Welcoming You Back To Royal Holloway!

What a crazy few months it has been! Whether you were faced with the task of adjusting to alternative assessments or had to eagerly wait to find out your predicted A-Level grades, I think we can all agree that 2020 has been unlike any other year we have ever experienced.

Nevertheless, despite being in the midst of a global pandemic, my role as VP Education continues to be focused on supporting your academic interests.

We have been working hard with the University to ensure a safe return to campus in September so that you can continue to experience high-quality face-to-face teaching. However, the University has also taken into account that for some of you, a physical learning environment may not be possible, therefore the flexible learning approach combines both online and physical teaching to adapt to everyone’s needs.

This article will provide an overview of what your 2020/21 will look like and where to go for specific information about your courses and assessments, safety concerns, and much more.

Is it safe to return to campus?

The key priority of both the University and the Students’ Union is to create a safe learning environment, which is why a number of measures have been put in place to ensure this.

In line with government guidelines, social distancing will be an expectation, especially when entering classrooms, to maintain the health of not only you, but also your social circles and academic staff.

Signs have been clearly posted around campus to remind you of this, and frequent hand sanitiser stations have been installed.

Face coverings are also strongly encouraged to be worn around campus and are compulsory when entering the SU shop. As I am sure you are already aware, we all have a personal responsibility to keep ourselves and others safe.

Will my teaching be online or face-to-face?

The simple answer is both. The University has adopted a Flexible Learning approach. We all appreciate the value of face-to-face teaching, therefore, where it has been physically possible, all courses will have in-person and online interactive engagement.

Many classes and seminars can be attended on campus, but all relevant content and lectures will be made available online so that you can interact with your academics and classmates remotely and replay your lectures whenever suits you. This will be conducted through an updated version of MS Teams, which will link with your Moodle account, providing an interactive method of online learning. Guidance and support on how to use MS Teams will be provided at the start of the academic year.

Campus will be open, face-to-face teaching will be taking place, and facilities will be available, therefore there is no need to worry that everything will be online and whatever option you pursue, you will not be academically disadvantaged in any way.

If you are unable to come to campus for the start of term, everything you need to keep up with your studies will be available online, so there is no need to worry about missing out. When you are able to come to campus, you will be able to join seamlessly in with your studies face-to-face.

How will I be assessed this year?

The SU worked very closely with the University to re-evaluate the ways in which assessments and exams are conducted so that assessments are more equally spread out throughout the year. Your new school reps were vital to this process and will continue to represent your student voice relating to any school-level academic concerns throughout the year.

Each module varies in its assessment methods and weightings, therefore I encourage you to find your course in the module catalogue to find out your specific module details.

There has been a rise in the use of alternate assessments and a decrease in face-to-face exams in order to cater to the majority of students and to minimise potential disruption in these uncertain times.

How is the Library going to operate?

The library will be operating on a strictly ‘Click and Sit’ and ‘Click and Collect’ service, meaning that you must book your seat or order the book you would like to take out beforehand. You cannot just turn up and study.

You will require your College card to access the study space area. All library spaces will be strictly independent silent study space, with no area for group study. Although for the start of term it will not be open 24/7, there will be alternate overnight study spaces available. If you are living in Halls of Residence, it is being highly encouraged that you fully utilise the study space in your room.

You can also book slots for printing and photocopying.

Please keep an eye on the Student Intranet for the latest updates from Library Services and changes to their opening hours.

What about my student experience?

We understand that for many of you, the university experience includes more than just academic progression, therefore, the SU have arranged a vast programme of exciting new events for Freshers’ Festival, for both new and returning students.

Although these events will still conform to social distancing and government guidelines on households, they are guaranteed to help you make long-lasting memories with your social groups.

We will also be hosting a virtual Freshers' Fair for you to explore the wide range of clubs and societies on offer and the Hall Life team will also be hosting events throughout the year.

Check out the Freshers' Festival page for more details!

What about commuting students?

The University has set up four ‘Commuter Hubs’ across campus where you can study in between classes and socialise with other students. These will include charging stations, lockers, microwaves, and other food outlets.

Timings and further details can be found here.

Additionally, to ensure you don't receive a fine, don't forget to apply for a parking permit if you wish to park your car on campus during the day.

Where can I find out more information?

The 2020/21 Information Hub on the Student Intranet will provide you will more details about your assessments and covers a whole range of specific questions and concerns on the FAQ page.

The ‘Welcome to Royal Holloway’ app is also available to download for free on the App Store. Although this will be especially helpful for new undergraduate and postgraduate students, it is a helpful resource for all students to keep updated on important information for the new academic year.

When can I see my timetable?

Timetables are being released on Wednesday 16 September so keep an eye out for these!

Where can I go for support?

There is a range of support networks provided by the University to help with your academic, financial, and health and wellbeing needs that you can check out here.

The Student Services Team are available via email at studentservices@royalholloway.ac.uk and their webpage already provides answers to a range of queries around halls of residence, paying tuition fees, and documentation.

The SU Advice Centre offers free and confidential advice about any problems related to your studies, your housing and your experience at university, and it is also available through our website, by email, and via phone to provide you with free and specialist advice. To book a virtual appointment with them, please email advice@su.rhul.ac.uk.

For specific academic questions about your course, contact your module leader or Head of Department.

Additionally, I am available to be contacted to help provide you with additional advice and support via email at vpeducation@su.rhul.ac.uk or through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Lastly, we cannot wait to welcome you to Royal Holloway in September, whether you are a new or returning student and whether that is in-person or virtually.

It is guaranteed to be challenging, but we have an exciting year ahead and the SU and Royal Holloway community are always here to support you!

Be sure to check your emails regularly for the latest information from the University and the SU, and if you need any extra support please do not hesitate to contact me.