U21 Directors of Campus Facilities/Estates Community of Practice
A Community of Practice was formed in May 2020 to support those senior university officers who had charge of managing/reopening the U21 campuses across the world after the first lock-down and closures as part of the Covid-19 outbreak. At that time members were at different stages of reopening/extending the use of their university campuses and at different points in their academic calendars, and any plans were strongly influenced by national health and safety regulations.
Discussions in this Community of proactive included how best universities could best utilise the spaces that they have to welcome students back safely to campus, and how to maximise a safe, phased-return to using these spaces. The groups looked specifically at the approaches adopted across the network to temperature testing, the use of tracing apps and face masks and coverings, noting the different cultural attitudes and responses to such public health measures. The experience of the Chinese and South-Asian universities, who were then further advanced in re-opening their campuses than many western universities, was seen as particularly helpful in informing the groups’ discussions.
The group discussed using campus building to best effect to ensure that maximum teaching space is provided, and how to safely open public spaces such as libraries, halls of residence, food service areas and retail outlets. Finding ways to maximise face-to-face opportunities for students at university, while acknowledging the persistent risk factors of the pandemic, indicated the delicate balance that still has to be achieved in many countries.
The group’s discussions were marked at all times by full collaboration, honest and generosity in sharing their experiences and resources. At this very crucial time, the Community of Practice provided this exceptionally pressurised group of U21 university managers with a key source of information and support.
"In response to the Covid pandemic U21 swiftly supported me in setting up and convening all U21 members in a very practical, honest and supportive community of practice. This community focused on campuses reopening safely and delivering an alternative campus experience for staff and students. The value of being able to connect globally in the grip of the pandemic with renowned Worldwide institutions that were all at different stages in the pandemic cycle was invaluable. Our discussions enabled us to identify and to share common solutions to those emerging Global challenges - which we all found extremely helpful." Trevor Payne of the University of Birmingham