Western's plan for the fall semester

May 29, 2020 2:00 PM

Greetings to All Western Students,

I hope you and your families are keeping well in these highly unusual times. I imagine you’re eager to return to the regular pace of life and all the great opportunities that await you. 

It’s certainly a disruptive and difficult time for everyone – but it is only temporary.

Today I’m writing with an update about the fall semester and beyond.

At Western, our (remote!) teams are working hard to ensure that we will be able to offer the very high quality student experience that is consistent with the world-class university we are, and that you and your families expect.

The value of your Western degree will long outlast this virus.

The hard work and dedication you put into your degree will set you up for success, as it has for the more than 300,000 Western alumni who have come before you over the last 140 years.

Western will offer a full fall semester for every student, whether you are new to Western or returning.  

We continue to believe in the deep value of engaging each other face to face when we can, and we’re working hard to make as much of that happen as we can under the circumstances. It won’t be the fall semester we all would have expected under normal times, but we think it will still be a positive experience to be in London, among your friends, classmates and teachers.

We will need your help to make this work. Keeping the campus community safe will be incredibly complicated and will be a shared responsibility.

Recently we shared information with faculty and staff about how we will approach health and safety in taking a very gradual and phased approach in returning to campus and in resuming research activities.

We will continue to carefully follow ministry and public health regulations, while preserving as many in-person experiences as possible.

Currently, we anticipate that between 25-30 per cent of our courses will have an on-campus experience. The availability of on-campus experiences, however, will differ depending on your course selection, your program and year of study, and further details will be shared during the registration process.

We realize you are faced with complex decisions about the coming year.

With so much uncertainty, we know you’re wondering if it will be safe to come to campus, whether residence is still an option, what your social experience will be, and what your courses will look like.

We hope the following information is helpful and provides some clarity as you make your decisions – many of you for the first time.

Here goes:


The health and safety of our campus community is our top priority.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have and will continue to implement some significant changes. Western is working with a global architecture and space planning firm to help inform this important work around the use of our spaces.

When you return to campus, things will look and feel a bit different: you will notice some new rules about how we gather together and changes to our physical spaces.

Our students, faculty and staff will be important partners in these efforts. When each of us adheres to these changes and follows appropriate precautions, we make our entire community safer.

The uncertainty and change surrounding the pandemic may cause feelings of heightened anxiety and stress. Western Health & Wellness continues to be here for students – you can find wellness information and other resources to help get you through the term online.



On June 1, all courses will be available for review on the Student Center system. The mode of delivery of courses will be described in “Draft My Schedule” and “Student Center” and will be labeled whether they are completely online or include an in-person component.

First-Year Registration

Fall/winter course registration begins next week. Enrolment appointments for first-year students start Saturday, June 6 for the fall/winter 2020 term. Check your Western email account for your specific enrolment appointment time. 

The mode of delivery of courses will be described in “Draft My Schedule” and “Student Center” and will be labeled whether they are completely online or include an in-person component.

We strongly encourage you to participate in Summer Academic Orientation (SAO), a free virtual program to assist incoming students with their course selection. Participating in SAO will help answer your questions about programs and mode of delivery – online or with an in-person component. SAO will also help you understand the programs and services and supports available to help you feel confident about your personal decisions, progress towards your degree and your social experiences during your time at Western.

After your SAO appointment, if you still need help creating a conflict-free schedule, we encourage you to book a virtual timetable session with one of our staff.

International students can also book an appointment with an international liaison officer to discuss specific needs and questions.

More information on registration for new students is available online, as are FAQs for Future Students.

Upper-Year Registration

Access to course registration during the priority enrolment period begins with your enrolment appointment, which is determined by your academic level/year of study. 

Enrolment appointments will be scheduled:

  • July 6 – 10 for 4th year students
  • July 13 – 17 for 3rd year students
  • July 20 – 24 for 2nd year students

The mode of delivery of courses will be described in “Draft My Schedule” and “Student Center” and will be labeled whether they are completely online or include an in-person component.

More information on registration is available online.

Visit FAQs for Current Students for more information. 


Western students deserve great choices.

As we work to help you achieve your academic and personal development goals, we will enable as many in-person experiences as possible while following the advice of public health. Currently, we anticipate that between 25-30 per cent of our courses will have an on-campus experience.

Physical distancing requirements will reduce the capacity of our campus. Depending on the directions we get from public health, the capacity reductions could be significant.

Many of our largest courses will be delivered online throughout the fall and winter terms, but we are looking to provide small group experiences as well. Some of these experiences will be virtual and some will be face to face as the conditions allow.

We are also aiming for clinical programs, some undergraduate seminars and labs, and labs for research-based graduate students to be delivered in-person.

Access to libraries, computer labs and other learning and personal resources may be different than in the past. We will share more information on this as it becomes available.

We have increased our financial support for both graduate and undergraduate students, including the establishment of a $13.5-million student support fund.

We will continue to provide support to help you manage your academics, finances and well-being so you can thrive even if you’re not on campus. Visit the Digital Student Experience page for a variety of resources and our Student Resources Hub - a site built to provide you with quick links to academic and non-academic learning, services and opportunities throughout the summer.


This summer, we’re launching Thriving Foundations, a new program aimed at providing first-year students the best academic and student experience possible. This includes academic supports, assistance in making community connections and a peer coaching program. 

Our new SmartStart program will provide incoming students with a solid foundation for their academic journey.

As part of the Thriving Foundations program, Western is planning to host one-day intensive experiences on campus in July and August (subject to public health regulations). Students will be grouped with others in their program and will get to spend a day of learning and fun together. Details will be sent to incoming students in June. 

In the meantime, you can look around campus, inside buildings, classrooms, and residences on our virtual tour page.


Residence is an integral part of the in-person educational experience, and Western plans to honour our first-year residence guarantee for students this September. 

Living in residence gives you access to residence-based events and social activities, support services and academic programming to help you succeed in first year.

Planning is underway, in consultation with our local health authorities, to determine how we can safely accommodate students and implement physical distancing models.

The deadline to reserve your spot in residence is June 3. Learn more on the Residence COVID-19 FAQ page.


We know there are a number of specific concerns for our international students during this time of uncertainty. Please see this important update for more information about immigration, remote learning, travel, arrival and quarantine planning, and more

For those students who are able to travel from outside of Canada to be with us in London, arrangements are being made to support you during the mandatory 14-day quarantine, well ahead of the beginning of the school year.

Please reach out to the Western International team for assistance at iesc@uwo.ca


The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has created a website to keep our graduate and postdoctoral community updated with the latest information related to COVID-19. There you will find information regarding funding, fees, admissions and so on. If you have questions, please visit our Services Guide: https://grad.uwo.ca/administration/directory.html

Students in Western’s professional programs should consult their relevant faculty for any program-specific details, as approaches may vary faculty to faculty.


While the information included here may answer some of your questions, we are keenly aware you may have many more about how the fall term will look and feel.

On Monday, June 1 at 3 p.m. ET, members of Western’s senior leadership team and I will host a Virtual Town Hall where we will provide an update and answer your questions. (We anticipate a large number of participants, so individual questions are likely to be grouped together.) The Virtual Town Hall will also be available on Facebook live.

Be sure to register in advance and submit your questions through Western’s social media channels if you would like to participate.


I am grateful to our students at Western for your engagement in the life of the university. Thank you for your flexibility and understanding as we’ve adjusted throughout this pandemic. 

I would also like to thank my faculty and staff colleagues for their extraordinary efforts as we plan to welcome back our students in September – both virtually and in person.

I am confident in the strength of Western. We have a special campus community and I know we can build on that, even in these challenging times. This is a great place to invest in your future, and we’re happy you’re with us.

Stay healthy. Stay well!


Alan Shepard

President and Vice-Chancellor