What will university look like this year?
The coronavirus pandemic makes this a difficult time for students. Read about some of the changes universities plan to make in September to make your uni life both safe and high-quality.
Most universities are planning a mix of face-to-face and online learning called a ‘blended’ approach. It’s likely that large classes, such as lectures, will stay online until government guidelines change and universities are sure they can operate safely.
Smaller classes, such as seminars, tutorials and group classes are planned to be delivered as normal, but with safety measures in place.
Note: The coronavirus (and the response) is a moveable picture, and unis are likely to relax rules (if they can) as the government does. Equally, they may have to tighten rules in case of local restrictions.
Data released by UCAS in June/July shows fewer students deferring their place, and there was a big increase in applications for September 2020/January 2021 entry between early April and the 30 June UCAS main cycle deadline, particularly from mature students and for courses like Health and Nursing.
Some universities are also planning to stream campus-based learning for those who can’t or aren’t comfortable making it to campus. For example, if they're shielding or self isolating.
Also check your emails, including spam/junk boxes, if you're holding an offer for 2020 entry as you may have been sent important updates. Most universities have a clear link on their home pages.
Some universities already operate a type of ‘blended’ learning and all will now embrace some style of hybrid teaching.
Check with your university about how your course will be split into face-to-face and online teaching.
A few unis have already announced date changes.
For example, Aberdeen has pushed back its start date by two weeks, with Dundee and Lincoln pushing back by three.
However, most universities plan to open campuses as normal in either late September or October. Those with any date changes will contact potential and current students to inform them of the changes.
Many students will be worried about what campus life, and even normal student life, will look like in September. While it won't be the same, universities are taking steps to make it as normal as possible, with an eye on slowly returning to normality in line with the current guidelines.
Universities are looking at a range of different measures to make campuses as safe as possible, including :
- One-way systems
- Distancing signs
- Staggering lesson times
- Delivering lectures twice, with different groups assigned to different times
- Cafes and shops will be open, with the usual distancing measures enforced
- Face coverings will be worn in certain places, including libraries
These measures will vary from place to place and will depend on location.
By September or October, rules may be different for the UK as a whole, and for localised areas if cities or towns are placed under a local lockdown. Keep an eye on your university’s website for changes in rules or guidelines.
Social events will undoubtedly be different, at least for the first term. Student unions will be planning distanced and outdoor events nonetheless, but it’s likely they’ll be more limited in size, e.g. with a focus on new students only in welcome week.
Non-contact sports are already allowed, with others to be allowed in the future. Again, the numbers allowed to play at a time are expected to be lower than normal, so it may need some extra planning.
According to Universities UK, 87% of universities asked are planning to have a large amount of in-person sports, wellbeing and fitness available for the coming year.
The BUCS organisation has confirmed that inter-university sport is expected to resume in January/February 2021.
Remember, universities will follow current government guidelines, so as soon as these restrictions are relaxed, clubs and societies will react accordingly.
Universities are planning to change the way accommodation is allocated to keep students as safe as possible. A small number are planning social bubbles, which will mean you live with others doing the same course as you to minimise the amount of people you mix with on campus. Others are planning to have fewer students in one house and have organised extra places to be available with local landlords and housing companies.
The majority are planning to move in as normal, with student groups forming new 'households' in student residences.
As with all schools, shops and services, extra cleaning will be performed to keep halls and all public spaces as sanitised as possible.
According to the Education Secretary, tuition fees won't change for the coming year.
Universities are working hard to provide the same teaching experience to compensate for this and are committed to delivering high-quality teaching regardless of the delivery method.
Universities are also offering more in terms of support services, specifically for mental health.
There will also be extra support for vulnerable students, who might not be able to make it to campus as frequently, to receive extra equipment so they can easily study online.
According to Universities UK, 97% of universities asked said they were planning to offer aspects of face-to-face teaching this academic year.
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.
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.
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive at Universities UK
Our advice is to start university as planned in September/October 2020 (some unis also have January start dates), recognise the challenges everyone is facing, but move forward with your studies.
Deferring university may be tempting, but things are more likely to be back to normal in 2021.
If you defer your place or choose not to go, you'd be facing a difficult economic and uncertain time, with restrictions on what you can do at home during 2020/21. Going to university (local or moving away) offers the chance to escape those challenges and move forward with your degree, your social life and your future career.