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Universities flouting government guidelines over return to in-person teaching

8 March 2021

UCU said the universities of Oxford, Manchester Metropolitan and Edge Hill were breaching government guidelines over a return to in-person teaching

The guidelines state that in-person teaching should only resume today if subjects are practical or practice-based and require specialist equipment and facilities, and 'providers should not ask students to return if their course can reasonably be continued online.'

Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) has told staff to provide three hours of in-person teaching per week for up to half its student body, around 16,000 students. University management emailed UCU confirming the university wants staff to deliver in-person teaching in the faculty of science and engineering, the Manchester school of theatre, the Manchester school of art, and the Manchester fashion institute, starting today. Management accepted this means up to half of MMU's student body will return to campus after UCU raised concerns that much of the teaching does not require specialist equipment and can be can be taught online.

Starting this week, Edge Hill University is telling staff to provide in-person teaching for courses such as psychology and computing that can easily be taught online.

The Guardian has reported that the University of Oxford has also exploited the guidelines.

UCU said the universities of Oxford, Manchester Metropolitan and Edge Hill are in breach of the guidelines and are putting the safety of staff, students and wider communities at risk.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'Government guidelines created to protect us from Covid say that teaching should remain online wherever possible, but the universities of Oxford, Manchester Metropolitan and Edge Hill seem to think they know better, and are flouting them. Any university encouraging students back on to campus when teaching could be carried out online must ask itself whether it is doing so for the sake of its students or its bank balance.

'We have called for as much teaching as possible to be kept online for the rest of this academic year to protect staff, students and the wider community. Universities reliance on income from tuition fees is responsible for much of the disruption and uncertainty faced by staff and students over the past year. The government needs to provide secure, long-term funding for all institutions.'

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