A CITY university is asking post-graduates and staff to work as invigilators – despite students pleading for all exams to be held online.

The University of Southampton caused outrage after ignoring pleas to hold all tests online amidst Covid fears.

But now, in an email seen by the Echo, it has admitted to struggling to hire invigilators – because of the pandemic.

The regular company that it hires from has a lack of willing workers due to sickness, and also fear of catching the virus.

Instead, the uni is asking various staff members and post-graduate students to step up.

"The central university are asking staff and PGR students to be on stand-by cover invigilation needs for in-person examinations during the Semester 1 assessment period (Monday 17 to Friday 28 January)," says the email.

We have relied on casual staff to invigilate. Unfortunately, a number of the new cohort have declined to act this time, due to worries about Omicron, or supporting family members in providing care for their dependents, as well as higher-than-normal sickness absence already declared.

"Despite our best efforts, invigilators are continuing to drop out due to sickness, isolation, or general reluctance to take on work currently."

Students are continuing to lobby the uni over in-person exams.

Ben Dolbear, president of the student union, has written an open letter to vice chancellor Mark Smith.

"The number of Southampton students self-isolating has, in recent weeks, risen to well over triple figures," it says.

"As the student who launched our successful petition on in-person exams says, 'with case rates as high as they are, infections in the exam hall are not only likely but inevitable; this will endanger vulnerable students, add additional pressure to the NHS during an already strained time, and prevent people from learning as effectively at the start of the second semester'.

"This requirement also endangers members of University staff who invigilate and organise the exams, who are potentially exposed to infection". Not only this, but the number of students having to miss their examinations due to self-isolation is likely to be disruptively high.

"As such, we are expecting the University to receive a surge of special considerations requests, appeals, and calls for nodetriment mitigations, all of which will require significant resource from the University in coming months."