Impact on Universities

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bob sterman
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by bob sterman » Tue Oct 06, 2020 8:55 pm

FlammableFlower wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 8:36 pm
And now the sh.t really hits the fan:

Uni of Manchester >1,000 cases
Manchester Metropolitan University 500 cases
Uni of Sheffield ~600 cases
Northumbria Uni 770 cases and staff have voted to go on strike and call for resignation of VC
Meanwhile other universities still have their heads in the sand.

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by Turdly » Wed Oct 07, 2020 9:36 am

bob sterman wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 8:55 pm
FlammableFlower wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 8:36 pm
And now the sh.t really hits the fan:

Uni of Manchester >1,000 cases
Manchester Metropolitan University 500 cases
Uni of Sheffield ~600 cases
Northumbria Uni 770 cases and staff have voted to go on strike and call for resignation of VC
Meanwhile other universities still have their heads in the sand.
Indeed, Sheffield has its statistics clearly available, as does Manchester. It is not so obvious in some places but can be found:

Nottingham had ~400 cases last week.
York has 113 as of 4 pm yesterday, an additional 39 since Monday

In others, I've failed to find it (e.g. Warwick).

We have suspended face-to-face teaching from Friday 9th to Sunday 18th to allow changes to risk mitigation (decreased capacity in teaching spaces I believe). In my Department we had moved all teaching online except L1 tutorials (for cohort building reasons but many have been online anyway due to self-isolating) and labs so this will only really affect our lab programme.

Our labs were already running at a standard well beyond the University requirements. Estates estimated the capacity of our labs for social distancing as ~50 students, we are running them at a third of that capacity (they didn't consider how the space is used) so my expectation is that we'll end up with no change to our lab procedures but we'll have to rearrange our entire lab programme to allow for the missing week.
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by FlammableFlower » Wed Oct 07, 2020 10:34 am

Turns out ours are being reported on our website. Cor, we've had a bit of a jump:

Date, #Staff positive, #Student positive
Sept 30 2020 0 1
Oct 1 2020 0 5
Oct 2 2020 0 5
Oct 3 2020 0 5
Oct 4 2020 0 7
Oct 5 2020 0 7
Oct 6 2020 0 18

Our labs are at just under 50% capacity so 30 instead of 70 for synthetic and 15 instead of 35 for phys chem.
My personal opinion is that we should bin all face-to-face unless it can't be avoided (e.g. labs) - just been running a Zoom workshop, and whilst I'm awaiting student feedback..., it seems to be going ok.
Although I do see the point on cohort-forming (for resilience/mental health) for first years.

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by jimbob » Wed Oct 07, 2020 11:18 am

Turdly wrote:
Wed Oct 07, 2020 9:36 am
bob sterman wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 8:55 pm
FlammableFlower wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 8:36 pm
And now the sh.t really hits the fan:

Uni of Manchester >1,000 cases
Manchester Metropolitan University 500 cases
Uni of Sheffield ~600 cases
Northumbria Uni 770 cases and staff have voted to go on strike and call for resignation of VC
Meanwhile other universities still have their heads in the sand.
Indeed, Sheffield has its statistics clearly available, as does Manchester. It is not so obvious in some places but can be found:

Nottingham had ~400 cases last week.
York has 113 as of 4 pm yesterday, an additional 39 since Monday

In others, I've failed to find it (e.g. Warwick).

We have suspended face-to-face teaching from Friday 9th to Sunday 18th to allow changes to risk mitigation (decreased capacity in teaching spaces I believe). In my Department we had moved all teaching online except L1 tutorials (for cohort building reasons but many have been online anyway due to self-isolating) and labs so this will only really affect our lab programme.

Our labs were already running at a standard well beyond the University requirements. Estates estimated the capacity of our labs for social distancing as ~50 students, we are running them at a third of that capacity (they didn't consider how the space is used) so my expectation is that we'll end up with no change to our lab procedures but we'll have to rearrange our entire lab programme to allow for the missing week.
Well we can see where the university is in this map:
https://www.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewe ... 6912ed7076
Screenshot 2020-10-07 121222.png
Screenshot 2020-10-07 121222.png (314.31 KiB) Viewed 728 times
Exeter also stands out
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by bob sterman » Thu Oct 15, 2020 9:19 am

Remember lecturers - if you're in a Tier 2 lockdown region - you cannot go and have a chat with your parents in their living room (no indoor household mixing) even while you all wear facemasks.

But you can go and stand at the front of a windowless lecture theatre in front of perhaps two dozen students who have been partying for the past week - and are not wearing facemasks because the university doesn't require it.

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by FlammableFlower » Thu Oct 15, 2020 11:00 am

Yep - good point.

Also the gov is "considering" a 2-week online-teaching only lockdown before Christmas. That's our labs buggered right royally.

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by Turdly » Thu Oct 15, 2020 2:26 pm

FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Oct 15, 2020 11:00 am
Also the gov is "considering" a 2-week online-teaching only lockdown before Christmas. That's our labs buggered right royally.
Yep, even if we a) cancel all F2F teaching and b) lock the doors to the university-owned accommodation. What do they think the students living in private accommodation (70%+ of the total at a guess) are going to do? Sit indoors for two weeks when the pubs are still open or when they can get a train home before they are all full on the 23rd/24th December?
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by FlammableFlower » Thu Oct 15, 2020 5:26 pm

Indeed!

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by shpalman » Fri Oct 16, 2020 8:52 pm

Apparently there have been about 30 cases in the Polimi.
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by shpalman » Mon Oct 19, 2020 7:37 pm

The master's student who was supposed to come to my lab tomorrow to get started, got a notification of a possible covid exposure at a lecture.

It's a course he's not even following this year, just that he's still signed up for the course because he hasn't passed the exam yet.

Still, the notification expires tomorrow so he can just come on Wednesday.

But the point is that the exposure was on the 5th and the notification email just went out today, which is how he only got the notification when the 2 week period was practically up.

And this was a course in the first year of the master's which has lots of students...

(Just to mention by the way that our rector's approach to the new ministerial decree was to carry on with us giving lectures in Milan but tell the students that they don't have to come to them.)
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Oct 19, 2020 9:55 pm

FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Oct 15, 2020 11:00 am
Yep - good point.

Also the gov is "considering" a 2-week online-teaching only lockdown before Christmas. That's our labs buggered right royally.
I hope the learned societies that do the accreditation are currently revisiting their lab-hours requirements, to see if there's any leeway to reduce them a bit in view of the unprecedented global pandemic making labs enormously dangerous.

I do get that practical skills are very important for scientists, but so is being not dead and I'm not convinced forcing teaching staff to force loads of undergrads into labs together is getting the balance quite right at the moment.
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by Turdly » Tue Oct 20, 2020 7:02 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Oct 19, 2020 9:55 pm
FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Oct 15, 2020 11:00 am
Yep - good point.

Also the gov is "considering" a 2-week online-teaching only lockdown before Christmas. That's our labs buggered right royally.
I hope the learned societies that do the accreditation are currently revisiting their lab-hours requirements, to see if there's any leeway to reduce them a bit in view of the unprecedented global pandemic making labs enormously dangerous.

I do get that practical skills are very important for scientists, but so is being not dead and I'm not convinced forcing teaching staff to force loads of undergrads into labs together is getting the balance quite right at the moment.
Many learned societies have given the ok to reduce lab hours as long as the learning objectives are covered elsewhere. However, there is still a need to ensure a graduating chemist can handle glassware and chemicals safely which requires practice to get the psychomotor skills developed.*

Of all the F2F teaching going on in universities, chemistry labs are one of the safest from a COVID point of view. Most places are running them at low capacity (we are about 1/3, but self-isolating students is reducing this to 1/4), so that much greater than 2 m social distancing is possible, and the lab gets regular air changes because of the number of externally venting hoods. It's the seminars in poorly ventilated lecture theatres etc. that hold the far larger risk.

*In the case of certain disabilities this would be relaxed as e.g. a blind student is unlikely to graduate and become a lone-working lab-based chemist and that will be clear to them and an employer so we don't need to ensure a certain level of ability. However, the majority of students could go on to work in a lab and a certain level of house-training is expected.
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by FlammableFlower » Tue Oct 20, 2020 7:21 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Oct 19, 2020 9:55 pm
FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Oct 15, 2020 11:00 am
Yep - good point.

Also the gov is "considering" a 2-week online-teaching only lockdown before Christmas. That's our labs buggered right royally.
I hope the learned societies that do the accreditation are currently revisiting their lab-hours requirements, to see if there's any leeway to reduce them a bit in view of the unprecedented global pandemic making labs enormously dangerous.

I do get that practical skills are very important for scientists, but so is being not dead and I'm not convinced forcing teaching staff to force loads of undergrads into labs together is getting the balance quite right at the moment.
They've changed their advice such that now you can meet the learning outcomes without having a strict hours limit on them, but they are in a bit of a bind. In any year group about 30%ish will stay in a lab-based job and part of the Chemistry degree learning is in being safe, confident and competent in the lab and that comes from actual lab time. It'd be rubbish if in a year to four years time we've got a whole bunch of people for whom their degree time has been wasted as they aren't considered employable - but of course it's better than being dead...

Ninja'd by Turdly. I'd second the labs being safe(r) places. When they did a ventilation survey for room occupancy, hilariously our labs (which normally take 60-70) came back with an occupancy of 1,000 as that's what the graph came back with for that airflow. We instead run on how many can we have safely 2m distanced in there. Which is 25-30.

As an aside, a few years ago a certain university not far from me was given a massive wadge of cash by the RSC to develop computer-based lab learning stuff, so students could have a simulated lab environment. They did indeed develop it and use it for their own students. However I'm pretty sure it was then supposed to be distributed, if not freely, then at minimal cost... they charged an arm and a leg to licence it and as such no one but themselves can afford it/will pay for it.

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by FlammableFlower » Thu Oct 22, 2020 6:06 am

I'm quite gobsmacked though on the recent guardian report that several unis are insisting on what I can only describe as presenteeism in their staff. "Students are paying lots, so you're going to be here full time" Birmingham being one if them. Partly it's surprise in my part as everyone I'd spoken to around the country is having the same working practice if, "You only come in if you have to, otherwise you work from home".

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Oct 22, 2020 8:12 am

Twitter is full of academics being forced to come into campus to deliver lectures, and being threatened with disciplinary procedures if they refuse.
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by shpalman » Thu Oct 22, 2020 8:18 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 8:12 am
Twitter is full of academics being forced to come into campus to deliver lectures, and being threatened with disciplinary procedures if they refuse.
I'm not exactly forced, but I would need to ask for permission for medical reasons to not have to give lectures in person.
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by snoozeofreason » Thu Oct 22, 2020 8:37 am

FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 6:06 am
I'm quite gobsmacked though on the recent guardian report that several unis are insisting on what I can only describe as presenteeism in their staff. "Students are paying lots, so you're going to be here full time" Birmingham being one if them. Partly it's surprise in my part as everyone I'd spoken to around the country is having the same working practice if, "You only come in if you have to, otherwise you work from home".
At the place where I work, there is a clear and explicitly stated policy that some teaching will take place in-person, even in subjects where this is unnecessary.

I regularly go in to deliver teaching that doesn't have to be delivered on campus, and would probably be more effective if it wasn't on campus.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. The human body was knocked up pretty late on the Friday afternoon, with a deadline looming. How well do you expect it to work?

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by FlammableFlower » Thu Oct 22, 2020 9:01 am

snoozeofreason wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 8:37 am
FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 6:06 am
I'm quite gobsmacked though on the recent guardian report that several unis are insisting on what I can only describe as presenteeism in their staff. "Students are paying lots, so you're going to be here full time" Birmingham being one if them. Partly it's surprise in my part as everyone I'd spoken to around the country is having the same working practice if, "You only come in if you have to, otherwise you work from home".
At the place where I work, there is a clear and explicitly stated policy that some teaching will take place in-person, even in subjects where this is unnecessary.
Same here - four hours on one day a week is what they get - although ours get a a full day as the other half of their day is lab.

The difference comes in "only be on campus when you need to be" vs examples like "Staffordshire university’s recent blended working policy states: “It is expected that for most staff, the majority of time will normally be spent on the campus.”"

Why would institutions be demanding full-time attendance for things you can do at home?

I've had one Weds afternoon lab and 1-2 hours (same day) of in person teaching (workshops). As such I'm only in 1-2 days a week and on those days, when I'm not teaching I'm in my single-occupancy office. On my corridor I've got two colleagues who are in every day (actually due to childcare reasons) but other than that there's rarely anyone else in. The entire campus has been set up to have as few people present at any one time - it's almost like the winter vacation period here. We've got reduced attendance (only 25% of students allowed on campus at any one time) and a staggered start time (1/3rd at quarter-to the hour, 1/3rd on the hour and 1/3rd at quarter-past the hour). As such you've only got (ignoring PGT) about a 12th of the students about on the campus at any one time.

However, I am of the opinion that there should be no in person teaching unless absolutely necessary - e.g. labs/practicals etc. IMO the way that the in person teaching is done doesn't give any benefit - in a moment I'll be giving workshops, the same workshop twice to two separate groups of the year of between 8 and 20 students (depending on who bothers to turn up/isn't quarantining or self-isolating). Three other colleagues will be doing the same over the course of the day. As such you've got 8 groups who will have very different experiences that could have been better run online...

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by Turdly » Thu Oct 22, 2020 10:38 am

FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 9:01 am
snoozeofreason wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 8:37 am
FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 6:06 am
I'm quite gobsmacked though on the recent guardian report that several unis are insisting on what I can only describe as presenteeism in their staff. "Students are paying lots, so you're going to be here full time" Birmingham being one if them. Partly it's surprise in my part as everyone I'd spoken to around the country is having the same working practice if, "You only come in if you have to, otherwise you work from home".
At the place where I work, there is a clear and explicitly stated policy that some teaching will take place in-person, even in subjects where this is unnecessary.
Same here - four hours on one day a week is what they get - although ours get a a full day as the other half of their day is lab.

The difference comes in "only be on campus when you need to be" vs examples like "Staffordshire university’s recent blended working policy states: “It is expected that for most staff, the majority of time will normally be spent on the campus.”"

Why would institutions be demanding full-time attendance for things you can do at home?

I've had one Weds afternoon lab and 1-2 hours (same day) of in person teaching (workshops). As such I'm only in 1-2 days a week and on those days, when I'm not teaching I'm in my single-occupancy office. On my corridor I've got two colleagues who are in every day (actually due to childcare reasons) but other than that there's rarely anyone else in. The entire campus has been set up to have as few people present at any one time - it's almost like the winter vacation period here. We've got reduced attendance (only 25% of students allowed on campus at any one time) and a staggered start time (1/3rd at quarter-to the hour, 1/3rd on the hour and 1/3rd at quarter-past the hour). As such you've only got (ignoring PGT) about a 12th of the students about on the campus at any one time.

However, I am of the opinion that there should be no in person teaching unless absolutely necessary - e.g. labs/practicals etc. IMO the way that the in person teaching is done doesn't give any benefit - in a moment I'll be giving workshops, the same workshop twice to two separate groups of the year of between 8 and 20 students (depending on who bothers to turn up/isn't quarantining or self-isolating). Three other colleagues will be doing the same over the course of the day. As such you've got 8 groups who will have very different experiences that could have been better run online...
This is pretty much where we are. We did have F2F tutorials for 1st years, but these moved online due to self-isolation and the increasing number of cases. So the only F2F teaching currently is labs.

We are required to have some academic staff in if they are directly involved in teaching (e.g. lab demonstrating) and for "research supervision" (e.g. I am in 1 day a week and am nominally in charge of 5 research groups when I'm there). The other staff in are for essential roles (e.g. cleaning, technical support for research/teaching that can't be remote, safety etc.).

We've had the occasional presence of admin/professional services staff but only where there has been a specific task that cannot be done from home.
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by Ren » Thu Oct 22, 2020 2:17 pm

Latest intelligence on Christmas closure seems to suggest that the Govt. will likely back down on arbitrary 2 week period with no F2F, adopting something with a focus on student behaviour (e.g. what students should and should not be doing) with some variation by lockdown tier (and, I would hope, term dates).

EDIT: we have staff in where they need to be in (e.g. for teaching F2F, accomodation and other F2F services, if you need to come in to do a specific thing); otherwise the message is still work from home if you can. We wrote to all incoming/continuing students back in August, confirming that we'd shift most teaching online, with F2F activities where necessary/prioritised and could be done in line with safety guidance (which is 2m+ and masks, here); all students were given the oportunity to move to online-only provision for the first semester (as long as the course didn't make this impossible). Every course has some F2F this year (more in science, more for new students), though for some that is project supervision only. We're in the midst of a continuous fight about whether this is the right approach, which I assume will continue for the rest of the year.

Still unsure from media & social media coverage whether this approach is atypical (as I'm pretty sure we didn't lure students in with false promises), or whether the coverage is off base for others (or whether we did secret luring I'm of which not aware).

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by Sciolus » Thu Oct 22, 2020 6:21 pm

FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 9:01 am
Why would institutions be demanding full-time attendance for things you can do at home?
I guess they're trying to answer the question, what exactly are students getting for their £27k? That's always been difficult, and with no F2F and very little social side, it hardly looks value for money right now. Looking ahead, if much university education goes online, are universities facing an existential threat? Is the university model as it was a year ago irrevocably broken?

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by FlammableFlower » Thu Oct 22, 2020 7:00 pm

Sciolus wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 6:21 pm
FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 9:01 am
Why would institutions be demanding full-time attendance for things you can do at home?
I guess they're trying to answer the question, what exactly are students getting for their £27k? That's always been difficult, and with no F2F and very little social side, it hardly looks value for money right now. Looking ahead, if much university education goes online, are universities facing an existential threat? Is the university model as it was a year ago irrevocably broken?
Except, there are two things: one, we're having to put in more effort - the online material they are getting isn't (at least here) last year's recordings played back to them. Everything has been completely restructured for the COVID-world. We've been told that due to the increase in work that our workload model* has been completely overhauled so allocations for research time are being slashed to practically nothing and the increase in teaching will backfill that - it's basically saying we know you're doing more, but tough.

Secondly, at some point this will likely pass, or at least be more normalised (yearly, widespread vaccination to actually get a measure of herd immunity) - talking to students they do much prefer the F2F, but if we throw it all out now, it won't come back. I'd guess that students would rather pay the fees than have a uni fold and be told that their money is wasted if other institutions can't take them on...

It's not a good situation, but the alternatives for all involved are worse.

*the workload model was always a joke in the way it allocated things - due to the number of grants he was involved in, last year one of my colleagues was allocated over 3,000 hours (the equivalent of 375 8-hour days) in his workload model due to the algorithm used. Which meant last year he could get out of doing any teaching...

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by Sciolus » Thu Oct 22, 2020 7:37 pm

FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 7:00 pm
Except, there are two things: one, we're having to put in more effort - the online material they are getting isn't (at least here) last year's recordings played back to them. Everything has been completely restructured for the COVID-world. We've been told that due to the increase in work that our workload model* has been completely overhauled so allocations for research time are being slashed to practically nothing and the increase in teaching will backfill that - it's basically saying we know you're doing more, but tough.
But is that visible to students?
Secondly, at some point this will likely pass, or at least be more normalised (yearly, widespread vaccination to actually get a measure of herd immunity) - talking to students they do much prefer the F2F, but if we throw it all out now, it won't come back. I'd guess that students would rather pay the fees than have a uni fold and be told that their money is wasted if other institutions can't take them on...
Maybe, I'll take your word for it, but I wonder if expectations will evolve and vfm considerations will change that. (Mind you, I'm a mathematician, so most of my courses could have been -- and in at least two cases were -- replaced with a day or two working through a textbook on my own. More practical and more discussion-based subjects are obviously different.)
It's not a good situation, but the alternatives for all involved are worse.
Very much the motto of this pandemic.

Apologies if I come across as a dick - I'm completely out of touch with the university system, so I really don't know. I'm just wondering what might happen over the next couple of years, and what VCs are worrying about most.

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by shpalman » Thu Oct 22, 2020 8:18 pm

FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 7:00 pm
*the workload model was always a joke in the way it allocated things - due to the number of grants he was involved in, last year one of my colleagues was allocated over 3,000 hours (the equivalent of 375 8-hour days) in his workload model due to the algorithm used. Which meant last year he could get out of doing any teaching...
That's can't happen here for two reasons. The first is that the teaching we have to do is in our contracts (in terms of how many hours dedicated to students including in the lab, and how many credits we have to teach "in front" of students) and the second is that we have computerized time sheets and a certain number of hours we have to fill out in total for the year and obviously can't allocate the same hours to different projects.

As for the online thing, apparently the students last term appreciated it quite a lot, but still the administration here thinks that it won't be "worth it" for the students unless we do it in person. I expect the rules to change next week though.
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by science_fox » Thu Oct 22, 2020 8:37 pm

Turdly wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 10:38 am
[We've had the occasional presence of admin/professional services staff but only where there has been a specific task that cannot be done from home.
My building (research institute) is pretty much all in now apart from the PIs. Nominally it's work from home if you can, but we're bio/chem researchers so we can't . There's limits on lab occupancy, and PIs expected to schedule their group accordingly (some better than others) - most people need about 50% time away from lab anyway. Wear masks while moving can take off when >2m static from others. PIs not yet present much, supposed to supervise research but don't. Will have to come in for more teaching load but currently not much on that front. PS staff (me) all in full time have been for 3 weeks, running MS/NMR/Xray/Stores et all. Admin PS mostly still wfh except to direct estates to fix things etc. Not smooth, but a normallcy is pervading. Meetings are all still zoom.

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