UK campuses told to ‘reduce pinch points’ in reopening guidance

Government advice also tells institutions to increase cleaning and make use of outdoor space

July 3, 2020
students on campus
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UK universities have been told by the government to implement “a range of protective measures” when they reopen in the autumn, but any additional costs will have to be funded by institutions’ existing budgets.

The Department for Education’s new guidance for higher education on reopening buildings and campuses says that protective measures should include increased cleaning, reducing “pinch points”, such as at the start and end of the day, and making use of outdoor space.

It adds: “Any additional costs would be funded from existing budgets.”

The guidance includes advice on social distancing, reopening university libraries, the performing arts and student accommodation, but universities are given the “freedom” to decide how to continue or restart operations during the pandemic.

The guidance suggests that it may be appropriate to consider reopening low-density buildings, such as informal learning spaces, first “as a phased way of extending access to the campus while safeguarding the needs of staff and students”.

It adds that universities should identify the appropriate mix of online and face-to-face content for each subject to maximise learning, support staff and students who cannot attend campus and minimise the risk of virus transmission.

Most UK universities have already confirmed that they will deliver blended teaching models from the autumn in a bid to maintain the “full student experience” as much as possible and prevent students from deferring a year.

The government guidance follows a set of principles published by Universities UK last month, which stated that institutions will provide “as much in-person learning, teaching, support services and extracurricular activities as public health advice and government guidance will support”. This will include “new ways of providing practical sessions in socially distanced forms” and “innovative approaches to extra-curricular activities such as welcome week programmes”, it said.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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