By the end of the current term, all teaching and learning at universities should be delivered online to prevent a repeat of the outbreaks that struck campuses last fall, the largest union in the sector has said.
The demand from the University and College Union (UCU) comes in the midst of increasing concern about a new, fast-spreading version of Covid 19 that has already led to the transfer of schools in Scotland to distance learning by at least January 29.
The union issued the call in light of the First Minister’s “stay at home” message on Monday and has made its views known to the Scottish government.
SNP to keep the campuses of universities closed in line with schools
Richard Lochhead, Minister of Higher Education, wrote to the industry to check on advice on returning students to campuses and said the return will now be postponed.
Restricted face-to-face classes on campus will begin on Jan. 11, under current guidelines.
In the fall, when there were outbreaks of Covid-19 in student residences nationally, UCU bosses said that the latest form of the virus and the experience of universities meant that the Scottish government should act decisively and make the immediate decision that all teaching, support and university activities should be performed online and remotely until the end of the semester.
UCU Scotland Commissioner Mary Senior said, “University students and staff urgently need to be clear that the ‘stay at home’ message from the First Minister also applies to them.”
It is bizarre that existing regulations allow teaching and learning to take place on campus, with students and staff possibly commuting across the UK to attend, while schools across Scotland and the UK are being closed as a last resort due to the global pandemic.
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The Scottish Government must do everything in its power to limit travel and the mixing of students and staff, and so, sadly, for the time being and for the whole term, all learning and student support must be brought online.
“We saw the significant outbreaks on campus in September and October as students and staff returned for the fall semester,” he said.
At this dangerous stage of the pandemic, we cannot allow this to occur.
“Ministers must act swiftly and decisively to limit the ability of universities to be carriers of this virus again. UCU is calling for all learning and student support to be online now.”