Coronavirus cases 'inevitable' at Bristol University

  • Report by Richard Payne

A leading academic at the University of Bristol has told ITV News coronavirus will strike the institution at some point but that it has the processes in place to deal with any infection. 

Around 27,000 students are arriving in the city over the coming days with some students demanding a refund on tuition fees for disruption to their learning, a move the university resists.

"Frankly that's what it costs," says Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education Prof Tansy Jessop.

"I think having a mix between digital (learning) and in person is an even richer experience than pure face to face."

International students will have to self-isolate for two weeks on arrival. Credit: ITV News

Wan Azwan Ariff quit his job and travelled 10,000 miles from Malaysia for a year-long postgraduate marketing course, costing £25,000. He says he feels abandoned by the university.

We paid money to them but we couldn't get the service that we should get, for example the sports centre, libraries. I believe as we didn't get our service as a customer and we should get some proportion of our money back.

Wan Azwan Ariff

A recent study by the university found reducing face-to-face teaching is likely to be the single most effective intervention to combating Covid cases.

"It's inevitable we'll get a covid case and we need to manage that," adds Prof Jessop. "We need to be testing our students and staff when they show symptoms. There are risks and we need to manage them but we must also get back as far as we can into normal educational business."

The university has spent many months and thousands of pounds preparing its sites for the new academic year, starting in early October.

Strict social distancing rules are in place with extensive signage. Credit: ITV News

The simplest of many measures can be found in the Wills Memorial Building's library where string has been tied across seats which can't be used, cutting capacity from 500 to little over 100. Students must book online for the chance of a space. 

Elsewhere, science labs must significantly reduce student numbers but have extended teaching hours into the evenings.

Face coverings must be worn by all on campus, where academics will teach behind visors. Hand sanitising stations are prevalent and strict social distancing rules are in place with extensive signage.

International students will have to self-isolate for two weeks on arrival.

It's been a shared endeavour of thousands of members of our university staff to get it ready. We have spent all summer making sure that when our students return they can do so to a safe teaching and learning environment.

David Tonkin, Head of Facilities Management

It's all a long way from the traditional view of higher education but the institutions insist it's all necessary if students are to receive any university experience at all.

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