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Need to know – 13 April

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Here are the top updates from across the University.

1. His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The University will hold a celebration of his life at a date to be announced. To read the University’s statement and sign the virtual book of condolences, visit the University website.

2. New guidance for staff working abroad

New information and guidance is available for staff and line managers about working outside of the UK. This includes information on taxation, social security and immigration regulations. You can read more on the HR webpages.

3. Staff Town Hall reminder

The Principal will be holding an all staff Q&A session on Thursday 22 April with the senior leadership team. The session will run from 9:30 to 11am and all staff are invited to attend. You can find out more, including how to submit your own questions, and sign up to the event on the staff news website.

Need to know – 30 March

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Here are the top updates from across the University. 

1. Upcoming Staff Town Hall

All staff are invited to attend an online information and Q&A session with the Principal and Senior Leadership Team on 22 April 2021 from 9.30 to 11am. Updates will be provided on the remainder of this academic year and the key areas of focus for 2021/22, and you will have the opportunity to ask questions. You can find out more and sign up on the staff news website.

2.University confirms its commitment to researchers 

A two-year action plan has been developed to embed the principles of the Researcher Development Concordat, improve Edinburgh’s research environment and culture and support researcher careers.

The plan includes ways to develop support; resources and information for researchers and managers of researchers; and actions on improving recognition for research staff at the University. You can read the Concordat Action Plan on the University website.

3. More study space opening

More study spaces will be opening over the next few weeks in response to the easing of restrictions and in anticipation of strong student demand during the forthcoming revision and exam period. Beginning with Murchison House on 6 April, more than 500 additional spaces will be available by 26 April. More details are available on the University website.

Sustainability Awards 2021

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Social Responsibility and Sustainability’s annual Sustainability Awards celebration takes place on 1 April. The event will celebrate and recognise the efforts of staff and students who have made a positive difference in the university community, in their local communities or globally in a socially responsible or sustainable way.

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Need to know – 16 March

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Here are the top updates from across the University. 

1. The national day of reflection – 23 March 2021

Next week on 23 March, one year on from the start of the first lockdown, there will be a national minute’s silence at midday to remember all those who have lost their lives since the beginning of the pandemic. At 8pm there will also be a national doorstep vigil where people are encouraged to light up their doorsteps, and public buildings and monuments will also be lit up.

We would encourage you all to join in this moment of reflection, and please feel able to take the minute to reflect, and if possible, delay meetings and teaching by a minute.

2. Staff volunteers for paired activities project

During last year’s winter break, more than 400 members of staff volunteered their time to take part in paired activities with students, with the aim of helping students in Edinburgh to feel supported and part of a community.

Following the success of this project, the University has decided to expand the project for the rest of the academic year.

To support this, the Student Wellbeing team is looking for staff who are willing to volunteer their time to take part in paired activities over the coming months. Volunteers will be asked to commit one or two hours a week to meet with a student in Edinburgh for an activity such as a walk, run or cycle.

We know that staff will have their own challenges and commitments this year, but those who can spare some time can sign up using the online availability form.

3. Staff Covid-19 FAQs updated

Colleagues in HR have reviewed our Staff Covid-19 webpages and updated them with the latest information and guidance, including the extension to the furlough scheme, taking time off work for vaccination appointments and encouragement to take annual leave. Find the latest information on the Coronavirus webpages.

Building a European community

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The first Una Europa staff week took place online in March, bringing together colleagues from eight leading European research universities, in a single Una community, for the first time.

Participants attended plenary sessions to learn more about Una Europa and the 1Europe Project. Other sessions were aimed specifically at colleagues involved in university libraries, and in alumni, international office and communications teams.


Una Europa is a unique alliance comprising Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Freie Universität Berlin, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, University of Bologna, University of Helsinki, Jagiellonian University, KU Leuven and the University of Edinburgh, which joined in 2019.

Members have a combined staff and student community of almost half a million people and aim to draw on their collective strengths to create a truly European inter-university environment.

The alliance has already successfully applied for funding for the 1Europe Project, which will focus efforts on the four areas of sustainability, data science and Artificial Intelligence, cultural heritage, and European studies. Within these areas, planned activities include joint programmes and increased mobility amongst member universities. The Project also considers what the European university of the future might look like.

Panel discussion, Una Europa staff week.


Jeremy Upton, Director of Library & University Collections, helped coordinate library-focused sessions and chaired breakout discussions. He said: “The Library is strongly committed to supporting the University’s international partnerships.

“The Una Europa sessions had a strong sense of what we are trying to achieve and what we are supporting. Participants from all the institutions engaged with the sessions and very quickly began to talk and explore shared interests. There was a feeling of enthusiasm. Una Europa provides a framework which supports opportunities for staff to learn from colleagues in other institutions. We have the potential to develop shared training where we discover common needs and can work together on shared challenges focused on the concept of the European university.”

Natalie Fergusson, Global Alumni Manager in Development and Alumni, found the week a great way to get a better understanding of the Una Europa initiative: “Alumni relations was a core topic during the event with a dedicated working group. I was pleased to have the opportunity to represent alumni relations at Edinburgh as we look to build a network among the alliance’s member universities.”

“It was an interesting and informative few days,” Natalie continues. “It was great to connect with professionals from other institutions, hearing about their programmes and sharing ideas. The nature of my role means I already work to engage our European alumni in the life and work of the University but this experience expanded my knowledge and understanding of other important areas and projects, and how they contribute to the University’s relationship with Europe.”

Get involved

Further Una Europa events are planned. To get involved, visit Una Europa, sign up for Europe-themed news alerts from Edinburgh Global, or email: una.europa@ed.ac.uk

Don’t forget to register to vote!

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With elections for the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 6 May just a few weeks away, it is worth making sure you are registered to vote and have a postal vote if you want one.

Registration is open to all foreign nationals with leave to remain. This is a recent change, so you may have the right to vote for the first time this year.

The deadline to register to vote is Monday 19 April but it only takes five minutes online, so why not do it now?

Register to vote now

Postal voting

In addition, you might want to consider how you will be voting. Given the need to continue to be vigilant around social distancing due to Covid-19, many people are opting to vote by post.

You can apply for a postal vote just because you want to, you don’t need to give a reason.

Registering to vote by post is straightforward, but the deadline is Tuesday 6 April, so if you are interested it is worth thinking about now.

Register for a postal vote now

Change local lives with a grant of up to £5,000

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The University’s Community Grants scheme is now open for applications.

The scheme has given out more than £320,000, to more than 100 fantastic local organisations, since it started in 2017.

Community groups, charities and other organisations can apply for money for their project.


One of the aims of the scheme is to increase engagement between the University and local communities. If you have an existing relationship with a local group, or you want to foster a new relationship between the University and a group you know about, why not see if they would be interested in applying?

Find out more, including how to apply.

The best applications create new and lasting partnerships with the University, while really helping in our local communities.

If you are looking for inspiration, you can read some case studies or watch a video showing what the money has been used for in the past.

If you have any questions about the scheme, please email Edinburgh Local.

Need to know – 2 March

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Here are the top updates from across the University. 

1. Standing up against racism

All members of our community should feel safe in expressing opinions and holding open and frank conversation on online forums, including on social media. Over recent weeks we have been made aware of a number of incidents where inappropriate language has been aimed at members of our BAME community and sadly this has included abuse aimed at our new Rector, Debora Kayembe. We condemn all racism and stand united against racism and the University regards any incident of this nature as a serious matter.

For more information on what we’re doing to promote anti-racism and a positive culture which celebrates difference, challenges prejudice and ensures fairness and includes details on how to report any concerns you have regarding racism within the University, visit our Race Equality webpages.

2. Zoom security guidance

Although we are very familiar with using Zoom and Microsoft Teams, you may have seen recent reports about a University Society Zoom meeting being disrupted by unwanted attendees. The University has an enterprise version available for all staff and students and using this rather than a personal version is a good way to help keep everyone safe if you are setting up a call.  

There are more details on how to use Zoom or Teams on the University website, where you will also find general guidance on keeping safe online including social media protection and staying safe while learning and teaching online.

3. Planning for the academic year 2021/22

Following the UK Government’s Covid-19 response and the Scottish Government’s announcement last week on the roadmap for easing Covid-19 restrictions, we have reviewed the potential impacts on existing decisions and planning assumptions.  

The recent announcements have added more complexity to our planning assumptions for the next academic year, and particularly any assumptions around the requirements for physical distancing. The Academic Strategy Group has discussed this further and a newly established planning and implementation group, with College and School representation, is reviewing the position.

4. Brexit Information Sessions resources

Resources from the Brexit Information Sessions that were held earlier this month are now available. They include the slides that were presented, FAQs and a series of case studies that show various new immigration scenarios. You can view the resources on the Global section of the website.

Our new Doctoral College

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Earlier this year saw the creation of the University’s Doctoral College, a collaborative structure that brings together our graduate and postgraduate researchers, supervisors and the associated support staff across the University.

Professor Antony Maciocia, Dean of Postgraduate Research in the College of Science & Engineering, is one of the Co-leads of the new Doctoral College. He shares a bit more about the aims of this new structure: “We have around 5,400 doctoral students and 560 Master of Science (Research) students enrolled in the University. The Doctoral College manifests as a group of around 220 staff across the institution who have key roles in administering student research training.

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Further updates to HR policies

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Over the last year or so, the University has refreshed some of its HR policies to make sure they’re clear and up to date.

The disciplinary, grievance and capability policies are the latest to be refreshed, as well as our employment-related appeals procedure.

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Need to know – 16 February

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Here are the top updates from across the University. 

1. Easter respite days

The University is offering two respite days in early April to ensure as many staff as possible have the opportunity of taking a long weekend over Easter.

These two days are to be taken on Friday 2 and Monday 5 April 2021. We are aware that 2 April is a teaching day and that there will be some staff required to work on these days to keep the essential work of the University running. Those staff will be able to take equivalent time off before the end of April 2021, as agreed with their line manager. In order to keep things simple, these days are not required to be recorded in People and Money. You can find more information on the coronavirus FAQs webpage.

2. Latest communications to Students

Communications will be sent to students this week concerning Semester 2 updates, rent pauses and lease breaks for those in University accommodation, and a live Q&A session with the Principal and senior leaders on 24 February. For anyone wishing to read these communications, they will be posted on the student coronavirus news webpages.

3. 2021 Graduations

Affected students have been informed that the University has taken the difficult decision to cancel all in-person graduation ceremonies in 2021. Students will be invited to an in-person celebration when we are able to resume these in line with Scottish Government Covid-19 guidance. Visit the 2021 graduation webpage for more information.

Senate Elections 2021

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Nominations for the University Senate are now open for all Academic and Research staff who have been in post since 31 January 2021.The Old College Quad is empty under a blue sky

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New Rector elected

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Debora Kayembe has been elected unopposed as the University’s 54th Rector.

She replaces Ann Henderson after three years in the post.

The Rector is a key member of the University Court, the governing body of the University and acts as a representative and voice for the University community. The position of Rector has a long and prestigious lineage and was originally created in the 19th century by the Universities Scotland Act 1858.

Ms Kayembe is a prominent human rights lawyer and has lived in Scotland since 2011 when she came to the UK as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She will assume the role on 1 March 2021.

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