Covid and UON: One year on

Date 1.04.2021

It’s a year since UON ‘switched’ to providing teaching and learning entirely online. Our Vice Chancellor Professor Nick Petford takes a reflective look on our successes during the ‘year of Covid’.


“March 20, 2020 is a date that will resonate with many of us who remember where they were as the first lockdown was announced live by Boris Johnson. Even though it was a matter of when, not if, the reality felt surreal. The world was set to change in unexpected and unwelcome ways.

“A significant fraction of our courses, firstly health-related and latterly those in the creative arts, have seen a welcome return to face-to-face teaching.

“Because of our Active Blended Learning approach, we were able to respond more quickly than most to the challenges of Covid and learning and working at home when required. In this uncertain age, it remains one of our greatest strengths and makes studying with us adaptive without sacrificing quality.

“We quickly established extensive social distancing and hygiene measures across our estate to allow people to move around and study with confidence. In addition, we successfully introduced testing for students so they could have confidence they were returning home last Christmas with a reduced risk of passing on the virus to their loved ones.

“We have a strong ethos of ensuring we bring value to society at Northampton and beyond. Amongst the wall-to-wall news coverage of seemingly never-ending guidance and U-turns positive, spirit-lifting stories have trickled out. I think it’s fair to say we have occasionally led the charge here.

Kicking off a year of ‘civic good deeds’, we gave 400 vacant student rooms to accommodate NHS staff and social care patients. Later, this offer was extended to help house vulnerable homeless people and those escaping domestic abuse. And the good news didn’t stop there:

  • We supported the Red Cross when they needed a base to store food for delivery to vulnerable people across the county.
  • Waterside Campus housed an assessment clinic for people with Covid-19 symptoms who needed to see a healthcare professional and coronavirus testing centres.
  • We introduced a ‘check in and chat’ telephone support service for students unable to return home, so they could have a friendly conversation with a member of staff who volunteered their time. This was hugely welcomed by students.
  • We also committed to delivering a Net Zero Carbon Campus by 2030.

“This is evidence, if it were ever needed, that when the chips are down UON people think less about what it’s like living in infamous times and focus instead on rolling their sleeves up and helping when help is needed most.”