Students at Leeds University are petitioning for a “complete return to in-person teaching”.
A change.org petition was started by Leeds students to demand that ‘blended learning’ does not continue into the 2021/22 academic year. At the time of writing, it has amassed almost 4,000 signatures.
The petition was started by student William Huddie and was addressed to the vice-chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, and deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Hai-Sui Yu.
The petition stated: “It has come to our attention as students that the University of Leeds plans to continue with a blended teaching approach for the coming academic year 2021/2022. It is our opinion that this approach is unacceptable, considering the quality of teaching and assessment that is expected at a university of such a high standard.”
“The University should emphatically not be planning for a blended teaching approach, considering the freedoms that will be allowed in other parts of society come the start of the next academic year.”
“Online teaching is in no way a substitute for in-person learning and it is ridiculous that the University would expect us to agree with or even accept their decision on teaching for the next academic year.”
William Huddie, petition organiser and second-year physics student, said that the benefits from in-person teaching were invaluable.
We’re not being asked what we want and I’m really angry about it
– William Huddie
He said: “We’re not being asked what we want and I’m really angry about it.”
Mr Huddie added that he had not been on campus since March 2020, and that many of his lectures had been pre-recorded which meant he could not “engage and ask questions”.
Leeds University said that from September 2021, its planned “hybrid approach” would combine “face-to-face” sessions and online lectures.
A spokesperson for Leeds University added that the university’s aim would be to “give every student a substantial on-campus experience throughout the next semester”.
The University of Leeds are not the only university planning a ‘blended’ approach for the coming academic year. The Universities of St Andrews, Edinburgh, the London School of Economics, Manchester, and Liverpool have all said that they expect a mixture of online and in-person teaching next year.
Adding that plans were being made “on the basis that many large teaching events – in particular large lectures – will be delivered online as part of an overall hybrid approach”.
The University of Warwick’s Senate approved, in their 7 October 2020 meeting, “the commitment to the continuation of online assessment as the preferred approach” for the coming academic year.
A spokeswoman from Universities UK said that universities were planning without knowing what – if any – restrictions would still be in place by Autumn.
A spokeswoman from the Department for Education said: “Universities have a strong track record in delivering excellent blended tuition, and we have been clear that quality and quantity should not drop.”