All staff at the University – please sign our open letter

With cases in Birmingham sitting at one of the highest rates in the country, the University of Birmingham is planning to carry on regardless with plans to restart face to face teaching for every course as well as asking all staff to return to campus.

UNISON feel that this is too big a risk to take, and that we need to show that staff at the University want it to change course, for the good of staff, students and the wider community.

If you work at the University please sign the below letter to show you support the University taking a safer, more cautious approach in these uncertain times. 

UNISON will:

  • wait until the letter has at least 300 signatures
  • produce a version of the letter with all of the names listed below the signature line
  • send this by email to the Vice Chancellor
  • if the letter receives more signatures after we’ve sent it, we will send these in batches to show that a large number of staff support the campaign


Dear Vice Chancellor,

We the undersigned, all staff working at the University, are writing to express our serious concern at the University of Birmingham’s current intention to proceed with the full reopening of campus, despite a developing and deeply concerning increase in cases in Birmingham and the surrounding area.

The latest estimate of the number of cases in Birmingham is currently over 82 for every 100,000 residents (Source BBC, 5-11 September figures). It is our view that it is in the interests of everyone’s health and wellbeing for the reopening of the University to be slowed down, as we all try and make the next academic year at the University a success. 

We feel students and the community will view this as a more responsible course of action than to risk contributing to a rise in infection rates in the area  Families are currently being disconnected once more and more jobs are put at risk.   A world renowned educational facility should be taking the safest possible course of action rather than risking exacerbating peoples health, fears, isolated family situations and increasing the potential of further restrictions later on. 

In particular we feel the following actions are well within the University’s power: 

  • Where online options exist for teaching this should be used and face to face teaching only as a last resort 
  • Where staff have been working from home they should continue to do so, with staff only being on campus when they need to be there
  • Rather than increasing opening hours and services across the estate to increase capacity, a slow and safe staggered opening of services should take place with an eye on the situation more broadly in the city 
  • The University should adopt a position of a supportive leading employer and continue to pay staff who require dependents leave, especially in light of many schools closing years as cases of Covid-19 rise. If staff have to take unpaid leave the pressures of debt will be counterproductive causing avoidable stress in a situation that they have no control over. 

It is the University’s civic duty to show leadership in this and it would benefit its reputation to be seen as acting responsibly to prevent increasing infection levels, particularly with more than 80,000 students travelling to the city in coming days from across the country and the world. 

Our concerns are based on sound scientific guidance, with SAGE, Independent SAGE and the British Medical Journal all highlighting that the current plans for reopening Universities pose significant risks for staff, students and the broader University community, in this case as the University is a main employer and civic leader for the whole of Birmingham. Government and Universities UK guidance seems completely out of tune with the current situation in Birmingham and we’re really worried that the city seems to be sleepwalking into another major outbreak.  

We are urging the University to change course and recognise its civic responsibility – please stop the current plans for a rapid acceleration in activity on campus and commit to fully consulting in a true partnership manner on safety and re-opening plans with unions and the staff body in general (and to live up to the principles outlined in the joint unions-UCEA statement released in June).

We wish to see our University open and prosperous however in order to do so we believe that it must proceed on a precautionary basis according to the best scientific advice, otherwise it will risk its reputation and the safety of its members.  Should we feel that our presence on campus is unsafe for ourselves or puts others at risk we will be forced to act responsibly and consider our legal options. Many of us have been working hard to fulfill our contractual obligations over the past 9 months on the basis of either home working or essential work on campus only. 

We hope you will listen to our real and justifiable concerns for the safety of students, staff and the Birmingham City community and act with the integrity of a world leading institution. We  would appreciate your considered response as soon as is possible. 

With all best wishes,

By pressing “sign” below you confirm that your name can appear on the letter to the VC, and that you are a member of staff (either employed or a casual worker) at the University

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