Universities within the UK are being urged to scrap plans for face-to-face educating till Christmas so as to forestall a second wave of coronavirus.
Teachers’ union, UCU, mentioned greater than 1,000,000 college students shifting across the nation was “a recipe for catastrophe”.
UCU chief Jo Grady mentioned universities weren’t ready, and risked changing into the “care properties of the second wave”.
However college bosses say they’ve labored onerous to plan for a secure return to all facets of pupil life.
When college students return in September, they are going to be anticipated to abide by new insurance policies on using face coverings and social distancing protocols.
In the meantime there might be security partitions to maintain them aside, in addition to extra cleansing and air flow and smaller class sizes the place face-to-face educating takes place.
When nationwide lockdown measures had been introduced in on the finish of March, universities cancelled lectures, tutorials and a few exams. Many continued their classes and lectures on-line nonetheless, and even held last exams remotely.
Over the summer season, universities have been getting ready for the return of their college students’ return, with most promising a mixture of face-to-face and on-line studying – or “blended studying” – with college students taught in prolonged “bubble” teams.
However few, if any, universities have taken the step of telling their college students to not transfer into their lodging.
Ms Grady mentioned having tens of hundreds of scholars heading into cities throughout the UK “dangers doing untold injury to individuals’s well being and exacerbating the worst public well being disaster of our lifetimes”.
She mentioned: “We’re very involved that universities, and the UK extra usually, are merely not ready for the mass migration of what’s over 1,000,000 college students.
“Particularly, we’re involved about college students going from excessive threat areas into areas with fewer instances.”
She mentioned she was notably frightened concerning the threat of the virus spreading in cities with large pupil populations.
“Mrs Grady mentioned: “If we take a look at some key cities: Manchester has 100,000 college students; Birmingham is not far behind with 80,000; and Leicester has 40,000.
“These are all cities which have had some type of native lockdown and have come out of it or are about to enter one.”
She added: “We do not have a functioning observe and hint [system], we do not have a UK-wide testing for college students who’re arriving for college, or subsequent and common testing.
“We’re actually frightened about younger individuals congregating in halls of residence and simply what this may imply when it comes to transmission.
“We do not suppose adequate security measures are in place,” she added.
The union mentioned it was backing the place of the Impartial Sage committee which has known as for on-line studying to be universities’ default place.
The already troublesome scenario, with universities doing their finest to usher in socially distanced methods of working, has been made worse by the upper than anticipated variety of college students this 12 months, she mentioned.
‘No common testing’
The exams disaster over the summer season meant many extra college students in the end achieved the grades wanted to get into college, after the federal government’s last-minute change of thoughts on school-assessed grades.
The UCU says there might be challenges in ditching the blended studying method, and changing it with online-only educating.
However Ms Grady mentioned it was time for the federal government “to lastly take some decisive and accountable motion on this disaster and inform universities to desert face-to-face educating”.
She additionally known as on the federal government to underwrite any lack of price revenue to universities, and to help college students who’ve issues in connecting remotely.
Nationwide Union of College students president Larissa Kennedy mentioned universities ought to solely ship face-to-face educating for lab-based and practice-based programs.
“In-person educating ought to solely happen if might be delivered safely for all employees and college students, and social distancing pointers and different security measures might be maintained,” she mentioned.
She backed requires extra pupil help with distant studying and urged universities to work with their pupil unions on selections about how finest to re-open campuses.
Universities UK president Julia Buckingham mentioned: “Many employees need to return to in-person educating, analysis and different actions the place it’s secure and applicable to take action.”
They’re additionally aware of the advantages of in-person educating and help for college students’ well-being and improvement, he mentioned.
“The dedication proven all through the lockdown and into restoration has been outstanding,” she added.
A Division for Schooling spokesman mentioned: “We’re assured that universities are properly ready for the return of scholars by taking measures comparable to introducing social distancing on campus, limiting journey requirement for lessons and staggering educating throughout prolonged days to scale back numbers on web site.
“Opening universities is part of the Prime Minister’s cautious roadmap, and it’s important that we proceed to open schooling settings wherever it’s secure to take action.
“We help nose to nose educating solely the place doable and if security pointers are adopted, however know that prime high quality on-line educating may also be delivered if crucial.
“We’re maintaining our steering underneath fixed evaluation, and are at present updating our recommendation on reopening increased schooling buildings and campuses to replicate the most recent public well being recommendation, together with on face coverings, native lockdowns and take a look at and hint.”