How many of us have recently had a conversation looking back to March, watching the news of the pandemic unfold, full of uncertainty of what would happen next? For some of us it seems like yesterday, for others, it feels like a lifetime ago.
Over the past few months our working lives have been disrupted in ways we’ve never seen before. With the Adaptation and Renewal phase of the University’s plan now underway, Bulletin takes a look back at where the University has come from in these difficult months.
April saw a huge response to the crisis, with individuals, teams and groups across the University using their expertise, knowledge, resources and time to support those in need. From students and staff voluntarily making PPE to turning over our Estate to testing sites, from dropping off food parcels to advising governments on the pandemic, the innovative and expert responses to the crisis have been remarkable. You can read more about these projects on the Covid-19 response site, set up by Communications and Marketing to share stories from our staff, our students, and our wider community, to celebrate and recognise their efforts on a global stage.
Our Principal Professor Peter Mathieson convened an Adaptation and Renewal Team which still meets weekly, and reports regularly into the University Executive, to steer our way through these challenging times. Maintaining our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion will be central to immediate and longer-term impacts.
May brought a focus on how to adapt our learning and teaching offering for the next academic year. A substantial amount of highly creative thinking allowed us to begin to understand how programmes and courses could be adapted for hybrid delivery and how it might differ across Schools. The Institute for Academic Development set up the Edinburgh Hybrid Teaching Exchange to provide a space for conversations around teaching best practice in this new era.
Plans were also put in place to communicate with our students, both new and returning, about what they could expect for the next academic year. Professor Colm Harmon, Vice-Principal Students, and project lead of the Student work stream of Adaptation and Renewal, has worked tirelessly, communicating to prospective students and returners, with insight and unfailing energy from teams across Student Recruitment and Admissions, Student Systems and Administration, Academic Services, Edinburgh Global, Timetabling and staff across our Schools and Colleges including student communication teams.
The Principal also announced the suspension of all elements of the building programmes that have not started yet, with the only exceptions being those where there were health and safety concerns, in order to redirect these funds to other critical areas.
Work was able to start on a gradual reopening of some of our buildings. Led by Dr Catherine Martin, leading the Estates and Digital Infrastructure work stream of Adaptation and Renewal, protocols were set through College and Professional Services groups, guided by professional leads in Estates and Health & Safety, to make sure our buildings opened safely.
This allowed the resumption of some of our research that had so abruptly halted. As lead of the Research Work Stream of Adaptation and Renewal, Professor Jonathan Seckl and his team have been working closely with Estates and Health & Safety to re-open these buildings and allow staff access in line with Scottish Government advice.
While some colleagues looked forward to returning to their buildings and labs, a survey took place to better understand the needs of the majority of staff continuing to work from home. The results will help the University to improve guidelines for home working, or hybrid working, in the coming months.
In Spring, when the pandemic reached its height, a lot was uncertain about the future of the University. Although it has always been clear that we have exceptional staff here, whether we would be able to continue to work to our incredibly high standards while juggling other responsibilities, commitments and our own welfare, was a real concern.
The reality was that our staff worked harder than ever, putting the needs of our students and the community first. The strength, resilience and commitment of the University community has been outstanding and we should all be immensely proud of our work during this time.
There is much still to navigate, but these past few months have made clear that we are a strong community and we are more than capable of facing these challenges.