LSE moves ‘compulsory’ teaching online for 2020-21 academic year

London institution makes announcement as York cancels face-to-face teaching on classroom-based courses for rest of term

January 5, 2021
London, United Kingdom - November 13 2020 A student wearing a protective face mask walks past the LSE Old Building, London School of Economics and Political Science.
Source: iStock

The London School of Economics has said that it will move all “compulsory” teaching online for the rest of the academic year in a bid to provide “stability and certainty” for students.

The LSE said it hoped to provide “voluntary in-person education, learning and community building activities on campus as enhanced options in addition to online teaching” from late February, “dependent on the situation in the UK and wider restrictions”.

But for the remainder of the academic year, “all compulsory teaching, learning and assessments, including those taking place in summer term 2021, will be delivered online”, according to a message to the school community that was shared online. Details of the announcement were confirmed to Times Higher Education by a university spokesman.

The University of York has announced that it will move all classroom-based teaching online for the entirety of the spring term, following UCL’s decision to delay in-person teaching until 22 February at the earliest, and possibly for the rest of term.

Under guidance for England’s latest coronavirus lockdown, the return of more students to campuses was pushed back to “at least mid-February”, following this week’s return of learners studying medicine and health-related subjects, education and social work.

The LSE’s move may reflect its large international student cohort as well as overseas learners’ uncertainty about travelling to the UK or starting courses as a new variant of Covid-19 spreads rapidly through the country. Many UK universities offered January course start dates to international learners before the emergence of the new strain.

As reported previously by THE, the LSE’s accounts for 2019-20 say that it had developed an “emergency financial plan” based on a “plausible worst-case scenario” including assumptions that international student revenue would drop by half and income from home and European Union master’s students by 40 per cent.

The LSE campus message says halls of residence will remain open, as will the library and learning centres, but access to these will be limited. All other buildings will be closed.

“We have made these decisions with a heavy heart, after careful consideration of the situation at our school, and with our community in mind at all times,” the message says. “We appreciate that students and staff valued face-to-face teaching in Michaelmas term…However, the safety of our community is paramount.

“We also recognise the need for stability and certainty, and online teaching and learning provides this…By shifting our mode of delivery, we will be able to focus our efforts on providing the best teaching and education experience possible – leaving open the opportunity for in-person engagement as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.”

York said it had moved classroom-based teaching online all term “to offer some level of stability to our students”.

“We hope to be able to provide in-person teaching using specialist teaching spaces (eg, lab and performance spaces), subject to further government guidance, later in the term,” a campus update said.

The University and College Union and members of the Westminster government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have called for all university teaching to move online for the rest of the current term.

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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