Aberdeen University has become the first UK university to delay the start of the next academic term due to coronavirus.
The University has delayed the beginning of term by two weeks. Rather than starting on September 7, it will now begin September 21. However, these two weeks of tuition fees will not be reimbursed.
An online system of learning is being created so that students will not be disrupted in their study.
Vice-principal of Aberdeen University, Professor Ruth Taylor, said: “We all hope that we will be able to deliver face-to-face teaching on campus in September.
“However, in case that is not possible, we will also prepare for the delivery of teaching and learning in a way that will enable you to commence your studies online and to transition to on-campus study when circumstances allow.”
UK universities have already moved their teaching online due to disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is a big issue of whether all students have access to high-speed broadband or a quiet place in their household where they can study
– Mark Nicholson
The director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at the University of Bath, Mike Nicholson, said: “There is a big issue of whether all students have access to high-speed broadband or a quiet place in their household where they can study.”
Luke Heslin, a second-year History student at the University of Warwick, said that online assignments disproportionately affect students from working class backgrounds: “Some students struggle to get access to the internet, access to a computer to access the work, or overcrowding. Many of these students face the likelihood of having to prioritise studies over health care and family commitments.”
Many other UK universities are considering taking the same action as Aberdeen, and some are discussing taking their learning online into the next academic year.
Durham University has been heavily criticised due to the radical changes they intend to make to face-to-face learning. According to a leaked document, at least 500 modules will be fully online by the end of the 2020/21 academic year.
The university’s deputy vice-chancellor says that: “Anticipating that some and perhaps a significant number of students will not be able to travel and live in Durham, we are preparing an online, distance learning programme that is both inclusive and high quality.”
The general secretary of the University and College Union, Jo Grady, has critiqued such radical change. She has said that Coronavirus is not “an opportunity for universities to try to swiftly implement radical change”.