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National lockdown: Imperial College’s community redouble efforts to support students


The latter half of the Autumn term will be delivered in the context of tighter national restrictions, following government guidance.

Preparations by the College over the summer months provide confidence that teaching and research can continue, and that staff and students are safe.

Under the new guidance from government, from 5 November until 2 December, England will be subject to a second national lockdown.

“It is clear that for many College students in-person learning is important. It’s critical for some subjects, where hands-on, practical knowledge is key to students’ learning experience.”Professor Emma McCoy

Educational activities have been prioritised by the UK government and the College can continue with its innovative ‘multimode’ approach to teaching. This means that staff and students are still able to take part in timetabled activities and attend on-campus activities.

Students have been advised by the government that if university is their main place of residence, they must not move back and forward between their permanent home and student home during term time. They should remain at university and only return home at the end of term. The College supports this approach and believes it is best from both an educational and public health perspective.

The Autumn Term

The preparations for this term began many months ago, and the College invested significantly in both the educational experience and in direct support for students, from expanded mental health and wellbeing services, asymptomatic testing to ensure on-campus safety, to delivery of free, hot meals direct to self-isolating students in halls of residence.

Professor Ian Walmsley

Professor Ian Walmsley, the College’s Provost, said:

“As we prepare for a second national lockdown, we can be confident that the efforts that our community has put into student-focussed activities position us well to manage the next month and beyond.

“Alongside our newly developed multimode learning, the College has entered the academic year with a new sense of purpose, despite the challenging circumstances.

“Staff and student volunteers have risen to the challenge of the pandemic with empathy and in highly creative ways. This approach has better prepared the College community for the prospect of a national lockdown.

“We will not always get our approach right the first time, but we learn from feedback every day, and adapt to make sure our community’s needs are met. As we prepare for a second national lockdown, and continue our discussions with government regarding plans for the winter break, it is important we take a flexible approach.

“I would particularly like to reassure parents that we have put in place a wide range of measures to create a safe environment for their children to continue their education to the high standards expected at the College. While these national restrictions are not what we had wished for, they are an eventuality we had planned for.”

Safety is the highest priority

Thanks to the efforts of the entire Imperial community, the College has a relatively low number of COVID-positive cases and has been able to continue with uninterrupted multi-mode teaching. However, this will only continue to be possible if students and staff closely follow the College’s safety measures and support its Testing and Tracing system.


In the past days the College has expanded its safety protocols even further, by launching an ‘air sampling’ component to its own COVID-19 environmental screening programme. This is part of measures to proactively identify the virus in the air and minimise transmission. The programme has also carried out similar work with Transport for London.

With much of the population reducing their use of public transport across London and taking part in fewer leisure activities, the national lockdown means the Imperial community may experience potentially safer and quieter journeys into campus, when necessary.

Preparing to teach in varied scenarios

Vice-Provost (Education and Student Experience), Professor Emma McCoy, said: “It is clear that for many College students in-person learning is important. It’s critical for some subjects, where hands-on, practical knowledge is key to students’ learning experience.

“For undergraduate and taught Master’s students, the College has successfully combined on-campus learning and assessment, including laboratory work, with the benefits of remote learning and assessment. For students conducting research we have developed safe working practices that mean our research laboratories can continue to stay operational.”Teaching in the Business School

Warm welcome

As Welcome Season comes to a close, the College has greeted over 6000 new students to the Imperial community. There have been over 100 events hosted for undergraduate and postgraduate students, all signposted through a brand new app especially developed for this academic year and the increased digital activities on offer.

Drawn from staff and student volunteers, the College’s team of Welcome Hosts have been given training on all the safety measures on campus and have been on hand to help students and staff with queries, hand out welcome packs to students, and remind people of the safety guidance they need to follow.

A well-developed support network

Students instructed to self-isolate in their halls of residence bedrooms have had access to a varied menu of meals, delivered by a team of dedicated chefs working from College facilities.

Since the beginning of term thousands of meals have been delivered to hundreds of students free of charge. A complimentary laundry service has also been introduced, ensuring the comfort of isolating students.

Students are excited to be at university, but this is an unsettling time for many. College teams know that in such situations the basic parts of daily life become even more important.

As soon as students who are required to self-isolate are identified, they are offered a high quality breakfast, lunch, and dinner to fit a variety of dietary requirements. Feedback has been positive. The College will continue to make improvements in the coming months, and is already thinking about what services may be possible to offer for Christmas.

The student experience

Throughout the national lockdown many of the College’s popular services will continue to operate remotely, this includes the wide-ranging support resources available to all students via the Student Support Zone.

Here, students can find helpful advice on some common concerns, such as homesickness, which they may be experiencing as a result of uncertainty regarding the pandemic.

Additional support for health and wellbeing is available, as well as a counselling service and the Student Hub – a one-stop-shop for many of the College’s services.

All Library Services are currently operational and new and returning students are welcome to use the facilities. The team has significantly increased the number of electronic resources on offer, particularly e-books. Print books are available for loan in the usual way. Students are asked to remember to scan the displayed QR codes when moving around campus spaces such as libraries. This will help ensure contact tracing is more accurate and potentially lead to fewer people needing to self-isolate.

College catering services and essential shops will remain open on or near campuses. However, College gyms will temporarily close for the duration of the national lockdown. In their place the College will be offering its inspiring MoveFromHome health and wellbeing programme which can be enjoyed from home.


Breakout spaces

Students looking for somewhere to safely collaborate whilst on campus will find a range of breakout spaces are now available to use, ranging from hBar to the Great Hall at South Kensington, to many more on other campuses.

Breakout spaceThe College recognised that certain teaching spaces are limited in capacity at the beginning of the academic year, so existing cafe or functional spaces have been repurposed into student-specific areas. Breakout Spaces are designed to allow students to have a place to collaborate and work together and are equipped with a range of seating and vending options. There’s no need for students to book, just turn up and enjoy a place to work together whilst socially distancing.

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