Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, has said that universities are to face fines if they fail to provide in-person teaching, pledging the use of inspectors to investigate the “stubborn minority” of lecturers who were still working remotely.
This comes as some universities continue to provide blended learning, despite there being no covid restrictions in place. Previously, according to The Times, it was announced that inspectors from the Office for Students (OfS) were to investigate the quality of online lectures as part of a wider review of online learning in hopes to assess the value for money for students.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Michelle Donelan said: “Students and lecturers will be going to the pub, going out for meals, they’ll be going to parties, going to weddings, probably concerts, so it doesn’t actually make sense that they can’t then be in a lecture theatre.
“I’ve not heard a reasonable rationale for why we would want students to be on a second track to the rest of the population. I think it is really wrong.”
Institutions that fail to carry out pre-pandemic teaching could be “fined or even lose the ability to access money from the student loan system”, she said.
“Universities understand the value of face-to-face teaching and that’s why in-person teaching and learning is the main method of delivering most courses at most universities across the UK.”
–Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK
Last month, the government laid out its expectations in a letter, and is looking to carry out inspections by the OfS of up to 15 institutions next year. Possible results could also include “regulatory action where appropriate”.
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, told The Times: “Universities understand the value of face-to-face teaching and that’s why in-person teaching and learning is the main method of delivering most courses at most universities across the UK.
“Like every sector, the pandemic has changed the way universities work, with significant advances made in digital teaching and learning.
“Students have been clear that these developments help them learn, can make the learning experience more accessible and flexible and enhance digital skills valued by employers. Many universities have responded to this positive student feedback by including some digital learning alongside in-person learning opportunities.”