Exclusive: UoB planning 21st September start date, according to leaked document

‘Buildings to reopen will be phased and prioritised based on key areas of activity’

The University of Birmingham is planning a 21st of September start date for the next academic year, The Birmingham Tab can exclusively reveal.

According to a leaked email to all UoB staff, the university is commencing a “rolling plan” to open buildings on campus from 1 June onwards, “with more buildings to open during July, August and September.”

The email also announces the introduction of a new institutional license for Zoom, “making it widely available for all University staff.” It is unclear whether this license will be extended to include use for students, but indicates that some level of online teaching is likely to continue into the future.

The buildings that are already open on campus

The first phase of reopening buildings commences on 1st June. Staff allowed to return to campus have been promised “a range of supporting material and information […] to provide information on changes to campus, safety arrangements, social distancing.”

Confidential documents reveal that campus buildings will be opened primarily for research and education purposes, including the Murray Learning Centre, Biosciences building and Medical School from 8th – 14th of June, and the Teaching and Learning building and Gisbert Kapp from the 15th-21st of June.

“A building specific COVID risk assessment will be completed for all of the buildings and spaces that are identified to re-open”

The leaked email made clear that “the opening of buildings will be carefully managed, […] with restricted access for named individuals only.” Currently, only certain authorised staff are permitted on campus.

It also states that the re-opening is part of a rolling plan. “More work is required to complete the plan for the period July-September and this will require further discussion with Colleges and Professional Service.

“The current working assumption is that we will open academic buildings, service and facilities to get the teaching aspects of the campus ready to support students for the start of the next academic year.”

The email also introduced a new institutional license for Zoom, “making it widely available to all university staff” in order to facilitate meetings. No mention was made as to how this might impact teaching come September.

Currently, the university have not made clear plans available to students in terms of preparations for next year, although they have confirmed that year abroads may not go ahead.

Across the UK, other universities have been slow to announce their plans for the upcoming year. However, whilst Manchester has committed to solely online lectures for the first semester, Warwick has also planned a full reopening of campus.