A new survey suggests the British public trusts vice-chancellors more than it trusts the government when it comes to the decision to send students home due to Covid-19 outbreaks.
The poll, by market research firm Dynata, asked 1,000 people in the UK about their feelings towards universities during the pandemic in the week commencing 21 September.
Asked who should have the final decision when it comes sending students home due to Covid-19 outbreaks or second waves, 49% of respondents chose university vice chancellors.
National government came 19 percentage points behind vice-chancellors, with local government officials on 25%, parents on 17% and students themselves on 13%.
The poll also asked respondents how many students they felt needed to test positive for Covid-19 before a full college or university closure was warranted. A quarter of those polled said that universities should shut down fully if between 10 and 99 students test positive for Covid-19, with 15% saying nine cases should be enough to merit closure.
Finally, respondents were asked how they would rate the job that colleges and universities are doing in keeping students, staff, surrounding communities and families of students and staff safe. 22% felt that universities were doing an excellent/very good job in keeping students safe, while 28% said that universities were doing an excellent/very good job in keeping staff safe.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson yesterday [29 September] rejected calls by the Labour Party and the University and College Union (UCU) to move all university teaching online, saying: “We will never be in a position where we can eliminate all risk. But we will not condemn a generation of young people by asking them to put their lives on hold for months or years ahead. We believe that universities are very well prepared to handle any outbreaks as they arise.”
He also promised “every student will be able to spend Christmas with their family.”
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