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Socially Distanced Campus and Education

Creating Socially Distanced Campuses and Education project

The next big question for higher education institutions is simply this, ‘when we open our campuses, HOW are we going to do that?’. The forces for doing so are great, the uncertainties around how to do so are extraordinary, and the risks involved are profound.

The Creating Socially Distanced Campuses and Education project was designed as an opportunity to engage with key facets of this question through collaborative and generative thinking and dialogue. While the ‘socially distanced campus’ is a very broad issue, the focus of this project is on the priority area of student education and experienceThis article explains the context of the project and what it set out to achieve.

This project included a workshop series, an Advance HE Connect group and Leadership Intelligence Reports.

At this critical and precarious stage in the COVID-19 response journey, there has never been a greater need for collective learning, sharing and planning. Around that central question of achieving socially distanced on campus education orbit a number of key areas for close consideration. Student interests must be at the heart of every part of our conversations, along with their need to be valued and part of a community in which they belong.

This project is now complete

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Project aims

Designed for those with responsibility for planning, leading and managing educational programmes, the aims of the project are:

  • To enable high-quality conversations

  • To share information, inspiration and intelligence

  • To co-create solutions to specific aspects of the challenge.

Leadership Intelligence Reports

The workshops at the heart of this project, attended by participants from the UK and around the World, were focused on five key topic areas. Drawing upon the information, inspiration and intelligence generated by these workshops – following collective engagement and high-quality conversations with a wide spectrum of senior colleagues who have responsibility for planning, leading and managing educational programmes.

With a clear focus on student education and experience, the six reports are:

Topic 1 - Induction

The induction, socialisation and engagement of students, particularly new student cohorts, but also student transitions.
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Topic 2 – Space and place

Modifying learning and social spaces, physical and blended on-line environments, safe practices and whole-person student support (community and belonging).
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Topic 3 – Design and delivery

Re-structuring and delivering teaching (and assessment) to meet both learning outcomes and student expectations, differentiated across courses and disciplines.
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Topic 4 – Quality

Sustaining a clear focus on quality and good practice, including revising policy frameworks and guidance (teaching and assessment).
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Topic 5 – Inclusion

The challenge of access, inclusion, belonging and supporting students from vulnerable groups.
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Final Capstone Report

The final report in the series will provide an overview of the project outcomes and will be available to all.
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Final Capstone Report

The final report in this series is designed to provide an overview of the project and will be available to all. The report will include a series of interviews from leaders across the sector including: 

  • Alison Johns, CEO, Advance HE

  • Prof. Shân Wareing, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Northampton

  • Dr Sally Jackson, Chief People Officer, Sheffield Hallam University

  • Andrew Wilson, Students’ Association President (outgoing), The University of Edinburgh

  • Prof. Ghassan Aouad, President of Applied Science University (ASU), Bahrain

  • Sir Nigel Carrington, Vice-Chancellor, University of the Arts London

  • Dr Kate Dixon, Head of Technical Services, Manchester Metropolitan University

  • Dr Eva Wong, Director, Centre for Holistic Teaching & Learning, Hong Kong Baptist University

  • Professor Jackie Potter, Head of the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development and Deputy Director of HR, Oxford Brookes University

Final report Webinar and Twitter chat

To explore this important topic further, Advance HE members will be able to join the webinar "Higher Education Leadership in the Pandemic Age – from crisis to connected campus" 08:30-10:00 BST 14 July. 

We are also hosting a Twitter Chat 15:30-17:30 BST 16 July that everyone can join (using the hashtags #AdvanceHE_chat) to share their views and contribute to this important discussion.

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The project was also designed to consider four overarching themes in relation to each topic area that should be threads running through the discussions:

  • wellbeing – students and staff, mental and physical health and wellbeing
  • communication – with students and staff, including supporting staff development needs
  • leadership – inspiring collective commitment and achieving focus with kindness, care and compassion
  • partnership – ‘working with’ rather than just ‘doing for’ students.

About the project

The project encompassed three stages a workshop series, a Connect group and the six Leadership Intelligence reports.


The project comprised six identical workshops which ran six times during the week commencing 18th May 2020 lasting 3.5 hours. Most of the workshop time was invested in facilitated group discussion amongst peers on a specific selected topic. The outcomes of these discussions have been used to create a series of reports available for Advance HE members. 

Advance HE Connect

A group has been established on Advance HE Connect for on-line information sharing and exchange, including outputs from the workshops and links to resources from other organisations and contexts.

Webinar and Twitter chat

To celebrate the publication of the final SDCE Capstone Report and to give colleagues an opportunity to join the conversation we have arranged a combined webinar (14 July) and Twitter chat (16 July).

Webinar - "Higher Education Leadership in the Pandemic Age – from crisis to connected campus"

The webinar is free to Advance HE members, it will be held 08:30 - 10:00 BST, Tuesday, 14th July 2020. 

Find out more and book now
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Twitter Chat

The Twitter Chat will be open to everyone, and will be held 15:30 - 17:30 BST Thursday, 16 July 2020. Use the hashtags #AdvanceHE_chat #LEADHE to join.

The six questions that will frame the Twitter chat conversation will be as follows:

  1. What do you see as the most significant leadership challenges facing the sector in preparing for the reopening of our campuses and in the longer term?
  2. What style and approach do you see yourself and others bringing to these leadership challenges to achieve what needs to be done (so far as we know) at the same time as ensuring inclusion?
  3. How should leaders be approaching the challenge of communication? Are there any good practices that you would advocate or pitfalls to be avoided?
  4. What should be the approach to working in partnership with others – individuals and stakeholder groups (particularly students and student representatives)?
  5. When rapidly transforming strategy, how alongside this can leaders help organisational culture to evolve in a supportive and enabling way? How can we enhance community and belonging?
  6. In these exceptional times for HE, how can leaders balance looking after people and their wellbeing (kindness, compassion, humanity and empathy) with at the same time finding direction and making clear choices?
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