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Working safely through COVID-19: University of Cumbria

University of Cumbria, Ambleside Campus University of Cumbria, Ambleside Campus

Here at University of Cumbria considerable work has been done to ensure that we can continue to operate safely within the constraints of social distancing, ensuring the safety of our staff and students.

We are really proud of all we are doing to enable our university to continue to deliver its high-quality education and research and maintain its pivotal role in our communities during a time of national crisis. 

How we are continuing to operate in this new 'normal' is down in no small part to the hard work, ingenuity and commitment of our staff, who have been able to ensure that online teaching, assessment and support continues for all students.  This has been a full team effort and one not to be underestimated.  We recognise the extensive work all our staff have undertaken to make this happen in such a short space of time, at a time of personal challenge and whilst dealing with the pressures of living in the current pandemic.  

Matthew Price, who is 28 and originally from Hertfordshire, is a first year student and, up until recently, was studying Dip HE Paramedic Practice at the university’s Ambleside campus.

Now all first year placements have been temporarily paused due to COVID-19, and he has successfully resumed studies online.

He said: “We're lucky to have a superb academic team and they have been great at keeping us all in the loop and have put in place provisions for us to attend lectures, complete our theory and demonstrate our practical skills online. The latter will see us recording ourselves going through various scenarios using members of our household as patients.”

What we are achieving as an organisation is significant, in terms of continuing to deliver teaching and support to our student body, looking after our staff well-being, and in the all the different ways we are supporting the wider effort on a local and national scale in response to the crisis.

We are proud to share with you below some of the actions and activities that our university has been engaged with to date so you are aware of the role we have been playing in Cumbria and beyond:

Supporting the NHS

Our Pro Vice Chancellor (Health) Professor Brian Webster-Henderson has been at the heart of the national response for university healthcare students.

In response to this unprecedented pandemic many of our student nurses and allied health students are entering a period of “extended placement” with remuneration in the NHS in response to the coronavirus crisis.  Third year nursing students with less than six months to registration are being given the opportunity to go back into placement in an opt-in basis and will be paid for their contribution to the NHS workforce at this time.

Second year students who are not in the final six months of study are also being invited to spend 80 percent of their time in clinical practice and 20 percent in academic study during the emergency period. 

We are full of pride to see the significant role our students are playing within the healthcare workforce at this time of national crisis. 

To read more click here.


COVID-19 Business Pledge

Like all universities across the sector our key priorities are the health and well-being of our students and staff; supporting our students to continue and complete their studies and maintaining our role and impact across our region and further afield.

Providing support and serving our business partners and communities through these challenging times is a key element of this and is one of the reasons we have recently joined businesses from across the UK in signing the C-19 Business Pledge launched by Rt Hon Justine Greening. 

We are also actively demonstrating our role as an anchor institution through leading and engaging in a number of emerging activities to support business and individual resilience, supporting North West and Cumbria business and industry with their business continuity and recovery in the current context.

As a university we have a great deal of relevant academic and practical expertise which we are looking to draw upon to support these areas.

To read more click here.


Student recruitment changes – for the ‘here and now’ and to learn from

Considerable work has been done to ensure that we can continue to operate within the constraints of social distancing, ensuring the safety of our staff, current students and prospective students.

This includes recruitment activity, which is continuing in an online format.  Our outreach team are creating a rolling timetable of live and interactive virtual information sessions that will support and advise people on how to navigate through the university application and decision-making process.  Our aim is to continue to support potential HE students of the future, as well as schools and colleges, by providing as many of our normal outreach activities as possible but through a virtual platform. 

This is an exciting new approach to recruitment which we are developing dynamically, with open days and further events to follow. Not only does this enable a thorough exploration of all campuses, showcasing everything we have to offer, it does so at the pace of our visiting students and families.


Estates and equipment

Our estate and facilities have also given us opportunities to contribute in whatever way we can and we have shared details of our facilities and resources to local planning and resilience forums enabling them to choose the most appropriate resources they need to tackle the crisis. 

Our accommodation has been opened up to NHS workers who need to isolate from their families, we have donated PPE and collected together a range of equipment from the health areas, forensics, STEM, catering and estates. Our catering facilities have also been used to provide additional capacity at the Carlisle Food Hub, as well as supporting a local meals on wheels service.


Staff and student wellbeing

To support the collective wellbeing of our university community we have launched a campaign to help maintain morale through these difficult times. Staff from across the university have been coming forward with great ideas on how to keep connected and healthy, both mentally and physically during this time. The activities include; community volunteering, weekly yoga, mindfulness sessions, regular exercise classes, advice and tips from our Employee Assistance Programme, lunchtime quizzes and ‘lunch and learn’ online programmes.

The dedication and commitment of our staff doesn’t stop there with many of them taking up opportunities to volunteer within their own communities, and as a university, we continue to support them if they want to get involved and offer their services, skills and time should they wish.

A playlist has been put together of some of the wellbeing activities, you can view this here.



Our research active staff have also been quick to respond to the need to gather data and to create an evidence-base that will support this ongoing pandemic and beyond.

We have several research projects approved which will contribute to the understanding of and response to Covid-19 and its aftermath.

Director of Research Professor Diane Cox explains more here.


Supporting business recovery plans

The university is actively demonstrating its role as an anchor institution, engaging in a number of activities to support business and individual resilience, and supporting North West and Cumbria business and industry in their business continuity and recovery through the current context.

As a university we have a great deal of relevant academic and practical expertise which we are looking to draw upon to support these areas, and we are looking to identify learning and analyse needs through the current situation to enable us to plan to address future education and training needs from a firm evidence base.

In delivering our support, we are building upon a number of existing partnerships and relationships, including working closely with the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and brokering additional support through Lancaster University into Cumbria. For example, we are actively engaged with the Cumbria LEP’s Business and Economic Response and Recovery Group (BERRG) and other coordinating groups across the region.

As we move more towards a recovery state we are actively exploring how we can contribute and demonstrate ‘Thought Leadership’ through engaging stakeholders in a range of on line activities (e.g. weekly web-forums, live Twitter feeds, interviews, academic/ industry expert talking heads/ creating a repository of video archive etc.)

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