The Vision for Fall 2021

With a view forward, the U of A’s COVID-19 response groups have laid the foundations to help us all safely transition to the next academic year.


With Summer 2021 officially here, we know that for many in our community Fall is what’s top of mind. From course planning to finalizing class schedules to thinking about what life on (and off) our campuses will look like - Fall 2021 feels both very far and very close. Our COVID-19 response groups, including the Fall 2021 Readiness Working Group, the Provost’s Task Force on Teaching and Learning, and the Public Health Response Team have laid the foundations to help us all transition to Fall 2021. 

The need to adjust and adapt to local and global public health measures means that details for Fall 2021 will continue to take shape as September nears. While there are and will be questions that we’re unable to answer definitively until later in the summer, the overarching vision for Fall 2021 is in place. This vision will see our campuses lively with activity - picture this:

It’s Wednesday, September 1, 2021, the first day of the Fall ’21 term. The day marks the first time in more than 17 months (533 days to be exact) that a large number of our U of A community have been in one place since the start of the pandemic in Alberta forced most of us home.

Classes are in. The majority of our students and their instructors are back. The staff who assist students on our campuses are back. Residences are humming with students who, following any and all public health requirements, have travelled from across Alberta and Canada and around the world to be at the U of A. Those researchers and their research teams who were away are back in their labs. 

Libraries are busy. Food courts are thriving. Fitness centres are buzzing. Buses and trains deliver people every hour; bikes fill the racks and cars are in the parking lots. 

People eating lunch, throwing frisbees, catching-up and making new acquaintances are spread out across the various quads and green spaces that dot our campuses. At Enterprise Square, staff try out the newly upgraded atrium, finding a new favourite spot to take in their morning coffee or tea. Newly arrived first year and second year students follow their upper-year peers who show them the best (and quickest) paths to purposefully make their way from building to building, class to class.

This is what we hope Fall 2021 will look like. Here’s how that vision will become a reality:

A Phased Entry to Our Campuses

We’ll be taking a phased approach to the reopening of our campuses for Fall 2021. Faculty and staff can expect to be invited back in stages starting in the Summer. Our campuses should fully reopen by January 2022. 

When your turn to start on-campus work arrives, your unit/supervisor will reach out to you at least 30 days prior to your scheduled start-date. Student services staff and instructors can expect to be included in the early phases of re-entry. 

Students registered for Fall 2021 courses will be welcomed in-person, and as needed for some individuals, remotely, first with scheduled move-in appointments for residences, timed orientation activities, and then with the first day of classes.

What Will Be Open on Campus This Fall?

Public Health Will Still Be Top Priority

The U of A is Getting Fall Ready
Learn how the U of A is getting Fall Ready

Since March 2020, we’ve learned to keep our distance, we’ve become experts at handwashing, we’ve stayed home when we’ve felt unwell, we’ve mastered the right way to wear a mask, and we are now taking our shots. Habits like these have kept us safe and regardless of whether or not they are formal requirements come September, will remain part of our community in the Fall and beyond the pandemic. 

For Fall 2021, health measures will be in place for those who are learning and working on our campuses. These will include (but are not limited to) strict cleaning and sanitization protocols with a focus on high touch-points, HVAC systems that pass industry standards, and the continuation of our Rapid Response Team to address any cases of COVID-19. 

Respect for one another’s personal space needs will be expected; however, we anticipate that formal requirements to remain 6 feet apart will be lifted. As a result, physical distancing within classroom settings is not anticipated at this time. 

We will be holding off on hosting any large gatherings for the start of the academic year, but you can expect to see smaller group interaction opportunities throughout the semester. 

The choice to adopt items like shields for front line points of service will be at the discretion of individual units, and it’s anticipated that masking will move from a requirement to an encouraged and welcomed practice. 

Adapting to a Hybrid World of Work 

The pandemic forced a major shift in how and where we work. As a result, many organizations have begun to explore what long-term hybrid working models may look like; we intend to do the same. Human Resources, Health, Safety and Environment is preparing a formal program to enable staff interested in the flexibility of work from home to explore options. More details will be available in August.

Supporting Students Wherever They Are

Students can expect to be supported when Fall 2021 arrives. Applicable orientation programming will be offered to both first and second year students, as these cohorts will be marking their first year on our campuses. Student services will continue to support students remotely and in person. The new Student Services Centre will also provide our students with a navigation hub for services, to better connect them to supports available to them across our campuses.

Students who are unable to attend in-person classes due to ongoing impacts from the pandemic can also be rest-assured that they will be part of Fall 2021. The Provost’s Task Force on Remote Teaching and Learning has developed a series of strategies that, when needed, our community can use to mitigate the challenges of online learning. At the start of July, instructors can expect to receive guidance on how best to implement adjustments for individual students who, due to the pandemic, are unable to attend synchronous in-person lectures, seminars, and/or labs. 

Staying Informed

We are all working together to create a safe and appropriate environment for Fall 2021. Doing so means that we must all do our part to stay informed of the latest information available. Updates from the various planning groups will continue to be available throughout the summer. Watch for them by visiting The Quad, reading the weekly COVID-19 information updates, checking out the university’s Campus Life webpage, or by following your faculty-specific news.

If you have questions or suggestions about details not yet outlined here, we do want to hear from you. Please reach out to the Fall ‘21 Readiness Working Group through to share them. 

Summer 2021 term remains as originally scheduled. Everyone currently working from home will continue to do so until notified otherwise. During the summer, as our spaces slowly re-open, masks and physical distancing will still be required on all U of A campuses until further notice. Find the latest updates from the Public Health Response Team on the U of A’s COVID-19 website.