Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) has faced backlash over the return of face-to-face teaching, despite Greater Manchester’s move into Tier 3.
The University and College Union (UCU) has called the plans “reckless”, as Manchester is in Tier 3. The UCU also said they will “have no choice but to ballot members for industrial action” if the university does not U-turn on the decision.
Greater Manchester moved into Tier 3, the highest level of coronavirus restrictions, on 23 October. MMU and the University of Manchester moved most teaching online on 7 October due to rising coronavirus cases among students.
The decision to return to face-to-face teaching has been heavily criticised by the UCU, and its North West regional officer Martyn Moss has said: “The people of Manchester are making huge sacrifices to try and contain the spread of the virus.
“Yet Manchester Metropolitan University’s vice-chancellor wants to undermine the city’s sacrifice, and risk the health and safety of staff and students by urging them to return to campus.
“If the vice-chancellor continues to risk the health of staff, students and the local community in this cavalier manner we will have no choice but to ballot our members for industrial action.”
MMU have defended their decision to resume some face-to-face teaching, saying it is in line with advice from the local and national public health authorities.
Most of our teaching will remain online, but we will provide up to three hours of in-person activity each week for most courses
– Manchester Metropolitan University spokesperson
A MMU spokesperson said: “Most of our teaching will remain online, but we will provide up to three hours of in-person activity each week for most courses.
“Above all, this reflects the wishes and needs of many of our students, who tell us that the Students’ Union, that they greatly value in-person activity.
“This supports their mental health and wellbeing and helps them to build a sense of community with other students and the university.”
The return to face-to-face teaching has been welcomed by MMU Students’ Union (SU) president Evelyn Sweeny.
Ms Sweeny said: “Students have told us that it helps to create a sense of belonging and personal interaction helps students to build stronger relationships with tutors.
“Seeing classmates creates a sense of community and does a great deal to alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness.”
The University of Manchester has no plan to move back to delivering face-to-face teaching, although the policy is due to be reviewed in early November.