In the news 15 May 2020

15 May 2020

Unions set out five tests government and colleges must meet before staff and students can return

Staff and student safety must be guaranteed before colleges can reopen, said unions on Wednesday as they set out five tests that must be met by government and colleges.

In response to government guidance on how students may return to face-to-face teaching in colleges, UCU, the GMB, UNISON, Unite and the National Education Union (NEU) called for stringent hygiene measures to avoid colleges becoming Covid-19 hotspots.

The unions said that social distancing plans had to extend beyond the classroom to cover things like travelling to and from college and socialising. To help deal with those challenges, they said that staff and students who can work from home should continue to do so. 

Speaking to Tes, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'Staff and student health is the number one priority and nobody should be going back to college until it is safe to do so. The government needs to work us to address the national challenges, while individual colleges should work with their local union reps to address the unique challenges they will face.'


Government gives universities "far too short notice" to return to labs

UCU said student and staff safety needed to be "the number one priority" in any plan to reopen workplaces and launched a member survey to help them protect staff during the pandemic. Universities also resisted calls to reopen, with one vice-chancellor saying that opening labs this week was "far too short notice".

Speaking to Research Professional on Tuesday, Jo Grady said: 'Staff and student health is the number one priority and nobody should be going back to work until it is safe to do so. You cannot reopen without a thorough health and safety risk assessment and being confident that you have met all those challenges. We don't believe universities would want to take those risks and we would not expect staff to return without guarantees over their health and safety.'


Jo Grady calls for sector-wide response to fall in international students

Speaking on BBC London last night, Jo Grady said we can't afford universities to have competing against each other for students during the Covid-19 crisis.

Picking up on UCU's recent report into the financial hardship the higher education will face without serious government support, the BBC warned that the future of some London universities is far from certain due to the drop in international students..

Jo warned that universities competing with each other during the crisis would undermine afforts for the sector to work together to secure vital government support.. She said: 'Universities are not thinking about the sector as a whole; they are thinking about how they are going to fare in the crisis compared to their competitor down the road...and that's the real problem'.

Last updated: 15 May 2020