Jessica Corner

June 5, 2020, by Rob Ounsworth

COVID-19: a milestone for our UK campuses

Update from Professor Dame Jessica Corner

This week, the University has reached a milestone in the phased return of more research activity to our UK campuses with the first wave of buildings, research spaces and facilities being prepared to welcome back specific teams.

However, as outlined in this week’s Recovery Group update by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Long, we are continuing to ask all colleagues to work from home until advised otherwise by their line manager.

Our return to campus is in many ways more challenging than implementing the lockdown. Many of you have requested timelines for reopening of specific areas of the University. This activity is challenging but plans will be shared as soon as possible. I am grateful for your continued patience.

We are working to bring the highest priority activity back as soon as possible, working collaboratively with Estates and Health and Safety to complete building and logistical checks, and ensure that the first cohort of researchers making the transition back to campus research are fully prepared and supported. The criteria for priority research were outlined in my previous update.

The first areas under consideration are facilities that support research that cannot be performed from home. The first buildings being considered include the Biodiscovery Institute and Chemistry Building at University Park; Veterinary School and Plant Sciences at Sutton Bonington Campus; and Advanced Manufacturing Building at Jubilee Campus.

We will review this approach regularly and inform you when further areas of the University are to reopen – but do note that even if a building you would normally work in is reopened you must only return once you have been asked to do so.

By the start of the new academic year, we hope to be closer to a fuller return to on-campus research, while taking into account the evolving UK government guidance and how we are adapting to new ways of working in the post COVID-19 world.

Factoring in social distancing and UK guidance on working safely during COVID-19, we are surveying each research space, including access, people flows around buildings, signage, sanitary stations, ventilation, and toilet facilities, and factoring in all users.

My sincere thanks are owed to Director of Estates Linda Goodacre and her team; Health and Safety Director Neil Hawthorne and his colleagues; and Nigel Owen, who is coordinating this project on behalf of Planning, Performance and Strategic Change, for tackling an unprecedented task with such goodwill and amazing teamwork.

The dedication and continuing work on-campus by Estates and technical colleagues has helped maintain our progress towards recovery. Please look out for our recognition of these #CampusStars on social media.

Meanwhile, faculties, schools, institutes and research groups are also working hard to ensure our people – researchers and supporting colleagues – remain at the heart of this complex process.

By using a health declaration form for each returning member of staff, we will ensure that personal challenges in returning to work, such as caring commitments or shielding, are identified in order to offer appropriate support.

Grab and Go

To ensure home and remote working is supported as much as possible, Information Services has introduced a new service to enable colleagues to order and collect specialist equipment and items such as monitors, docking stations, chairs and webcams, as well as to pick up essential items from their normal workplace.

Please visit for support and to request this service. To keep everyone safe please follow this managed process.

Library re-opening

We are working with Libraries to find a way of offering ‘click and collect’ access to Hallward resources for priority research activity. Initially, access will be restricted to what is on the shelf, as it will take time for returns and inter-site activity to get up to speed.

Town hall meetings for researchers

Thank you to those who have attended a town hall, I have thoroughly enjoyed these opportunities to talk to so many of you. To date we have welcomed more than 600 colleagues to these forums, and your input is having a direct influence on the University’s response and the support we are offering to our researchers.

The final town hall in this series takes place on Monday 8 June and is aimed at all research staff. There are still spaces, so please do book your place. There will be a second series in late June/early July, do look out for the dates coming soon.

Responses to issues and questions raised at the town halls, and recordings from each session, will be added to our COVID-19 resources for researchers, and inform our future support for you. We will notify you once these resources are available.

Postgraduate researchers

We are working hard to support our entire postgraduate research (PGR) community of more than 3,000 students. We are aware that you may be concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on your research and job security. Our FAQs will help you to understand the support that is available to you. As discussed earlier, plans to reopen campus are under way but at this stage it is not possible to issue a timetable for this complex process.

All PGRs whose funding ends between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 20201 are eligible to apply for an extension of up to six months. For fairness and consistency, these extension requests will be considered case by case on individual need, and will be awarded for the time justified, which we expect to be less than six months in the majority of cases.

We encourage all PGRs to continue to try and work to their existing deadlines, and only apply for an extension if necessary. We have prioritised UKRI-funded extension applications to meet UKRI deadlines, but will be considering applications from our other PGRs soon. Thank you all for your patience while we work through the large number of requests.

Find out more on extensions and the process for application

Please raise any questions with your supervisors, DTP/CDT director or manager or refer to FAQs and other resources for postgraduate researchers.

Our successes

I am delighted once again to share further news of colleagues’ successes.

Dr Sara Parks, of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, has been awarded a three-year Leverhulme Trust early career fellowship to research how misogyny and anti-Judaism intersect in early Christianity.

Dr Bekum Tokay, of the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, has been awarded a horizon scanning award from the UK Manufacturing Symbiosis Network to study the conversion of mushroom waste into value added products.

Dr Edward Burke, of the Department of Politics and International Relations has been awarded an ECR fellowship by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to lead a project on use of deterrent violence in rural Ulster’s long century of paramilitary conflict.

Thomas O’Loughlin, of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, has been made an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy, considered the highest academic distinction in Ireland. Professor O’Loughlin is an authority on the origins and evolution of the liturgy and theology of the early Christian Church.

HR Excellence in Research Award

I am also delighted that the University has retained a leading award for supporting the potential of researchers. The European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Award recognises the University’s efforts to achieve the ambitions set out in the European Charter and Code for Researchers.

Retaining this accreditation is testament to the sustained hard work of colleagues from across the University in training and enhancing the skills of our research community and reflects our continued support for research with the EU. In these challenging times, we remain committed to the values that secured this award.

2020 Tri-Campus Postgraduate Researcher awards

These awards recognise the accomplishments and contributions of some of our most outstanding postgraduate researchers. Sadly, the Graduate School was unable to host a celebration and brunch this year – instead please enjoy this record of their achievements.


We continue to play a significant part in the UK’s response to COVID-19.

The University of Nottingham Health Service, at Cripps Medical Centre, University Park, is recruiting for the next phase in human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine in human volunteers. The vaccine has been developed by researchers from the University of Oxford.

In the first event of its kind, UK and Indonesian policy makers, scientists, and funding agencies have discussed the roadmap to tackling COVID-19 with the aid of effective multi-disciplinary collaborations.

My sincere thanks

This week marks a milestone towards our recovery. Many of our colleagues are working incredibly hard to support the gradual process of returning to campus.

This week also marks a relaxation of the government’s guidelines on social distancing. For now, University staff should continue to work from home until advised otherwise. Your safety and wellbeing continues to be our absolute priority as we gradually return to a ‘new normal’ for research.

Many of us are also thinking about how research will look and the opportunities to work together in new ways that build upon our response to challenges from the virus. Professor Chris Denning, Director of the Biodiscovery Institute, shares his thoughts on this.

Thank you once again for support and goodwill, and my very best wishes to you and your loved ones.

Best wishes

Jessica Corner's signature

Professor Dame Jessica Corner

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange


Posted in research