Students ‘support delaying start of UK academic year’, survey finds

Survey for UCU also finds half of prospective students fear crisis cuts will negatively impact their education

June 3, 2020
Source: iStock

A survey has found that almost three-quarters of prospective students would support delaying the start of their first year of university if it meant “more face-to-face teaching”.

Of the 516 university applicants surveyed by Youthsight, in a poll commissioned by the University and College Union, 71 per cent said they were “moderately” or “very supportive” of a delayed start if it meant less online teaching.

Most universities are planning for “a blended approach” to teaching in the next academic year, according to recent guidance from Universities UK.

The Universities of Cambridge, Manchester and Bristol are among those institutions to confirm that all lectures will be online at the start of the next academic year.

A few institutions, including Brunel University London and the University of Exeter, have said they will provide an optional January start date, but only for postgraduates and international students.

The Youthsight survey also found that 49 per cent were moderately or very worried that the university they wish to attend will need to make cuts that will negatively impact their education because of the crisis. 

The survey also found that 23 per cent of prospective students were moderately or very worried that the university they wish to attend will go bust, although 21.3 per cent said they were not at all worried.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said it was “hardly surprising that students are anxious about what the future holds for universities and for their education. Given the impact this uncertainty is having on students, it is now critical that government agrees to provide increased financial backing to the sector. Students need to be confident that they will get a high-quality education, despite the hugely damaging impact of the pandemic.”

She added that “no university should jeopardise the safety of staff or students to try and offer a more traditional university experience in the current climate”.

“Government needs to guarantee funding so institutions are able to make decisions which put the welfare of their staff and students first, and plan for a delayed start if this is the safest course of action,” Dr Grady said.

Claire Sosienski Smith, NUS vice-president (higher education), said that the government must “advise institutions to carefully consider the start dates and format of any blended learning environments, so that everyone can be confident that these environments are safe for students and staff”.

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