Michael Hewlett from MRG asks Stephen Wells, Director of Estates, Facilities and Commercial Services at the University of Surrey and current AUDE Chair five questions about their operational strategy and life after coronavirus lockdown
How have you adapted the during the pandemic in order to support the students?
We are now teaching fully online, we continue to have a significant number of students within our accommodation and we are supporting them as required (feeding, wellbeing etc).
When do you anticipate the road to recovery will begin? Do you have a proposed moving in dates for the new academic year?
Unsure and awaiting government guidance on when the lockdown will be relaxed but we are modelling a number of scenarios from September to early next year when operations will start on site but we anticipate social distancing will affect the way we operate for a significant amount of time.
Do you believe that the current situation has raised the profile of effective estates & facilities?
Not really, it is clearer what value E&F teams provide to our host universities specifically in areas such as accommodation, security and cleaning, but we also have a large proportion of staff that cannot do their jobs without being on site and therefore have been furloughed..
Do you think the pandemic will affect the UK’s reputation as a ‘go to’ destination for overseas students?
Absolutely, as the world reflects on its safety to travel generally, but the UK is still seen as the world leader in research etc.
What is the key lesson you have learned from this pandemic?
We can work in different ways that can reduce our impact on the environment and the new normal needs to make advantages of different ways of working such as home working to improve colleagues life work balance and reduce carbon emissions etc.
Regarding AUDE, the main benefit is a sector wide association that can discuss and debate local issues and how these can be responded to as a sector but also engage at a national level advising on the challenges, risks and most appropriate response.
Unlocking the Lockdown Series