University of Manchester becomes first in UK to move all lectures online this autumn

12 May 2020, 22:20 | Updated: 12 May 2020, 23:47

The University of Manchester will move all lectures online for the first semester of the next academic year
The University of Manchester will move all lectures online for the first semester of the next academic year. Picture: PA
Ewan Somerville

By Ewan Somerville

The University of Manchester has become the first UK institution to cancel classes for the upcoming autumn term due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Russell Group institution said the “real uncertainty” over when social distancing curbs will end has led it to place lectures and seminars online from September.

It said the lecture theatre “does not easily support spatial separation” for its 40,000 students, but hopes to run some face-to-face learning for small groups.

Universities closed their campuses and cancelled face-to-face teaching and exams in March, but many have continued offering online classes.

It follows Cardiff University in suggesting it would keep most teaching online after the summer break, adding it “may well be longer” than 18 months before the university returns to normal.

In a message to staff, Cardiff vice-chancellor Colin Riordan wrote: “At the moment, the broad thinking is that we should initially begin to open our research facilities and plan to reintroduce face to face teaching where there is no realistic remote alternative from September.

“We will need to continue to restrict access, and so working from home must continue to be the default position for those who do not need to come to campus for their research, teaching or other work.”

More than 300,000 students have signed a petition calling for tuition fees this academic year to be waived after millions were hit with 22 days of lecturer strikes before the pandemic.

Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, has said that students should not expect a refund if they are receiving “quality” online learning and support.

But she said no formal decision had been made on the next academic year.

Universities were refused a £2.2 billion bailout earlier this month as sector leaders sounded alarms over their ability to survive the economic toll of thousands of overseas students - which pay up to £20,000 a year - staying home this autumn.

A Manchester University spokesman said: “We understand that the current Covid-19 crisis has created real uncertainty for all our students.

“But, as a university, we are absolutely committed to delivering the highest-quality learning and student experience at Manchester whilst providing the most up-to-date information.

“As we anticipate social distancing measures will be in place for some time, we have taken the decision to conduct all lectures for Semester 1 online, as a lecture theatre environment does not easily support spatial separation.”

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