A first step towards the new norm?

1 September 2021

"Hang in there. Keep distance" is something we're all rather used to hearing by now. And maybe your summer holidays were particularly needed this year? But now, the autumn semester is kicking off and I'm looking forward to it. With that also comes the first step in gradually returning to on-campus activities this autumn semester at Umeå University.

Hans Adolfsson, Vice-Chancellor

Photo: Malin Grönborg

The first group offered education with physical attendance on campus are beginner students on study programmes. For many programme students, the start of their studies is a whole new chapter of their lives. And for some, the university, the city, the teachers and student peers are entirely new. As long as there is a need to limit the number of people on campus to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19, programme students are an important group to prioritise – to give them a good start to their studies.

Later on this semester, it will also be possible to teach all campus students on-site, which I have recently established in a new COVID-regulation. As the spread of infection is currently high among young adults in Västerbotten, we are naturally following the developments closely together with the infection experts at Region Västerbotten.

The pandemic is sadly far from over and it's still important to avoid crowding in university premises. That's why staff who can work from home. These measures apply until the Public Health Agency of Sweden and the Swedish Government have changed their recommendations. One of the factors that decide whether we can open campus or not is the vaccination rate. I wish to urge all students and staff to follow the Public Health Agency of Sweden's recommendation to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Take your responsibility, book your appointment and protect yourself and others. To maximise the vaccination rates among young adults, Region Västerbotten is already collaborating with upper-secondary schools in the region and discussions with the university about opening a campus-based vaccination station is underway.

The need to meet others is human and it's also an important part of the Umeå University culture, with its short geographical and social distances. I sympathise fully with the resignation you may feel if you are working from home without an end date in sight. Living in the present is a challenge, particularly when it comes to planning your work based on the situation we are currently in. I, and the entire University Management with me, truthfully look forward to the day when we can lift more of the COVID measures and enable for everyone to return to their workplaces.

At the same time as we have started a cautious re-opening of our campuses, work is also underway to discuss work life at the university after the pandemic. It will be interesting to see what conclusions the work group looking into these issues will reach. What will be the new norm when it comes to work?

The university adamantly continues to hope to achieve a gradual return where everyone gets to meet at the workplace again at some point this autumn semester. Should your patience run out at home now at the start of the semester, you can remind yourself that "you're taking one for the team", so to speak. Maybe that can bring some comfort.

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