THE leaders of York’s universities and colleges moved to reassure residents of the steps they are all taking to ensuring the safe return of students to the city.

In an unusual move, the vice-chancellors and student unions of the universities of York and York St John and the principals of Askham Bryan College and York College have issued a joint statement explaining the range of measures that have been put in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone in the local community as thousands of students prepare to start the new academic year.

The measures include:

• Hand washing and sanitising; physical distancing; enhanced cleaning and face coverings

• Online lectures and staggered starts for face-to-face learning

• Fully supporting overseas students who need to quarantine

• City-wide health and safety measures to implement test, track and trace

In the statement University of York vice chancellor, Prof Charlie Jeffery, Prof Karen Bryan vice chancellor at York St John, York College principal, Lee Probert and Askham Bryan principal Dr Tim Whitaker say: “The onset of the Covid crisis has been extremely unsettling and like everyone else, our students have experienced financial, health and wellbeing challenges. We want to reassure all of the city’s residents that as students return to the region to begin or resume their studies, the safety and wellbeing of everyone in the local community is at the very heart of everything that we do.

The start of the academic year will pose new challenges and we have been meticulously planning over the summer months, in close partnership with local bodies such as City of York Council and York NHS Trust, as well as experts in health and safety, for the autumn term. This collaborative approach will ensure we are ready to rapidly respond to any public health scenarios. Each of our decisions around the start of term is underpinned by the latest government and public health advice as well as our own thorough risk assessments.

“We feel sure that the sense of community and shared purpose, which is a hallmark of our institutions and the city of York as a whole, put us in a strong position in keeping each other safe.

Throughout the pandemic, researchers have been at the forefront of efforts to find cures, refine testing and advise health agencies. Staff and students at our institutions have found ways to supply the NHS with vital apparatus and PPE, provide food to volunteers on hospital wards and support frontline NHS staff. Our collective commitment to respect, fairness and compassion is going to be more important than ever in the next few months.

Together with partners across the city, we are now working hard to support community resilience, rebuilding and recovery from the Covid-19 emergency. We know students will play a vital part in helping to rebuild a thriving city and in supporting local businesses.

We believe now is the time to support our students in getting on with building their futures. Our graduates and learners will go on to become the doctors, nurses, researchers, innovators, professionals and skilled workers crucial to our economic and societal recovery from this crisis.”