student welfare
Image: Wikimedia commons / Sheffield SU

Expert warns that universities’ financial gains are being prioritised over staff and student welfare

UK universities are promising a return to campuses this autumn, but an expert has warned that this prioritises financial gains over student and staff welfare. 

This is due to a high probability of local surges in the transmission of the virus when large numbers of students return to campus. 

Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at Oxford University, has claimed that universities have had little choice but to promise a return to campus, even if the majority of teaching will be online. 

This is because “the government refuses to provide guarantees of funding and institutional survival” if students do not turn up to universities as planned. 

This means that not reopening campus could force some universities to go bankrupt

Marginson also believes that even with new rules and restrictions, the spread of the virus will not be fully contained. He told The Guardian: “The current position will be very difficult to manage. Students want to be together and they will bend the rules.”

The current position will be very difficult to manage. Students want to be together and they will bend the rules

– Simon Marginson

A spokesperson for Universities UK (UUK) has said: “Ensuring the health and safety of staff, students and the wider community is and always will be paramount to every UK university and all are following the relevant government and public health advice as an absolute minimum. 

“This includes developing numerous ways to ensure in-person activities are safe and compliant with government and public health advice based on the current risk level.”

All universities are expected to have enhanced cleaning regimes and hand sanitising stations as a bare minimum. 

Some institutions such as Sheffield University will require everyone to wear face coverings in face to face classes.  

Nottingham University students will have to agree to a COVID-19 “pledge”. Students who break this pledge, and hence endanger the safety of others, will face disciplinary action such as a fine. 

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