UCL's planning and response

Information on UCL's planning and response during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

NB: Please note this information is primarily for UCL students and staff.  

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, our priority has been the health and wellbeing of our students and staff. In March we closed all buildings, except those where UCL academics are conducting research that is in the immediate national interest, or where onsite working is essential to the continued operation of the university. 

During this time we all adapted to remote working and online teaching and assessment and we set up a new governance structure to help us to make well informed decisions at speed. This enabled us to rapidly update our policies and guidance to support staff, including bringing in special leave policies for staff affected by coronavirus, helping staff to volunteer to support the national effort, and ensuring any furloughed staff will continue to be paid in full with full benefits. And it has enabled us to support students by bringing in a range of measures to ensure they have no academic disadvantage in 2020 summer assessments, helping them to return to their home countries or return to the UK from abroad, and waiving accommodation fees for those remaining on campus while ensuring they were safe and able to socially distance.

Since the emergence of coronavirus in December 2019, UCL’s efforts have been focused on applying the depth and breadth of our world-leading research expertise and interdisciplinary culture to help humanity recover from this global crisis. We’ve been working in partnership with a range of national and international partners including the NHS, releasing clinical academic staff and fast tracking 300 medical students through graduation.

We are now putting plans in place for a measured and phased return to campus, in line with UK Government guidance and drawing on the advice of UCL’s recognised unions and the expertise of our researchers, including specialists in health, education, human behaviour and infection prevention. 

Leadership and communications

What is UCL doing to plan and keep people informed during the current coronavirus outbreak?

To ensure that UCL can continue to function smoothly for the duration of this crisis, and can emerge from it stronger and more resilient, we have implemented a different governance structure to enable informed decision-making at speed.

In March 2020, we implemented the Gold / Silver / Bronze (GSB) structure which allowed us to close down the campus effectively, and to undertake a huge amount of co-ordinated planning work for a delivery model in 2020-21 that, of necessity, looks very different to our normal way of working. We are now clear about how we want to deliver teaching and run the campus next year. 

We are now focusing on translating our planning into practice and have moved away from the GSB structure towards a more streamlined implementation framework. The focus of the new structure, starting from 8 June, continues to be set by the Provost and is supported by a Crisis Leadership Team. You can read more about our approach and the structure.

We are keeping our coronavirus webpages up-to-date with the latest advice from Public Health England, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the NHS, and adding answers to frequently asked questions as and when they arise.

I’m a member of UCL staff. Should I send out my own communications about coronavirus, or update my local web pages with information?

Please direct people to the central information and frequently asked questions on these pages (www.ucl.ac.uk/coronavirus).

What is UCL doing to maintain its leading research position during the pandemic? [New]

UCL’s leading research position is based on the excellence of our researchers; our radical tradition of commitment to innovation, accessibility and relevance; and our commitment to harnessing the value of our research to advance and enrich society.

We celebrate the many contributions made by our brilliant, creative and dedicated researchers in response to the current pandemic. By applying the depth and breadth of our cross-disciplinary research and expertise we are helping humanity recover from COVID-19 and working to make the world more resilient and equitable in the future. Please see the new record of COVID-19-related research outputs for more details. 

We recognise however, that the pandemic has presented intense challenges to researchers’ ability to continue their work, and that it has had unequal impact on different groups within our research community. We are taking, and continue to take, steps to address these challenges. Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research), has written recently to the research community about:

The UCL Research Strategy sets out our institutional aims, irrespective of geopolitical events: to inspire and empower research leadership; to cross boundaries to increase engagement; and to deliver impact for public benefit. We are committed to supporting our researchers – and our professional services staff who facilitate research - to fulfil their potential in relation to these aims. This support includes, but is not limited to, the provision of support for grant applications, mechanisms to encouraging cross-disciplinary collaboration and external engagement, advice on research impact and promotion of open science tools.

We will continue to listen to and inform the research community, since that is the best way to ensure that we sustain our leading research position. 

How is UCL maintaining critical ISD processes at this time?

We have organised a rota of volunteers to cover on-site urgent and emergency requirements, who will have access to servers and machine rooms on campus. Volunteers will also be able to access UCL accommodation if needed. We have also developed SharePoint site for staff who need to work safely and securely on campus during the lockdown. This is accessible to all staff who have been identified as key workers. 

What are the handover plans with UCL’s incoming President & Provost Dr Michael Spence, who is due to begin his term in January?

Our current President & Provost, Professor Michael Arthur, and Dr Michael Spence have been speaking regularly throughout the pandemic and a handover programme is being co-ordinated for Dr Spence by the Provost’s office. Professor Arthur will remain at UCL until the end of January 2021 to make sure there is a full handover period.

Buildings and logistics

UCL is currently closed to the public and our staff and students are currently working and studying remotely, except for a very small number of buildings and research areas. We’re aiming to reopen our campus ahead of the 2020/21 academic year, with around 25% of staff back on site at any one time, working in a safe and socially distanced way. Please see our live updates page for details about our current status and our roadmap outlining how we are planning to return to campus. For the time being, we continue to encourage all staff and students to work remotely where possible. 

Please see Keeping safe on campus for latest information about what we’re doing to protect our staff and students and how you can help keep campus as safe as possible.

Will the UCL Day Nursery remain open?

The UCL Day Nursery has been open throughout the lockdown period and has provided a vital service to a very small number of parents who are key workers and have continued to work on campus supporting UCL's work to tackle the pandemic. The Day Nursery will remain open and we are following national guidance, but the situation is especially complex, as we need to think carefully about how we introduce these new safety measures in a childcare setting, in line with Government guidance. 

While the service will likely need to run at a reduced capacity for the foreseeable future, as more staff return to campus the demand for children to return to Nursery will increase, and every effort will be made to meet this demand while ensuring the safety of both children and staff.

What should I tell students or colleagues who need to come to the Royal Free Hospital (where coronavirus patients are being treated) and who have concerns about personal safety? 

Coronavirus patients at the Royal Free Hospital are isolated from other patients and visitors. Please see the hospital's web site for visitor information. 

Read Royal Free London's coronavirus update

What are the arrangements for liquid helium and nitrogen delivery?

BOC Onsite is working as normal at present and UCL buyers should follow normal procedures. If you require anything outside the usual regular Cryogenic service, please email the Purchase Order to UCL@boc.com who will deliver within the usual time periods.

Estates need to be made aware of when and where deliveries will take place so that they can arrange access and security. They also require confirmation that the receiving person/team are in, are aware of the delivery, and are prepared to receive delivery as Estates can only facilitate delivery of gases.

Please email delivery information to the following addresses: logistics@ucl.ac.uk; i.porter@ucl.ac.uk; a.weston@ucl.ac.uk; s.shine@ucl.ac.uk; mb.west@ucl.ac.uk

If orders are placed but BOC cannot deliver, please escalate this to UCL Procurement.

What is happening with the construction projects taking place at UCL?

The UCL Estates team has been in discussion with the main contractors on each of the projects in the Transforming UCL capital programme.

For those projects that are in contract and on site, it is the contractor’s decision whether to pause or proceed with construction work. Those that choose to continue work must follow government social distancing guidelines, including the requirement for site workers to stay at least two metres apart. It is UCL’s decision whether to pause projects that are in contract but not on site, or those which are not yet in contract. 

Which construction projects have been paused?

As of 3 April, construction activity has been paused on 19 of the 25 projects that are under contract and on site. These include Marshgate at the new UCL East campus in Stratford, where the contractor Mace has decided to pause construction, and the early enabling works for the major refurbishment of 20 Bedford Way (UCL Institute of Education).

In addition, UCL decided to stop early enabling works and surveys as of 27 March on the site of the new neuroscience research facility at 256 Grays Inn Road. The contract for the main construction work on this project was yet to be signed. 
This is to protect the safety of all persons involved across UCL and our supply chains, conform to government advice and ultimately mitigate UCL’s financial exposure. Activities that can continue remotely are ongoing, including design development and procurement.

Clearly, pausing activity will have an impact on the planned construction programme for these 19 projects. Until there is more certainty about the length of the lockdown in the UK it isn’t possible to confirm updated programmes. UCL Estates will work closely with the relevant departments to keep them updated of any further changes to construction activity and to notify other stakeholders. However, preparations for teaching and learning activity in these locations should continue as planned. 

Work has also been paused on all smaller improvement works and maintenance projects across campus, with the exception of projects that are currently in scoping or design stages.

Vinci and Volker FitzPatrick, the contractors on the Pool Street West development at UCL East and the new Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory in Dagenham respectively have decided to continue work in line with government guidelines to ensure the health and wellbeing of workers.