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Impact on Universities

cuccir

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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?)
Universities will bring back in-person teaching if the law and the unions allow it.

With regards to the former it would likely be any restrictions on capacity for indoor teaching that would scupper things. With regards to the latter I suspect that as long as cases remain low and vaccination is done by the start of next academic year then we'll be fine (though if the pensions issue continue as it is then that will take over the union's energies regardless of covid).
 
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Richard Scott

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Universities will bring back in-person teaching if the law and the unions allow it.

With regards to the former it would likely be any restrictions on capacity for indoor teaching that would scupper things. With regards to the latter I suspect that as long as cases remain low and vaccination is done by the start of next academic year then we'll be fine (though if the pensions issue continue as it is then that will take over the union's energies regardless of covid).
I'm sure the law allows it otherwise schools would be closed?
 

takno

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I'm sure the law allows it otherwise schools would be closed?
Schools are operating with classrooms only generally containing about 30 people, in class or year-group bubbles. In addition to which they contain children, who are at even less risk than young adults and are, rightly or wrongly, assumed to be less likely to spread the virus.

In order to do normal in person teaching universities would have to let 300 adults into a space with no social distancing at all. The government is also labouring under the bizarre misapprehension that the in-person teaching ban is keeping all the students at their parents houses.

I think that in person teaching should be allowed, but it's clearly not pośsible for it to be anything like schools
 

Richard Scott

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Schools are operating with classrooms only generally containing about 30 people, in class or year-group bubbles. In addition to which they contain children, who are at even less risk than young adults and are, rightly or wrongly, assumed to be less likely to spread the virus.

In order to do normal in person teaching universities would have to let 300 adults into a space with no social distancing at all. The government is also labouring under the bizarre misapprehension that the in-person teaching ban is keeping all the students at their parents houses.

I think that in person teaching should be allowed, but it's clearly not pośsible for it to be anything like schools
Of course, forgot about the number involved.
 

BJames

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It should 100% be possible to allow students to attend in-person small group teaching, this is no different to classes. As @takno says though, it seems that the reason the government isn't allowing this is that they seem not to want to accept that students are travelling back anyway. If they stopped pretending that everyone was following these rules and was actually realistic, it would be more than possible to allow small group teaching to go ahead as planned.

I have now been back for 4 days and it is clear that yet again, a majority of students have returned - I can see this from not just social media but my own experiences out and about in our student area and in the city. Not everyone will be back yet - but a lot certainly are. And as an exemption already exists in the law for students to return back from their "vacation household" it makes absolutely no sense not to allow small seminars to go ahead in person.
 

Scotrail12

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Anyone else at uni felt that the online learning has caused great issues with group work?

Every single groupwork task has been terrible this semester. Maybe I just got paired with duds for them but I really wonder if the online aspect is hindering communication and motivation.
 
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Anyone else at uni felt that the online learning has caused great issues with group work?

Every single groupwork task has been terrible this semester. Maybe I just got paired with duds for them but I really wonder if the online aspect is hindering communication and motivation.
Yes it was very problematic in the last semester of my second year when a 15-min presentation was turned into a 2500 word group report, it was a headache trying to organize meetings and make sure each group member knew exactly what they were doing, and despite the best efforts it still resulted in lacklustre quality work. It would've probably been easier doing it all myself! The one group presentation of the first semester of my final year I cherry-picked good group members and everyone just did their bit, we had our meetings planned well, and it all worked well. Group work at uni is deffo a pain at the best of times and even more of a pain when you can't chase fellow members around on campus asking for their work. You can't turn off a campus, you can turn off a phone though and that is my problem with online learning in general, the lack of accountability.
 

BJames

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Anyone else at uni felt that the online learning has caused great issues with group work?

Every single groupwork task has been terrible this semester. Maybe I just got paired with duds for them but I really wonder if the online aspect is hindering communication and motivation.
Yes. I have been fighting this with the Faculty and Uni every step of the way. They seem to be misunderstanding the fact that groupwork, even in the best situation, doesn't always work well if people don't pull their weight - but a fact of life, I get that. But online? If someone chooses not to turn up (happens incredibly often, most of my friends' groups have 1-2 regular non-attendees) then you really are forced to pick up other people's slack.
 

HSTEd

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I've been told that lab teaching in first semester next year will be "socially distanced face-to-face" whatever that means.

I expect this means it will be changed to online at the last minute, just like this year.

I am not really enthused with the idea of teaching next year in that case.
 

Scotrail314209

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I've been hit incredibly hard by online learning this year. I'm in college studying Photography and one of our requirements to pass is studio portraits... the college has the studio and we've been online since December and we finish in June.

I'm not hopeful on passing this at all.
 

MikeWM

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Just got an email that says that my old University's annual alumni festival - which takes place in late September - will be 'virtual' only, like last year.

Make of that what you will :-/
 

takno

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Just got an email that says that my old University's annual alumni festival - which takes place in late September - will be 'virtual' only, like last year.

Make of that what you will :-/
Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to never go virtually, rather than virtually never going.
 

MikeWM

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Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to never go virtually, rather than virtually never going.

Indeed so! I only go if I get a decent free meal, which only seems to happen every 10 years or so, and even then I'm not sure if it is worth it given in exchange you have to sit through interminable speeches about how wonderful it is to give them money... :) (I don't do that either, they've got quite enough money as it is).
 

Huntergreed

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First of all, I can't describe how much it pains me to be writing in this thread again, talking about restrictions we will be facing in the next academic year (I was optimistic about the upcoming year and I really thought this would be over by September, but new guidance from our university and a new report on BBC Scotland has highlighted what life will be like for students in universities for the next academic year studying in Scotland):

Teaching:

Our university has confirmed that they will be delivering term one fully online with no in-person teaching aside from 'exceptional circumstances where the provision of in-person delivery would significantly benefit the quality of education received'. They have confirmed that for term two they intend to move to '1m distanced' in person learning, with larger lectures taking place online. Term three is still to be confirmed, but we are informed this is 'based on the latest data and feedback from the Scottish Government', so it's clear that they intend to keep these restrictions over the winter.

Halls:

The 'bubbling' system of 1 household per cluster flat will remain. This means that if someone develops symptoms or tests positive, an entire flat/cluster will have to isolate for 10 days. This caused havoc last year and will definitely do so again this year.

Freshers events:

Most Scottish universities seem to be doing a mix of online and distanced in-person freshers events, emphasising that they want to ensure people feel 'safe and confident' about the return to university this year.

Masks will remain mandatory on campus and in halls (at least for my uni) until at least Christmas, as will checking in for track and trace when entering campus.

To say I'm disappointed is an understatement :(

Out of my 3 years of university, it seems about 6 months will have been in-person, and about 2 and a half years will have been 'blended'/online. If this is the future of university then I really don't like it.
 

NorthOxonian

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That's awful to hear.

Still very little information from my university. However, from what we have heard it does seem like there is an element of vaccination blackmail going on - it's been heavily hinted that restrictions will be eased, social events will be allowed, and in person teaching will properly resume only if enough people are vaccinated. The university last year placed a number of rules on us which went well beyond the law, regating our conduct not just within the university but also outside of it (with punishments ranging from massive fines to expulsion) - and I'm worried they will do so again.
 

yorkie

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First of all, I can't describe how much it pains me to be writing in this thread again, talking about restrictions we will be facing in the next academic year (I was optimistic about the upcoming year and I really thought this would be over by September, but new guidance from our university and a new report on BBC Scotland has highlighted what life will be like for students in universities for the next academic year studying in Scotland):

Teaching:

Our university has confirmed that they will be delivering term one fully online with no in-person teaching aside from 'exceptional circumstances where the provision of in-person delivery would significantly benefit the quality of education received'. They have confirmed that for term two they intend to move to '1m distanced' in person learning, with larger lectures taking place online. Term three is still to be confirmed, but we are informed this is 'based on the latest data and feedback from the Scottish Government', so it's clear that they intend to keep these restrictions over the winter.

Halls:

The 'bubbling' system of 1 household per cluster flat will remain. This means that if someone develops symptoms or tests positive, an entire flat/cluster will have to isolate for 10 days. This caused havoc last year and will definitely do so again this year.

Freshers events:

Most Scottish universities seem to be doing a mix of online and distanced in-person freshers events, emphasising that they want to ensure people feel 'safe and confident' about the return to university this year.

Masks will remain mandatory on campus and in halls (at least for my uni) until at least Christmas, as will checking in for track and trace when entering campus.

To say I'm disappointed is an understatement :(

Out of my 3 years of university, it seems about 6 months will have been in-person, and about 2 and a half years will have been 'blended'/online. If this is the future of university then I really don't like it.
They are basically saying it was pointless in you getting vaccinated; what incentive is there for young people to get vaccinated if all these rules still apply to them?

Sadly many individuals who lead or work at Universities live in a bubble away from the real world; they could not hack it in the wider world if they got a job that was outside education, and that leads to bonkers policies like this.
 
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Really awful news. I hope they change it to something more suitable. I have just “graduated”, the usual festivities and celebrations have been replaced by an email saying “well done”. Quite a surreal way to end the last 4 years.
 

DelayRepay

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They are basically saying it was pointless in you getting vaccinated; what incentive is there for young people to get vaccinated if all these rules still apply to them?

Sadly many individuals who lead or work at Universities live in a bubble away from the real world; they could not hack it in the wider world if they got a job that was outside education, and that leads to bonkers policies like this.

I was interested to see what Oxford was planning, given their significant role in the vaccination programme. They say:

We will continue to focus on personalised teaching and supervision from leading academics, including tutorials and other types of small group learning, such as masters’ seminar groups.
Teaching and research will be conducted in-person wherever possible, and we currently expect to offer a significant amount of in-person teaching over the academic year.

While the core content of your course and the educational opportunities open to you will not change, some of your learning and teaching may need to be conducted online if local, national or international restrictions require it, and we are well-placed to support students if this is the case.

We expect that students will be able to take part in fieldwork so long as specific risk assessments are conducted, and COVID-19 is taken into account. This includes fieldwork overseas where Government restrictions allow travel to take place. We also expect field trips to go ahead whenever it is safe to do so.

(Taken from https://www.ox.ac.uk/coronavirus/students/returning-and-offer-holders)

Whilst this is not an absolute commitment, it is certainly a much more positive approach than @Huntergreed 's university.
 

NorthOxonian

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I was interested to see what Oxford was planning, given their significant role in the vaccination programme. They say:



(Taken from https://www.ox.ac.uk/coronavirus/students/returning-and-offer-holders)

Whilst this is not an absolute commitment, it is certainly a much more positive approach than @Huntergreed 's university.
That's true to an extent but it's not quite so simple (speaking as a current student there).

The thing about Oxford is that the university only has some of the power to make these decisions. A lot is devolved to the colleges - I know that some were extremely liberal last year (The Queen's College for example), while others were much less so.

The email which I mentioned in post #467 (that strongly implied a return to normal would only take place if vaccine takeup was high enough) was from my college as opposed to the university itself. It certainly wouldn't surprise me if some kept restrictions while others eased theirs, and unfortunately mine seems to be one of the more "cautious" ones.
 

Domh245

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Really awful news. I hope they change it to something more suitable. I have just “graduated”, the usual festivities and celebrations have been replaced by an email saying “well done”. Quite a surreal way to end the last 4 years.

I had much the same last year, it was certainly surreal but a bit more acceptable under the circumstances! I think the current plan is to offer graduation ceremonies now in Summer 22, I don't think I'll opt in
 

cuccir

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My employer currently has a 'plan A' - essentially normal, and a 'plan B' - in-person teaching during semester 1 is limited to classes of 60 and under, to allow for social distancing if desired/required (ie our 200+ capacity rooms will be used to house 50-60 student lectures, our smaller lecture theatres to house seminars etc). My suspicion is that we'll end up with plan B but I think that's a pretty reasonable compromise for now, with a view to back to normal after Christmas - and certainly seems better than what a lot of other universities are offering.
 

island

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I have to say I would be most disappointed if I were entering university at the minute and paying £9,000 odd for a quarter of a service.
 

RuralRambler

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I have to say I would be most disappointed if I were entering university at the minute and paying £9,000 odd for a quarter of a service.

Our accountancy practice has been advertising for a couple of trainee chartered accountants to start this Autumn. In past years, we've had maybe a couple of dozen applicants, mostly local, mostly graduates. This year, we've got several hundred, mostly from school leavers with good A levels. We've looked at a few of the covering letters and they're nearly all saying they're looking to go straight into a job to train "on the job" rather than going to uni to get a degree before they get a job to do the professional qualifications. So it certainly looks as if the tide is turning and school leavers are looking at non Uni options to get professions.
 

ABB125

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At my university (Birmingham), it appears that the plan is to pretty much go back to "normal" teaching, unless restrictions change which means this is impossible. Everything will still be available online as well.

Sounds quite hopeful!
 

route101

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Our accountancy practice has been advertising for a couple of trainee chartered accountants to start this Autumn. In past years, we've had maybe a couple of dozen applicants, mostly local, mostly graduates. This year, we've got several hundred, mostly from school leavers with good A levels. We've looked at a few of the covering letters and they're nearly all saying they're looking to go straight into a job to train "on the job" rather than going to uni to get a degree before they get a job to do the professional qualifications. So it certainly looks as if the tide is turning and school leavers are looking at non Uni options to get professions.
I think on the job experience beats Uni in a lot of subjects, especially construction or vocational ones. Being a graduate seems less attractive than a trainee or apprentice now!
 

takno

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I think on the job experience beats Uni in a lot of subjects, especially construction or vocational ones. Being a graduate seems less attractive than a trainee or apprentice now!
If you're looking at uni in terms of the specific vocational training it will give you then obviously specific vocational training on the job will beat it. The point of uni is to develop broader subject knowledge, interpersonal and research skills, and a professional mindset, and uni tends to deliver that far more effectively than on-the-job training.

With the sheer numbers going to uni now, there are probably a fairly significant proportion of them who are never going to go into a job where they will make effective use of those skills, and would indeed be better off just going straight onto the job. I would guess that the pandemic response has probably also made it a lot harder to develop some of those skills. Neither of these impact the fundamental value of a degree a wide range of professional fields.

What it does mean is that current and recent students may have been conned, since they've paid full whack for a very-much-less than full education. And since it's in skills and aptitudes which aren't specifically reflected in the degree result, they will never have any recourse for that. Caveat is that I haven't recruited a recent graduate since the pandemic started, so I may be wrong, and they have all come through just fine.
 

cuccir

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My employer currently has a 'plan A' - essentially normal, and a 'plan B' - in-person teaching during semester 1 is limited to classes of 60 and under, to allow for social distancing if desired/required (ie our 200+ capacity rooms will be used to house 50-60 student lectures, our smaller lecture theatres to house seminars etc). My suspicion is that we'll end up with plan B but I think that's a pretty reasonable compromise for now, with a view to back to normal after Christmas - and certainly seems better than what a lot of other universities are offering.

Well my suspicion was wrong; we're going with 'plan A' which is 'normal', largely because of NSS comments - which hopefully shows these processes work! There will still be online teaching, where we have found that actually that is better than in-person eg for the dissertation module in my department there has always lectures on analyzing data, and writing-up material, but these are inevitably poorly attended because not all students are doing these activities at the same time... by recording them online, students can access them at the right time for them, and it seemed to work much better this year. I reckon that this will come to 10-15% of all the teaching that we do.
 

Snow1964

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Just been checking on latest on my daughter’s university and appears they are aiming for normal.

Also offering free accommodation with food for 2 weeks ahead of term starting for international studentS needing to do mandatory quarantine from amber list countries, and offering to refund the £1750 hotel cost of any student from red list country, so clearly aiming to have everyone in person.
 
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