Uni applicants must not be given false hopes of ‘campus experience,’ watchdog warns

18 May 2020, 16:23

The London Metropolitan University closed its doors on Friday 20th March
The London Metropolitan University closed its doors on Friday 20th March. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Students who have applied to study at universities this autumn must be told whether they will be taught online before they accept offers, the watchdog has said.

The Office for Students insisted that institutions give applicants “absolute clarity” over how their degrees will be delivered and warned bosses not to give false hopes of a “campus experience” this September.

Campuses have been shut since March and many students have been taught online since, with most not expected to reopen until September at the earliest.

Sixth formers, whose exams have been cancelled this summer, are already facing uncertainty over student halls contracts and a scramble for places amid a cap on university admissions this year.

The OfS wants A-level pupils to be told what to expect before the June deadline for accepting offers and “certainly before” the clearing window in August following results day, and to be released from offers if universities change their plans.

Nicola Dandridge, OfS chief executive, told MPs on Monday: “What we’re requiring is that universities are as clear as they can be to students so that when they accept an offer from universities, they know what they’re getting.”

She suggested “blended learning” could be introduced that combines face-to-face teaching with online classes and cautioned against “bunging lectures online”.

The University of Manchester became the first UK institution last week to announce all lectures in the autumn term will be delivered digitally.

Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, has said institutions can charge the full £9,250 tuition fees as long as online classes are of “quality”.