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A SUCU member in IT explains to non-academics why strike has become the last resort 

There are several issues around the strike. The headline is that we’ve had below inflation pay increases for the decade before this year’s cost-of-living crisis. But there has been a significant increase in casualisation… it’s shocking that some university lecturers are now part of the “gig economy”. Admittedly, a few people do like that arrangement, but many don’t. Finally, many of us chose and stayed in this career for the excellent pension. My “final salary” pension was ended a few years back and my 20 years of contributions was converted to an annuity-on-retirement that will increase in line with inflation… unless inflation goes over a cap that is set via a mechanism I don’t understand. High inflation means that my 20 years of contributions are shrinking and I feel betrayed when the promise was that this was to be linked to my final salary. I know many people don’t have as good a pension, but I chose to remain at the uni through good times and bad and the pension promise was part of that decision… I didn’t realise that they could just decide to invalidate it.  

Last time there was a marking strike it resulted in a big win for the union, but this time it’s going to hit students who’ve had the worst experience of university of any cohort in decades due to the pandemic. They don’t deserve this, but our staff deserve not to have yet another year of below inflation pay increases.  

Personally, I don’t have many expenses so am not hurting but many of my co-workers have kids to raise and each year they are paid a little less (after inflation) and have a little less security at work. Something you may not have thought about is that, while IT people like me have other jobs we can go to, a lecturer has usually done a 3 year degree, a one year MSc or similar, a 3-4 year PhD, done 5 years or so as a “post doc”. That’s 13 years of training to get to be a basic lecturer… and it’s more complicated, as being a lecturer isn’t fungible to other topics. If you are an expert in, say, Roman era pottery, that means maybe you could lecturer in other topics on Roman archaeology or pottery archaeology but there’s less than 200 universities in the country which means maybe 100 jobs in the entire UK for the thing you’ve spent your life becoming competent in, so job hopping usually means moving around the country or even to another country (oops, Brexit screwed that, so tough luck). I’m writing this as I suspect we are not going to be treated kindly in the press and it’s good for people to understand a bit of the background. 

A common response to people unhappy with the career they followed is “if you don’t like it, leave”, but Academia is a job that needs to be done. These are the people teaching the advanced classes to the next generation and doing the research which makes our society wealthier and wiser.  

I don’t want to go on strike. I dislike doing a bad job, and I care about the work we do. I am lucky enough to have skills that could get me a job elsewhere and very modest outgoings. I’ll be voting for strike action because it’s not just about me, and I can afford to lose a few day’s pay even if not all union members can. Even if I couldn’t afford to go on strike, I’d still vote “yes” on the ballot because not doing so takes away the other union member’s right to withdraw their labour. So even if you can’t afford to go on strike every day, or at all, please vote “yes” to not deny other people that option. 

UCU HE dispute: UCU Rising – USS communication to Vice-Chancellor

As the UCU Rising ballot opens today, Southampton UCU branch officers have today written to the Vice-Chancellor asking him to reconsider the University’s stance on USS and for him to provide a formal response to six USS facts.  We will keep you updated of any response.


Email to: Vice Chancellor Mark E Smith

cc: Sarah Pook, Executive Director of Finance

6 September 2022

Dear Mark

As you know, UCU are once again balloting members on industrial action to fight back against unjustified cuts to USS pensions. Members at your university stand to lose up to 35% from their pensions due to cuts which were imposed based on a flawed valuation in March 2020 when markets were crashing. Newer members to the scheme, part-time staff, casualised staff and women all stand to lose the most. This is disgraceful, especially given that these staff are also the ones most likely to be squeezed by the cost-of-living crisis.

We are writing to request that you respond formally to the following six important facts on USS, which are listed below with evidence:

  1. Negligible deficit and lower future service costs: Even by USS’s highly contested valuation methodology, the USS June 2022 monitoring suggests the fund is now in surplus and requiring only 20.9-21.2% total contributions to continue to fund the current reduced level of benefits. Even without the April 2022 cuts the fund would remain in surplus and require total contributions in the low 30%s. A graph and spreadsheet show the June monitoring surplus with and without cuts. The results have been reproduced and verified independently by Michael Bromwich, Professor of Accounting and Financial Management Emeritus at LSE, who has estimated here, from the June monitoring, the increase to future service costs with restored pre-April 2022 benefits as an update to his article ‘Time for Agreement’.
  1. Many employers want to improve benefits as soon as possible. Through public statements alone, 32% of USS institutions (weighted by USS contributions) have already called for any upside to be prioritised to improving benefits, while 22% have already publicly called for this to be as soon as possible, for example through a change to the schedule of contributions based on an intermediate valuation in advance of a formal valuation.
  1. UUK can consult rapidly on unusual arrangements, and their aspiration for a ‘fast-track’ 2023 valuation is in opposition to earlier claims. UUK claim they want to ‘deliver positive changes for scheme members as quickly as possible’, but are not considering the option of an interim restoration of benefits, which is within the power of the JNC. Instead they expect to be able to ‘fast-track’ a 2023 valuation, in spite of having previously claimed that it would be extremely challenging to fast-track a 2022valuation when UCU called for one in January 2022. In addition in September 2021, UUK consulted on and endorsed a highly unusual change involving a complex dual schedule of contributions and expedited submission of the 2020 valuation. This consultation lasted only one week but resulted in a new schedule of contributions and recovery plan that delayed deficit recovery contributions. So a precedent has been set for rapid consultation on a proposal that includes delaying or changing the structure of deficit recovery contributions.
  1. USS is no longer nationally competitive. USS has now fallen so far behind public sector pensions that the value of the pension it provides is well below half the value of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
  2. UUK consistently underestimated the level of cuts. UUK seriously and repeatedly underestimated the level of cuts through consultations as demonstrated in ‘The distribution of loss to future USS pensions due to the UUK cuts of April 2022’ which analyses the cuts using only the UUK Heat map and the USS modeller.
  1. UUK consultations are viewed as flawed. The UUK consultation process was widely and credibly viewed to be biased against UCU’s proposals that would have prevented the cuts. Sam Marsh and Mike Otsuka have written repeatedly on this, for example here on UUK’s escalating misrepresentation of UCU’s proposals (Pt II), here on the delay in consulting, and here on the double standards applied to UCU and UUK proposals.

As you can see, the evidence shows that the situation has changed enormously over the past two years. We believe that vice chancellors have a duty to reconsider their position in the light of that and to restore benefits while a new valuation is carried out. We understand that the UUK annual conference is taking place 7-8th September in Leicester, and we hope that you will use this information to inform your responses during any discussions on USS which takes place. This branch would like to be able to say that our vice chancellor, as an influential leader in UUK, led the way in ensuring that staff at this university were protected in their retirement and not left to face financial hardship in retirement.

We look forward to receiving your reply.

Southampton UCU Executive Committee


Reasons to Vote YES and YES from a local member

A local active member shared with the branch some of the comments they received while talking to colleagues about the ballot. Here are some responses to things they’ve heard:

  1. “I can’t find my ballot paper”

You can check at MyUCU where your ballot paper was sent.  Sadly, if you haven’t received it already it is too late to request a replacement so have a hunt around at home/in your pigeonhole to check it’s not under a pile of other papers.  Send it in the post by 6 April to ensure safe arrival. 

  1. “I’m not sure if I’m eligible to vote”

Do any of the following apply to you?

  • You’ve retired
  • You’ve become unemployed
  • You’ve left the branch
  • You’re on long term leave (including maternity leave, sick leave, sabbatical)
  • You’re employed by a third party
  • You’re head of the institution
  • You hold an emeritus or honorary position

If they do then it’s really important that you tell Amanda ( by 5 April so that you can be excluded from the ballot, otherwise the threshold will be artificially high

  1. “I can’t be doing with paper forms, if the UCU wants my vote they should organise online ballots”

They’d love to but the government won’t let them. The anti-union legislation currently in force requires postal ballots despite (or more likely because) of them being cumbersome and expensive

  1. “I’m abstaining so there’s no point in posting my ballot”

You couldn’t be more wrong! Every abstention received counts towards the turn-out threshold. Leaving your ballot unposted means your colleagues’ votes are ignored and allows our management to claim that we don’t care about pensions, workloads, casualisation or pay gaps. It’s happened twice, please don’t let it happen again.

  1. “I joined the Union because it helps members, not because I wanted to go on strike”

So did I, and without its help I wouldn’t be in Higher Education today. But the Union can only help its members if it’s also prepared to take action to defend their interests. Management have made it abundantly clear that the only limiting factor to what they’re prepared to do to us is what we’re prepared to tolerate.

  1. “I don’t like UCU’s approach to campaigns”

Get involved, let them know. If you don’t want a strike, vote against it. But don’t throw your vote away, and all your colleagues’ votes with it.

  1. “There’s no point taking action, it never works”

A common misperception, that VCs would love you to believe. Industrial action in HE/FE is highly effective, see here, here and here for just a few recent examples.

  1. “The changes to USS are a necessary response to current economic conditions and they’re in our best interests”

You’re welcome to your opinion, but if that’s the case why have UUK been hiring consultants who specialise in breaking pension schemes since long before these conditions were present, and why have VCs (including ours) been misleading staff about the negotiations?

  1. “These issues don’t affect me personally so why should I take action?”

Because that’s what a union is.


USS – SUCU clarifies VC’s claim relating to UCU’s alternative proposals

SUCU believes that this claim made by Mark E. Smith in his response to us is misleading.

The letter states: ‘In addition, the University notes its disappointment that UCU has not been able to advance a formal, costed solution during the extensive valuation process to date, that it comes at the eleventh hour and is still not yet a formally tabled proposal at the JNC.’

The facts are that USS-costed proposals have been formally tabled for the JNC meeting this Friday the 11th of February (tomorrow), which was the date on the USS grid for the tabling of such proposals.

These proposals were not tabled earlier because UUK had declared that they would not negotiate with UCU over proposals until after the close of the USS consultation on the 17th of January. Moreover, UCU sought confirmation of strength of member consultation support for its approach, involving the paying of higher contributions to preserve current benefits. UCU received reports on the consultation responses on the 21st and 24th of January. These responses revealed strong support for our proposals. Having received this confirmation, UCU swiftly publicised the proposals on the 26th of January.

Since then, employers have simply stalled in unprincipled fashion. Although they were aware of the indicative USS costings on which our proposals were based, they demanded formalisation (which is a very complicated procedure) of these costings from USS as a condition of sending UCU’s proposals out for consultation. This in spite of the fact that they sent their own revised proposals out for employer consultation before they received formal confirmation from USS of the 0.2% costing.

They could and should have sent UCU’s proposals out for consultation when they received them on the 26th of January, just as they sent their own proposals out for employer consultation before they had received formal confirmation of costings.

UUK has today acknowledged that UCU’s proposals meet the higher standard they set for them than for their own proposals, and that they will be launching a consultation on them from early next week. It is not clear why consultation cannot start today.

The response from VCs on this matter, including the letter from Mark E Smith is deeply disingenuous, and appears to categorise proposals from the employer side in a very different way. We therefore ask that USS members inform themselves fully of the facts rather than relying on communications from the employer.

Follow: Mike Ostsuka @MikeOtsuka, Sam Marsh @Sam_Marsh101 and Jackie Grant via @sussexucu

(With grateful thanks to Mike Otsuka for his input)



USS – UCU’s alternative proposal and UoS response

We recently wrote to the Vice-Chancellor asking him to support UCU’s alternative proposal on USS and thus avoid further action from UCU members nationally in the current dispute.  You can read our letter and the V-C’s disappointing response below.


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Further communications with senior management about in-person examinations

Following our recent email to management raising our continued concerns about returning to campus and in particular in-person examinations, we received an unsatisfactory reply prompting a further email from the branch:

Sent: 13 January 2022 11:23
To: Vice-Chancellor <>; Vice President (Operations) <>; Alex Neill <>
Cc: Cathy Day <>; ucu <>
Subject: UCU response to VP operations email re in-person exams

Dear Mark, Alex and Wendy,

We are writing again in response to developments regarding in-person exams which have occurred over the past few days and to urge the University once more to think again.

We thank Wendy Appleby for her response to our letter sent on 5th January formally requesting the University not to go ahead with large in-person exams because of the risks posed by the highly contagious Omicron variant. We are not satisfied with the reply, most of which repeats content from emails already sent to students and H&S officers and does not address our key concerns.

On Tuesday 11th, Alex Neill sent an email to students explaining the University’s rationale for continuing with in-person exams despite strong opposition from staff and students. UCU takes issue with a number of statements in that email:

1. ‘Rigorous risk assessments have been carried out, and we are only using venues that have sufficient space to allow for our COVID safety measures to be put in place’.

  • We believe it is not space that is the most important issue, but ventilation. H&S officers from all 3 campus unions have been asking for ventilation to be checked fully in all teaching spaces and we are still waiting. H&S officers are not confident that ventilation checks have been carried out with appropriate care and rigour.

2. Students have been told ‘If your ability to attend an in-person exam is affected by COVID – for example, because a positive test requires you to self-isolate – please use our special considerations process to notify your School’.

  • There are significant consequences for students with this approach, particularly those who have internships, summer jobs or postgraduate courses lined up. If they need to do referrals in the summer, these plans could be jeopardised and will certainly have to be put on hold adding unnecessarily to stress and anxiety.
  • There are also significant consequences for staff. Last summer, examination boards lasted many hours across many days and put undue pressure on administrative and academic staff which was detrimental to their health and wellbeing. It is unconscionable that the University would want to put staff through all that again, particularly as it has the chance now to prevent it from happening.

3. ‘The Government and public health bodies are clear that in-person on-campus activities can and should continue’.

  • UCU believes this is a misreading of the guidance and is unrelated to the question of in-person exams.

4. ‘We want to reassure you that the University has taken every precaution to reduce potential risks for both staff and students’

  • UCU cannot agree with this statement since the University is neither mandating the use of proper face masks instead of face coverings nor providing an adequate supply of COVID-free air.

5.  It has come to our attention that the usual reliance on Uniworkforce temporary staff as invigilators has led to a shortage of invigilators due at least in part to a fear of catching COVID whilst invigilating. Absent sight of a risk assessment related to invigilating exams, we are not in a position to comment on the safety of undertaking invigilating work should colleagues be offered the opportunity.

Furthermore, for some subjects, students are being required to attend on-campus in-person examinations which are computer-based online assessments and have been designed to work both online and in-person. Forcing students and supervisory staff to undertake this risk given that there are alternative, viable plans in place seems gratuitous.

Finally, no consideration seems to have been given to the potential harm caused to the wider Southampton community (noting evidence from the USA that young children are at particular risk, and that they are unvaccinated in the UK) by increasing the spread of COVID omicron at this critical time. It seems entirely inappropriate for in-person exams to be taking place in the current climate when it is possible to move to an alternative plan.

Once more, UCU requests your urgent response.

Southampton UCU


Response from management to our email of 5 January

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UCU concerns about returning to campus – email to senior management

UCU has written today (5 January) to the Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Operations) asking them to reconsider the University’s position on returning to campus in January 2022.  We will keep you posted of any response received.


From: ucu
Sent: 05 January 2022 13:01
To: Vice-Chancellor <>; Vice President (Operations) <>
Cc: Lucy Watson <>; Cathy Day <>; Alex Neill <>
Subject: UCU concerns about returning to campus

Dear Mark and Wendy
We are writing to urge you to reconsider your position on COVID restrictions and face to face teaching activity for the final week of this semester and the exam period.

Omicron is now known to be much more infectious than other COVID variants. UCU believes that, alongside getting vaccinated, the most important thing we can do as a community is to try to “spread out” the coming January peak load on the NHS. The impact on public health caused by staff absence, lack of care home placements, the large backlog of scheduled interventions, and new COVID infections will be enormous. We can help reduce this impact by minimising the rate of infection among our staff and students for the next month or so.

We believe that the University should:

  • Cancel large in-person teaching sessions and assessments and consider online alternatives. We know that ECS, along with one or two other STEM departments, are insisting on in-person examinations this semester. We believe that because Omicron is so contagious, staff and students are being put at unnecessary risk of contracting covid during one of these sessions. In addition, those students who test positive before having to attend a face-to-face exam must isolate and the alternatives for them are limited. The University is encouraging students to either not test and risk bringing the variant to campus or test positive and miss an important assessment.
  • Avoid the use of teaching spaces which have not been demonstrated to have an adequate flow of outside or virus-filtered air. The UK government has finally accepted that steps need to be taken to prevent the circulation of COVID within school classrooms and have announced the supply of 7000 “air purifiers”. In contrast, many of our teaching spaces at the University still have not been effectively surveyed even for air flow, regardless of the cleanliness of the incoming air. In most cases, we understand that the recirculated air is not filtered to remove COVID and may well be spreading infection around the whole area (possibly more than a single room) over which it is being recirculated. We also believe that it is not technically possible to operate most of these systems using external air only.
  • Recommend the use of non-valved FFP2 or FFP3 masks. Regardless of the official advice, UCU’s Health and Safety representatives believe that the new omicron variant requires us to enhance the standard of mask that we wear in the workplace. FFP3 respirators without valves are now readily available commercially and the University should provide them for staff who need to be on campus.
  • Finally, the University must provide appropriate remote support for staff and students who are unable to attend in-person because they care for vulnerable people or are vulnerable themselves. This includes carrying out individual risk assessments for staff who are in this position and allowing them to work from home if necessary. Staff should not be expected to teach both in-person and online as this leads to an unacceptable workload increase which staff are barely managing as it is.

Our views are informed by this opinion piece from the British Medical Journal which has a large group of signatories They specifically promote high-quality masks, ventilation, and filtration. We are also taking advice from national UCU and scientists who believe that the Department of Education’s response to Omicron in our settings is woefully inadequate. Universities can choose to do more to protect staff and students independently, and we believe that they should.

As teaching is due to start on Monday, we request your urgent response.

With regards

Southampton UCU Executive Committee

UCU communication with VC and VP Operations re students’ travel plans over the winter break

We have sent the below urgent email to the Vice Chancellor and Vice-President (Operations) on 14 December following the communication to students yesterday.  The University responded to us today.


From: Alex Neill <>
Sent: 15 December 2021 13:14
To: ucu <>
Subject: Re: Urgent: UCU concerns about students’ travel plans

Dear Southampton UCU,

I am writing in reply to your message to the Vice-Chancellor and the Vice-President (Operations) in which you suggest that the University move to online learning for non-practical classes until the end of the Semester.  The University has considered this option in the light of the new variant and student cases numbers, and we have determined that we should continue to follow the latest government guidance, which states that in-person teaching and research should continue ‘as is’.

We continue to monitor very closely our positive cases numbers at the University, taking speedy and proportionate action when we need to do so, working closely with our partner agencies including the local public health teams, the Health Protection Board and the UK Health Security Agency.  As we approach the end of term, we are seeing an increase in COVID cases which may in part be due to the increase in testing which is required before students leave for home this week. We have yet to find any evidence that transmission has taken place in a teaching environment.

With respect to the availability of LFD tests, at Southampton we continue to benefit from our unique saliva testing programme and we continue to encourage all staff and students to take advantage of that; currently 61% of staff are using the programme. In addition to the saliva testing option, LFD tests have been available for collection from the staff club foyer.  The University continues to offer support to any member of staff experiencing work related stress or mental health anxiety.

Best wishes,



Professor Alex Neill
Vice-President (Education)



From: ucu
Sent: 14 December 2021 15:19
To: Vice-Chancellor <>; Vice President (Operations) <>
Cc: Kieron Broadhead <>; Cathy Day <>; Luke Kelly <>; Lucy Watson <>
Subject: Urgent: UCU concerns about students’ travel plans

Dear Mark and Wendy

We write urgently to express our concern at the latest email from Kieron Broadhead sent to students on 13th December. The email reminds students that they are responsible for their own actions and should consider how they can ‘reduce the risk of self-isolation impacting [their] winter break plans’ by ‘balancing the various factors that are important’ to them when planning to travel. On Wednesday 8th December, VP Operations Wendy Appleby sent an email to all staff stating that teaching plans would remain the same and that teaching staff were exempt from the government’s work from home advice. The message from university management was clear that in person teaching would continue for the rest of this week. This expectation was reiterated in the CHSC on Monday 13th December.

We are now in a position where students must choose between staying on campus and attending in person classes, thereby risking testing positive and being unable to travel over Christmas or missing some of their education. Conversely, staff are expected to be on campus and teach in person regardless of the fact that cases amongst the student population are rising at an alarming rate: 95 new cases today alone. This increased risk of infection, along with the difficulty of getting boosters and the lack of availability of lateral flow tests is adding to stress and anxiety for the whole university community as we run up to the end of the semester.

The only sensible course of action is for all non-practical classes to be moved online for the rest of the semester so that students and staff can stay safe and ensure they can spend some much-needed time with family and friends over the holidays. We note that Kieron Broadhead’s email does not ask students to test before they return home. Surely the importance of testing is something the university should be reinforcing in its messaging consistently.

As this is a rapidly evolving situation, we ask for your prompt response.

Southampton UCU executive committee

SUCU workload survey – summary of results

Thanks to members of Southampton UCU who completed our recent workload survey.  We summarised the responses and presented them at the Joint Negotiating Committee meeting on 11 November with university management.  Management were very interested to see the results and have committed to work with UCU in early 2022 on this important issue.

If any members are interested in getting involved with a local working group on workloads, please get in touch with Amanda at the UCU office (



UCU motion on returning to face to face teaching – a response from UEB

Further to our recent email to UEB forwarding on our recently passed motion that raised members’ continued concerns about returning to face to face teaching, we have received a disappointing response from Richard Middleton, Chief Operating Officer.
From: Chief-Operating-Officer
Tue 05/10/2021 16:59
Dear Lucy

I reply to your email dated 30/09/21, sent to all members of the UEB.  I reply on their behalf.  Also thank you for sending me the notes of your EGM which took place on the 24th September.  This was before our regular meeting on Tuesday 28th September which did provide an opportunity for you to raise these and any other points.  I am disappointed that you chose not to discuss these in the forum set up for that very purpose.  I also note that union H&S representatives have continued to meet with Cathy Day (Director Health, Safety & Risk), using that appropriately as an opportunity to raise and resolve such issues.  Indeed Adam George Dunn (UCU Health & Safety representative) reported at the meeting on 28th September that he would not follow up the issue of ventilation at the meeting because he was having extensive and detailed discussions with Maurice Woodcock (Director of Estates Operations) that were making good progress.

In response to your 10 points:

  1. Clinically extremely vulnerable staff, or staff living with or caring for clinically extremely vulnerable people, must be allowed to work/teach from home, without detriment, for the 2021-22 academic year. 

The terms Clinically Vulnerable and Clinically Extremely Vulnerable were developed by the NHS during lockdown to help prioritise health services and to advise on shielding for those who had clinical conditions.   Since all shielding and the lockdown have now ended, Government  ‘Guidance for those who were previously considered clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19’ states ‘As a minimum, you should continue to follow the same guidance (provided to all) on staying safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19. You should consider advice from your health professional on whether additional precautions are right for you’.  

The University is very mindful of its duty of care under Health & Safety legislation and as such has strongly encouraged the uptake of full vaccination and regular testing.  We have developed guidance for vulnerable adults which enables employees to request a person specific risk assessment carried out in collaboration with their line manager.  This assessment will help to identify and implement additional control measures, where relevant to the specific vulnerability, which enable the employee to fulfil their role and meet organisational needs.   

  1. No staff member with concerns about the safety of their working environment should be compelled to work on-site until the University has satisfactorily addressed their concerns.

Throughout the pandemic the University has followed Government guidance to make the workplace as safe as reasonably practicable.  If employees have concerns about their workplace health and/or safety they should raise this in the first instance with their line manager who should work with them to identify their concerns and address them if they are able.  Employees can consult with their union appointed staff representative in addition to reporting incidents and near misses via the Health & Safety Incident Reporting system. 

3. Southampton UCU have not seen detailed data about ventilation in classrooms, despite numerous requests. Our H&S representatives need to urgently be supplied with quantitative data on each room cleared for teaching and shared occupancy.

As mentioned in my first paragraph I understand from our meeting on 28th September that Adam George Dunn as UCU rep is meeting with Maurice Woodcock to discuss this matter thoroughly.

4. If anyone feels that a room is not well-ventilated, they should be able to ask for it to be checked by Estates. UCU asks the university to provide portable CO2 monitors so colleagues can check rooms which may be unsafe and to regularly monitor ventilation in rooms.

 Maurice Woodcock addressed this issue at the meeting on 28th September.  The University is considering the potential contribution of CO2 monitors in teaching rooms.  Government guidance on this, from the DfE does not encourage this for universities and I am not aware of guidance on how to interpret CO2 monitor data in respect of Covid transmission risk.  We therefore continue to investigate the potential benefits of CO2 monitoring.

  1. Mask wearing should be mandatory in teaching spaces and other indoor shared spaces, and crowded outdoor areas, except for those with medical exemptions. Sufficient spare masks should be readily available. The University must ensure its communications around mask wearing are clear and consistent.

In July this year all legal restrictions were lifted included the use of social distancing and face coverings.  The University continues however to strongly encourage and expects staff and students to use face coverings indoors when moving around and in crowded spaces.   A crowded space is likely to include lecture theatres and seminars or any space where physical distancing affords a greater challenge. 

The University continues to provide face coverings for those who may have lost or forgotten theirs.  These are and will be available in teaching rooms.  The Government has made it very clear that some people will be exempt and that proof of such exemption should not be requested.  

Guidance on face coverings is available from the Health & Safety SharePoint site as it has been throughout the pandemic and there have been consistent and regularly repeated communications provided to all staff and students via Sussed and other communication channels.

  1. Clear guidance must be issued immediately to staff about what happens if a student or staff member in a class tests positive. If a staff member has to isolate, or care for isolating people, or they have numerous students in their class isolating, they must be allowed to switch to online.

From early 2020 the University has developed clear processes for line managers to report and manage local cases of COVID-19.  We also have an Outbreak Control and Response Plan for dealing with multiple cases which has been endorsed by the Directors of Public Health from both Southampton City Council and Hampshire County Council.  The plan and process are focused on the prevention of infection spread.  The need for self-isolation is no longer required for close contacts who are fully UK vaccinated (with the exception currently of students from overseas).  If someone does need to isolate they should speak with their line manager so that alternative temporary measures can be take e.g. substitution.  

  1. The University must commit to an active public campaign to encourage vaccinations and weekly testing for staff and students, and share anonymised data gathered through vaccination surveys with unions.

Vaccination and testing is already strongly encouraged, nationally by Government, locally by the Directors of Public Health and within the workplace by the University, including a video campaign used on all our digital channels. Vaccination data is held by the NHS and as such is subject to legal confidentiality which means it’s not readily available to the University.   A vaccination survey of students has recently been undertaken and anonymised results are available.

  1. Maintain social distancing by lowering room capacity where necessary to allow 1m+ to remain in place.

As mentioned at 5. above all legal restrictions were lifted in July, including social distancing.  The University chose to take a more cautious approach initially in line with our local authority partners by gradually removing social distancing, signage and one-way systems.  Our Principles document includes the following statement for the local management of shared spaces –  ‘Try and aim for 2 metres space between each person if at all practicable’.

  1. Ensure all managers are aware that a blended model of teaching is permissible in order to reduce the number of students and staff on campus at any given time.  

    This issue is addressed in the email from the Vice President (Education) circulated on 23 September.

  1. If a member of staff feels a classroom situation is unsafe; e.g. students are refusing to wear masks, the number of students exceeds the listed room capacity, or the ventilation is poor (windows will not open, for example), they should cancel the class and reschedule it online.

As stated at 2. above if a member of staff feels unsafe they should in the first instance inform their line manager.  It is quite possible that some people will not be wearing face coverings either because of exemption or another reason, but this doesn’t automatically make a space intrinsically unsafe.  All those attending should however be encouraged by the staff member, to wear a face-covering if at all possible.  Room capacity identified for the purpose of fire safety and emergency evacuation should not be exceeded.  

Room ventilation is extremely difficult to assess without full understanding of the ventilation type and how to measure it.  The Estates team have checked CLS and teaching spaces to ensure they meet the standards recommended by CIBSE and the HSE.  Any spaces which did not do so have been taken out of use.  Rooms which only have natural ventilation should have opening windows that the attending staff member can check and open if not open already.

Richard Middleton

Chief Operating Officer