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Published: 03 June 2020

Pandemic highlights Surrey’s community role

As Covid-19 spread across the globe, it brought with it a clear reminder of the critical role that universities must play in supporting society, through the biggest challenge of our time.

Stag sculpture in the evening with moving lights from passing traffic

As the pandemic picked up pace, it demanded a rapid and significant response and as a University community, we did not disappoint.

Our students, staff and graduates have been working to tackle the pandemic on the front line and the University has been able to play a small part in protecting them and their colleagues by donating more than 120,000 items of personal protective equipment (PPE). Recipients included the Royal Surrey County Hospital, local GP surgeries, hospices and care homes.

We gave the Royal Surrey County Hospital full access to three University buildings, made our car parks available to its staff and offered 100 campus rooms to keyworkers through the Hospital and Local Resilience Forum. Surrey Sports Park has also played its part, hosting training for staff from a regional Covid-19 testing site, also sited on University land. And we know that our own students are helping in processing such tests, working shifts at Government megalabs alongside their studies.

PhD trainees have been helping patients with neuropsychological problems to receive the interventions they need. Others have set up a helpline to provide mental health support to healthcare practitioners.

It is with immense pride that we have seen more than 250 final-year nursing, paramedic and other medical-related students start work in the NHS, alongside members of staff and students who volunteered in hospitals.

Elsewhere, our IT department installed additional connections at the Royal Surrey and our maintenance team assembled hospital beds as demand increased. After our catering team had delivered food to isolating students, it transported surplus supplies to hospital staff and elderly neighbours. For school children struggling to access literature during the lockdown, the Widening Participation and Outreach Department’s Book Access Scheme has been bridging the gap with book bundles.

And our students are continuing to provide support for the local community, by volunteering to deliver food and prescriptions, creating entertaining activities for care homes and walking pets for vulnerable neighbours.

We are also thankful to you, our Surrey alumni and friends, who have donated more than £288,000 to help students facing hardship at this time.

We are living through a significant moment in time. How the University has contributed, and the extent to which we continue to support the local community and wider society as this pandemic continues to affect our lives, will form an indelible part of our own history.

For all of the challenges and uncertainty brought about by Covid-19, I’m incredibly proud to be able to say that your University has played its part to the full, supporting in every way it can those who live and work locally.

Thank you.

Patrick Degg

Vice-President (External Engagement)

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