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Covid-19 HE

Information for HE members

29 August 2020

Covid-19 crisis information and advice for member working in higher education.

HE-specific advice for members

See also the joint statements and approaches agreed with UCEA about Covid-19:

Branch health and safety briefing:

Read the full UCU advice here

Key member news on the crisis and its impact on higher education

UCU has called on university and college employers across the UK to 'raise their game' in the fight against Omicron by allowing vulnerable staff to work remotely and ensure higher quality face masks are freely available for all staff working in-person on campus.

The call is part of updated guidance that aims to keep staff and students safe, and minimise disruption to learning as Omicron cases continue to rise.

The union has also said that all indoor spaces on campus must be monitored to ensure effective ventilation, and that where necessary air filtration units should be used to maintain clean air.

Upgrade face masks, guarantee sick pay & protect vulnerable staff on university & college campuses in Omicron fight

Briefing for HE members which includes an opening section covering health and safety issues.

UCU has welcomed employer support for student vaccination and has called for wider health & safety and workload commitments. This comes after the union welcomed Labour joining the union's calls for students to be prioritised for vaccines.

In response to reports that the UK government has considered compulsory vaccines for students UCU said making vaccinations compulsory as a condition to access their education 'is wrong and would be hugely discriminatory against those who are unable to be vaccinated, and international studentsin response to UK government has considered compulsory vaccines for students': UCU responds to reports of compulsory vaccines for students

UCU has issued a stark warning to governments across the UK that unless vaccines are made available to students and strict health and safety measures put in place on campus the chaos experienced by students in university and colleges last year is set to be repeated. The rolling back of Covid-19 restrictions by governments as cases surge could be a 'recipe for disaster' for post-16 education, with universities particularly vulnerable as over one million of students travel back to live and study in towns and cities away from home: 'Fully vaccinate students or face even worse disruption to education', UCU tells governments

UCU said the government was risking the safety of staff and students by lifting all Covid-19 restrictions whilst Covid-19 rates are climbing: Reopening plans put students' education & health at risk

UCU says the UK government is wrong to scrap Covid-19 health and safety measures in colleges & universities and needs to get the vast majority of students vaccinated: Government showing a 'reckless disregard for health and safety'

UCU has criticised the government's decision to resume in-person teaching at universities from 17 May saying it makes little sense for staff and students as most lessons will have already finished: UCU criticises university re-opening exercise

UCU general secretary Jo Grady says that the UK government has consistently disregarded the needs of university staff and students throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and has treated them as an afterthought at best. This followed the announcement that in-person teaching can return no earlier than 17 May on the day many summer terms recommenced: UCU response to 17 May university return

UCU said the UK government's decision not to lift restrictions on in-person teaching at English universities as part of the 12 April reopening was the right call: UCU statement on online learning at English universities

UCU said Universities UK was risking the safety of staff, students and the wider public with its call for a full return to campus and resumption of in-person activities for English universities: UCU response to Universities UK's call for full campus return from 12 April

UCU said several universities were breaching government guidelines over a return to in-person teaching: Universities flouting government guidelines over return to in-person teaching

UCU said any wider reopening of college and university campuses from 8 March is irresponsible and risks undoing the country's hard work to get Covid-19 rates down: UCU response to prime minister's statement

The Department for Education and Ofqual ran two consultations in January on the proposals for awarding grades for general qualifications and vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) in 2021. You can read our responses here.

UCU responds to university student support announcement

UCU responds to prime minister's statement on lockdown and re-opening of school sites

UCU threatens industrial action to prevent unsafe campus return this academic year

Critical worker status guidance for members and branches in Wales [100kb] published.

UCU response to OfS instructions to universities over latest lockdown

Key worker status guidance for members and branches in Scotland [96kb] published.

Government told education staff must be prioritised in Covid vaccine rollout

UCU publishes guidance for members and branches in England on critical worker status [100kb].

Covid-19 higher education health and safety update

UCU welcomes Scotland online teaching announcement

'Stay at home' mantra should to apply to universities too

UCU says students must not lose out due to digital poverty during lockdown

Move to online learning is a victory, but latest lockdown leaves staff and students in limbo

UCU says government plans for a return to in-person teaching 'doomed to fail'

UCU response to government announcement on January college return

Government U-turn on in-person teaching at universities is a 'step forward'

Government testing plan for students is 'recipe for chaos'

Over 770 academics condemn UKRI treatment of PhD students

UKRI must provide more support to PhD students hit hard by Covid

Government guidance for student Christmas return 'riddled with holes', says UCU

UCU response to Westminster government plans for student Covid Christmas testing

'We cannot risk repeat of 2020 GCSE and A-level results fiasco next summer'

UCU and NUS issue joint statement calling on universities  to move online where possible for new English lockdown

Union calls on vice-chancellors to move learning online

Online learning and the national lockdown

UCU says universities must move online for new national lockdown

UCU issues legal challenge over Westminster government's decision to ignore SAGE advice

UCU takes legal action against on campus health and safety

UCU launches petition demanding universities move online as campus Covid-19 cases hit 20k

Sign the petition.

Watch and share the video:

Government ignored scientists' advice to move university teaching online

UCU Scotland says new measures don't go far enough

UCU and the National Union Students issue joint statement calling for action over university Covid crisis

Gavin Williamson 'clearly wrong' to say universities are well prepared for Covid crisis

'Move universities online now': UCU's demand to PM

UCU response to potential Christmas lockdown for students away from home

UCU response to prime minister's new Covid restrictions statement

UCU puts government and employers on notice as it launches Covid monitoring in colleges and universities

Jo Grady tells TUC a second Covid wave can be prevented, but unions must lead the way

Latest government university guidance and young people infection rates prove case for online learning, says UCU

PM's 'ridiculously irresponsible' plan to force students to stay in event of Covid outbreak

UCU response to SAGE report on Covid in higher education

UCU comment on Scottish government guidance on reopening university campuses

Is it safe to reopen universities and colleges? Catch up with our online event held in advance of colleges and universities reopening:

Universities must not become the care homes of a Covid second wave

UCU Scotland calls for face coverings to be mandatory indoors on university campuses

Students support caution as universities plan return for new academic year

New study demonstrates huge local economic impact of universities
Study shows Scotland's universities support tens of thousands of jobs and generate billions for the country

​​​​​​​UCU members to defend most vulnerable staff as universities refuse to come clean on job cut plans

Labour Party's seven tests for higher education and demand for government support

Westminster government must follow Welsh lead in supporting colleges and universities

UCU and NUS condemn government using Covid-19 crisis to impose restriction on universities

UCU accuses ministers of using looming financial crisis to try and impose severe restrictions on universities

Voters in marginal seats fear local damage from university cuts and want government to intervene

Gavin Williamson speech response: Road to recovery must not involve cutting access to education

Government must back universities as report warns of financial crisis

Latest government support package fails to put students and staff at the centre of recovery plans, says UCU

UCU Scotland has produced a new report which looks at the findings from the London Economics analysis of the scale of the likely impact of the Covid-19 crisis on Scottish higher education:  Protecting jobs in HE in Scotland from the impact of Covid-19 [176kb]

Economic recovery group says Scotland's universities and colleges need protection from financial hit of Covid crisis

UCU launches 'Fund the Future' campaign to secure universities and colleges
Anger as University of Portsmouth restarts process to slash jobs during Covid-19 crisis

Covid-19 scientists' outcry at Imperial College's plans to axe vital staff

Need for government to underwrite universities as report warns of huge loss in income from international students

UCU has published five tests for a safe return to on-campus working [156kb]. See the perspective from UCU Scotland.

Also today, UCU reports that almost a quarter of prospective students fear their university could go bust as a result of Covid-19 crisis..

UCU response to plans for student number controls
UCU Scotland disconcerted over English student number cap

​​​​​​​Universities' reopening plans are only adding to confusion
UCU calls for government support as poll shows students may defer study and consider changing university

UCU calls for government support as poll shows students may defer study and consider changing university

New UCU report published which looks at the findings from the London Economics analysis of the scale of the likely impact of the Covid-19 crisis on higher education. It includes guidance for branches on how to use the findings at a local level: Protecting jobs in HE from the impact of Covid-19 [160kb].

See also the London Economics' impact report for Wales only. [1mb]

Government support package for universities doesn't provide protection the sector needs

New guidance for academic-related professional staff issued: UCU is aware that some ARPS staff in areas such as IT and facilities will need to attend on-site as part of skeleton staffing teams, to ensure that their institution can continue to function and to provide and maintain essential services eg, IT support for online teaching and learning. Please read our guidance for ARPS members here. [259kb]

University of Manchester under fire for job loss plans

Universities' £2.5bn 'black hole' will cost economy £6bn and 60,000 jobs, warns report

Durham University must halt plans to slash teaching by 25%, says UCU

UCU says Universities UK's proposals to support universities do not go far enough

Protect universities and colleges now so they can lead recovery, UCU tells minister

UCU general secretary Jo Grady has updated members on the situation with regards to the ongoing USS and HE 'four fights' disputes in light of the Covid-19 crisis.

Research Excellence Framework postponement announced: UCU said the cancellation of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) is an opportunity to reform how research is reviewed and funding is allocated, and welcomed the news  saying it was the only sensible move in the circumstances.

UCU calls on UK Research and Innovation (on behalf of all the research councils) to be flexible regarding deadlines for funding bids but more importantly to get them to support the continuing employment of fixed-term contract researchers during the current period: UCU letter to UKRI: retention of fixed-term workers, 24 Mar 20 [202kb]

Reballots postponed due to Covid-19; pickets cancelled but action continues

Last updated: 2 March 2022