UK universities to provide ‘significant’ in-person teaching in autumn

‘Vast majority’ of universities responding to UUK survey are planning to provide in-person teaching

June 17, 2020
Source: iStock

Nearly all institutions responding to a Universities UK survey say they are planning to provide some in-person teaching at the start of the next academic year.

The survey of 92 institutions found that 89 universities – 97 per cent – are planning to provide on-campus teaching in 2020, with the remaining three saying they would provide teaching online.

It also found that 87 per cent said they would offer in-person social opportunities to students, such as outside events and wellbeing and sporting activities “in line with government and public health guidance”.

However, a number of institutions, including the universities of Cambridge and Manchester, have already announced that lectures will be provided online in the autumn. Manchester has said that smaller group teaching will be provided in person, while Cambridge left that option open.

The UUK survey comes as universities try to stave off the prospect of deferrals by students unhappy about the idea of portions of their learning being delivered online, or about the perceived scope for other traditional elements of the university experience to be diminished in the era of social distancing.

The survey found that 95 per cent of institutions would provide the “full range of student support”, such as mental health support and careers advice, via both online and in-person services. Only five universities planned to deliver these services online.

For example, the University of Gloucestershire said “there will be face to face small group teaching; students will be able to use our specialist facilities on campus; there will be engagement with personal tutors; we will continue to provide all of our student services, including welfare and wellbeing, helpzones; counselling, libraries and learning support, pastoral care, and employability and careers support”. 

The majority of those who responded to the survey – 90 per cent – said that they had communicated their plans to prospective and current students, while the others said that they would be “doing so imminently”, UUK said.

Of those surveyed, 82 universities said that they are working with bars and cafes in the local community as they develop their plans.

The UK sector, as elsewhere around the world, has faced a great deal of uncertainty – particularly around institutional finances – when it comes to predicting whether students would be put off attending university if a significant proportion of teaching is online.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of UUK, said that “universities across the UK are well advanced in their planning to welcome students this autumn and ensure they can benefit from a high-quality, full and exciting university experience”.

“Following the latest health guidelines, universities are continuing to develop detailed plans for the new academic year and will be regularly updating new and returning students over the coming weeks,” he said.

“Although their first term will be different from previous years, most students can expect significant in-person teaching and a wide range of social activities and support services. Universities are committed to providing an engaging academic and social experience for all while ensuring the safety and welfare of the whole university community,” Mr Jarvis said.

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Reader's comments (6)

" most students can expect significant in-person teaching and a wide range of social activities and support services. Universities are committed to providing an engaging academic and social experience,” is this Boris speak for we dont have a clue? or just delusional optimism? Just remember that these are the people who gave us a pensions crisis and this man is "currently a member of the Government’s high-level stakeholder working group on EU Exit" Trustworthy? I ask you? Would you buy a used university sector from this man?
I feel that academic staff and our safety is being forgotten in this. I'm over 60, I have life-long asthma. The risks arising from my exposure to hundreds of people in confined spaces is huge. Even in small group teaching. We have jobs, we have a right to a safe working environment. Please do not be deluded into thinking that academic work is some kind of vocation an that staff should be prepared to sacrifice themselves for the good of - what? Institutional income?
This is not journalism; this is repeating a press release ( ) with no critical scrutiny. Are most UK universities "planning" to provide normal, physically in-person, small-group teaching from the start of the new academic year? Doubtless yes. But is it true to say that most "will" do so? Have any universities actually committed to doing so? I doubt it. If you look carefully at what individual universities have said, it is PR smoke-and-mirrors: carefully worded to encourage students (and their parents) to believe they will get normal physical small-group teaching from September while also carefully avoiding any promise of this. Sometimes this involves playing with the terminology. For example, Manchester says students "will" get "face-to-face" teaching-- and then explains this may be "face-to-face teaching activities in a digital format". ( If THE wants to do proper journalism, they might try surveying university staff to find out what is really going on-- how much uncertainty there still is, as of now, regarding what will happen in September. This uncertainty is entirely reasonable-- the circumstances are uncertain. We should be honest about it.
THE and journalism? Tsss ;)
Exeter has made a similar ambiguous statement.'Small group face to face teaching when safe to do so and at other times online' To me this seems to suggest live seminars online.HE are being very slippery.Caveat Emptor
I should add,of course universities are promising some f2f . This will require students to take up university accommodation, as if they would contemplate losing this overpriced earner.