Planning for a Safe Return to Work and Study in London’s HEIs – London Highers’ COVID-19 Secure Charter

At a time when a lot of the news is gloomy, and many have concerns over where Government thinking might be going when it comes to higher education, it is great that this week at London Higher we launched our COVID-19 Secure Charter.

Across London, universities and HE colleges of all sizes and mission types are making a fantastic effort to ensure that all our campus facilities and sites are Covid-19 secure and ready for a safe return to work, and study, in the coming academic year.  Whilst the ‘new normal’ will not be the same as it looked after Christmas, London’s HEIs are striving hard so that our learning and research environments remain places where students can fulfil their aspirations – and also enjoy their student experience.  As London itself, our wonderful world and capital city, begins to reopen with some new features – including more cycle lanes and pedestrian routes – so our HEIs are doing likewise.

London Higher’s Charter sets out ten key principles that our member institutions are working towards.  We also include some examples that illustrate how different HEIs are implementing safety measures so that we can welcome, or welcome back, students and of course staff for the new term.  The examples are wide ranging and as wellbeing an indication of how hard colleagues are working to make facilities COVID-19 secure, also demonstrate the innovative approaches being taken across the capital.

The Charter was drafted by the Safe Return to Work and Study task group. The Group came together especially for the purpose and was chaired wonderfully well by Dr Ian Pickup, Chief Operating Officer, University of East London. It was supported by the London Higher executive team, and was initiated, developed, approved and then launched within a few weeks. It also therefore serves as an excellent demonstration of how quickly and also effectively collaborations amongst London’s diverse HEI cluster can come together.

It is just over 18 years since I first joined London Higher and I will be stepping down in three months.  This pandemic has done more to disrupt higher education – and society itself – than anything in my personal experience.  I was drawn to work in and for London’s HE sector because of the wonderful diversity of institutions that were all part of a vibrant world city.  Over the past few months since coronavirus struck those institutions have been making a wealth of varied contributions, ranging from cutting edge research to local volunteering as well as of course supporting the front line NHE effort. In turn London Higher has been gathering an array of case studies to capture this and in October will release a new impact report. In the meantime you can access our resources hub here.

Also during these past four months whilst HEIs have had to close physical doors, teaching has been moved on to online platforms very quickly with new types of support being made available for students.  Now, as we plan the way to reopening our city and region, and our HE campuses, it’s brilliant to see even more evidence of how adaptable, innovative and committed our HEIs, and the staff that work in them, are. The Charter helps to encapsulate this. It is also very rewarding for me to be reminded again that London Higher continues to play a key role in encouraging and facilitating collaboration.

The official press release for our Charter can be read here.