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Students on professional programmes such as Nursing and Teaching, plus a number of international learners have already started the staggered return to learning at the University. And with more students set to come back to campus over the coming days, the University is offering regular and timely guidance on what they need to know about how they can keep themselves and their community safe and keep COVID cases to a minimum.

Their return will help Chester get back to a more normal rhythm of life for many businesses and organisations, as students form a key part of the city’s economy and communities, and the University will continue working closely with Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Public Health and Environmental Health teams to ensure the safety of the wider population.

In a bid to support those students who may not have previously had easy access to vaccinations, these will be offered to both students and staff at pop-up clinics at the University’s Exton Park site at the start of the academic year, and home testing kits will be available to collect in a number of locations. The University will also continue its programme of assisted lateral flow testing on-site at Exton Park until the end of September, while contact tracing within the University – via its internal COVID Response Team, which links to NHS Test and Trace and Cheshire West and Chester’s hub – will continue.

Quarantine arrangements for international students already arriving from overseas are in place, and the University is providing a support package for any students self-isolating in University accommodation. Within the residential community, discussions have been undertaken with a number of main private providers of student accommodation in the City to ensure that their processes align with the University’s COVID-safety procedures.

The University’s priority is to continue delivering a valuable education experience while continuing to protect the health and safety of the local community, including staff and students. As such, it has high expectations of its students in terms of behavior and ensuring that they are responsible citizens, and will take disciplinary action where necessary.

Donald Read, Consultant in Public Health for Cheshire West and Chester Council, leading on the COVID response in educational settings, said: “The University has taken a very responsible and cautious approach, going above and beyond with additional safety measures.

“I’m pleased to see there is a good testing offer there and we can enhance that if there is a rise in cases. The monitoring which the University does itself, alongside the NHS Test and Trace can spot a cluster instantly.”

Mike Hogg, Chair of Chester Residents’ Associations Group (CRAG,) added: “These are positive and powerful messages regarding how the University is managing students’ return, which are welcome news for the community.”

Professor Eunice Simmons, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: “We are welcoming both new and returning students to University with a full range of both in-person and online teaching and cultural and social activities available.

“They will undoubtedly make full use of all the opportunities to them in the city, where, as the economy recovers, the ‘student pound’ will be an even more valuable currency and a ready labour market for part-time work in under-resourced areas such as hospitality will undoubtedly be welcomed at this point in time.

“We are also working to ensure that all of our students and staff feel safe and comfortable on campus, through the continuation of COVID-secure measures particularly in the autumn term, with flexibility built into our plans for the following terms.

“The University of Chester has established an award-winning approach to digital excellence and is using technology, where it is most effective in its learning and teaching, alongside face to face sessions where they add the most value. This established flexible learning approach, combining different levels of in-person and virtual activities tailored to each course, is part of a planned, future-focused strategy for maximising digital innovation.”

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