Leeds University UCU welcomes the recognition by the University that there is still much uncertainty between now and September, when the next academic year begins. Whilst vaccine progress has been positive, at the time of writing there is a new variant of concern– variant B 2.167.2 – which currently appears to be more transmissible and there may be more variants of concern to come. SAGE – the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies – have stated consistently that there is a high likelihood of a resurgence in hospitalisations and death, either if the vaccine roll out hits problems, or if policies and behaviours adopted to reduce transmission are relaxed too early.
It appears very clear to us that, whilst academic year 2021-22 will be different from 2020-21, it will not represent ‘back to normal’ and we are pleased that the University is recognising this in planning.
We therefore believe that it is appropriate for the university to maintain a hybrid approach to learning and teaching, ensuring that it remains possible to retain COVID mitigations, such as social distancing, well ventilated spaces and hygiene measures. All plans need to allow for the possibility of moving online only if the worst happens and there is serious resurgence of cases.
It is particularly important that all university plans allow staff or students who test positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate immediately, as that will be critical in keeping case numbers low. We also note that, even after a vaccine roll-out, it remains the case that some staff and students are more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19; the university has a duty of care towards those people to allow them to work flexibly and not to put themselves at risk.
The successes of this academic year are down to the tremendous efforts of all staff on the ground, whether they be student education service staff, library and digital education service staff, staff in residences, cleaning staff, academics and many others. Whilst for some the end of the academic year is in sight, for others the intensity continues over the summer teaching and supporting postgraduates, managing admissions and many other things. This magnificent effort should not be taken for granted by management. In many cases, it has been at the expense of work/life balance, family life, and general health and well being. In planning for next year, the university needs to ensure that workloads are healthy and reasonable, that the differential impacts of this ongoing crisis on different groups of staff are recognised and acted upon, and that staff are not subject to the devastation of redundancy, whether they are on ‘permanent’ or fixed term contracts.
This page was last updated on 7 July 2021