Interrupt college teaching in person until testing and traceability is corrected, union urges | Education


Face-to-face teaching at universities should be halted until the government corrects test and trace failures and curbs the spread of Covid-19, the union representing academics and staff said.The warning from Jo Grady, secretary general of the Union of Universities and Colleges (UCU), comes as institutions increasingly take matters into their own hands by switching to majority education only online.

Others are spending millions of pounds setting up their own testing and traceability systems to identify outbreaks on campus. Strict disciplinary measures for students who flout social distancing rules are also being introduced.

Across England, one in 500 people would have had Covid-19 last week, with the number of daily coronavirus infections tripling in two weeks according to the Office for National Statistics. The R number (reproduction) was set to 1.2-1.5 for England and the United Kingdom.

Jo Grady: “There is an urgency about this… we are seeing infection rates increase and there is the danger that students will simply become incubators. Photograph: Linda Nylind / The Guardian

More than 20 million people – 30% of the UK – face tightened lockdown restrictions after additional restrictions were announced in Leeds, Blackpool, Stockport, Cardiff and Swansea.

Epidemics have hit 23 universities, forcing thousands of students into self-isolation. Hundreds of coronavirus cases have been confirmed on campuses, including 172 at the University of Glasgow and 120 at Napier University in Edinburgh.

In an interview with The Guardian, Grady said the sharp rise in cases at Scottish universities – which reopened earlier than those in the rest of the UK – showed insufficient testing and tracing to protect staff and students. She called for in-person teaching to be dropped where possible until the system can be fixed.

Grady urged university leaders to act now to abandon face-to-face classes and potentially allow students to return home. ” Yes [vice-chancellors] do nothing now, all their efforts will be canceled in a few weeks because the number of infections will be so high, or there will not be enough staff to teach, ”she said.


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