The Cloisters at St Salvator’s Chapel lit up blue, in support of the NHS
St Andrews in the News
We are now in week two of #StayAtHomeSaveLives and the University community has rallied round and is adapting well to the new normal.
Members of the Development team are all working hard from home, thinking of ways to update, distract and inspire you. We hope that this edition of St Andrews in the News will do just this! Take care, keep safe and well and keep in touch.
A message from the Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sally Mapstone
Dear Alumni, Parents and Friends
I have written to students and staff this week to welcome them back to St Andrews’ Candlemas semester after Spring Break, although it is unlikely to have been much of a break either for them or for you.
Our University community is now dispersed as widely as it is possible to be and I know that our rapid and enforced transition to online teaching means this is manifestly an unusual experience for all concerned.
I have thanked everyone for the tremendous hard work, cooperation and collective endeavour which has made it possible for us to respond promptly to public health imperatives, and continue to offer teaching and assessment for the remainder of this academic year.
There is of course much to get to grips with in our new online world, and we will get better at this as we go on, but I must pay tribute to the great effort and creativity of our academic and professional services staff, and the support of our student community at this time of international emergency. I know that our Deans are talking regularly to School Presidents, and that our Coronavirus Helpdesk and dedicated web resources continue to be a useful source of advice and support.
Our focus has been, and remains, the safety of staff, students and the local community. Most of our students are now at home, and we are all in their debt for the way they have responded to our appeals not to return to St Andrews after the vacation, as difficult and painful as that was for them, and us. We estimate about 1000 who could not travel have stayed with us, in halls and private accommodation in town, and we are doing our best to look after them.
The crisis, and the closure of schools in Scotland, has had a substantial effect on our workforce and we have closed and locked down the majority of our 166 buildings, including some halls of residence, to lighten the burden on our essential residences and trades staff.
My team and I are engaged daily in discussions with governments at Holyrood and Westminster, research bodies, and colleagues across the sector about the profound funding challenges we now face, options for the start of the next academic year, student and staff support through this difficult period, and ensuring the future of our research activity.
As you know, we took the difficult decision to cancel our June Graduation ceremonies and are looking at when and how best to reschedule for the Class of 2020, including an option to stage ceremonies dedicated exclusively to this year’s graduands, to allow them to be in St Andrews and celebrate in the traditional way. In due course we will give our students and their families a wonderful and unforgettable graduation. But for now we need to get through this crisis safely.
We are only a week into lockdown in this country, yet our University in its broadest sense is already responding to the COVID-19 crisis in crucial ways, far beyond our immediate duty to safeguard the health of students and staff.
A team of virologists led by Professor Rick Randall is developing a new test for the coronavirus; Pneumagen, a spin-out led by our former Deputy Principal Professor Garry Taylor is testing drug compounds it has developed to combat respiratory pathogens such as the influenza virus to see if these are effective against COVID-19; Professor Stephen Reicher is providing invaluable advice and briefings to the highest levels of the UK and Scottish governments on the behavioural science of the pandemic; Dr Christos Lynteris, a medical anthropologist, is bringing an important public perspective to the societal and cultural phenomena of the pandemic. Professor David Crossman, our Dean of Medicine and Chief Scientific Advisor for Health at the Scottish Government, is the vice-chair of a new expert group established to provide additional analysis on the impact of COVID-19 in Scotland. The Master, Professor Lorna Milne, is leading our work with the Local Fife Resilience Partnership. I am serving on the Ministerial Leadership Group on COVID-19 chaired by the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science in the Scottish Government, Richard Lochhead.
We are responding directly to requests from the NHS and Fife Council for assistance, from medical physics expertise, to repurpose ventilators, to a need to provide nursery accommodation for the children of key workers.
Some of our staff and students have already helped found Community Action St Andrews, a group established to help the vulnerable in our local community, and our Communications Team here has been supporting CASA with practical help on web and database work.
Our global family of alumni has been generous and thoughtful, from traditional donations to practical assistance. As I write, 11,000 protective masks are on their way from China to St Andrews, a gift from our Chinese alumni to whom we had reached out when the epidemic first struck in Wuhan. It is an incredibly generous and humbling act, and a reminder that St Andrews is so much more than these three, strangely quiet streets.
We have all had to make difficult decisions and take steps that would have been unthinkable until recently, which is why we are also launching a focused appeal to help our students, for research that will contribute to the defeat of COVID-19, and to reach areas of greatest need at this time. Further details are listed below, and you can find more information here.
We are told there are tougher times ahead, and I have no reason to doubt that, but this is also a time when universities can demonstrate their true value to society, and I believe St Andrews is ideally placed to do that.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
Delivering against all odds
Claire Peddie, Vice-Principal Education (Proctor) describes how the University has responded quickly and effectively to provide online teaching and assessment in the face of COVID-19
Against a background of daily misfortunes, the very good news is that, thanks to the amazing dedication and flexibility of all of the academics and professional staff involved, we are now delivering all teaching and assessment to all our students – wherever they are in the world – through online modes.
At the same time, we have speedily changed policy to support students who have difficulty engaging with their studies remotely or who may be ill by creating flexible and permissive options for progression and classification, as well as options for deferral and extensions.
Through our new website provision and communications, we have been informing students (as decisions are made) about the mode of teaching delivery, where to get training and technical support and any changes to assessment and examinations.
As we have worked through this process, we have found a good balance between helping students to remain engaged and supported in their studies, while being wholly sympathetic to individual students who find themselves in difficult circumstances as a result of the pandemic.
It is hard to believe that less than a month ago students were in class in St Andrews and it is a measure of the commitment and tenacity of all of the community to find solutions, that the University delivers against all the odds.
While COVID-19 will inevitably bring change, our ancient institution has survived many seismic events and we will survive this too. If anything, our University community has been strengthened by it. We have colleagues working on the frontline right now either by supporting students who can’t get home or by undertaking research to overcome the virus.
Our immediate priority is to help both undergraduate and postgraduate students affected by this pandemic through our Student Support Fund, and to the area of greatest need through the Principal’s Strategic Response Fund.
If you are able to make a donation at this time, it would be very much appreciated. Thank you.
Professor David Crossman, Dean of Medicine at the University of St Andrews has been appointed as vice-chair of a new panel of scientists set up by the Scottish Government to provide additional scientific analysis of the impact of COVID-19 in Scotland. Read more.
Professor Sir Ian Boyd (who now heads up the University’s Environmental Sustainability Board) has warned that the Government must learn from the current pandemic and make systematic change. Read more.
Latest Coronavirus information
We are working hard to keep our community up to date with the latest information around the current situation. Make sure you are up to date by reading our FAQs on our website which are updated regularly.
If you have any questions which aren’t addressed on our website, please send these to our dedicated COVID-19 helpdesk at: Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 4146
Here are two different perspectives of the current situation from Daisy Sewell, an undergraduate, and Valerie Waddelove, who graduated 50 years ago this year.
Valerie Torgerson Waddelove graduated from St Andrews with an MA in Medieval History in 1970. She reflects on the past 50 years since that day, and how COVID-19 has impacted her and her family.
#Cultureathome is a joint initiative by all the cultural partners in St Andrews. Watch this space for exciting news about online activities from the Laidlaw Music Centre, Wardlaw Museum, the Byre Theatre and the University Library: we will bring you a regular dose of performance, pictures, poetry and podcasts recommended for you by our cultural experts.
We love Wardlaw
The Museums team have online workshops through Facebook, wherever you are.
Join in with Wardlaw Workshops on Mondays at 10am, to find out about an experiment or fun project your children can do at home.
On Wednesdays at 1pm, the Museums team will share interesting stories about their collections in Museum Storytime.
On Fridays at 10am the team will bring you Wee Wardlaws - featuring rhymes, stories, activities and crafts to keep your little ones entertained.
While we can’t leave our homes, we can still be together through the power of theatre, music, comedy, film and so much more. Byre@Home is a bit like being in the theatre but from the comfort of your own home.
Please join us at byretheatre.com for a carefully selected programme of digital delights including activities from across the University of St Andrews.
The Music Centre brings you a virtual Wednesday lunchtime concert as Tom Wilkinson performs an exclusive recital from his home. The programme features music from 17th century Scotland, from the French Golden Age and much-loved pieces by Bach and Handel (The Harmonious Blacksmith).
The Principal has said in her message that the University wants to support volunteering. Here are some ways that you can help:
Admissions recruitment online: contact the alumni office if you are interested in volunteering at online webinars for admitted students holding offers for St Andrews. We’d love to hear from you.
Saint Connect: The Careers and Opportunities Team is open and indeed never more open to discuss how we can work together with our global Alumni and extended Family to support our students. Read more
Stay safe – stay connected
You can’t come to us, so we’ve brought St Andrews to you! Here are some ways you can stay safe and stay connected.
Although our Alumni Weekend can’t go ahead as planned, you can still take a tour around the town by watching the newest video on our YouTube channel.
A cappella group The Alleycats was due to perform after the Alumni Dinner this Saturday evening, so we have included footage of a set they performed at this year’s Scottish Universities A Cappella Championships. Visit their website, follow them on Facebook, or watch them on YouTube.
Alumni and Club events have been cancelled for the time being, so why not use this time to reconnect with former classmates? Get in touch and we will be happy to pass on messages and promote any Club events you are holding. Look out for our schedule of online events for alumni and friends across the world!
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