Kingston University have insisted they have followed “all government guidance” after it was revealed recently that staff members represented by the University and College Union had voiced concerns about the university’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The UCU represents lecturers and staff at universities across the UK, and unionised staff members at Kingston have voted unanimous for a motion of ‘no-confidence’ in the way their employer has handled the crisis.
A spokesman for Kingston University has suggested that they have put every condition in place to ensure a safe working environment. They said: “The health, wellbeing and safety of students, staff and the wider community has always been our top priority at Kingston University.
“We have put a number of measures in place to minimise the risk of infection and make our campuses as safe as possible, and have consistently acted in line with the latest advice from the government and the national and borough public health.”
“The university has worked closely with Public Health England and Kingston Council to develop its outbreak management plan, which has been endorsed by the Local Director of Public Health. We maintain regular contact with the council around monitoring case data and as our plans are reviewed and updated.”
The Kingston University website says students can be confident studying on campus, due to their ‘flexible approach’ and ‘quick adaptation’ to the pandemic. Despite this, the UCU have suggested that the care being taken is mainly for the students, meaning the lecturers remain at risk.
The university spokesman insisted that they are doing everything in line with the government guidelines. All students and staff have to wear masks on-campus unless they have a medical exemption. The reason students were allowed to return to campus for lectures was to give them a fulfilling experience in their studies.
“Since March, the university has been meeting with UCU and Unison representatives at sub-committees and meetings held weekly, fortnightly and monthly as part of our commitment to consult fully with our recognised trade unions about the Covid-19 pandemic and the university’s response to it.”
“The majority of our teaching is carried out online as part of our blended learning approach. Where teaching takes place on campus, the capacity of all teaching rooms around the university has been reduced in line with social distancing guidelines. While most take place in small groups, a few larger spaces are available and are used with significantly reduced numbers.”
Since the lockdown announcement on Saturday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, all non-essential businesses will be forced to shut from Thursday, but educational facilities such as universities are allowed to remain open.
The spokesperson outlined the fact that the university is working tirelessly to make sure that staff and students are informed of any developments in terms of the virus.
They said “Alongside the NHS Test and Trace requirements, the University has a dedicated mailbox in place so staff and students can inform us if they are self-isolating, waiting for a test or have received a positive test result.
“This allows the university to update public health authorities as required and provide specific targeted guidance, advice and support in each instance.”
The Kingston UCU had suggested that staff haven’t been provided with ‘safe physical working conditions.’
The spokesman said: “The university has closely followed all government guidance to ensure its campuses are Covid-19 secure and as safe as they can possibly be.
“While it is not possible to absolutely guarantee there will be no transmission on campus, we are committed to minimising the risk of spreading infection and continuing to urge all our university community to follow the safety and hygiene guidelines we have put in place.”