple Factor Authentication or are using your own laptops or tablets offsite.

  3. Safety Net (no detriment) Policy
    As I trailed earlier in the week, all students should have received an email from Vice Principal Boswood. It can also be found on LEARN.

  4. Letter from the Minister
    Again, as mentioned previously, here is a message from the Minister addressed to all students in relation to national arrangements for next term. Please note that we will be sticking to our original plans regardless of what lessening of restrictions might occur around May 17th.

    13th April 2021

    Dear Students,
    I continue to be deeply impressed by the dedication and commitment you have shown to your education under these difficult circumstances. Over the last year, I have worked closely with your providers to try and reduce the impact COVID-19 has had on you and to make sure that the quality of your education remains consistent.

    Last term, we advised that students on certain practical and creative courses could go back to in-person teaching and committed to reviewing further returns by the end of the Easter holidays. We have recently announced that remaining students will be able to return to in-person teaching alongside Step 3 of the Roadmap, when restrictions on social contact will be eased further and the majority of indoor settings can reopen. This will take place no earlier than 17 May, following a further review of the data against the four tests. A return alongside Step 3 would give many of you time to receive some in-person teaching before the end of term, as well as engage with cocurricular activities and enjoy the benefits of on-campus activity in accordance with Government advice.

    The government and I have always been keen for you to return to in-person teaching as soon as possible and this decision has not been taken lightly. It was made to keep you and the wider community as safe as possible. We recognise the difficulties and disruption that this may cause for many students and their families. However, the government roadmap is designed to maintain a cautious approach to the easing of restrictions in the light of public health considerations, to ensure that we can maintain progress towards full reopening. By Step 3, more of the population will be vaccinated, and there is also more time to increase testing to reduce risk further. The movement of students across the country poses a risk for the transmission of the virus – particularly because of the higher prevalence and rates of transmission of new variants. As a result, we will continue to advise that the number of students who return to their place of study and inperson teaching should be limited for now. Our advice remains that some students, such as those with inadequate study space and/or mental health and wellbeing issues, may need to return to their term time address despite their teaching still being online. In addition, we have asked providers to consider appropriate provision to support access to university facilities for all students for the purposes of online learning, to safeguard your wellbeing and to prevent isolation and mental ill health. In line with wider coronavirus restrictions, this may include supporting access to organised sport and entertainment.

    I have spoken to many of you during our student panels, so I am aware this comes as disappointing news for those who had hoped to resume in-person teaching in April. I understand the difficulty that this further delay will create for you and your families. With this in mind, I can announce that the government is making available a further £15 million for providers to address student hardship this academic year. This is in addition to the £70 million already distributed to providers via the OfS this academic year.

    I will continue to work to prioritise your mental health and wellbeing, including via the Mental Health in Education Action Group, convened by Minister Ford and me. We have worked with the Office for Students to launch the online mental health platform Student Space, worth up to £3 million, in addition to the £15 million we have asked them to consult on to allocate to student mental health initiatives in the coming academic year. I will continue to ask providers to prioritise mental health support - please do reach out to their support services if you need them. More generally, we appreciate that your experience this year is not what you had expected and so we have discussed with providers the need to ensure you have opportunities to engage in the wider university experience when you have returned to campus. Alongside this, we are working with the sector to support those of you who are graduating in the summer and those who are entering HE in the autumn to ensure you feel supported in your transition. We are working in parallel with Universities UK, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, the Institute of Student Employers, the Office for Students, and the wider sector to understand what we can do to complement their planned support. This will include signposting you to useful resources and opportunities. More broadly, the Government is doing all it can to help people who are at the start of their career journey. Jobcentre Plus work coaches can help you to find opportunities that match your skills. The Department for Work and Pensions has successfully recruited over 13,500 new work coaches as of the end of March 2021 to ensure that high quality work search support is available to those who need it.

    You can access free information and careers advice through the National Careers Service. The Government is investing additional funding in the National Careers Service up to March 2022 to support delivery of individual careers advice for those whose jobs/learning have been affected by the pandemic (by end of FY21/22). The Skills Toolkit provides online courses to help you learn new skills; we have added additional courses to the Skills Toolkit to develop ‘work readiness’ skills that employers report they value in their new recruits. Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing is key to keeping the higher education environment as safe as possible. If you are currently residing in university halls of residence or other term-time accommodation, it is essential that you participate in your provider’s asymptomatic COVID testing programme. This will help to identify asymptomatic infections and break chains of transmission, helping to keep you and your friends safe, even if you are not currently participating in in-person teaching and learning. As is the expectation across most educational settings, please take two tests every week and, if testing at home, report your 
    results whether negative, positive or void. You should familiarise yourself with testing by doing 3 tests at an asymptomatic testing centre before using home test kits while at university. If you are travelling back to university accommodation you should also get tested beforehand at a community testing centre or by ordering a test kit online. Whilst I have been incredibly humbled to see the resilience you have shown, I am acutely aware of the impact that this disruption may have had on you. As ever, I remain committed to your education, mental health and wellbeing and again would urge you to continue to, where required, use the mental health and pastoral support that your institution provides.

    Yours sincerely,

    Michelle Donelan MP Minister of State for Universities

  5. Hawkshead Sports and Wellbeing Centre
    A quick reminder that the gym (only) is open again; restrictions are in place, but it is open. Please see the SAWC pages on LEARN and the intranet for booking information.

  6. Please see the first update at Point 1 above 😊

That’s all for today; have a great weekend.

As ever,


Message from the Principal 13th April

I am starting with the updates today as the more general comment I offer is rather longer than usual and can be found later in the posting.


  1. No Detriment Policy Those who follow the major issues in Higher Education as they are debated will be aware that the sector is seeking ways in which the impact of the unusual circumstances of the last 12 months can be minimised, particularly when it comes to formal assessment. We have been working with colleagues from other universities and with our regulators to come up with a process that will ensure fair opportunity and outcome for all. The policies are under consideration at Academic Board as I write, and we will be communicating the detail in the coming days. Please look out for these announcements.
  2. Graduation celebrations 2021 I have already outlined our intentions for this year with safety as our prime concern. There were many factors that contributed to the decision including securing a venue, logistics on the day and the likelihood, even with the most optimistic view, of families and friends being absent. I know we are all bitterly disappointed, but wellbeing remains our priority. We will be writing to graduating cohorts in the next few days with our plans for 2021’s online celebrations and for our desire to provide you with the hood specific to your degree. Please look out for these communications as we will need you to supply your current contact details.  We had many hundreds of people join the celebrations online last year and we have learned what worked best – and we are once again committed to making it the joyful event it should be for everyone.

In the next few paragraphs, I am going to be talking about different kinds of risk and you may wish to skip this part altogether if thinking about risk causes you anxiety.

In particular, I am mentioning risk associated with disease, air travel and vaccination, amongst others.

Risk is a strange thing. There is the “actual” risk, the real likelihood something will happen. Then there is the risk that we perceive – usually modified in our minds by the outcome - with worse outcomes being perceived as higher risk. Then there is a rather artificial risk, which is one that is modified by some kind of public outrage factor, driven by the media. This is the risk that hits the headlines.

There are lots of examples where an event or a hazard is considered to be a major risk in the minds of the public largely due to the fact that, rare though the event may be, it can cause death or serious injury. These are often featured, promoted and sensationalised through traditional and social media – being involved in a terrorist attack, being killed by a shark and some recent food scares are three that immediately come to mind.  In truth the likelihood of these events happening to any given individual is infinitesimally small, but we all fear them disproportionately.

However, even armed with the facts, we behave irrationally.  So, for example, people will buy a UK  lottery ticket, in hope, where the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 45 million …. but are less concerned about air safety where the odds of dying on a major carrier are 1 in 9 million. For those interested there is an app called “AmIGoingDown” which tries to reassure nervous fliers…. though personally I, might have opted for a different name.

So much for risk communication.

However, there is another epidemiological aspect that often gets forgotten: Attributable risk. Cutting a long story short, we often hear statements such as  “if you do  <insert risky activity here>,  you are 4 times more likely to have <insert bad thing in here> happen to you.” It is often in the context of food or drink, but it applies to lots of things. And 4 times is a BIG deal, right? That’s 400% more chance of the bad thing happening. Well kind of; you see, it depends on what the underlying risk of the bad thing happening was in the first place, before you engaged in the risky activity. If it was a very, very low risk before, increasing that risk 4 times still means it’s a really, really low risk. And we call the difference between the underlying risk and the increased level of risk “attributable risk”.

The world would suddenly become a much safer place if we used this measure. Let’s say your risk of dying due to disease x was 1 in 1,000,000, and let’s say that by eating a certain food your risk of getting that disease increased by 400%; that means your risk is now 4 in 1,000,000 or 1 in 250,000. So, although your risk increased four-fold, the absolute increase (or attributable risk) is only 3 in a million - still a really, really small risk.

And so, to vaccinations. Everybody needs to take the best advice from their health professional and undoubtedly the options now being considered for younger people and a precautionary approach are sensible. However – and these figures are all subject to challenge – when we look at the risks associated with the administration of the Astra Zeneca vaccine, current estimates are that the overall risk of getting a blood clot (not dying) is 1 in 250,000. Now let’s  compare this to getting blood clots from other risky activities: Flying, 1 in 1,000,000; contraceptive pill use, 1 in 1,000; smoking, 1 in 4,000; getting severe COVID, 1 in 3.  One might think that comparing the 1 in 250,000 and the 1 in 3 would be enough to make the point…

But what if we look at the attributable risk, i.e., the increase in risk of getting a blood clot above the baseline risk before vaccination. Well at the moment, it is difficult to demonstrate any increase as the numbers are so small – one scientist calculated the increase is as small as 0.0004 percent.

Of course, life, is not risk free, but on the available evidence, the risk of rare blood clots associated with the Astra Zeneca vaccine is very small and very, very similar to the risk without vaccination.

As an aside. Should you ever buy a winning lottery ticket, never cash it in. Instead, travel with it in your pocket when you fly, as the chances of being in an air accident with a winning lottery ticket in your pocket and very, very, very small indeed. (Yeah, I know that’s not how it works.)

More later in the week.

Stay well,


Message from the Principal 9th April

A rather hastily rewritten update this week; I will post my original content on vaccination and risk in the coming days.

The news that His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, died this morning will be a source of sadness to many associated with the RVC. As our Patron for over 45 years, Prince Philip visited us on a number of occasions and remained interested in our progress throughout his life.

Many tributes will be written by informed commentators on his contributions to public life;  no doubt, more controversial aspects will be raised by others.  But beyond question, his sense of duty and commitment to Her Majesty The Queen, through the 73 years of their partnership, will deservedly be the most touching and enduring part of any reflection.

Our flags will fly at half-mast for 48 hours, and again on the day of his funeral.

I will be writing to both The Queen and The Princess Royal, our Chancellor, offering our condolences.


I will be issuing updates next week regarding:

1) No detriment policy for academic year 20/21

2) Launch of a Voluntary Severance Scheme from 15th April

Have good weekend

As ever,


Message from the Principal 1st April

As I have said in recent postings, there is no doubt that we have good reason for optimism – not least because it looks as though we will have very good vaccinal coverage at the RVC, and the roll out in the UK and some other countries is very encouraging.  All that said, we watch the near continent with interest, and the concerns over South America and Africa are significant.  Please, if you have not already done so, fill out the simple, anonymous vaccination survey. You may need to turn off the vpn to access it. It is here.

I have been reflecting on much of the recent messaging and what the next few months will hold. We have learned many different ways of working and studying, of being in contact and communicating, and we have seen massive sacrifice both through the additional hours delivered and in the uncertainty of furlough. We have tackled seemingly intractable problems, with ridiculous deadlines, at the same time as maintaining our standards and the confidence others have in our degrees. But above all we have kept each other safe.  I am so very grateful for the commitment we have collectively shown. The trick of the next chapter will be about how we blend – and I use the term deliberately – how we bend the best of what we did before the pandemic with the best of what we have learned to do during the pandemic.

My very first professional visit was to a farm attached to a distillery in the north-east of Scotland. The details of the visit are unimportant save to say, amongst the purple heather and bracken and in the autumn sunshine, I was there all day - from 7am to 6pm. At the end of the day, the farm manager looked at me and, I think out of a sense of pity, gave me a bottle of the blended whisky from the distillery. Now, I am not a whisky drinker, not at all, but I was brought up to think that  “malts”, the single types of whisky, were superior to the “blends” which generally are a combination of ordinary grain whisky and which you can find in most supermarkets at reasonable cost (see here for a fuller account  and also here). So, whilst any gift is to be welcomed, being handed a blend, kind though it was, could have been construed as a second order “thank you”… and I happened to know the distillery did produce a very good malt. But here was my lesson.  What if you took the best of the single malts and made them into a “blend of malts”? And that was what I had been given. The blend of the best*.

So, in looking for way a forward in Term 3, to the summer and beyond, the blend we offer can be the combination of the best – from both a student and staff perspective. And, as all the best distillery blenders will tell you, as they nose and taste the product of their art, the best blend is rarely the first one. It will take effort and patience, but I know we are up for it.

Whatever your traditions, culture or religious observances, I hope the longer weekend allows you at least some time to relax and enjoy what Spring has to offer. And I also hope that the months ahead will allow us the freedom and opportunity to blend and titrate the offering we make as educator and employer, ensuring the RVC emerges stronger and fitter for the times to come.

Have great (long) weekend.

As ever,


*As an aside, this approach to blending single malts has recently been popularised through brands like Monkey Shoulder and others. 

And for the avoidance of doubt – there is nothing nationalistic about this piece. The winner of whisky of the year 2020 was a Japanese whisky; and, funnily enough, the best Scottish Highland malt was The GlenDronach … the distillery farm I laboured on 34 years ago. Enjoy, if that’s your thing.

[Late breaking update – following national guidelines, the tennis courts at Hawkshead will be open with immediate effect for those living on site and staff required to be on campus. Please book at the security hut and follow restrictions regarding households (2) and maximum numbers (6).]




March 2021

Message from the Principal 26th of March

It seems odd to be thinking of preparing for a “break” in the coming days and one has to hope that this will be the last of the public holidays we spend under lockdown conditions. To some extent the die is cast for the coming term and much as we would wish things to be different, the protocols in place have served us well as a community. At the time of writing, with only six positive cases since the end of January - none at all in Camden, and none on either campus in March in either staff or students, the efforts to which you have all gone have been remarkable. Perhaps even more noteworthy, given what we have witnessed elsewhere is that, of all the positives we have had since August 2020, only eight relate to our own student accommodation.

1. An important request…

Building on this will be very important and we will continue to put your health and wellbeing at the top of our priorities. A critical part of this will be to understand the extent to which our community will be covered by uptake of available vaccines.
Below is a link to an anonymous web-based survey that I ask you all to complete. It is very simple and asks only whether you are staff or student, whether you would normally attend Camden or Hawkshead, and whether or not you have already taken up, or intend to take up, the offer of vaccination when it is available to you. Note that this is completely anonymous and, in the case of you choosing not to be vaccinated or being unable to take up the offer of vaccination, it will not ask you to specify which or why.

Why are we doing this? Simply put, the risk assessments that we carry out will be informed by the proportion of people we expect to be protected following vaccination. If we hit 90% plus then we can be confident that it is unlikely outbreaks will occur at the RVC; if we are at, say, 60%, it will be rather different and our arrangements with regard to campus density and other preventive measures will be modified accordingly. So – to be clear – this is not about individual information or choices, it is about how we as a community prepare for the summer and the new academic year.

2. Working from Home (WFH)

Also, part of our returning to normal has been consideration of what the RVC will look like with regard to working practices. There has been a great deal of work done by HR in this area and it is clear that for the foreseeable future, in the same way was we have a blended curriculum, the way in which we conduct our other business will also have to be blended and potentially more flexible in the longer term.
The policies developed by HR are currently being rolled out in Professional Services and may be extended to other areas later, but the key messages are:

In line with Government policy, with the agreement of your line manager, please work from home if you can.
If you cannot do your job from home or need to be on campus for at least some of the time, again, with the agreement of your line manager, it is entirely appropriate for you to be on site, provided appropriate social distancing can be maintained. Of course, I acknowledge many people have been on campus by necessity throughout the pandemic.

It is important to note that the WFH policy and programme are separate from our flexible working arrangements which remain in place and are unaffected by them.

3. On a lighter (or darker) note…

Acknowledging that this lockdown has finally got to me, besides having defrosted my freezer for the first time in forever so that it no longer resembles Santa’s grotto, and having cleaned both the grill pan and sorted my sock drawer, one of the things that has filled the evenings has been the overhead passes of the International Space Station. On a clear night, you can see it really easily. In the coming days here is when you can catch it.

26th 27th 28th
Appears 20.10 19.22 21.22
Travels West to East West to East West to South East
Disappears 20.14


Position Overhead pass Overhead pass Overhead pass

For other dates and times see here. And here it is somewhere between Hatfield and Orion on Tuesday this week captured on my iPhone….

Last week I mentioned sunshine; this week, paraphrasing Oscar Wilde, I am still looking up … when times are tough, it’s good to look at the stars. And the International Space Station.

Have good weekend.
As ever,


PS: For the avoidance of doubt - and you would expect me to say this - I sincerely hope that you do take up the offer of vaccination if you possibly can. It is not the answer to the whole epidemic, but it is an important step towards us getting our lives back. It may also save your life or those of the people closest to you.

Message from the Principal 19th of March

Driving away clouds or keeping them at bay is a full-time job, it seems. Just when we take two steps forward, news pops up that causes us to question either what we have read or heard, or doubt what we believe to be true, and we take one step back. Granted, the net effect is still forward but, nevertheless, the clouds of uncertainty return.

Doubt, in itself, is not the issue – questioning is an important part of our own quality assurance mechanism and one aspect of self- protection. However, the way in which the seeds of doubt are being sown in this latest phase of the pandemic is as frustrating as it is dangerous. The Astra Zeneca vaccine roll out is halted in several countries when the data clearly show that the claims against it are unwarranted. Worse, invoking the “Precautionary Principle” is totally misleading and appeals to the misapprehension that risks exist in isolation. When the alternative risk is catching, and potentially succumbing to, COVID-19, halting a vaccine programme that prevents the worst impact of the infection is, frankly, ridiculous. Everyone is entitled to make their own decisions but, please, do so on the evidence and not rumour and hearsay. I will leave the political aspects of this to one side for now, but I fear this will not be the last of the information wars, vaccinal posturing and tit-for-tat; we have a world of people that need protecting and we should get on with it.

Another thing we are all entitled to is the right to feel safe. Only last week the update focused on women’s safety; today we are reflecting on the attitudes that have led to the racial violence against members of the Asian community. I know that Dan Chan will be writing in his capacity as Chair of our Racial Equality Task Group and I urge you to read his message when it reaches you. The COVID-19 related motivations behind recent attacks are massively concerning but to focus on this aspect alone runs the risk of obscuring the underlying prejudices we know we must correct or remove. Please report any hint of this in our own community and support those within our wider networks, home and abroad, as we fight all discrimination and abuse.

I started off talking about clouds – mainly the big grey ones that we encounter from time to time. But looking out on the daffodils and the spring sunshine this Friday lunchtime, I realise that here we are, one year on.  We have done our best and many have paid a heavy price. But still, we are here.  I have never been prouder to be part of an organisation… not because of what we have done but because of what I know we will continue to do….driving the clouds away and letting the sun shine through.

In your debt.

Have a good weekend.

As ever,


Message from the Principal 12th March

In the last couple of weeks we have had news items from our own community that put some of the challenges we are all encountering in a rather different context and altered perspective. And looking more broadly outside the RVC there are things happening that sometimes beggar belief.

I know many of you have been shaken by the unfolding events associated with the apparent abduction and, now sadly confirmed, death of Sarah Everard and social media is full of comment and concern. That we live in a society where one group of people is expected to alter their behaviour and practices because of the evil intent of another group is more than sad – it is unacceptable and we need to get our heads around how we force the perpetrators off the streets not the potential victims. And, if you are wondering about the scale of things there are plenty of articles out there - the recent UN poll that reports 97% of women aged between 18 and 24 experiencing some kind of sexual harassment in public spaces, is surely yet another call to overdue action. I once commented that if Zika virus affected men in the same way as it does women, the research effort on Zika would be many fold greater – and the parallels are true regarding public threat. If men were being asked to curfew themselves, one can only imagine the uproar. We all have a right to feel safe.

Inevitably and quite correctly, a number of queries have been raised about the safety of our environment. Working with the RVCSU on attitudes and behaviours on all discrimination, harassment is a big part of that issue – but given we cannot control quickly all aspects of society, the provision of shuttle buses and the advice we offer on staying safe are still necessary. Public rights of way both within and beyond our ownership are matters on which we continue to push for change with the relevant planning authorities and agencies although, as the recent case has sadly demonstrated lighting and traffic volume do not guarantee safety.

It is true that the extreme end of this spectrum is still rare, and with a few precautions we can be safe around the RVC. However, this does not allow us to abdicate the responsibility we all have to rid ourselves of the behaviours that lead to the normalisation of aggressions that make any member of our community feel threatened. And we must work collectively to support the safety of one another and explore what else might be done now in the these COVID-affected times..


A few updates

1. New Strategic Plan
The RVC Council met this week to discuss the next phase of the RVC’s development and endorsed the work that we have done over the last two years in developing a Strategic Plan for 2022-2027. Despite the pandemic and working within the constraints of social distancing, the consultations and events, such as the RVC Futures Day held some time ago, have led to an exciting set of opportunities and aspirations and I look forward to sharing these with you over the coming months.

2. Outstanding performance (1)
Thank you all for you continued observance of all the measures we have in place to make our organisation COVID-19 secure. I think I am correct in saying that this is the first week that we have recorded no positive COVID-19 test results in staff or students. It is a huge endorsement of the measures in place and an even bigger endorsement of all your efforts.

3. Outstanding performance (2)
For reasons best known only to them, the Boltons Park Farm hens have gone into overdrive on the egg production front. So much so that we were able to donate a good number to a local food bank. Which reminds me of why I never have two eggs for breakfast; one is an oeuf.

I’ll get my coat. Thank you.

Have good weekend.

Stay safe and well.

As ever


Message from the Principal 10th March

There would appear to be ongoing disparities between the messages of the scientific and medical advisors and the mood music being created by the political messaging from Government. The most recent statements made by both the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientist remain very cautious with clear warning that any decision to reduce, to less than 5 weeks, the time between the lifting of restriction and the analysis of the impact of that lifting risks throwing away much of the ground gained through this last difficult lockdown.

There is no doubt that the vaccination programme will have a significant role in allowing us to return to more social contact, but the need to contain variants against which the vaccines are less effective appears to be driving some of the renewed caution. The consequences of schools returning in terms of virus dissemination remains to be seen, but the respite this will have allowed all of you who have been home schooling is huge and necessary: I am in awe of any and all who have had to cope with this additional burden.

We will continue to be cautious and take a science led view on our own special circumstances to ensure we all remain safe and progress in our studies and careers with as little negative impact or delay as possible.

A few updates:

1. Students leaving at end of term 2 and returning for term 3
Inordinately complicated by a series of incomplete advance notice, the full information is now summarised here. There are several take homes (pun not intended):

  • Best advice is do not travel if you can help it.
  • There is no legal barrier to you travelling home and back, but this should only be once.
  • Placement, EMS and AHEMS are all permissible subject to agreement with the third party and your own safety and wellbeing priorities.
  • International travel home is allowed. However, the return arrangements regarding testing pre travel and post arrival are burdensome and mandatory.
  • Please, please ensure you have read, understood and follow the rules.

2. Graduation ceremonies 2021

With the timelines presented by Government and the risks associated with gathering several thousand people in mid July 2021, much to our great regret, the Graduation ceremonies will be online again this year – we are still exploring options for the autumn but a combination of uncertainty and venue availability make this option less than likely also. We are working to ensure any delayed events can take place in 2022. Cognate peer organisations are coming to similar conclusions.
Please believe me – we are all disappointed that this summer would appear to be impacted in a similar way to 2020 and Graduation Day is a hugely significant one in our calendar. For me, ensuring most classmates can enjoy the event together and with their loved ones present remains a big part of what makes it special.

3. Graham Milligan

Finally, and as some of you will already be aware, our former colleague Graham Milligan died on Tuesday morning. There will be opportunity to pay tribute to Graham in the coming days, but I draw your attention to the announcement on “Message of the Day” and an updated version here:

It is with great sadness that I write to let you know that Graham Milligan, formally our Vice Principal for Clinical Services, died yesterday morning, Tuesday 9th March. As many of you will be aware, Graham retired for health reasons three years ago. While he was able to, he invested huge efforts in raising significant funds for a number of cancer charities, most notably Maggie’s. He was also a passionate advocate for “animals as companions” and promoted the benefits of establishing new human-animal relationships through Our Special Friends.

Graham was always very proud of being a graduate of the University of Cambridge as it had been a lifelong ambition for him. After a spell in general practice he decided he would be best able to make a difference to animal health and welfare outside the usual clinical practice envelope. After many successful years in veterinary industry he joined the RVC and was appointed Vice Principal for Clinical Services in 2013.

To simply say that Graham shaped the business model of clinical service provision at the College would be to undervalue the many contributions he made; perhaps the most noteworthy being the work he and Professor Dan Brockman undertook to merge the two clinical departments, CSD and VSC to ensure a more unified approach to the College’s clinical endeavours. He was also able to realise a long-term ambition when the College acquired Acorn House Veterinary Hospital as the first step in a programme of expanding our first opinion clinical services.

Graham brought a financial rigour, thoughtful, in-depth planning and problem solving to every activity or project with which he was involved; his diligence in these areas will always remain a testament to him and a legacy we value.
He has many friends at the RVC, and more widely in the veterinary community, and he will be missed greatly. He is survived by his wife, Julia, and his two sons to whom we extend our sympathy and condolences.

There may be one more update this week….

As ever,


Message from the Principal 8th March

Earlier news this week…
1. International Women’s Day
Thank you to all those who supported the EDC/RVCSU event celebrating International Women’s Day; really great talk and as our speaker, Ruchi Aggarwal, implied, these annual “days” are important but the other 364 days are perhaps more so…..
2. Travel home at the end of Term 2 and back for Term 3
There is new advice that has caused some confusion. I will not put a link to the reports – rather here is the most relevant:

End of Term 2

  • Advice at the moment is that if you don’t have to travel, then please don’t.
  • However, there is no legal obstacle to going home at the end of term.
  • For international travel there are requirements and they are here. We are seeking clarification as to what this means in practice.

Term 3

  • You should have received emails telling you dates etc for your cohort.
  • Information for UK and international students is here.
  • Please make sure you have read it and understand that it is your obligation to ensure you are compliant with new testing and travel protocols.
  • The information does change, so keep checking it.

3. Vaccinations
 A return to normal life at the RVC is dependent upon the threat of COVID-19 being reduced to as close to zero as possible. This in turn is dependent upon all at the RVC being protected from infection – and this in the main means vaccination.

Recognising that some of you will be exempt from vaccination, the RVC has a clear expectation that people working, studying or attending the RVC will take up vaccination when offered. This expectation was laid out in our Resilience Commitment in the early days of the pandemic. We are a science led organisation that is committed to combating disease at technical, social and institutional levels. Furthermore, we have set out in all our attempts to keep people safe over the last 12 months by making decisions that are informed and evidence-based and we will continue to do so; taking up vaccination is a moral imperative in the ongoing protection of our community. Please play your part.

The Government continues to roll out its vaccination programme on an age-stratified approach. You do not need to wait for your doctor to contact you – once your age group is announced you can go on to the NHS app/website and book your own slot. It is available here. Please do so – the sooner we are all protected, the sooner we can reduce the other measures we have in place.
Looks like there might be more news this week as the Government moves ahead with its agenda….
Best wishes,

Message from the Principal 5th March

Another big week in our history on all sorts of levels. And apologies for being rather late this Friday evening…..

  1. QS rankings
    I do hope that the news that we have regained the top spot internationally gives everyone a source of pride. We are assessed as an institution when it comes to reputation and all our activities, programmes and people contribute to this achievement. So, whatever your role, whatever you are studying and wherever you are located a massive personal thank you for making us a leader amongst our peers.  The exchange with Dean Lairmore at UCDavis was a good one, and he was both generous and gracious.

  2. Our broader mission
    Further to the importance of our whole community mentioned above, one of the advantages of spending more time online is that I have been able to invest more effort in keeping up to date with the broader sector. The Royal Society of Biology offers great opportunities - besides the Accreditation and Advanced Accreditations they have awarded our BSc and MSci programmes. With membership sections for all levels on seniority, details are here.

  3. VN celebrations
    Congratulations to our C15 VN cohort who finished their classes today. Great to see you all online and join you for your celebrations. The world is your oyster…..

  4. University Mental Health Day
    In the current environment, we owe it to ourselves and each other to acknowledge the challenges we face with regard to our mental health and wellbeing. Falling on Thursday this week, whilst it is important to make the most of these days of focus, the reality is that we need to prioritise this aspect of our lives, every day. More details of UMH21 can be found here.

  5. Veterinary Schools Council COVID response update
    For those studying or teaching on our BVetMed and VN programmes, an update on responses across the schools can be found here. Originally drawn together for our own RVC use, the comparative aspects were considered worthy or sharing more widely.

  6. RVC Access WP team and Animal Aspirations go international
    Kate Oliver and Grace Mackintosh Sim from our WP team, and Lavinia Economu from Animal Aspirations did a fantastic job addressing the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges annual meeting hosted on Zoom from Washington DC.  The reception afforded to our colleagues was terrific and the late night Q&A the stand-out session of the day. As if that wasn’t enough, Animal Aspirations went on to present to Veterinary Schools Council today -  amazing effort!

  7. The summer and beyond
    With the PM’s announcement regarding the Roadmap to lifting of lockdown, there is no doubt that there is growing anticipation across the sector about what might now be possible. Our consultations continue, but it is clear that large scale events will remain problematic for some time to come. Even the recent rise in cases in some parts of England has started to alter Government tone and the emergence of the variants - and especially the Brazilian one, are a continuing threat. We aim to share as much detail as we have available early next week.  We will be putting the safety of everyone (and their families) above all other considerations.

Finally, and I know I don’t say it enough, thank you to you all for your continued efforts; there is light at the end of the tunnel and if the most recent data on vaccination efficacy hold true in the coming weeks and months, we will get our social lives back and we will see the friends and family from whom we have been separated.  The QS rankings are important and we should be proud – but nothing beats the sense of pride I have when I reflect on the way in which you have collectively responded to the pandemic.

Have a good weekend.

As ever,


February 2021

Message from the Principal 26th February

Given the narrative update yesterday, I will constrain this communication to a few key items.

Good weather

Tempting though it is with the better weather here, please remember the RVC COVID-19 Resilience Commitment; 2M separation indoors and out, masks at all times indoors and when you cannot be 2M distanced outdoors too. The only exceptions are in some clinical areas, in a private office whilst seated and socially distanced from others, when eating or drinking socially distanced from others or when you are inside your accommodation with your accommodation bubble. Full rules are here and here. You must also follow the Government’s restrictions.

LGBTQ+ History Month

Thank you to all who have made the LBGTQ+ History Month such a success even though so many of us are distributed far and wide. A particular thanks to Rev. Andy Marshall and the team who put together the programme and the remarkable digital flag. Details are here and the video here.

Nick Short

As many of you are aware our former colleague Nick Short very sadly died last week. Nick was a friend to many at the RVC as well as the wider community and his innovation, commitment and compassion remain a testament to the kindest of men. You may wish to record your memories of Nick here; we will be passing the contributions to his family. Donations in his name can also be directed to the BipolarUK. Thank you.

Census Day – Sunday 21st March

The 10-yearly national census is due soon! This important event gives a snapshot of all the people in England and Wales on Census Day and responses are used to help plan and fund public services such as transport, healthcare and education. A critical part of getting this right is an accurate count of students.

Census 2021 will be a digital-first, and we are being asked to complete an online questionnaire that should take around 10 minutes per person. We will be in contact with students next week providing more information about how to take part. Thank you in advance for your co-operation.

Have good weekend.


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.

As ever,


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.

As ever,


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.
As ever


Message from the Principal 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…

    1. Testing
      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:

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

Minister Donelan - letter to students (PDF 133KB)  →

  1. Some good news
    It was great to see our summer school be flagged in the national press. The article is here.

  2. 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.


January 2021

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

  1. Because the Government requires it
  2. Because it provides information on the general level of infection in our community
  3. Because it can provide some reassurance to individuals
  4. 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.

As ever


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.

As ever,


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.

As ever,


Message from the Principal 16th January

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.

Stay safe,


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.

Quiz night

For anyone interested in a lockdown pub quiz evening with the usual prizes, I will be running one next Saturday 23rd. More next week.

And finally…

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.

As ever,  


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
  1. Students – teaching and learning 
    For students, arrangements until further notice will be: 
  1. BSc 1, 2 and 3: off-campus as per Government requirements*
  2. MSci 4: veterinary research laboratory placements as planned, as permitted
  3. Gateway: off-campus as per Government requirements*
  4. VNs: all as planned, subject to RCVS confirmation
  5. GAB: continue as per Term 1 with adjustments as necessary, as permitted
  6. BVetMed 1: continue as per Term 1, adjustments as necessary, as permitted
  7. 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)*
  8. BVetMed 3: restricted on-campus essential only, as permitted
  9. BVetMed 4: off-campus, as planned.
  10. BVetMed 5: rotations as per Term 1, as permitted
  11. PGT: off-campus, as per Government requirements
  12. PGR: on-campus veterinary research laboratory work by arrangement, as permitted
  13. 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.

As ever


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:

  1. Work from home if you can – if you cannot, you are permitted to come into work in agreement with your line manager.
  2. If you are a student on clinical placement or rotation, continue to attend unless you hear otherwise.
  3. All other rules etc., as per the Government website.
  4. 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.


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