THE University of Bolton has hit back at claims that its "promise" to reopen campus is irresponsible.

The University College Union (UCU) said the university's plans to reopen in September are “out of step” with other universities.

The university this week outlined details plans to open its campus to students, while the University of Cambridge said all its lectures next year would be online and Manchester University has cancelled face-to-face lectures in the first term.

The UCU says the local university's plans were not consulted upon and questioned its priorities ­— claims dismissed by the university.

UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: ‘This looks like an irresponsible promise from Bolton at this stage and is out of step with what other institutions are doing. There has been no consultation with the staff unions over health and safety risk assessments, which does suggest that staff and students are not its top priority.”

He added: “Unfortunately, this is exactly the sort of thing we warned would happen without government support for higher education. Institutions are worried about loss of income and students being poached by other universities. The government needs to step in and underwrite income lost through fees and teaching grants. In response, universities must promise to work together on plans for things like reopening and when to recommence face-to-face teaching.”

(Video shows on the University of Bolton will be reopening in September)

Professor George Holmes, Vice Chancellor of the University of Bolton, said the university has consulted with the local union branch officers ­— and said planning for the future was vital

Prof Holme said: "Students want to go to university, when a student pays their fees, they want to go university.

"It is clear therefore universities need to be prepared to allow students to access those facilities.We have to make sure the staff and students are safe, that is very important."

He added: "The reality is that garden centres are now open and the staff there are working.

"The Government must consider it acceptable because buying a plant is not an essential requirement. I understand when we were on full lockdown clearly universities could not open but once we move into the stage of slow release, then 15 weeks from now is a long time, if we haven't made progress as country by then we are in trouble.

"So to suggest that it is irresponsible plan for an opening in 15 weeks time, suggest what we are doing we shouldn't be doing is a strange thing to me."

Prof Holmes said: "One of the things people complain to me about they don't like the uncertainly, they are concerned they do not have clear guidance and we are trying to provide a degree of certainty within reason, because you don't know what is going to happen in a pandemic.

"I think it is irresponsible as an employer not to set out a way forward to secure the future of your own organisation for your own staff."

Prof Holmes branded "ridiculous" claims that health and safety of staff and students was not number one priority, saying that all organisations were bound by law to ensure this.

In September, only 700 of 7,000 students will be on campus at any one time, and 70 out of 7000 staff, which said Prof Holmes equated to 1,000 sq ft per student.

"The students will be well socially distanced ­— all students will be allowed on campus but on a rota basis," said Prof Holmes, who added all the risk assessments would be published.

"To say we don't prioritise the health and safety of staff is nothing more than ridiculous," said Prof Holmes who has been in contact with the University's Minister regarding the sector.

He said all universities were planning and questioned why being ahead was called being "out of step".

"The Government has, in my view, rightly prioritised the health service, the care home ­— and universities do not need prioritising in the same way because we are a September issue, we are not a May issue."

He said the way the university had operated during lockdown had received good feedback from staff and students

"The staff at the university have worked tirelessly to support the students, and the students have been good at responding to the new way of learning. We have a quote from a student saying that staff have been amazing.

"I have had an email from a member of staff which said 'I feel very privileged to work for an institution that so clearly prioritises the interests of its staff and students. The messages since March have been clear and reassuring while other information in the press and from the government has been contradictory and worrying'."