Manchester Metropolitan University faces strike action over return to face-to-face teaching

The University and College Union is opposing a return to face-to-face teaching with Manchester in Tier 3. Credit: PA

A university in Manchester has been threatened with union action after it announced plans to reintroduce face-to-face lessons next week.

Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) has said it will provide up to three hours of in-person activity each week for most courses on Monday after the majority of lessons were moved online.

The University and College Union (UCU) has said asking staff to revert back to in-person teaching when the city had moved to tough Tier 3 restrictions to try and control the virus was "unacceptable".

The union has warned it will ballot members for industrial action if the decision is not reversed.

MMU and the University of Manchester moved most of their teaching online from October 7 following a rise of Covid-19 cases among students.

MMU is now planning to reintroduce an element of in-person teaching after three weeks of virtual classes.

It comes after hundreds of students in MMU's halls were told to self-isolate in their rooms for 14 days, even if they had no symptoms, following an outbreak of Covid-19 cases at the end of last month.

UCU North West regional official Martyn Moss said: "The people of Manchester are making huge sacrifices to try to contain the spread of the virus.

"Yet Manchester Metropolitan University's vice-chancellor wants to undermine the city's sacrifice, and risk the health and safety of staff and students by urging them to return to campus."

He added: "If the vice-chancellor continues to risk the health of staff, students and the local community in this cavalier manner we will have no choice but to ballot our members for industrial action."

A MMU spokesman said: "Our decision to reintroduce an element of face-to-face teaching is in line with recommendations from the Director of Public Health for Manchester and Public Health England.

"Most of our teaching will remain online, but we will provide up to three hours of in-person activity each week for most courses.

"Above all, this reflects the wishes and needs of many of our students, who tell us and the Students' Union, that they greatly value in-person activity."

Evelyn Sweeney, president of the MMU Students' Union, said: "We really welcome the return to face-to-face teaching. Students have told us that it helps to create a sense of belonging and personal interaction helps students to build stronger relationships with tutors.

"Seeing classmates creates a sense of community and does a great deal to alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness."

The majority of universities across the country are offering a blended approach of face-to-face and online lessons amid the pandemic.