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University Mail Service to merge with College Messengers

The central University Mail Service is in the process of merging with the College Messengers, based at Magdalen College. Five College Messenger staff are moving to Wellington Square, and the teams will formally join forces from 1 August. There should be no change to the service for University departments, except that the merger will create a better, more transparent and more cost-effective service working across the collegiate University.

Colleges will now have the option to use the central mail room to process their outbound mail and cut costs through centralised franking; if all of them were to take full advantage, total expected savings would be around £500,000. The merger will also make it easier to pursue planned projects such as freight consolidation in response to the City Council’s planned Zero Emission Zone, working alongside Environmental Sustainability.

Bodleian Law Library roof repairs to start in August

The Conservation & Buildings team within Estates Services will begin repairs to the main roof of the Bodleian Law Library in the St Cross Building on 12 August.

This will involve replacing the roof structure; installing a new roof surface, skylights and rainwater drainage; cleaning and repairing brickwork; improvements to smoke detection systems; and internal redecoration. This will help preserve a historically and architecturally important building for the University and the wider city. There will also be a new passive ventilation system which will make the building more comfortable and reduce overheating in summer.

The works will require scaffolding inside and outside the building, including a temporary roof to protect it from the weather. The project is expected to last until March 6, with internal scaffolding removed during the Easter holiday.

The Law Library will be open as usual throughout, although there will be some access restrictions while the scaffold is installed. Contractors and Estates Services staff will work closely with Library staff to minimise disruption; weekly meetings will take place with opportunities for questions and feedback.

Advertising guidelines will improve Oxford streetscape

Estates Services staff have collaborated with GLAM and the City Council to produce a Good Practice Guide for advertising and signage outside museums and libraries – an area of growing concern to the Council. These guidelines will greatly improve consistency and quality of promotional material outside these venues, providing a framework within which they can promote themselves in an effective way while also respecting the historic urban environment and complying with all appropriate regulations, without needing to repeatedly gain Listed Building Consent for every advertising campaign.

They will eventually provide a template for council regulation of signs from private businesses around town. The Conservation & Buildings team are now working with consultants to formalise the guidelines, which are expected to apply to the areas around the Botanic Gardens, Clarendon Building, Holywell Music Room, History of Science Museum, Museum of Natural History, Old Bodleian, Pitt Rivers, Radcliffe Camera, Sheldonian Theatre and Weston Library. If you are interested in discussing the guidelines, contact conservation@admin.ox.ac.uk.

Summer events in Wytham Woods

The busy summer programme of events at Wytham Woods continues, with a moth-trapping Night on 20 July, a walk around bee nestboxes in Oxford itself on 27 July, a butterfly walk in the Woods on 3 August and several more citizen science events over the rest of that month.

If you are interested in a particular event or have any questions, contact the team on wytham.woods@admin.ox.ac.uk.

Smartwatch-based alarm monitoring on the way

The Security Services team have been working to upgrade the University’s alarm monitoring system to a modern smartwatch-based one, and have now received funding to complete the project. This means the new system should be in place by around mid-2021.

The old system that relays all intruder and fire alarm activations to the central control room was installed in 1993 and has become increasingly unreliable and prone to breakdowns over recent years. The new system will operate over the University IT network rather than over a dedicated copper wiring network. It will be far more reliable and resilient, and will increase Security Services’ ability to provide a safe, secure environment for staff and students. It also offers the potential to gather much more information about each alarm – ultimately it may enable the team to determine whether an activation is a false alarm or may need further investigation, and to reset false alarms remotely without sending a patrol officer out.

The team have been gradually rolling out the new system, but have now been allocated around £500,000 under the recently-launched Minor Capital Plan to finish the job. All buildings will now be expected to move onto the new system; this is anticipated to take around two years.

University Parks team work to re-open Keble Gate

University Parks staff are carrying out soft landscaping in the area around the Keble Gate, which has been closed off since the latter stages of the neighbouring Beecroft project. Plans to re-open the gate have had to wait for power cables uncovered during the project to be re-buried by the electricity distribution company, but this has now been done. Parks gardeners have completed work on the path areas around the gates, and will soon be laying wildflower turf in the spaces around them. They hope to re-open the gate to the public later in the summer, and that it will be an attractive new space in this corner of the park.

Security staff to receive mental health support training

In September, staff at Security Services will receive specialist training in how to provide mental health support to people experiencing mental health crises as first responders. This is a field that they have become increasingly involved with in recent years – for example, they are sometimes asked to support colleagues in helping distressed students outside normal working hours. The team hope formal training will improve their ability to manage situations sensitively and ensure people get the help they need.

Providing the training will be Christine Clark, who has already delivered courses on behalf of the Association of University Chief Security Officers to security teams at higher education institutions across the UK. Several colleagues from colleges, such as head porters, have also been invited along. No places are left on this initial round of training, but if there is demand the team may consider organising further courses – if you would be interested, contact Richard Mason on richard.mason@admin.ox.ac.uk.

Explore the University Parks for Open Doors

On 14 September the public will have the chance to explore some of the lesser-known parts of the University Parks, as the team’s contribution to Oxford Open Doors.

University Parks The following day the Oxford Memory Walk to raise funds to help people affected by dementia will take place in the park, and for the more athletically inclined the Oxford Half will return on 13 October, with a route that takes runners through the University Parks.

The Parks have had a busy summer programme of events already; they also recently hosted the return of Giffords Circus, a production of The Merchant of Venice by the Oxford Theatre Guild and the Race for Life in aid of Cancer Research UK.

Project Board training dates for 2019

Capital Projects team members have arranged Project Board training for the following dates in 2019:

  • Thursday 26 September
  • Wednesday 6 November

All sessions run from 10-11.30am and are held in The Malthouse, Tidmarsh Lane. Space is limited so if you are interested in attending, please contact Linda Ranford on linda.ranford@admin.ox.ac.uk. It is a requirement of BESC that all Project Board members attend one of these training sessions.

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