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UCU response to OfS instructions to universities over latest lockdown

14 January 2021 | last updated: 15 January 2021

UCU said the government must cover the costs of any extra teaching, course repetition or fee refunds universities provide in response to the latest lockdown.

The union was responding to a letter the Office for Students (OfS) sent universities today that set out what actions universities should take during the current phase of the Covid pandemic.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'The OfS needs to look to the government to fund and fix issues caused by the latest lockdown, not pass the buck onto hard-pressed university staff. We warned that nothing resembling a normal campus experience could be expected during a pandemic, yet last summer the government worked with vice-chancellors to encourage students onto campuses under the premise they could be Covid safe. The result has been disruption to education and avoidable chaos. Staff and students alike have suffered because of the government's mishandling of the pandemic. We saw students locked down in their accommodation during the autumn. Whilst staff have faced unmanageable workloads and had to contend with their own worsening mental health, supporting students and dealing with the chaos created by ministers and management created.

'It is simply not good enough for the government and the OfS to demand staff work even longer hours, put on even more lessons, and continue teaching past the end of the academic year without any recognition of what staff are going through. The sector needs a firm commitment from government that teaching will remain online until at least Easter, and that this will be supported with emergency funding. Universities cannot be expected to cover the costs of refunds, rebates and extensions without government support. And staff cannot be expected to be the shock absorber for government incompetence.'

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