Returning to campus: Higher education students

Information for undergraduate and postgraduate students on returning to campus in January 2021 and free Covid-19 testing for students with no symptoms

Page last updated: Monday 18 January

Following the announcement of a new national ‘Stay at Home’ lockdown in England due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, we have had to make some changes to our plans for your teaching this January.

This page contains information about when and how teaching will start, coming back onto campus and our free Covid-19 testing facility at University College Birmingham for students who do not have coronavirus symptoms.

Under the new lockdown restrictions, you should only come to campus for teaching or exams if your lecturers have confirmed that you should attend in person.

Note: If you are a college student at University College Birmingham, please visit our page on Returning to campus for further education students

Coming back to campus

For our higher education students who are studying Nursing, Physiotherapy or a PGCE course, or students on placement after Christmas, teaching restarted as planned in the week beginning 4 January.

You will have the same mix of in-person and online teaching as you had prior to the Christmas holidays. However, you must get a Covid test on your first day back (see Covid-19 testing on campus below).

For students on all other higher education courses, your teaching will initially be online only, from the week beginning 4 January. This will include any teaching that was delivered in person before Christmas.

For students who chose to study online only in semester 1, you should continue this study pattern for the remainder of the semester. Pending further government updates on the new national lockdown, we will contact you about teaching for semester 2 in due course.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) (Last updated 18 January)

If my teaching is online, can I access campus facilities and accommodation?

Our accommodation remained open over the Christmas break to accommodate students who wished or needed to stay there during that period, and we will be open for all students who are now returning. The Maltings will remain open during the new national lockdown.

Students should only travel between addresses (whether to move in or out of the Maltings) if they have an acceptable reason within the government guidance, as shown on the GOV.UK website.

We recognise that students may also need to use campus-based services such as the library and IT support – see more information about availability of these facilities below. During the current lockdown, you should only come onto campus if you require these facilities, or if you are instructed by your lecturers to attend for teaching or exams.

You are strongly encouraged to take a Covid test before the first time you enter campus (see Covid-19 testing on campus below).

Full government guidance on the return for students after Christmas is available here.

What if I don't have IT equipment or space to study at home?

During the current nationwide lockdown, our IT and library facilities will remain available for use by students who do not have IT equipment or space to study at home.

The library at The Link will be open from 9am to 5pm on Monday to Friday. There will also be IT staff on site if you have any technical problems. Alternatively, you can find phone and contact details for IT support on the Portal.

You will also still be able to borrow library books using our click and collect service.

My course has lots of practical teaching – how will this work online?

Your lecturers will be able to advise you on how they will make sure you can meet your course learning outcomes while studying online. In most cases, it will be possible for you to receive equivalent tuition through this method, though we may need to make some small changes to your assessments – if so, your lecturers will explain what they are.

In a few cases, we may need to postpone some parts of your teaching until we can return to face-to-face delivery. We will let you know if this is the case, and how this might affect timetables for semester 2.

When will semester 2 start?

We have postponed the start of semester 2 by 3 weeks, to give us the most chance of being able to offer in-person teaching for students. That means that semester 2 now starts on Monday 1 March, and runs until Friday 4 June.

We also have three weeks of contingency time planned in case we can't fit all your teaching or assessment into the normal term weeks. This will cover the weeks between 7 and 25 June, and we will let you know as soon as we can if we need to use these weeks for your course.

You can see full details of term dates below:

Undergraduate term dates

Postgraduate term dates

What if I have other questions?

If you have any questions about what all this means for you, please speak to your teaching teams in the first instance, or send an email to covid19@ucb.ac.uk.

Teaching and support staff will continue to be available via email and phone from Monday 4 January to provide you with support and advice if you need it.

Covid-19 testing on campus

Before returning to campus, all students with no coronavirus symptoms should take a Covid-19 test.

As of Monday 4 January, we are running a free asymptomatic (lateral flow) testing centre on the lower ground floor of The Link support services building (B3 1JJ). If you need to attend campus, bookings are open now.  Click here to book your test.

You should not come onto University premises or mix with other students until you have been tested, if you possibly can.

Once you have received a negative test, you are still strongly advised to limit your contact with other people until you have had a second test, three to five days after your first, to minimise the chance of you unknowingly passing on the virus.

In addition, if you live in an area where asymptomatic testing is possible, you should also get a test before moving back to Birmingham if possible.

If you test positive, you will need to self-isolate for 10 days, as you would with any other Covid-19 test. Should you have any questions about testing, please email us at covid19@ucb.ac.uk.

Book your test now

Please note: These tests are for asymptomatic individuals (i.e. people who are not displaying any symptoms of Covid-19). If you are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, please do not attend the testing centre – you should book an NHS test instead. More information is available below.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) (Last updated 18 January)

What is asymptomatic (lateral flow) testing, and who is it for?

Lateral flow antigen tests detect whether or not Covid-19 is present in your body by using a swab or saliva sample. Unlike a PCR test (which you may have had if you previously got tested through the NHS), they don’t require a laboratory to process the test, so results can be delivered rapidly.

The tests are designed for anyone who is asymptomatic (i.e not showing symptoms of coronavirus). Some people who become infected with Covid-19 do not develop any symptoms yet may still be infectious to others without realising it, therefore the tests can quickly determine the presence of the virus and help individuals act accordingly.

University College Birmingham is providing free tests for all students who are not currently experiencing any symptoms of Covid-19.

What does the test involve?

University College Birmingham is working with NHS Test and Trace to provide the lateral flow tests on campus at our testing centre in The Link building. You will need to be tested twice, three to five days apart, and you will need to book your tests in advance – click here to book a slot.

The test is quick and simple using a swab which you administer yourself, with supervision from trained personnel. Your swab will then be taken for processing. You should leave the test centre as soon as possible after you have completed your test, and your results will be sent to you shortly afterwards.

How do I access the testing centre?

Access to the testing centre will be by the doors on the lower ground floor of The Link, via the car park at the rear of the building.

Please do not use the ground floor entrance. This will help ensure that people coming to the testing centre will not mix with anyone using the rest of the building.

What do I need to bring with me to the testing centre?

For registration and results purposes, you should bring your mobile phone and your student ID with you. Please also remember to bring your face covering.

How quickly will I get my results?

For each test, you will receive your results by text and/or email within two hours of taking the test, in many cases much sooner.

Do I need to inform the University about my test result?

Whatever your test result, please inform us by emailing covid19@ucb.ac.uk. For privacy reasons, University College Birmingham won’t be told what your result is, so please contact us yourself to let us know.

What happens if I test negative?

If your test result is negative, you can attend classes and campus facilities as required, but should be particularly careful to maintain social distancing and other safety measures.

You should book a second test for three to five days after your first. If that is also negative, you can continue with your study activities in line with the latest government restrictions.

What happens if I test positive?

If you receive a positive result, you must begin self-isolation immediately. You should only leave your home to access a further test from the NHS (this is called a confirmatory PCR test). You should receive instructions by text if this happens.

You should also report your test result to covid19@ucb.ac.uk so we can undertake contact tracing and provide you with advice and support.

What happens if my test result is invalid?

If your test result comes back as invalid, please let us know and then book a new test.

If I test negative, does that mean I definitely don't have Covid-19?

No. The test can’t guarantee that you don’t have Covid-19, as it can take some time for the virus to incubate after you are infected.

By having two tests, three to five days apart, we increase the chances of identifying the virus if it is incubating. So it’s a good sign that you are not infectious, but it is not absolutely guaranteed. This is why it is important to continue to wear a mask, wash your hands and maintain social distancing, even if you have tested negative.

What happens if I test negative, but discover I am a close contact of someone who has tested positive?

If you are a close contact of a positive case, you would need to self-isolate for 10 days from your last contact with that person. That’s why it’s particularly important that you maintain social distancing, to minimise the chance of you being identified as someone’s close contact.

The virus can take time to incubate, which is why you have to isolate if you are a close contact of a positive case, even if you have tested negative.

Where can I get a test if I am experiencing symptoms of Covid-19?

Our testing centre is for asymptomatic students only. If you are experiencing any symptoms of Covid-19, do not come to the testing centre on campus.

Instead, you should stay at home and book a free NHS test at your local testing centre – for more information, visit the GOV.UK website.

Should I get tested if I've recently had Covid-19?

If you have tested positive for Covid-19 recently (i.e. within the last 90 days), you are likely to have developed some immunity, and therefore a repeat lateral flow test is unlikely to be necessary within this period.

If having recently tested positive for Covid-19, you choose to have a lateral flow test as part of this programme, please ensure the test is not taken while still within your period of isolation following the last confirmed test (which could be longer than the typical 10-day period for confirmed cases if symptoms persist).

Once I have booked my first test, how do I book the second?

You should only book one test to begin with. Once you have attended your first test, you will then be sent a reminder to book your second test.

Do I have to get tested before I can come back to classes?

You are very strongly encouraged to get tested, but it is not compulsory. Getting tested is a great way to help ensure you do not risk passing Covid-19 to your friends, lecturers or classmates, and should reduce the number of people who need to self-isolate during term.

During the new national lockdown, you should only come to classes if your lecturers have confirmed that you should attend in person.

I stayed in Birmingham over Christmas – do I still need to get tested?

Yes. You will still need to get tested the first time you attend campus, and again three to five days later.

What support is available if I need to self-isolate?

We encourage all of our students to look out for each other, and to let us know if you need more support. If you live at The Maltings and need to self-isolate, we will be in touch to offer support with ordering food, laundry, parcel deliveries and wellbeing. If you need more details, you can phone The Maltings office on 0121 666 7304.

If you need wellbeing and mental health support, check the Canvas page or contact wellbeing@ucb.ac.uk. For help outside of University College Birmingham, you can also call the mental health support line offered by Birmingham and Solihull NHS Trust. The helpline is available on 0121 262 3555 and is open 7 days a week, from 9am to 11pm.

More detailed information about support services, including hardship support, is available on our Covid-19 FAQs page.

I have additional needs – can someone help me with my test?

Assistance is available if you are unable to self-administer your test and need help with swabbing, or if you require support with reading instructions.

If you require an assisted test, please inform staff on your arrival at the testing centre during your registration process.

Our testing centre at The Link is wheelchair accessible.

Should I get a test before I travel back to the University?

If your local region is offering asymptomatic testing that you can access, please do make use of this before you travel back to University College Birmingham. You should still get tested on your return in addition.

I am travelling to the University from overseas – when should I arrive?

You should aim to arrive with enough time before teaching begins to allow for any quarantine period. If you have already booked flights then let us know what date to expect you by emailing covid19@ucb.ac.uk.

If you are living at The Maltings, we can support you during any quarantine period. Even if you do not need to quarantine, you will still need to get tested when you first attend campus.

If I am travelling from overseas, do I need to quarantine when I arrive?

Following the Government’s suspension of all travel corridors for travellers arriving from anywhere outside of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man from 18 January, you will need to quarantine for 10 days on arrival. You must also have proof of a negative coronavirus test to travel to England. 

If you are living at The Maltings, we will support you during the quarantine period.

For students arriving after 14 December 2020, there is an option to take an accredited coronavirus (Covid-19) test from a private testing provider after five days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing students from the need to isolate from day six.

More information on the Test to Release scheme is available on the Government website. These tests can only be booked with a private provider, not through the NHS or University College Birmingham.

Where can I find more information?

If you have any questions about what all this means for you, please speak to your teaching teams in the first instance, or send an email to covid19@ucb.ac.uk.

Teaching and support staff will continue to be available via email and phone from Monday 4 January to provide you with support and advice if you need it.

Further information about coronavirus and frequently asked questions for University College Birmingham students can be found on our Covid-19 FAQs page. More information is also available on the GOV.UK website and the NHS website.

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