1/ Want to know when that devastating second wave of Covid-19 in the UK will come? I am going to go out on a limb and say October this year. There will be several catalysts for it, but I am going to talk about the one I have some expertise in - the Higher Education system.
2/ Caveats: I am an academic working in a university. I am not an epidemiologist or a scientist. I study culture and meaning; how people communicate and behave. My observations here are anecdotal but they are informed by sociology and statistics.
3/ Let me tell you about Fresher's Flu.

By week two or three of every first semester of the university year, everyone gets ill. We call it Fresher's Flu. That's because every year, a soup of virii descends into this environment. Some years it's a cold, some years it's worse.
4/ There are deaths at universities in the UK every year from meningitis during "Fresher's flu" season, for example. 25% of adolescents carry meningococcal bacteria compared with 10% in general pop.
5/ October also marks the official start of the general "flu season" when Public Health England begins to see cases peaking - and part of that is down to rapid and rampant transmission within unvaccinated, returning university populations.
6/ Unis are unique populations, There are large numbers of older people mingling with even larger groups of young people from all corners of the country, moving through an even larger general population, all sharing equipment, rooms and so on every single day.
7/ The key issues here are shared equipment, shared spaces and constant movement throughout large shared spaces, often through narrow corridors. You cannot mitigate this through social distancing. So, how do we come back in September?
8/ Universities are currently debating this. The two extremes (in the public domain) are represented by Cambridge University and the "University" of Bolton. I put the word "University" in quotes there. The University of Bolton is a sh*thole with, it appears, a shith*le for a VC.
9/ Cambridge University announced last week that its provision will move online for the entire academic year. It will adopt a "blended" approach as much as possible protecting both its staff and students.
10/ The "University" of Bolton has said that it will install a bunch of plastic shields, create a one-way system through campus and temperature scanners in doorways - and open for business as usual.

The two strategies are informed by economics.
11/ Cambridge can, in a very real sense, "afford" to go online for a whole year. It can do so without any lasting damage to its bottom line or reputation. Cambridge has a surfeit of applicants and will continue to have those after the crisis has ended.
12/ The "University" of Bolton - not so much. It is number 86 in the University league tables and already reeling from the population dip that has affected all the "new" universities over the last three years. Plus, it's in Bolton.
13/ Its decision to open its doors is desperate and is being pushed through with scant consultation and against the wish of staff unions.

The problem with this is, it sets a precedent. The universities look to each other for guidance.
14/ They are in tiers of competition with each other, thanks to Tony Blair's expansion of HE. The posh universities, Russell Group, the red bricks - they'll ride this out.

With Bolton's shot fired, the "new" universities now have a challenge to accept.
15/ Senior Leadership will be panicking even more in this tier, because they *will* lose students if their "offer" is different to the rest of the sector.

The new universities are not run by academics any more. They are run by bean counters.
16/ They are under tremendous pressure from their consumers to open up. But the thing is - this short-term economic decision could create new incubators and end up killing thousands
17/ Any attempt to open up universities before Covid-19 is at an R rate way below that acceptable in the general population could be a disaster. Not just for universities, but for university towns and cities and then the entire UK.

tl;dr: Fresher's Covid would be a generational catastrophe on a scale we have not seen since World War II.

#marr #COVIDIOT #coronavirus #HigherEducation #edchat #blendchat
You can follow @UmbertoKerouac.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled: