Bristol Uni VC Hugh Brady slams ‘unfair’ treatment of students by government

Bristol Uni is bringing more students back to campus, despite silence from government

Bristol Uni’s Vice Chancellor Hugh Brady has slammed the government in a statement, saying it’s “unfair that students who have been studying online up until now” cannot come back to campus.

In a statement to The Bristol Tab, Brady said that Bristol is “disappointed by the lack of information” from the Department for Education, saying that the whole Russell Group and UUK have “made our unhappiness with the delayed guidance very clear”.

Brady also questioned why other sectors of society are allowed to open, such as pubs, shops, and hairdressers, “while [students] continue to be advised against returning to campus where regular testing is now in place.”

As a result of this lack of clarity, Bristol Uni announced today that it will be bringing as many students back to campus as possible within the current government guidelines.

This means that students on courses “which require access to specialist equipment and facilities” will be returning to some in-person teaching from Monday 19th April, and that will mainly be students doing STEM subjects and creative arts. The full list is available here.

In an email to staff at lunchtime today, the university said: “We believe this approach is practical and safe and will help to alleviate some of the mental health pressures many students are currently feeling.

“We recognise that many students studying on Priority 3 programmes will be disappointed not to return to in-person learning, but we do need to abide by government guidance.”

On Monday 5th April, students and universities were once again left out of Boris Johnson’s announcement confirming that the UK was moving to the second stage of the roadmap out of lockdown.

Bristol Uni and institutions across the country have been seeking clarity from the Department for Education over the past week, and they were expecting guidelines to be issued today, which has not happened.

Bristol VC Hugh Brady said: “We, along with all universities in England, have been disappointed by the lack of information about when students will be able to return to campus.

“Although we’re able to reopen libraries and some sports facilities, it seems unfair that students who have been studying online up until now are being told they still cannot access socially-distanced teaching on their Covid-safe university campus – nor when this might be possible.

“Ensuring students can return to some in-person teaching and benefit from in-person social and sporting activities is vital to their wellbeing and personal development.

“Working with Russell Group and UUK colleagues, we have made our unhappiness with the delayed guidance very clear to the Department for Education. We have also written to our local MPs asking for their assistance in pressing the government to provide further clarity.

“We believe students deserve to know the government’s rationale behind allowing other sectors of the economy to open up while they continue to be advised against returning to campus where regular testing is now in place.”

The Department for Education did not respond to a request for comment, although they did announce a few hours later that students would return to in-person learning on May 17th.

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