The UCU have recently claimed that spikes in university hotspots could have been avoided if the government had better prioritised students’ health and wellbeing.
The mass migration of students across the country has led to many major university cities seeing a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases
Just before the beginning of term, documents from SAGE (the scientific advisory group for emergencies) told government officials that the return of university students to campues across the nation could potentially cause an increase in cases. They claimed all teaching should take place online “unless face-to-face teaching is absolutely essential,” as part of a list of immediate interventions to prevent an “exponential rise” in COVID-19 cases.
The mass migration of students across the country has led to many major university cities seeing a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the new academic year. The University of Nottingham has reported in excess of 1,500 confirmed cases since the beginning of term, whilst other universities have been forced to return to online learning due to the vast levels of Coronavirus on campus.
General secretary of the University and College Union, Jo Grady, spoke of the “chaos” on campuses across the country and argued that this was a direct result of the government ministers’ choices to ignore advice from SAGE. She argued that, instead, they decided “to put the health of university staff, students and local communities at risk”.
Individuals in areas of ‘very high risk’ are being encouraged to limit travel
Dr Grady further criticised the government’s actions, suggesting “they could have taken swift and decisive action then and instructed universities to move their teaching online… to stop more areas being forced into harsher restrictions”. She also stated that “students should be allowed to return home if they wish, provided it is safe to do so,”, which for students in areas such as Liverpool and Greater Manchester could prove tricky as individuals in areas of ‘very high risk’ are being encouraged to limit travel.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education explained that the government was following the advice from SAGE linked to the four tiers of restrictions for education settings. She explained, “we understand this has been a difficult time for students, which is why we prioritised their education and well-being so young people’s lives were not put on hold”.
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