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Impact on Universities

_toommm_

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Does anyone know the official situation regarding universities reopening? I know the roadmap for England stated that tomorrow would be the earliest day earmarked for a return of students to campus, but there has been no official update since then. With no update, I guess the government advice for students will be to remain studying from home for the remainder of the academic year.

Not that it matters to me anyway. I have remained in halls since Christmas and my university has kept its library and study spaces open since March 8th. Also most students I know returned to their uni accommodation well within a week before lockdown easing began. As for students still at home right now, I doubt many will go back since most courses are nearly at the end of the academic year anyway.

I suspect they’ll let everyone back in on June 21st, so effectively from next academic year.

Practical courses such as nursing/medicine have been allowed since January, and now the other practical courses have been earmarked for in-person teaching from tomorrow.
 
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RomeoCharlie71

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My University (in Scotland) has confirmed in the past week that they will be continuing with blended learning in semester 2021/2022, with all lectures being delivered synchronously online and an expectation of 1m physical distancing on-campus to remain.

I absolutely cannot wait. </sarcasm>
 

Huntergreed

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My University (in Scotland) has confirmed in the past week that they will be continuing with blended learning in semester 2021/2022, with all lectures being delivered synchronously online and an expectation of 1m physical distancing on-campus to remain.

I absolutely cannot wait. </sarcasm>
My university (in Scotland) has confirmed similar, stating they expect to be fully online and limited facilities available with masks and 2m+ (as we’re a performing arts university, they prefer certain disciplines at 3m social distancing) until at least 2022.

Honestly considering a deferral...
 

ABB125

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Does anyone know the official situation regarding universities reopening? I know the roadmap for England stated that tomorrow would be the earliest day earmarked for a return of students to campus, but there has been no official update since then. With no update, I guess the government advice for students will be to remain studying from home for the remainder of the academic year.

Not that it matters to me anyway. I have remained in halls since Christmas and my university has kept its library and study spaces open since March 8th. Also most students I know returned to their uni accommodation well within a week before lockdown easing began. As for students still at home right now, I doubt many will go back since most courses are nearly at the end of the academic year anyway.
I'll be returning at some point next week, just for a change of scenery and to perhaps meet a few more people. I've been at home since Christmas, and I'm allowed to stay at the halls of residence until early July (I should be getting a rebate on the 12 weeks that I've not been there).
Besides, I'm going on a railtour later in the year, for which I need to spend the nights either side at my university room! :D
 

ABB125

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It doesn’t matter what they change now, this year has been totally and utterly ruined.
I personally wouldn't quite go that far, but I broadly agree. I've basically met no-one since starting in September, and haven't yet got any accommodation sorted for next year (because I haven't met anyone, so can't find people to live with).
 

RealTrains07

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Its an utter disgrace.

All school students are all already back at school yet university students are treated differently.

No reason why students cant resume at least a small amount of on campus.
 

Scotrail12

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If they dare to have one minute of online learning next year, I honestly think a strike or protest is in order. I'm not one to suggest that but students have been really screwed over and I'm not doing it again. I only live once and only get one chance as a student before I eventually get old and life gets mundane. We've made our sacrifices - enough is enough. It's cost me finding friendships, it's cost me finding a relationship (I want to find my eventual spouse before I leave uni because of this crazy dating app culture but I digress).

We were told that we'd get 3 weeks of online then into blended learning back in autumn and have since been told that at least twice more. I don't trust them any more with their info as if I'd knew I'd have 2 full semesters exclusively online, I'd have seriously considered taking a break. When I applied in 2018, this is not what I signed up for.

That semester we just had was rotten for me and I'm sure it was for many others. Admittedly, I didn't really hit it off with the people I worked with and that's life but the online aspect and being during a full lockdown really killed my enjoyment for my subjects and I had little motivation. Even the autumn semester was better as we could at least be out even if not physically on campus. But with this most recent lockdown, they never even considered the impact on students and it's disgusting that we're still in this situation over a year on.
 
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NorthOxonian

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If they dare to have one minute of online learning next year, I honestly think a strike or protest is in order. I'm not one to suggest that but students have been really screwed over and I'm not doing it again. I only live once and only get one chance as a student before I eventually get old and life gets mundane. We've made our sacrifices - enough is enough. It's cost me finding friendships, it's cost me finding a relationship (I want to find my eventual spouse before I leave uni because of this crazy dating app culture but I digress).

We were told that we'd get 3 weeks of online then into blended learning back in autumn and have since been told that at least twice more. I don't trust them any more with their info as if I'd knew I'd have 2 full semesters exclusively online, I'd have seriously considered taking a break. When I applied in 2018, this is not what I signed up for.

That semester we just had was rotten for me and I'm sure it was for many others. Admittedly, I didn't really hit it off with the people I worked with and that's life but the online aspect and being during a full lockdown really killed my enjoyment for my subjects and I had little motivation. Even the autumn semester was better as we could at least be out even if not physically on campus. But with this most recent lockdown, they never even considered the impact on students and it's disgusting that we're still in this situation over a year on.

Sadly, I doubt there'll be any strikes. My student union consistently called for more measures and didn't think we should be in the city - they were probably even worse than the university when it comes to restrictions!

Completely agree with the rest of your post though (even your little digression!) - it does feel like we're sacrificing a huge part of our lives and after the vaccine rollout there can be no justification for this.
 

cuccir

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I would unfortunately expect a lot to be online next year. Note that below I'm not commenting on the rightness or wrongness of potential government advice, just saying what I've heard it may well be.

The big issue is capacity. If universities are either oblidged or strongly corroled into any sort of social distancing which cuts capacity, then many or all lectures have to go online. A lot of university management seem to think that advice will be going that way, hence moves now to say that lectures will be online in the autumn. Unviersities don't have spare lecture theatres hanging around and even if other spaces can be found (I'm told Newcastle University genuinely explored the possibility of renting St James' Park if it needed to hold exams) then you hit timetabling problems if classes have to be taught twice - there isn't the space without evening and weekend teaching, which is unlikely to fly with staff or student unions. Even smaller courses are likely to need to go online for lecutres as the bigger rooms will be needed for socially distanced seminars.

I've also been told that the Office for Students has heard a number of student complaint cases about lack of in-person teaching. Where universities promised or strongly suggested teaching would be in person, and then moved online, they have lost. But where the university was always clear it would or could probably be online, they have won. This will make university management more conservative and more likely to plan for online/blended if they think there's a chance of social distancing being necessary.

I'd like to be wrong but the noises I've heard from my own university management suggests that anyhting planned to be indoor over a certain number will likely be online. Personally I'd much rather be teaching in-person lectures than recording again but as advice for next year comes out what you're looking for is where the guidance on capacity lies. That's the major difference between unviersities and schools - schools are small capacity where people come together from a local area, whereas univesrities host 300+ capacity indoor events that bring people from across the country. It is likely that university guidance will look more like whatever comes out for gyms and nightclubs, than for schools. It's mid-May I think when the government will be updating what it expects social distancing advice to look like beyond late June? So for unviersities the key question will be about indoor event capacity.
 
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Scotrail12

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It's not up to the universities and their VCs, it's up to the DfE to set policy in this area who ultimately do what Westminster says.
That's why I suggested in the above post that a strike/protest may be necessary to get the message over to the higher ups in govt.

I'd hope students wouldn't take being treated like this again.
 

cuccir

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I'd like the unis to communicate that to us early on so that we would have the option to take a year out and find another gig for those months.

I think that they will: those Office for Students cases will encourage management to take more decisive action earlier. However, I suspect they'll also encourage management to take more cautious action.
 

BJames

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It's frustrating but at my University at least, it seems like @cuccir is right - although I am a student I am involved in a number of meetings with staff at my University including some staff who are on our executive board. One of these senior members told us that our Uni is planning for 1.5 metre social distancing advice to be in place still in September (she didn't give a reason, nor did she explain this as opposed to either 1 metre or 2), but are planning Semester 1 first rather than the year as a whole, to give increased flexibility as we move into Jan 2022. I suspect @cuccir has it spot on in terms of OfS requirements and complaints handling - better to underpromise and overdeliver.

For what it's worth, I'm desperate to get back to in person too. Our campus has remained open since the 4th January in terms of libraries, cafes and study spaces, which I suppose is something, but I haven't had anything taught in person since early November.

I don't think that people will decide not to go back after Easter as suggested upthread - in fact, a few people I've spoken to who didn't return after Christmas are now intending on coming back up after Easter to make use of some of the last weeks of this academic year. I will be returning later this week, and we will have a full house by this time next week. My friends are all returning too and I expect our student area to be almost as busy as it would in a normal year.

Out of interest, I had some figures in terms of occupancy in Term 2 (Jan-March) - of our University-owned halls of residence, there were approximately 40-50% of students who had returned (think this range was dependent on whether it was self-catered, catered or both that were being considered), and in our student area, it was estimated that approximately 70% of students were back.

I'd like the unis to communicate that to us early on so that we would have the option to take a year out and find another gig for those months.
I think that they will: those Office for Students cases will encourage management to take more decisive action earlier. However, I suspect they'll also encourage management to take more cautious action.
They need to speak up once they've made their decision - although I am firmly on the side of everything else is planning on the basis that restrictions will be eased June 21st yet Universities are planning as if three months later, we will still be in the same situation, and it's their inability to explain this situation to students that might start causing issues for them.
 

cuccir

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I don't think that people will decide not to go back after Easter as suggested upthread - in fact, a few people I've spoken to who didn't return after Christmas are now intending on coming back up after Easter to make use of some of the last weeks of this academic year. I will be returning later this week, and we will have a full house by this time next week. My friends are all returning too and I expect our student area to be almost as busy as it would in a normal year.

Out of interest, I had some figures in terms of occupancy in Term 2 (Jan-March) - of our University-owned halls of residence, there were approximately 40-50% of students who had returned (think this range was dependent on whether it was self-catered, catered or both that were being considered), and in our student area, it was estimated that approximately 70% of students were back.
This has been my impression too. I know that many of our student societies have plans for balls, socials or other events for the week of the 21st June. I'd expect upwards of 75% of UK students to travel to university for term post-Easter.

The latest update I've received is that in-person teaching on courses where it has not been deemed essential will be permitted from the 12th May onwards, an announcement being due from government this week. At most universities that will effectively push it to next academic year for undergraduates.
 

BJames

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This has been my impression too. I know that many of our student societies have plans for balls, socials or other events for the week of the 21st June. I'd expect upwards of 75% of UK students to travel to university for term post-Easter.

The latest update I've received is that in-person teaching on courses where it has not been deemed essential will be permitted from the 12th May onwards, an announcement being due from government this week. At most universities that will effectively push it to next academic year for undergraduates.
Just seen this too... seems a little strange given that most courses don't teach for too long after that time (mine certainly doesn't!)
 
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In person teaching allowed from 17th May. Perfect timing as the week after my teaching finishes! Exams start on 17th and finish first week of June. What a total waste of time. They know that essentially no students have any teaching after mid-May. We are treated like **** as always.
 

HSTEd

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Which means I have to finish out the academic year doing the same teeth pulling I've been doing.

It's horrible, especially now i've got a batch of students that are refusing to engage over Zoom.
 
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Which means I have to finish out the academic year doing the same teeth pulling I've been doing.

It's horrible, especially now i've got a batch of students that are refusing to engage over Zoom.
It is really difficult to stay engaged with uni exclusively via a computer. I thought it would get easier over time but it is getting worse each day. This is it for me as it is my final year, I can only hope from September students and staff don't have to suffer any more.
 

GregA

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In person teaching allowed from 17th May. Perfect timing as the week after my teaching finishes! Exams start on 17th and finish first week of June. What a total waste of time. They know that essentially no students have any teaching after mid-May. We are treated like **** as always.
I wonder if they've chosen that week in particular to allow in person teaching to go back so that universities can say "no, we're not giving you any of your rent money back because there were two weeks at the end of term where you were encouraged to go back to your rented accommodation", even though said weeks will likely be exam weeks for most students and so there wouldn't be any in person teaching anyway. :rolleyes:
 

Snow1964

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I understand from my daughter there is lot of discussion online about going back early, with most intending to return in next week or two. All fed up with being at home, and struggling to get motivated.

Her last lecture is 19th May, so might get one or two lectures in a lecture theatre. Luckily hers is a 4 year course, so should get 3 proper years, and will end up with freshers fair at start of year 2 in September (hopefully)
 

cuccir

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Well appears I've spoken to soon and our management is going to revert to its previous position of planning for in-person teaching next year BUT we will have to say what our 'plan B' will be for any in-person teaching.

What this means for students at my uni is that the decision is effectively being kicked down the road to late August/early September. In a way that's a good thing - any decision made now would have to be for online teaching, I don't see how you could commit to in-person for certain at this point - but it obviously extends the uncertainty.
 

A Challenge

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If Universities are already planning not to go back to in-person next year, I'd almost be at the point of questioning whether they are ever going to go back to in-person lectures, or if they've decided that videos will be staying (after all, as a lecturer why would you want to teach the same lectures every year when you can get away with using the videos from last year and are therefore having to do less work?)
 

Adam Williams

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after all, as a lecturer why would you want to teach the same lectures every year when you can get away with using the videos from last year and are therefore having to do less work?

This isn't a realistic conclusion to draw... I can't think of any reputable institution where there would be any non-trivial number of lecturers who would have this outlook on teaching - and no university is going to pay an academic to sit around doing nothing.

The concern that some unscrupulous institutions might end up misusing the videos in such a way as to make teaching roles redundant is indeed a very real concern that many academics share (and unions like the UCU work to try and prevent happening), though.

Disclaimer: views entirely my own.
 

philosopher

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If Universities are already planning not to go back to in-person next year, I'd almost be at the point of questioning whether they are ever going to go back to in-person lectures, or if they've decided that videos will be staying (after all, as a lecturer why would you want to teach the same lectures every year when you can get away with using the videos from last year and are therefore having to do less work?)
If this is the case, a student who started in 2019 would have got less than a quarter of the normal uni experience. Out of the nine terms they would have been at uni, only the first two terms would have been normal.

Most only get to go to uni once and uni is one of the best places to form new friendships, relationships and gain life experience such as learning to live independently. These students are therefore not only receiving a sub standard education they are also being deprived of these non academic opportunities.
 

Scotrail12

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uni is one of the best places to form new friendships, relationships and gain life experience such as learning to live independently.
Indeed, shame that a lot of people don’t recognise that as it’s impossible to make friends or find relationships in online uni, as I’ve found out.

And if you’re not in halls or at least commuting and instead just staying at home, it’s not going to lead to any progression as a person, just stagnation instead.
 

Huntergreed

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Indeed, shame that a lot of people don’t recognise that as it’s impossible to make friends or find relationships in online uni, as I’ve found out.
Agreed, I’m a second year student (in the “2019” unlucky ones) and I’ve made no new uni friends in the last year, and had no luck pursuing a relationship (something I’m becoming increasingly more desperate on!) whatsoever.
And if you’re not in halls or at least commuting and instead just staying at home, it’s not going to lead to any progression as a person, just stagnation instead.
Exactly, if anything, it’s causing regression for some people I know. They were living independently and capable, now they’re back home and they’ve lost those life skills after over a year of not using them all for a disease that they’re at next to no risk from whatsoever
 

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