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UEA is supporting the community and students through Coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 09:31 20 April 2020 | UPDATED: 09:31 20 April 2020

UEA has measures in place to support its students  Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

UEA has measures in place to support its students Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Archant

The University of East Anglia is working hard to help our students, wider community and country during the coronavirus crisis, explains vice-chancellor professor David Richardson.

It was just three months ago that we toasted in the New Year. Now we find ourselves in the midst of a global health crisis. We’ve all had to react quickly and come together to meet the emergency head on – and I’m proud to say that, at UEA, we’re doing our bit for East Anglia, and representing our region in front of the UK and the world.

Our students are now being taught and assessed online and our academic staff are doing an amazing job using technology to rapidly convert their teaching out of the classroom and into digital delivery. In response to the national emergency, we are also putting our campus resources to great use and our scientists have turned teaching laboratories into sanitiser gel factories. With help from HM Norfolk Lieutenancy we’re working with regional brewers and distilleries to create hand sanitiser for regional NHS trusts and foundations, local authorities, and for local cancer patients.

We’re also to make UEA halls of residence available to local NHS workers as temporary accommodation, and we are working up plans to offer NHS essential workers child care on campus too. Our students have been outstanding in their response - for instance 5th year UEA medical students are working on the front line in hospital, others are volunteering as child-minders for NHS workers and our student nurses are taking on additional hospital placements, offering vital emergency support. I couldn’t be prouder.

We’re also sharing expertise with Public Health England and the World Health Organization, who are leading the global response. You might have seen one of our academic experts Paul Hunter on the news sharing his advice on keeping safe. Professor Hunter is now turning his attention to the long-term effects of the virus to help us all get back to normality in the coming months – and to ward off pandemics like this in the future.

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As well as doing our utmost to support the NHS, we are naturally deeply concerned with our students’ well-being. We know that they are facing stress and uncertainty. With the planned July graduation ceremonies not taking place we are looking at alternatives to celebrate degrees hard won, when the time is right. We won’t forget the need for their moment of celebration.

Many UEA students are living away from home for the first time, some from different countries. The government’s sensible decision to shut businesses has meant many students are under more financial pressure. So we’ve waived charges for our halls of residence after March for those who wished to go home. Despite the impact on the university’s finances, this was the right thing to do. However, those students who live off-campus are still paying private rent, and for a number of them simply buying food and basic essentials, having lost their part-time jobs in cafes and pubs, has become very difficult.

In response, we are creating a new emergency COVID-19 Student Hardship Fund to support those really struggling financially during the pandemic. These students are the future of the NHS, and teachers, social workers and scientists and we want to make sure Norfolk’s future essential workers are safeguarded during their present academic training through this crisis.

Our actions during the hardest times define us, and we are seeing the very best of the UEA family during this crisis – students, supporters and staff. I would like to thank all NHS and UEA staff for their relentless efforts, our students for adapting so quickly, and everyone in East Anglia for staying at home, protecting our hospitals, and helping to save lives.

We are in this together - and we will come through it together, and I believe come out much stronger as a community, be that in our business partnerships, relationships or local neighbourhoods. There is a great deal of positivity in Norfolk, and the willingness to ‘do different’, as the UEA motto encourages, is giving us all the confidence to meet these most challenging of circumstances.

Further details of the emergency COVID-19 Student Hardship Fund and the COVID-19 Research fund appeal are available at www.uea.ac.uk/difference.


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