Coronavirus: LSE to teach online for rest of academic year

Director notifies staff and students of ‘precautionary measure’ as Durham moves to end classroom teaching for remainder of term

March 12, 2020
Minouche Shafik
Source: London School of Economics and Political Science

The London School of Economics has taken major action over the coronavirus outbreak, announcing that it will switch to delivering all teaching online for the rest of the academic year.

Taught exams and assessments scheduled for later in the year will also be delivered online.

Dame Minouche Shafik, LSE director, said in a message to staff on 12 March that the measures were “precautionary, based on our commitment to support our community and prepare accordingly”.

“All teaching activity for taught undergraduate and taught postgraduate students will be delivered online from Monday 23 March or before, where possible, for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year,” she added.

Durham University said in a statement on 12 March that it “will remain open, but we are asking our academic staff to change the format and delivery of their teaching from Monday 16 March”.

"From Monday 16 March until the end of term (Friday 20 March), classroom teaching of all forms will cease and alternative modes of teaching should be used by all instructors,” the statement continued.

Students can take part in classes remotely, and “we are encouraging colleagues to explore remote working options with their managers”, it added.

LSE’s campus, including halls of residence, will remain open as the institution has had “no indication from Public Health England that we should close, and buildings, services and facilities will run as usual”, Dame Minouche said.

On assessment, Dame Minouche said: “Colleagues are advised that there will be flexibility in terms of the assessment that you decide to set, with a range of options available. Assessment methods will be at the discretion of academic faculty, and will need to be signed off by the chair of your departmental teaching committee.”

Staff were encouraged to “consider the possibilities and practicalities of working flexibly and remotely. Arrangements are ultimately at the discretion of leaders in local areas,” she said.

Dame Minouche concluded: “Finally, I want to recognise that there are many different views and opinions on campus around our school’s approach to Covid-19, and I am aware that these decisions may not be in line with some thinking.

“I assure you that these actions have been taken with consideration of a range of perspectives and with all members of our community in mind. Most importantly, this must be a collective effort, and everyone at LSE needs to engage. We are stronger when we come together as a community, and I hope we can continue to work in partnership with the same commitment to each other in the weeks ahead.”

An LSE spokesman said: “These actions are taken as a precaution and to provide clarity and reassurance to the LSE community in exceptional circumstances.”

He added: “We will take any additional necessary steps, such as a campus closure, if we are advised by PHE to do so in the future.”

Asked whether other universities should take similar action, a spokesman for the University and College Union said that the “health of staff and students has to be a university’s priority”.

“Universities cannot simply shut down and abandon those students who rely on them for things such as accommodation, and we trust that all these important matters are being kept under review,” the spokesman said.

“Universities should be working with UCU, student reps and other trade unions to address any concerns being raised by staff and students. Universities should also be working with bodies such as Public Health England to ensure that everyone is kept fully informed as the situation develops.”

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