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You want to know how we will keep you safe and happy during these unprecented times - and that's fair enough. Rest assured we will ensure that your student experience is not only a safe one but also a highly valuable and memorable one. It may initially look a little different, but we’re taking as much as we can from the traditional experience and adding some new elements.

Find out from Chester Students' Union President, El, about the social distancing and hygiene measures that are in place on campus for our students this September, and about how both teaching and socialising works at the University of Chester.

Before you arrive

Our pre-induction programme started earlier than usual to promote events that students might be interested in. Some departments planned pre-arrival socials for students to meet their classmates and lecturers, we recorded a series of podcasts about starting university and emerging from lockdown, and students were invited to our ‘Preparing for University’ live chat in August. They also joined the Facebook Offer Holders Group to start making friends informally before September. They also had the opportunity to be matched with one of our Peer Mentors before they arrived, to help welcome them to the University, share their experiences and answer queries about University life during the first year.

Welcome Week

We started the academic year as planned, with Welcome Week taking place from Sunday 13th September to Friday 18th September. Teaching started the following week from Monday 21st September. We worked hard, alongside the Students’ Union, to create new and innovative ways for students to be able to get to know each other. This included a range of virtual social events as well as socially distanced physical events as part of Welcome Week.

Safety First

Our students’ safety is the highest priority. We have a plan which ensures appropriate hygiene practices are established and maintained and that social distancing is in place while this is necessary across all our sites. This includes all of our owned and partnership residential accommodation. Our COVID-19 response group has been set up to deal with urgent requests from students, offering information, advice, guidance and practical support..

‘The Chester Blend’

What is ‘The Chester Blend’? Well, it’s going to be our teaching philosophy for the next academic year (2020/21) and beyond; a blended learning experience that puts as much emphasis on face-to-face teaching as it does with online teaching. From speaking to our students, we understand the value they place on face-to-face teaching, so we’re planning as much social learning in small groups as is safely possible alongside online lectures that you can enjoy from the comfort of your own room.

However, we haven’t done this just out of necessity. Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, the University was already considering ways of adopting new technologies for the delivery of a more flexible learning experience, so recent events have simply advanced these plans. Of course, this approach will initially be dictated by any social distancing measures in place, but we will be looking to take a more flexible approach as the restrictions are lowered. Regardless of the situation, you can be assured of the same high-quality teaching as always.

Virtual work placements and your e-portfolio

Alongside your studies, Chester already offers you a range of distinctive opportunities to help you develop new skills and grow in confidence; these are still a significant part of our experience. Our volunteering, internships and work-based learning programmes now offer virtual alternatives, ensuring that our students continue to be challenged and inspired while working remotely. All evidence of both academic and personal development can be logged in your e-portfolio which will stay with you throughout your university journey and, we hope, beyond.

It’s initiatives like this, and the University’s location in Cheshire, the second highest performing economy in England outside of London, that demonstrates how the University is well placed to enhance its students’ employability. The University is well connected and, in turn, we offer you the opportunity to become well connected. The University is also recognised as one of the country’s top ten universities for job prospects and by the time you leave, you should have a phone full of contacts.

Highly rated student support

We have been recognised as one of the country’s top ten universities for student support and we are committed to empowering and nurturing every student, even during a pandemic. Each student is allocated a Personal Academic Tutor (PAT) in order to ensure they maximise their potential. The PAT's role is to help you with your personal development by engaging with you on a one-to-one basis, acting like a personal coach. This year, we decided to allocate PATs prior to Welcome Week so that they could help students with their transition into University, giving them a head start, as well as a friendly face that they recognised when they arrived.

We also have a Wellbeing and Mental Health team that spans across all our campuses ensuring that our students settle in, get the most out of their university experience and feel safe and at home in their new surroundings. The team provides students with practical information, support and guidance and is on hand if they have any issues that may be affecting their experience.

Getting active through ‘Chester Rules’

Sport and physical activity are looking somewhat different in the pandemic but here at Chester we have come up with a variety of sports and physical activity that can be undertaken with social distancing in mind, yet keeping the fun intact. ‘Chester Rules’ are customised games that can be played and enjoyed without the worry of close contact. ‘Chester Rules’ is going to be BIG in 2020 and 2021 and we have all the major sports, as well as personal training sessions, Couch to 5k and social walking groups covered.

Take a walk

If you’re keen to avoid public transport and worried about how you’re going to get across town, you needn’t worry. Our campuses in Chester and Shrewsbury are ideally located for getting about, with everything you need within walking distance. In fact the best way to get around in both Chester and Shrewsbury is by foot… and it’s better for the environment that way too! Cycling is also a good way of getting around both Chester and Shrewsbury, with numerous cycle paths available that make our campuses even more accessible.

Warrington Campus is easily accessible for our commuting students. Find out more about what it is like to live and study in Warrington here.

Free Languages Learning

Another exciting initiative for the new academic year is the opportunity to join one of our part-time language courses at a reduced rate of £100, which is reimbursed after completion of 80% of the course, meaning that for the vast majority of people it will be completely free. You can choose one of the many language courses that we offer, including: Arabic; French; German; Italian; Japanese; Mandarin; Polish; Portuguese; Spanish; Russian; and Welsh. Courses are offered at various levels, from beginner to advanced level, and run from September to June, with evening classes taking place for two hours. With the current social distancing measures in place, a blended approach is likely to be adopted for delivery of these courses in the new academic year. This means that there will be some face-to-face teaching alongside some online teaching. 

Imagine finishing university with a new language under your belt to add to your CV!

Accommodation

If you have accepted your offer of a place at the University, we’d recommend applying for University accommodation as soon as possible. We have listened to our students and in doing so designed accommodation options that are flexible to suit our student needs. We have a range of accommodation types available to choose from, everything from fully-catered packages to self-catered. We also have a brand new self-catered en-suite accommodation block called Tudor Place opening this September, just a couple of minutes’ walk from our Parkgate Road Campus in Chester. Best of all, we are able to guarantee accommodation for those students who make us a Firm choice, so there’s absolutely no need to worry about where you’re going to live.

Local and commuting students

The pandemic has led to many students wanting to stay closer to home. For students already living in the region who decide to commute to campus, there is a Facebook group available to join so that you can chat to each other prior to the start of the academic year. This will be a great way of making new friends with students who potentially don’t live all that far away from you. We’ll also be offering induction events, so commuting students can ask any questions they may have prior to their studies starting.

We recognise that our commuting students will have a different experience to residential students, but with almost half of our student population now opting to commute, it is important to us that they feel as much a part of the University of Chester community as our residential students. For this reason, we have a number of initiatives in place to help ensure our commuting students are able to experience the full University experience. Local students can also stay overnight on campus by booking a room on a ‘pay as you go’ basis, particularly handy from those 9 o’clock lectures where you’d rather avoid the rush hour traffic!

Click and Collect

Our campus-based catering outlets will have social distancing restrictions in place for your safety. We’ll also be introducing our own click and collect service, should you fancy taking your food out.

The University App

Before you arrive, make sure you download the University of Chester app! This will not only help you to stay informed, but also ahead of the game. Students regularly use the app to keep on top of their timetable but there are a whole host of other features on the app too. As the app is used as a means for us to communicate with our students, by downloading the app, you’ll enable us to better support your engagement.