Agony aunt

November 10, 2000

Helen Johnstone , Registry University College Worcester .

A: The rivers are getting higher as water comes down from Wales. We have played it by ear so far. We have been catching up from last week, when we closed on Thursday afternoon and Friday.

Several members of staff were given lifts across the River Severn in army lorries. More than half our staff live on the other side (of the river), and they had to be sent home while they still could get across.

Teaching staff were told to reschedule classes and reset tests. We told concerned students to listen to local radio or phone the helpline. The university college is acting as a temporary ambulance base for this side of the Severn.

Alison Field , Press officer Sussex University .

A: When the first of the bad weather hit, the press office received lots of calls from students and staff asking if the university was closed. That is probably because we used to be called the information office. The vice-chancellor would take the decision to close the university. The one time he did was because of snow. The university closed at noon - just as the sun came out and melted the snow.

Joan Astill , School of English and American studies Sussex University .

A: Very few of our students live in the flood zone and staff have struggled in.

Sussex is organised in schools rather than departments, and each major subject group has a coordinator. They would be the first port of call for a member of staff who could not get in. The coordinator would leave a message on the seminar door.

We teach by seminars of about 12 students, more than by lectures. Each student has an email address, and there are banks of computers scattered about campus. This makes it easier for the tutor to email all his or her students and perhaps set work if they cancel a session.

Carol Wilcox , Director York College of Law .

A: So far we have only lost one teaching period, which was late last Friday when the flood alert centre said it was dangerous to travel because the river waters were rising. We sent students and staff home before the rush hour. This week, the waters receded but it was still raining.

As we offer professional qualifications, all our classes are compulsory, students have to sign in and we monitor absences. We lost two sessions last week and arranged catch-up classes. When students have individual difficulties we ask them to contact their tutor or timetabler to slot in a substitute session. Most can attend another session as there is a lot of repetition, with some classes running many times a week. There are 600 full-time students here and most have relocated to York. Student services have been scanning student records to see where they live and if they are likely to be affected by the floods.

The travel conditions have hit part-timers, who attend residential weekends. We cancelled last weekend, contacting students by telephone, and we will do the same again if the weather and rail do not improve.

Forty per cent of students come from the Midlands and the South, and we are looking into sending them elsewhere, although there would be costs. New technology teaching is not much of an option as the Law Society has strict rules about face-to-face contact.

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