All at Westminster are aware of the uncertainties that have arisen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know of the plans in hand to ease the lockdown. However, we are heading into unknown territory and the situation could change dramatically between now and the beginning of the next academic session. This message outlines plans as at the end of May 2020. It will be updated as we gain further clarity.
As with comparable institutions and, indeed, Cambridge University, Westminster is currently planning to welcome students back to residency in Cambridge at the start of the 2020-21 academic year. We are following the advice from Public Health England and seeking to make the Westminster site COVID-secure according to government guidelines.
We remain committed to working with Cambridge Theological Federation, university and denominational partners in order to deliver first class ministerial formation for ordinands in Education for Ministry phase 1, as well as providing continuing professional development for ordained ministers of Word and Sacraments and learning opportunities for the whole United Reformed Church. But we acknowledge too that what we do must be as safe as possible for all who participate as we navigate our way through the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At present, it seems that social distancing will be in place for the foreseeable future. This means that small group teaching, including seminars, tutorials and supervisions, will be offered in suitably equipped spaces. Larger gatherings are unlikely to be permitted. Lectures will be delivered online. Placements will be arranged and conducted in line with relevant local church and social context practices.
We have to acknowledge that, even as restrictions are lifted, there will be those in our learning community who might still have to self-isolate. We are likely, then, to provide blended learning opportunities as we move forward, always alongside our Federation partners and in light of the most up-to-date guidelines that emerge from public bodies.
Our plans are constantly revisited and reviewed. We are committed to providing what is necessary for our students to continue and to complete their programmes and to provide also the opportunities for ministerial formation that lie outside academic programmes. We commit ourselves to further communication as our planning develops and we are clearer about how and when lockdown restrictions will be lifted.
Please pray for the whole College community as we try to plan for an uncertain future. Be assured of our prayers as we all seek a way forward.