In-person teaching at UK universities set for major disruption in 2021

Nicole Wootton-Cane
Nicole Wootton-Cane
Last Updated: 6 January 2021 • 4 min read

Face-to-face teaching at UK universities is set to be cancelled for the majority of students until at least mid-February, due to new government guidance. 

England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are all entering new lockdowns this week, with people asked to stay at home wherever possible. 

In England, new guidance states that all university teaching should move online, except in the case of a select few subjects that require lab-based or in-person teaching and assessment. 

Students are also being asked not to return to campus unless strictly necessary. If students do return, they must get tested twice or isolate for ten days upon arrival. 

The courses which are allowed to resume face-to-face teaching are:

  • Medicine and Dentistry

  • Subjects allied to medicine/health

  • Veterinary science

  • Education (initial teacher training)

  • Social work

  • Courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments and or mandatory activity which is scheduled for January and which cannot be rescheduled

Some universities have opted to end all but essential face-to-face teaching for a longer period of time in an attempt to provide clarity and stability for students during the pandemic. 

The London School of Economics (LSE) has become the first university to move all teaching online until the end of the academic year. 

The University of York has also ended all but essential teaching online until the end of the spring term. 

Dylan Oakley, a first-year student at the University of Sheffield said that students are "confused" by a lack of clarity around rules on university campuses. 

"I definitely do not think that the government has given enough clarity to students at universities, so many students that I have spoken to do not know what to do and are confused about what they can and can't do.

"The big issue is with returning to accommodation because we are paying rent on a contract and we will now not be living in the accommodation that we are paying for which has confused a lot of people I think because they are unsure on whether to return ultimately so that they can get what they are paying for (or some of it at least)."

In a press conference on Tuesday night, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the issue of student accommodation was something that his government would need to look at in the coming weeks, but laid out no clear plan for students. 

Oakley said he will not be returning to campus until February, but will miss out on some face-to-face sessions as a consequence.

Cecelia Morera, an Animation student at Leeds Arts University, said she felt the government had not given “sufficient” advice, particularly for arts students. 

“Being a stop-motion animator there is no way I can work or study at home. There has been little to no mention of universities, let alone the arts. We haven’t had a proper lecture since February last year and we are still being expected to pay fees, rent and to support ourselves. 

“I feel like lockdowns and tiers can be super isolating for us. It was also very frustrating and deflating getting the blame on the pandemic. We're the future of the country, surely they should be kinder to us. I think many students feel invisible and don’t have much hope at the moment.”

Izzy Hebb, a student at Leeds Beckett University, said she was given “vague advice” about a staggered return before Christmas, but was worried that that was “irrelevant” now, and that students had been forgotten about. 

“As of right now, I have no idea what the right thing to do is. Especially regarding my tenancy that I pay for and don't want to leave my room empty.

“I'd just like to say how forgotten about as a student I feel. The education department seems to solely be focusing on schools. I think this is important but, no excuse to forget about a sizable chunk of the population, especially due to the government's relationship with Student Finance England.”

For more updates, check out the Edvoy news page. 

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Nicole Wootton-Cane
Written By
Nicole Wootton-Cane

Nicole lives in Manchester and is a Content Writer and Editor at Edvoy and journalist.


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