Bristol extend the teaching day until 8pm

‘We have decided to extend the teaching day to 8pm’ says Hugh Brady in leaked email

This is due to social distancing restrictions

Bristol University is planning to extend the teaching day until 8pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from September 2020, according to an email sent by the Vice-Chancellor.

A leaked email from VC Hugh Brady reveals that these changes, including an extension of teaching on Wednesdays until 2pm, are to enable as much in-person teaching as possible during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

Serious concern has been expressed by many participants in the consultation, especially the Bristol UCU, with Hugh Brady writing that the urgency “has required us to make a decision in a very short time-frame”.

VC Hugh Brady wrote that teaching hours will be extended on 3 days each week due to social distancing requirements “to support the delivery of a high quality blended educational experience“.

As of September 2020, teaching hours will be changed as follows:

• 9am-8pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays (from the current 9am-6pm)
• 9am-2pm on Wednesdays, with specialist teaching continuing until 6pm (from the current 9am-1pm)

Leaked confidential documents reveal that the University Management Team originally proposed to Senate (decision-making body) on the 29th of June extending teaching hours every day of the week until 8pm, including teaching on Saturdays.

In the official proposal document on Monday 13th of July, sponsored by Deputy VC Judith Squires, the UMT wrote that social distancing “will severely limit the availability and capacity of teaching spaces”, resulting in the need to “create more availability” by extending teaching hours.

Unis will keep students in bubbles, enforcing social distancing as much as possible (photo: Danny Shaw)

The original proposal included:

• Extending the teaching day to 9am-8pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays (from the current 9am-6pm)
• Extending teaching on Wednesdays to 9am-8pm (from the current 9am-1pm)
• Scheduling teaching on Saturdays in specialist spaces if necessary

The University Management Team was anticipating implementing “any of these options individually or some or all of them in combination”.

Consultation with campus trade unions, Bristol SU, and the Student Advisory Panel took place on various dates between the 23rd of June and the 14th of July, with objections from every group consulted.

Significant concerns were raised with the original plans around the loss of Wednesday afternoons for extra-curricular activities, as well as breaches of the Equality Act 2010 with the unilateral extension of staff working hours.

Bristol SU was also “concerned about the impact on students” of extending teaching hours, especially as some students could be disproportionately affected.

As a result, the university abandoned plans to extend all teaching through Wednesday afternoons as it would be “detrimental to the wellbeing of students and to the opportunities for community building”, although specialist teaching will still take place until 6pm.

The Bristol UCU is holding an Extraordinary General Meeting next week to formally oppose the final plans, writing that “it is unacceptable for the university to unilaterally extend the working day and contemplate increasing workloads that are already unmanageable”.

Alongside these proposals, the university is also “freezing [staff] pay, promotions and recommending no pay award for this year”, which the Bristol UCU has labelled “unconscionable”.

The union accuses the University Management Team of only “engaging superficially” with the union representing hundreds of staff, saying that management “can and should engage more constructively in negotiations going forward.”

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