Universities to deliver lectures online in autumn despite Covid restrictions easing

18 May 2021, 12:21

Students were told not to travel back to university when the third lockdown was announced
Students were told not to travel back to university when the third lockdown was announced. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Many UK universities are expected to continue online lectures into the autumn term, sparking a backlash from students.

From this week, as part of the relaxing of coronavirus restrictions, face-to-face teaching returned to campuses across the country.

Students had been told not to travel back to university when the third lockdown was announced in January.

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University leaders have criticised the Government for delaying the return of face-to-face lessons for all students until now - and a number of students have called for tuition fee refunds amid the disruption.

Despite this, a number of universities have announced they will continue to offer a “blended” or “hybrid” approach to teaching - a mix of face-to-face teaching and online lectures - into the autumn term.

The Telegraph reported that a third of Russell Group universities, the leading institutions in the UK, say they intend to take this approach.

University College London, in information published on its website for next year's students, said it would "prioritise interactive face-to-face teaching, such as seminars and workshops", with lectures mostly or completely online “if all learning outcomes can be met this way”.

LSE wrote in its guidance for students starting in 2021: “We aim to run in-person teaching for the vast majority of seminars and classes... larger group teaching, such as lectures, will be largely delivered online.”

Leeds, Nottingham and Liverpool universities are expected to take similar approaches to lectures, with the University of Manchester also planning a “blended approach, with a mix of both on-campus and online element”.

Students at the University of Leeds have started a petition demanding that this approach to the 2021/2022 academic year is scrapped.

The National Union of Students has insisted that “students deserve better than what they've experienced this year” but also claimed there could be some advantages to teaching online.

Union vice president Hillary Gyebi-Ababio said: “Online lectures, remote access to resources and other digital provision has significantly improved access to education and, offered alongside in-person teaching, gives students greater choice over how they learn.”

Universities UK defended the approach, saying that it is still unclear which restrictions will be in place come the autumn.

It added that students will still have access to facilities even if lectures are delivered online.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students, said: “No matter what teaching methods universities and colleges use, they must provide consistently good courses for all students.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman added: “Universities have a strong track record in delivering excellent blended tuition, and we have been clear that quality and quantity should not drop.”