Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has warned UK universities that they have ‘no excuse’ to cancel face-to-face teaching, and urged students to complain to the watchdog if they feel their teaching has been affected by lectures moving online.
Zahawi told The Times: ‘I want to repeat that my expectation of universities is that they deliver face-to-face education. They need to deliver it…and if students feel they are not getting value for money they should take that up with the Office for Students.’
The Education Secretary also stateed that face-to-face learning was being delivered in primary and secondary schools across the country. Therefore, he expects universities ‘to do the same thing.’ He reaffirmed: ‘There are no excuses, we are all in this together.’
“There are no excuses, we are all in this together”
The Times also reported that over 100 institutions, including 23 out of the leading 24 Russell Group universities, plan to offer blended learning again this term. Blended learning includes a mix of both online and in-person teaching.
However, other universities have remained committed to keeping teaching in-person. A King’s College London spokesperson said:
‘We are teaching in person this semester, which begins on Monday 17th January. As stated in our latest update to students, we are planning for in-person teaching to take place on campus from that date as originally timetabled.’
In their Covid-19 FAQS section of the website, the University of Birmingham states that both lectures and small group teaching (such as seminars, labs, and skills sessions) will go ahead in-person. That being said, throughout the last term they have also offered recorded versions of lectures so students who are self-isolating or unable to travel do not miss out.
Although the Omicron variant represents ‘a big bump in the road,’ Zahawi explained that ‘we have to get back to a world where students are getting value for money and face-to-face education.’
One student, who has chosen to remain anonymous, told Freshered: ‘I think that universities absolutely need to offer in-person teaching this term. Obviously Covid is still a threat. But we’re paying a large amount of money for an education that we haven’t received at all over the past year and a half. Covid isn’t going to just disappear instantly and we can’t put off educating university students forever.’
Another said: ‘I’ve got the vaccine and I am happy to wear a mask in lectures. All I want is to go onto campus and actually learn something, rather than spend hours and hours on Zoom.’