The Universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh, as well as the London School of Economics (LSE) have told students that teaching will remain online for the rest of the academic year.
While an announcement on 22 February from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to outline the staggered return of students to universities, beginning with those in their final year studying practical subjects, some institutions have made the decision to continue teaching online for the rest of this academic year.
Students studying courses like Medicine and Education will continue to receive in-person teaching.
St Andrews is the latest to announce the continuation of online teaching. In an email to staff and students, vice-chancellor Professor Sally Mapstone said that the university had taken the “difficult decision that teaching and assessment for the majority of our students must remain online only for the rest of this semester”.
She questioned the viability of students returning en-masse to the seaside town, arguing that even if the stringent travel restrictions were eased in Scotland, “we do not believe it will be to a degree sufficient to allow us to bring large numbers of students back to St Andrews”.
The Scottish university’s academic year is split into two semesters, meaning that students will be taught online until the end of the year in late May. The announcement follows a similar decision made by the University of Edinburgh.
Following careful review of guidance, LSE has taken the decision to move all compulsory teaching and learning online for the remainder of the year
– Spokesperson for LSE
LSE have also moved all “compulsory” teaching and assessments online for the rest of the academic year.
For students at these universities and elsewhere, this means the majority of the 2020/2021 academic year will have been taught online, which is likely to fuel movements calling for tuition fee refunds and rent strikes.
An LSE spokesman said: “Following careful review of guidance, LSE has taken the decision to move all compulsory teaching and learning online for the remainder of the year. All assessments will also take place online.
“We aim to provide non-compulsory in-person education, learning and community-building activities later in the academic year.”
Universities UK said: “Universities are continuing to work with the government on plans for the return of more students as soon as the public health situation allows. Once we know more about when and how restrictions are being lifted for the higher education sector, universities will be able to communicate directly with their students.
“The government supports our view that face-to-face teaching is important for the mental, emotional and educational wellbeing of students, and we know that students are keen to be able to access facilities and benefit from the wider university experience.”