We promised to provide applicants and students with an update on the plans we have been making to provide an enjoyable and valuable experience at Harper Adams in 2020/21. In doing so, we will prioritise the safety of our Community, taking account of the Government guidance that is in place at any time. If that guidance allows us to relax social distancing rules so that we can return to more normal operations later in 2020/21, we will do so as soon as this is practical.
We are also making plans so that we are well prepared for any future re-imposition of restrictions. Not all the details are finalised but we hope this summary provides you with a clear picture of our intentions for 2020/21. We will provide a further update with confirmed details by the end of July. The following list summarises our current plans in relation to the questions that applicants and students have been asking us about.
We expect to welcome new and returning students as previously advised. Our plan, working to current guidance, is to provide a combination of face-to-face and online activities, with the face-to-face academic and social activities taking place in different ‘Harper Herds’ (our take on the ‘social bubble’ that others talk about). We aim to create a safe, but connected Community from the outset. Your ‘Harper Herd’ will be determined by your accommodation arrangements, whether you choose to live on or off-campus, and will give you a ready-made network so that you are sure to make friends from the outset. Of course, as restrictions lift, your herd will grow! Find out more about our plans for ‘Harper Herds’ for both resident and off-campus students. As we expect some of your learning will take place online, we will also provide useful guidance and support on how to learn in this way if you are unfamiliar with it, so that you can be confident in your studies.
We know that Welcome Week will feel a little different to usual, but we’re really excited about the opportunities that the ‘blended’ model of our face-to-face and online programme will give you. By delivering some of the programme online, we can offer alternative activities for you to get to know members of your ‘Harper Herd’. Alongside the usual induction information that you would expect, you can also look forward to workshops, tractor trailer tours to familiarise yourself with the campus, ice-breakers (in person with your herd and online with other herds), competitions, scavenger hunts and other outdoor activities either with your primary herd, or socially distanced with other students. The Students’ Union (SU) will be showcasing the range of clubs and societies, and, even if the sports leagues are later than usual to kick-off, we will still make sure you’re linked up with the right club for you and that you have plenty of opportunities to network with your future team mates.
Our SU is committed to running as many social and sporting opportunities as possible for students, throughout the course of the year. Initially, there may be more restrictions and safety measures in place, and the format of some activities may need to change but, wherever possible, all our activity groups will continue to run and will accept memberships from students to participate from September onwards. If an activity or club/society is unable to undertake their usual activity due to Government guidance and associated safety measures, the SU will work with the students to support alternatives. Throughout the summer, the SU will be speaking with the student executive teams for all clubs and societies to establish any guidelines or restrictions the groups will need to work within so that you are safe but active!
We want you to know that we are following all Government guidance closely, as well as incorporating all university accommodation sector best practice. This means we can review and adapt our accommodation allocation approach and introduce any additional safety measures to ensure your wellbeing and happiness in our on-campus accommodation, if this becomes necessary. These may include identified areas to socialise and eat together in your ‘herd’, guidance materials to support student living whilst the restrictions apply, regular drop-in sessions to help with any queries, as well as independent living skills workshops. You will get to know your herd before you even arrive and student wardens and the wider team will be here to help you foster friendships and develop social opportunities, whilst also offering support and reassurance along the way. Accommodation updates will be shared with applicants and their families and there will be opportunities later in the Summer to ask us questions, once we have had time to further develop our plans.
We are planning that about half of your classes will take place in smaller groups on our rural campus in the form of tutorial, seminar, lab or workshop classes. Some courses include practical classes that use our working estate and we will look to maximise outdoor teaching for farm-based lessons, whilst social distancing remains in place. Larger classes will take place online and students will have access to online learning resources and activities, with suggested work to complete for each week, to complement the smaller group classes. For example, we plan that full-time, undergraduate first year students will, on average, spend around 8 hours a week in small group classes and also be asked to access 8 online classes. Including the suggested independent work, you would expect to spend a total of 40 hours a week, on average, on your studies. All core course content is unchanged, although in order to simplify the timetable so that we can organise socially distanced, face-to-face classes, we have removed a small number of first year optional business modules. We are also likely to need to postpone running elective foreign language modules and some animal handling classes until social distancing measures are eased. Our course content and assessment plans will be organised so that we maintain professional accreditation for all qualifying courses.
Our assessment plans remain largely unchanged for 2020/21 although we will revise our arrangements for traditional exams wherever possible, so that they are converted into ‘take-away’ papers, to be completed in your own study space, over a short time period. Only where professional body restrictions for accreditation purposes do not permit this will we run a small number of conventional exams, all of which will be run according to any guidance in place at the time. In a post-pandemic world, it will be more important that graduates are familiar with working remotely in an online environment, including for group work. A small number of our courses involve practical assessments involving animal handling and we are working hard with the relevant professional bodies to ensure that we can develop and assess such skills in line with Government guidance and also meet professional body and employer expectations.
We have award-winning student support services and we aim to maintain our reputation for this! Our services will remain available for on-campus, one-to-one support where this is most helpful for individual students and can be managed in according to social distancing guidance. We will also provide bookable, one-to-one online support across our services. This includes academic guidance, accommodation advice, maths support, careers and placement support, disability guidance, wellbeing support and, for overseas students, supplementary English language teaching and dedicated international student support.
Our Bamford library will be open for use, including bookable study spaces for non-resident students. We have extended our use of e-resources and have developed a virtual library through which students can access a click and collect book service, order digital copies of materials and live chat with librarians to help with their queries. Of course, the Library Services complement and augment the learning activities and resources that tutors post in the Learning Hub for each module you study.
We are confident that our well established pool of placement employers remains keen to work with our students and provide real-life experience in which they can apply their early studies to the world of work. We have agreed with many placement employers where flexible start and finish dates are reasonable and where they support their organisation but also give our students the experience they need in order to boost their career prospects. Graduate employers have also expressed their wish to continue collaborating with us so that they can assist our final year students in placing them into the world of work. We are proud that we run a successful series of careers and placement fairs in the Autumn term each year which attracts nearly 200 employers annually. We plan to continue providing this series of events in the Autumn of 2020, although many employers will participate remotely in order to comply with anticipated social distancing rules.
University fees remain as published, as we aim to continue providing an excellent learning environment that will enable all students who apply themselves to succeed in their studies and their careers. When we provide the next update to you, we will also provide further guidance in relation to the ideal laptop or tablet set-up that you might bring to University. To allow you to fully participate in online activities you will need a web-camera, microphone and some headphones. A ‘headset’ with a built-in microphone would be ideal. We’ll also confirm software needs, which will include the Microsoft Office suite which you can buy at heavily discounted prices (priced at £12.99 in mid-June) using your University student details. Please get in touch with us (email@example.com) if you think the cost of purchasing your own laptop or tablet will be prohibitive as we would not want any applicant or student to be prevented from studying for this reason.
Unlike some rural areas, we are fortunate to have access to Ultrafast broadband. On campus, we have access to the Universities’ JANET network (with a download speed of up to 1 Gbps which is scheduled to be upgraded even further to 10 Gbps in the Autumn of 2020). Up to 500 Mbps download speed is available in the local area, depending which provider you use. It is important to check what services are available at potential off-campus residences with the Internet Service Providers in various locations across the local town of Newport (where most students live after their first year studies).
We plan to provide you with further information by the end of July, by which time we hope to have finalised most of our arrangements. Of course, if these plans are subsequently amended as a result of new Government guidance, we will let all applicants and students know as soon as possible by email. Along with our terms and conditions, setting out the relationship between ourselves and our students, we have a Student Complaints Scheme, a Transfer Policy and a Student Protection Plan in place, as part of the arrangements to protect a student’s interests if things go wrong. These are available on our Key Information Page (along with all other student facing policies and procedures, in case you are interested!).
We hope you are reassured by this interim update on our plans for 2020/21. If you do have any concerns, please email us so that we can advise you further (for applicants at: firstname.lastname@example.org and for existing students at: email@example.com). We will be in touch with a further update before the end of July.