Shropshire Star

Universities in region pledge to return to face-to-face teaching

Universities in the West Midlands today pledged a return to one-to-one teaching.

The University of Wolverhampton

It came after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson suggested those who remain online should compensate students.

As thousands of A-level students today plan their future after receiving their results, the South Staffordshire MP made it clear he expected all universities to be moving back to traditional teaching.

He said: "Our guidance is clear, our direction is clear and we do expect all universities, unless there's unprecedented reasons, to be moving back to the situation of actually delivering lessons, lectures, face-to-face."

He pledged to give the Office for Students "all the power, all the backing" to pursue universities that are short-changing students, adding that those identified should not be charging full fees.

Students enjoyed A-level record results after exams were scrapped and the marks were led by teacher assessment. More than 400,000 have places already confirmed, up five per cent on last year.

University of Wolverhampton has a high proportion of home-grown students. It said it would return to in-person teaching, but some "online resources" would continue.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Julia Clarke said: “Throughout the pandemic we have worked with our local authority partners around our safety measures, and we will continue to follow the Government’s roadmap announcements.

“Our plan, as long as Government guidance permits us to do so, is to return to our normal levels of on campus teaching in the next academic year as much as possible. This will cover seminars, workshops and laboratory sessions. We envisage there being a cap on the absolute number of individuals for large lecture settings to avoid large gatherings.

“We have learned a great deal from the last 18 months and students have reported positive aspects of having access to online resources and support. We don’t want to lose these positives and will build them into the way we teach next year.

“Our campuses are, and will continue to be, Covid-informed environments and we will continue to promote the use of face coverings and regular testing, and we strongly encourage the take-up of vaccinations. We will also maintain enhanced cleaning and sanitisation stations.

“We will continue to monitor official Government and Office for Students guidance regarding tuition fees. Our absolute focus remains on providing an excellent learning and teaching experience for our new and returning students to enable them to continue their academic journey and achieve their potential.”

Staffordshire University spokeswoman Amy Platts said it planned a full "on-campus experience" as well as "on-demand digital learning".

She said: "Staffordshire University has planned for a full on-campus experience for our students from September 2021 with face-to-face teaching, as well as on-demand digital learning, virtual activities where this enhances their experience and educational activities outside of the classroom.

"We are also planning for all our facilities including library, Sports Centre and our Students’ Union facilities, including shops and eateries, to be fully open.

"We are committed to providing our students with a high-quality teaching and learning experience.

"We understand that every course is unique so a student’s calendar will look and feel different depending on their course and reflecting its specific needs but all students will benefit from an active on-campus experience, with at least three days each week of scheduled on-campus learning activity."

Birmingham University said it would return to normal teaching, while Birmingham City University (BCU) said smaller groups would be face-to-face but larger lectures will stay online as this gives students "more flexibility".

A BCU spokesperson said: “Throughout this year BCU has offered face-to-face learning for our courses where government restrictions have allowed – particularly health, education and arts subjects where access to specialist equipment has been essential.

“This will continue in September when we look forward to welcoming students to our campuses to study. We want all our students to have the fullest experience possible, both in their learning and with the social side of university life.

“Most scheduled teaching will be delivered face-to-face and on campus, including seminars, laboratories, workshops, skills labs and studio sessions. Larger lectures will be online, allowing students more flexibility about when to take part. All measures will be kept under review to ensure the best experience for students, in line with public health guidance.”