The government recently published some guidance for universities reopening buildings and campuses
This document is designed to help providers of higher education in England to understand how to minimise risk during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and provide services to students, keeping as many people as possible 2 metres apart from those they do not live with.
There has been a fair amount of commentary on the Twitter about this, mainly negative, describing it as of little help, or “bleeding” obvious…
Genuinely at a loss to understand why this was written.
It mentions ‘pinch points’ such as ‘the start and end of the day’: what does that actually mean on a university campus?
Honestly, it’s one of the vaguest documents I’ve ever read.
…what an astonishingly vague and unhelpful document this is
In which Higher Education Professional Services staff are rendered almost entirely invisible. Although to be fair, the whole thing is quite the waste of words.
There’s very little to say about this other than it’s highly amusing that it notes guidance from CMA on consumer contracts, cancellation and refunds in relation to student accommodation but not in relation to higher education itself!
Start and end of the day is interesting concept on a residential ‘sticky campus’
Though this section from the report has huge implications for the sector.
Libraries are currently required by law to cease their business during the emergency period (regulation 5(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020). However, they are allowed to provide services for orders made via website or on-line communications, telephones and text messaging, and post. You might therefore consider how to make library services available in line with those methods.
The implication is that the physical library on campus should remain closed and library services are delivered online.
The legislation doesn’t mention libraries, but refers to the provision of library services.
A person responsible for carrying on a business, not listed in Part 3 of Schedule 2, of offering goods for sale or for hire in a shop, or providing library services must, during the emergency period – (a)cease to carry on that business…
I found this rather worrying as libraries in universities are more than just library services. Usually this is discussed the other way around that the library is more than just the physical space and services can be accessed online. In reality most university libraries are a combination of space and services. Some of these can be delivered online, but often students will want to use the physical space in the library even if they are not (directly) using library services.
I am not sure if a university decides to open their library they would face action, but it certainly could be a possibility. Of course things may change between now and when universities return in September. If universities can ensure social distancing in their libraries then maybe they can open the physical space. Study desks could be set two metres apart, one way systems imposed on stairwells and markers on the floor to aid staff and students to maintain social distancing.
What is less obvious is how they will need to reduce possible infection by transmission via their physical resources. Would physical books and journals need to be held for 72 hours after a student has used them before another student could use them?
The published guidance has one paragraph about libraries, and that is too superficial to provide any decent guidance or support for universities on how they should operate their libraries when term starts in the autumn.