Covid: Northumbria and Newcastle latest to move teaching online

Announcement comes after Northumbria staff threatened industrial action over institution’s handling outbreak

October 7, 2020
Northumbria University
Source: iStock

Northumbria and Newcastle universities are the latest UK institutions to move their teaching online in the wake of Covid-19 outbreaks among students.

It comes after staff in the Northumbria branch of the University and College Union threatened strike action over Covid health and safety concerns.

On 6 October, members voted to ballot for industrial action over the handling of returning to campus and called for the vice-chancellor, Andrew Wathey, to resign. Northumbria recorded 770 positive cases between 21 September and 2 October.

Newcastle, where both institutions are based, is experiencing some of the highest rates of Covid UK and reported 1,227 new cases last week.

Last week, Newcastle University reported 94 confirmed cases over seven days, but in an email to staff on 7 October says this “has risen significantly since then”.

The letter, from the university’s executive board, says that “with so many of our students self-isolating right now and therefore unable to come on to campus, the university will focus on continuing to deliver an outstanding online learning community”.

It tells staff that “unless required by your line manager to be on campus, please can you work from home during this period”.

“All programmes will be delivered online except where present-in-person sessions are essential to meet programme learning outcomes or satisfy accreditation requirements,” it says.

A joint statement from both universities and Newcastle City Council said that campuses would remain open and research that needs to be done on campus could continue.

Eugene Milne, director of public health for Newcastle, said: “It is essential that changes are made to stop the virus spreading. Minimising opportunities for the virus to grow by moving more learning online and maintaining Covid-secure arrangements on campus are additional preventative measures on top of what was implemented previously.”

They are the latest UK institutions to move teaching online following rising cases. Earlier this week both Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester said that they would teach fully online for the rest of October after more than 1,600 student cases were reported in the city.

The University of Sheffield said that it was moving teaching online from 9 to 19 October and Sheffield Hallam University said that it would “increase the proportion of online teaching for the next two weeks”.

However, UCU has said that the “measures taken by Sheffield’s universities will not do enough to help stop the spread of the virus”.

UCU regional official Julie Kelley said: “The piecemeal approach being taken by universities shows how dangerous the government’s lack of planning has been. We desperately need a nationally coordinated response from government that moves working online to help lower the rate of transmission and stem this crisis.”

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

All teaching should be online.
Meanwhile in Sheffield things continue to race down hill, the local health authority and council continue to obfuscate taking local actions according to one teaching medic there. I wonder how many elsewhere.

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