Faced With a Dilemma

New advice from Westminster confirms that there is a case for face coverings in schools, particularly in areas where enhanced COVID restrictions have been imposed.

In the light of this perhaps the time is right for a review of Bradford University’s ‘personal responsibility’ approach that creates more problems than it solves.

Mask wearers may refuse to share rooms with the bare faced, whilst at the same time the bare faced insist on entering the same rooms. Who will arbitrate in such circumstances? What sanctions will be imposed on mask wearing students who refuse to participate in teaching where others are bare faced, bearing in mind that the mask wearers are seeking to protect those around them and not themselves?

Mask wearing staff and students will be faced with the anxiety of attempting to travel in narrow corridors and public spaces amongst others for whom mask wearing is not a priority.

The only practical approach is a clear and unequivocal requirement to wear face coverings as a ‘safety first’ statement. Not only will that raise the level of COVID security but it will also reinforce the message that safety is the number one priority in the planning of a return to campus.

Precarious Times

The BBC article Thirteen UK universities ‘facing insolvency’ articulates the fears of many of us especially those in less prestigious institutions that may be vulnerable in a “dog fight” for home ug’s.

This strikes to the very heart of the “Funding the Future” campaign but most importantly demonstrates the urgency of the situation now that it has been exacerbated by Covid19.

In the same way that the importance of a well funded and valued NHS has been exposed during Covid, the market model of HE is now revealed as fundamentally flawed and the risks that come with it simply too high.

Thirteen UK universities ‘facing insolvency’The fallout from Covid-19 poses a “significant threat” to UK higher education, analysis suggests.

The Folly of BEP Exposed!

BEP’s obsession with the Target Operating Model meant that almost all areas were designed down to an optimum that left no room for error and no capacity to accommodate the unexpected.

Fast forward to the present, where the “unexpected” Covid crisis has forced the University into technological alternatives to the traditional lecture – and a mad scramble to replace expertise lost during the last BEP round.

Alongside that the wisdom of a workload model that expects 100% is itself being tested, as are the nerves of staff who are being pushed to breaking point by excessive workload demands.

That Blended Learning Thing

Those that were able to attend the Covid-19 update today hosted by Shirley and others may well have spotted a snippet of information hidden away in some of the presentation by our PVC Teaching & Learning.

We were given assurances that the student offer would be very firmly rooted in a campus experience, whilst acknowledging that there would be a need for some online teaching as a part of the offer.

This “blended” offer will perhaps come as no surprise, but references to the distance learning MBA already a feature of the FoMLSS portfolio (it is top 10 in the world you know!) suggest that the blended offer will not simply rely on a few slides uploaded to Canvas to meet the “on-line” expectations, but that instead much of the material will have to be produced “from the ground up” as it were.

The implication then is that there is much to do, and that the burden of that will fall firmly on the shoulders of academic colleagues already overburdened by the complexity and challenges of operating off campus during the marking period.

A steady stream of questions indicated that there was real concern that time is running out, especially when the indications are that a significant change to working practices will be necessary.

Staff need a plan – sooner rather than later!

Shenanigans at Blackburn

With UCU deliberating over next steps when faced with an extremely disappointing offer from employers to resolve the Four Fights dispute, it is alarming to hear that Blackburn are proposing a huge pay rise for their higher salaried executives whilst at the same time proposing yet more staff cuts to those whose feet don’t qualify for immersion in the gold plated trough.

The increase is justified as an alternative to allowing some pension pots to exceed a £1m threshold that would trigger a higher tax burden. Those perhaps ironically considered ‘at risk’ will instead receive the employer contribution as additional pay.

This move will undoubtedly curb the tax burden on those already close to collapsing under the weight of their burgeoning pay packets, but may well be the straw that breaks the backs of those whose very livelihoods are threatened.

HE is clearly facing a seriously precarious period, with job security almost certainly becoming a wider issue across the sector. UCU continues to lobby for HE, its students and the rights of its workforce – join UCU and you join the fight to protect all our futures.

Credit Where It’s Due

UCU Bradford LA welcomes the news that the University has announced an additional day off in recognition of the sterling efforts of all staff during what is a taxing time.

In particular the recognition that not all staff can avail themselves of the extra customary day by adding that to annual leave for some staff is welcomed.

UCU urges all staff to resist the temptation to carry on regardless and use the upcoming break wisely – remember you have earned it!

Come on Come on Let’s Stick Together

News reaches Bradford of a number of institutions that are offering additional wellbeing days to tie in with the upcoming Easter break, in recognition of the sterling efforts of staff over recent weeks.

Your LA has as you would expect asked management to recognise the hard work and dedication of its own staff in similar fashion.

Let’s Pull Together

With Coronavirus the only game in town, what is self evident that there is a real need for us all to work together as a nation to get through these tough times.

It will sadden many to see shelves stripped of essentials despite constant assurances that there is no supply shortage, but equally gratifying to hear stories of community spirit and endeavour.

Less saddening and more shocking is the news that Leeds Arts University has less than magnanimously granted staff with children the right to take unpaid leave to look after the kids!

Possibly even more shocking is the news of LAU’s wilful disregard of the ban on assembly, choosing instead to their open day yesterday – thus potentially exposing staff, prospective students and their parents.

LAU doesn’t recognise unions – which perhaps speaks volumes!