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Zarah Sultana MP calls on Warwick and Coventry universities to move teaching online

11 September 2020 | last updated: 17 September 2020

Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana has called on Warwick and Coventry universities to move teaching online and abandon plans for wider reopening of campuses.

In a letter to the vice-chancellors of Warwick and Coventry universities, the MP said the institutions must move teaching online to prevent the risk of a Covid-19 outbreak that would put staff, students and the wider community at risk.

In her letter, Zarah Sultana says 'mounting evidence shows that further measures are necessary to protect the health and wellbeing of students, staff and the wider community', which, she adds, is why she supports the call 'for all teaching to be online except in very limited circumstances'.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'Evidence shows that the default position for learning this term should be online, with exceptions only where this is not possible. We urge Coventry and Warwick universities to listen to their local MP and abandon needless plans to force staff and students back onto campus.

'The health of university staff, students and the wider community is too important to gamble with. This is not business as usual.'

Zarah Sultana's letter comes as union members at both universities issued a joint statement calling on their institutions to back guidance from the UCU to make online teaching their default position.

UCU says its position is backed up by the latest scientific evidence, following the release of the government's SAGE report that raised concerns about the likelihood of increased cases on campus.

At a briefing on Wednesday, the government presented data that showed the infection rate among 17-21 year olds was at 50 in 100,000 and increasing sharply. Countries that have infections greater than 20 in 100,000 are removed from the safe travel list and those who return from them are required to quarantine.

Yesterday, the government released guidance for reopening English university campuses that suggested teaching outside, or opening doors and windows, throughout the winter to mitigate the risk of Covid. UCU described the guidance as 'confusing, expensive and at times silly'.

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