The University of Oxford has been slammed for flouting government guidelines on re-opening universities, putting October re-opening plans at risk.

The university has refused to share health and safety risk assessments as staff try to ensure the university is able to reopen safely in October.

The University and College Union (UCU) wrote to the university's vice-chancellor Louise Richardson on 17 July formally requesting that the university share risk assessments about staff safety after trying to raise the issue on multiple occasions with the university.

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The university responded to the request saying, “it is not practical or useful to share all risk assessments with Oxford UCU” and claimed that staff and student health was its top priority.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "It is shocking to see the University of Oxford flouting health and safety guidelines in the middle of this pandemic, whilst claiming the health of staff and students is its highest priority.

"The statutory duties and government guidance regarding risk assessments and consultation over health and safety are clear. The university now needs to work with us to ensure it can safely reopen in October, rather than putting the safety of staff and students at risk."

UCU has set out five tests which it believes must be met before staff can return safely to campus. One of the tests calls on universities to work with unions on health and safety risk assessments.

Oxford University responded to the UCU and said: “The University is surprised by the national UCU’s claims as we are currently meeting every few days with our three recognised unions, including the UCU, to discuss in detail our approach to reopening. These meetings have been part of a regular constructive dialogue about the principles of safe return to onsite working, in line with government guidelines. This has included the University seeking and accepting feedback from the unions on HR and Health & Safety guidance documents in advance of sharing the guidance with staff. 

“As the University works towards reopening and continuing our vital role in world-class education and research, our number one priority is the health and well-being of our staff, students and local community. Staff are being kept fully informed of the extensive protective measures being introduced, including detailed guidance on risk assessments and returning to safe on-site working, which were developed in consultation with our unions.”