Student and Staff Wellbeing

Covid-19 Update - 6 July 2020 - PGR

Covid-19 Update Message to research students - 6 July 2020

Lucy Backhurst, Academic Registrar, shares the latest updates with PGR students.

Dear Postgraduate Research Students,

In this week’s message I provide more information on:

  • PGR Education Resilience Framework
  • The outcome of a review of our key student-facing policies
  • Guidance on support for students who have a disability, long term health or mental health condition, specific learning difficulty and/or caring responsibilities
  • Student Employment on Campus
  • The move to Canvas – the new Virtual Learning Environment

It’s another long message, but it does contain some important updates that will assist with the continuation of your studies/research.  You may find that you need to take action in response to some of the updates, so please can I encourage you to read to the end!   

This message and the archive of recent messages can be accessed on the dedicated Coronavirus webpages.

PGR Education Resilience Framework

We have developed this framework to set out the continuing approach for delivery of PGR study in the context of the existing Code of Practice for Postgraduate Research Students, the uncertainty caused by Covid-19 and the fact that postgraduate research study is by its very nature, highly individualised.   We have updated our FAQs in line with the information in this framework and will continue to do so as the situation develops.

At present, the framework does not provide detailed information relating to the financial support for PGR students, however, this is an area that is under discussion and guidance will be released as soon as it becomes available.

Update on Student-facing Discipline Policies

Earlier this year, a working group was set up to review student-facing discipline policies.  The Group, chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, included sabbatical officers (Katie Smyth, NUSU President, and Sara Elkhawad, Welfare and Equality Officer) and was established to provide reassurance to students about how the University handles student complaints and discipline issues.

The work of the group was informed by the views of the wider student body which was obtained via a number of focus groups involving students and led by NUSU.  It also drew on the findings of a survey conducted by the ‘It Happens Here Society’ and NUSU staff that captured the experiences of students reporting incidents of sexual misconduct at University.

In addition, external legal advice on our policies was sought from Eversheds Sutherland and a ‘critical friend’ was engaged from the University of Warwick where they have recently undertaken a similar review.

At its meeting on 24 June Senate, the University’s academic governing body, approved a number of ‘student friendly’ policies.  These policies include the following changes which respond directly to concerns expressed by students:

  • Responding and reporting students will receive information on any sanctions that are applied and both parties will have the right of appeal.
  • Sanctions imposed by Newcastle University as a result of a disciplinary hearing on sexual misconduct and hate related incidents, will prevent the responding party from readmission to the University for a further programme of study until the reporting party is no longer a student of the University.
  • All reports of sexual misconduct should be logged via the University’s Report and Support online reporting system, including anonymous reports. This will facilitate effective case management from trained colleagues in Student Health and Wellbeing, and help monitor any trends in sexual misconduct e.g. if there are a high amount of cases in a particular halls of residence.
  • Reporting parties will be provided with a named contact in Student Health and Wellbeing who will provide independent support throughout the complaint and resolution process.

Further work is to be done to prepare a data sharing agreement with Northumbria Police, to revise the inductions and training for students on issues such as sexual and hate related misconduct, and to implement a centralised hate crime reporting channel on the University’s Report and Support system.

The University will continue to work through its Changing the Culture Working Group with the new team of sabbatical officers to implement improvements. 

If you have any questions or would like further information please contact

Support for students who have a disability, long-term medical condition, mental health condition, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, specific learning difficulty and caring responsibilities

During these Covid times and in preparation for the academic year 2020-21, it is vital we understand your needs.  Firstly, we ask that you check your personal details on S3P and, where necessary, update disclosure of your disability. Please take time now to check your information on S3P

Secondly, we would ask you to reflect on how you have managed your research in these unprecedented times and to let us know if we need to put in place support for you, or review the existing support and adjustments for your studies into the academic year 2020-21 should remote learning continue.  This will provide an opportunity for us to discuss with you support issues related to your disability/long term health or mental health condition/specific learning difficulty should these be relevant.

If you wish to discuss your needs further, it is recommended that you arrange an appointment with a Wellbeing Advisor as soon as possible, as this will ensure any support or changes/updates to existing support are in place for by not later than the start of the academic year 2020-21.

Please be aware that Student Health and Wellbeing advisors are currently working remotely. You can contact our Wellbeing Advisors by email.  

  • To contact the Disability Team regarding a disability, or long-term medical condition(s) please email:  
  • To contact the Specialist Learning Team regarding a specific learning difficulty, such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia,  AD(H)D or Autistic Spectrum Disorder please email:  
  • To contact the Mental Health Advisor Team regarding a mental health condition please email:

Details of our service can be found by visiting the Student Health and Wellbeing webpages. If you have any further questions or concerns, or you would like to book an appointment, please do contact the team.

Student Employment on Campus

The impact of Covid-19 has been wide-ranging and has caused the temporary closure of a number of areas of the University. Some students who were working on campus have been impacted by this, with some temporary assignments coming to an end earlier than expected.  We know how disappointing this is for many of you who value this paid work experience, not just financially but also for developing your employability skills.

As well as graduate and placement roles, part time job, internships and on-campus employment opportunities are regularly advertised on MyCareer and, as facilities open and we start to return to campus, we expect more roles to be advertised.  It is likely that the majority of the roles available in Semester 1 will be worked remotely, which will give you more opportunity to work flexibly around your studies. 

As a university we really value the work our students do on campus and we also know that losing this paid work might put some of you in financial difficulty.  For those finding themselves in hardship, the Student Hardship Fund is available.

Our Careers Service website provides a wide range of information about how you can find and apply for other paid work opportunities at the University, and in the region, and our friendly and expert team provide advice and guidance, whether you're seeking a graduate career, thinking of doing further study, or interested in starting a business.  Details about the support available can be found here and further information about working on campus is also available.

The Move to Canvas

From Friday 31 July 2020, access to Blackboard for students and staff will no longer be possible as we move to Canvas, our exciting new learning platform.

This transition to Canvas will bring a number of benefits to students, most importantly - ease of use, and it will be the place to go for any of your online learning materials from 31 July 2020 onwards.

ReCap recordings and content for courses from 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 will automatically transfer into Canvas during the week commencing w/c 20 July 2020 and will no longer be accessible from Blackboard after that date.

Make sure you are ready for the switch to Canvas by following 5 key steps:

1. Save Assessment Feedback

If you will need access to any assignment feedback after 31 July 2020 then you will need to download this from Blackboard before 31 July 2020 as this does not copy into Canvas. Details about how to do this are available on the Canvas Student FAQs page.

2. Familiarise yourself with Canvas

Access the student online Getting to Know Canvas course at any time and work through it at your own pace or check out the library of Canvas Student guides.

3. Download the Canvas app

The Canvas Student app allows you to access your courses and groups, receive notifications and messages, submit assignments and more from your mobile device. The app is available for Android and iOS devices.

4. Manage your notifications

Set your notification preferences so that you get the information you need from Canvas where and when you want it.

5. Access and personalise your courses

You will get access in Canvas to any 2017-2018, 2018-19 and 2019-20 taught courses that you were enrolled on in Blackboard as a student as well as any communities on the 10th July 2020. Please note that as this is a different platform to Blackboard, the content may not be structured in the same way. By default the Canvas dashboard will show you up to 20 courses which you can personalise. To manage what is displayed, favourite the courses you need access to the most.

Further information, Canvas updates and answers to FAQs can be found on the Canvas website.

With thanks and best wishes,


Lucy Backhurst
Academic Registrar