Dear Colleagues,

The changes to our operations continue apace, as we navigate the hurdles that COVID-19 continues to bring. These have had an impact on everyone at UOW.

I remain impressed by your spirit of determination and collaboration as we respond to the unprecedented situation we are facing. I want to thank you for continuing to adjust in these extraordinary times to ensure we remain able to deliver the best possible experience for our students and to keep our research activities running.

The COVID-19 crisis has caused massive social and economic disruption to the higher education sector globally, and experts predict that we will be dealing with the impacts of this crisis for several years. The University is working through operational and financial scenarios that will influence our future, and in the coming weeks will make crucial decisions to ensure we can continue to meet our commitments to our students and our communities.

I know many of you are wondering how long it will be until we can return to our campuses. I wish we had the answer, but unfortunately, none of us knows how long the current government-mandated social distancing measures will be in place, or how they will change. We have, however, been considering the likely scenarios based on the government advice and weighing up what may be best for the wellbeing, health and safety of students and staff.

To give students certainty and to enable them to progress their studies with minimal disruptions as social distancing restrictions ease, the University has decided to extend its remote delivery of courses beyond Autumn Session and Trimester 1 2020, into Trimesters 2 and 3 and this year’s Spring Session 2020.

If we are advised that physical distancing restrictions are eased, the University plans to return to limited campus-based teaching. Returning to campus teaching is likely to occur through a staged transition where we are using both remote and on-campus teaching concurrently.

UOW will continue to follow all government advice and directions and continue to seek the support of staff and students to work together to help stop the transmission of the virus.

This week the Australian Government launched its COVIDSafe app. The app maintains a log of Bluetooth connections a person’s phone makes with the phones of those they have come into contact with, making it easier for health authorities to trace potential COVID-19 carriers in the case of a positive diagnosis. For the app to be successful, just under half the population needs to have downloaded and registered their details.

The app will play a vital role in the safety of our workplace and our ability to return to normal campus life.

I have recorded a short video message to students and staff, which I hope you will take the time to watch.

Take care and stay well.

Professor Paul Wellings CBE