University staff are moving towards confronting their leaders after the revelation that the government’s scientific advisers called for teaching to move online at the start of the academic year last month.
University and College Union members at the University of Sheffield are the latest to call an emergency meeting after lodging a formal grievance, joining branches at the universities of Birmingham, Leeds and Warwick in dispute with their leadership over the handling of coronavirus outbreaks.
Other campus staff represented by Unison are said to be angry at having to deal with threats and abuse from frustrated students trapped in isolation.
An estimated 110 UK universities have reported cases of Covid-19 outbreaks, with around 15,000 students and staff infected so far, since the term began just four weeks ago on some campuses.
The University of Nottingham alone has reported 1,500 active cases among students at the end of last week, out of its 35,000 students enrolled, along with 20 members staff. The week before just 400 cases had been reported.
But concern over staff and students continuing to have face-to-face teaching while infection rates are rising has turned to anger after the release of documents from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) committee, showing that three weeks ago it advised that all universities should revert to online teaching.
Sage’s package of measures to contain Covid-19 included a recommendation: “All university and college teaching to be online unless face-to-face teaching is absolutely essential,” until the prevalence of the virus subsides.
Jo Grady, the UCU’s general secretary, said: “Ministers were given clear recommendations on how to stem the spread of the virus before term