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UCU response to Westminster government plans for student Covid Christmas testing

10 November 2020 | last updated: 11 November 2020

UCU said plans to mass test students presented huge logistical challenges that may leave staff and students stuck in limbo.

It added that plans for January are also urgently needed. The union was responding to a report  that the government plans to mass test students for Covid-19 before they return home for Christmas.

UCU said it was not yet clear whether all universities would take part in the testing, how the tests would be administered, who would pay for it and whether students who live at home and commute to campus daily would be included.

It said the government also needed to follow recommendations from Independent SAGE to move to online teaching now to lower the risk of transmission on campus during lockdown, and to help manage the mass movement of students.

NUS and UCU have already jointly called for students to have the choice to be released from accommodation contracts if they wish to stay at home, and be supported to learn remotely to lower the risk of more outbreaks.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'We hope the government is able to properly oversee mass testing of students at the end of term, but there are huge hurdles to overcome to manage this process properly and not leave staff and students stuck in limbo. Some of our concerns include whether all universities will be able to take part, how the tests will be administered, who will cover the costs, what the plan is for students who commute to campus daily from their family home, and how students who aren't able to be tested will travel home safely.

'Many students have already spent this term yo-yoing in and out of self-isolation, separated from family and friends, when they could otherwise have been at home. This will have taken a huge toll on their mental health. The government must follow independent SAGE's advice and tell universities to move all non-essential in-person teaching online now to help manage the return home. It must also support students to learn remotely next term and work with universities to help release any students who wish to remain at home from their accommodation contracts. We cannot risk another mass outbreak due to further government incompetence.' 

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