By Yash Yadav
UK universities are resisting government calls for in-person education as omicron cases are surging.
Durham University has announced to start the new term online. The university has selected to convey “a blended learning offering” for the first 14 days of term, with the goal to change to in-person during the third week unless the situation changes.
“It continues to be our policy to deliver a high-quality, in-person teaching and learning experience,” Durham University told its students. “However, we recognise there may be times throughout the term, as we manage the current wave of Omicron infections, where some changes to methods of delivering our high-quality education may be required”.
Labs and practical classes will continue to work with “existing, robust Covid-mitigation measures”, while students cooperation in outdoor exercises is dependent on a negative LFT (lateral flow test) result. Also, the university is encouraging its students to get booster shots.
Queen’s University Belfast reported the previous year that it would lead most of its classes remotely over January. Students on programmes that need either practical lessons such as lab sessions and clinical skills or in-person teaching that is essential for professional accreditation or academic progression, will be free from this rule.
The university’s library, study spaces, and support services will stay open during this period.
As per the reports, more than 100 universities are offering a blend of in-person and online learning.
UK universities have “no excuse” for not holding in-person classes
UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has criticised the decision to move online, saying that UK universities have “no excuse” for cancelling face-to-face learning when schools and colleges are being taught in person.
“I want to repeat that my expectation of universities is that they deliver face-to-face education,” he told.“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.”
He reminded the universities that coronavirus would be living with us for at least 5 years and despite Omicron presenting “a big bump in the road,” it is essential to “get back to a world where students are getting value for money and face-to-face education.”
Students at UK universities pay around 9000 pounds yearly while the international students pay around twice or thrice of it.
A spokesperson for Universities UK told MailOnline said, “Universities in England are doing all they can to prioritise in-person teaching and learning at the start of term, and continue to work closely with health authorities and relevant government departments to keep students and staff safe”.
This includes taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus by using face masks, regular asymptomatic testing and having outbreak plans in case the cases hike up.
Higher and Further Education Minister Michelle Donelan has called for universities to be “totally transparent with students about the return to face-to-face learning.”
“There are options available to students if they feel they have not received what they were promised — over half a million pounds has already been refunded by providers as a result of complaints…on a wide variety of issues, and greater clarity from universities will help even more students get reimbursements where appropriate,” told Donelan.
“Above all, universities must listen to students when making any changes to the way courses are delivered.”