Bristol UCU pass motion demanding all ‘unnecessary’ in-person teaching be moved online

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By Louie Bell, Investigations Correspondent

The motion was passed at a general meeting of members.

Bristol Universities and Colleges Unions (UCU) have passed a motion demanding ‘an immediate cessation of unnecessary face-to-face, in-person teaching at the University of Bristol, with an immediate transition to online learning in all possible areas.’

Citing concerns about rates of COVID-19 cases at UK universities and the prevalence amongst young people, the motion put to the University of Bristol also demands that staff may opt ‘to teach online, where they do not feel safe teaching in-person.’

Where staff do request to teach online, the motion states: ‘it is not grounds to reassign their in-person teaching to another member of staff, nor for them to lose teaching hours and pay as a result.’

The UCU request the University of Bristol ‘immediately publish risk assessments relating to face-to-face teaching and other forms of on-campus working… as well as COVID-19 institutional data such as infection rates and the locality of cases.’

Bristol Universities and Colleges Unions (UCU) have passed a motion demanding ‘an immediate cessation of unnecessary face-to-face, in-person teaching at the University of Bristol'

Bristol UCU also demand extra support and allocation of training time to staff in order to best provide online teaching.

Where the fundamental demands are not met, Bristol UCU ‘reserves the right of using any and all action available to us under Trade Union Health and Safety legislation.’

This raises the prospect about the potential for some form of strike action against the University of Bristol until UCU demands are met.

The UCU request the University of Bristol ‘immediately publish risk assessments relating to face-to-face teaching - Epigram | Filiz Gurer

The move by the UCU comes as some staff at the University have expressed concern about returning to in-person teaching as cases of coronavirus have continued to rise in the UK.

The University of Bristol has promised a form of ‘blended’ learning consisting of both online and in-person teaching throughout the year.

In an interview with Epigram, the Vice-Chancellor Professor Hugh Brady said he ‘fully understands why people are nervous,’ but, he added, ‘by the same token, our students desperately want some face-to-face’.

‘They've had a really difficult six months, particularly those coming from school, but even those coming from university.’

The UCU General Secretary, Jo Grady, had yesterday written to the Prime Minister demanding a shift in government policy to online teaching by default.

Staff express reluctance about return to in-person teaching amid surge in Coronavirus cases
Covid-19 guidelines | The current rules and measures for the return to campus

‘Campus life cannot currently be safe with in-person teaching. Those currently working and studying in our universities need a national strategy that accepts this, moves teaching online for the duration of this term, and ensures students can safely return home where possible.’

In the letter, Dr Grady criticises the government’s move to encourage students to return to university campuses around the UK.

‘Considering the known risks associated with in-person teaching and students living in close quarters, why did the government not insist on minimising in-person teaching and students travelling to universities?’

Dr Grady also rose suspicions about the potential factors driving the requests for students to return to their campuses.

‘We have concerns that universities are taking this stubborn position because they depend on rents from student accommodation and because your own government refuses to step in and underwrite universities’ lost income for the duration of the pandemic to ensure they are not negatively impacted and jobs are not lost.’

Featured Image: Epigram / Tom Taylor


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AUTHOR

Louie Bell

News Investigations Editor | 3rd Year Geography