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Universities Minister visits York campus ahead of new term

Posted on 17 September 2020

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan MP visited the University of York today (Thursday 17 Sept) to see some of the measures we are taking to make our campus Covid-safe.

The Vice-Chancellor Professor Charlie Jeffery briefs the Universities Minister

During the visit, the Minister also heard more about our world-leading research into mental health, our initiatives in widening participation and social mobility and our support for care leavers.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Charlie Jeffery greeted the Minister and began the visit with a tour of The Forest, a Covid-secure outdoor arena on campus which is under construction for the start of term.


The Minister – a University of York alumna – went on to view a reconfigured teaching space and heard about the measures we are taking to deliver Covid-safe learning and research this term.

Measures include reconfigured learning and social venues, increased signage and hand sanitiser stations, one-way systems around campus venues and the use of timetabling and accommodation data to help track potential contacts.

The Minister heard from Ian Wiggins, Outbreak Management Strategic Officer; Denis Fowler, Head of Health and Safety; and from Patrick O’Donnell, President of YUSU, on the collaborative approach the University is taking to ensure the campus is Covid-safe.

Professor Tracy Lightfoot, the incoming Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students, explained how the University is using technology to enhance the learning experience during the pandemic through the provision of online courses and communities.

“We are very proud of what we have achieved, in what has been a very short space of time,” she told the Minister.

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Later, Michelle Donelan heard from Professor Barry Wright about our world-leading research into mental health and the interdisciplinary approach the University is taking to tackle the issue.

The Minister heard how the mental health of students and young people is a particular focus for the research teams and heard from student leaders about the importance of physical activity and social networks for young people.

The final two sessions focussed on the University’s approach to social mobility and our support for care leavers. 

The Minister spoke to several students, including a third-year physics student and mature learner, on what attracted him to York and some of the support measures he received.


The Ministerial visit ended with an outline of the York Commitment and our enhanced package of measures to support care leavers.

Professor Jeffery said: “I was delighted to welcome Michelle Donelan back to the University of York. Although the campus may have changed physically since she was last here, our guiding principles of excellence, equality and opportunity for all have not.

“I was grateful for the opportunity to outline the measures we are taking to make the campus Covid-safe for students, staff and wider community, but also to highlight our outstanding research into mental health and our initiatives to increase social mobility and our sector-leading commitment to care leavers.”


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