Students opt to defer their places as universities go online

‘Paying £9,250 for Zoom seminars is daylight robbery’: Students faced with social distancing freshers’ week and online lectures opt to defer their places as Cambridge becomes first to axe all face-to-face learning

  • Cambridge says ‘there’ll be no face-to-face lectures during next academic year’
  • Announcement comes after leaked internal email obtained by student paper 
  • Many institutions around the world have signalled delays until early 2021
  • But Cambridge has gone much further in deciding to go online for entire year 
  • Professor Mary Beard sides with Cambridge students after email leaks  

A-Level students are preparing to defer their university places or skip it altogether as lectures move online for a year or more with no cuts to fees of up to £9,250-a-year, it was revealed today.

Cambridge has become the first university in the world to axe all face-to-face lectures until summer 2021 due to ‘rigid social distancing.’ And other top universities, including Oxford, Edinburgh and Cardiff, are planning a mixture of on-campus and remote lectures from the start of the academic year until January at the earliest. 

Many teenagers are also unhappy that they will also miss out on a freshers’ week and living in halls because campus’ are being shut down until the coronavirus pandemic passes.

Undergraduates currently in university are also threatening to delay finishing their degree for a year because most of further education will  go online until 2021 at the earliest.

But students will still be expected to pay full fees approaching £10,000 despite most of their degree learning coming via a laptop in a move that has been branded ‘daylight robbery’. 

One who was set to go to university this September tweeted: ‘I won’t pay full fees for online classes and no uni experience’ while a second year wrote: ‘If my uni suspends teaching I’m so tempted to defer and go out and get experience or get a job to pay the last year without loans. I’m not paying £9,250 for Powerpoints and Zoom seminars’.

Another undergraduate said: ‘Come September everyone just defer, university is an experience that needs to be enjoyed to the fullest. 9K+ per annum to sit behind a computer at home, nope’.

Cyclists and pedestrians move along Trinity Street past St Johns College, University of Cambridge (file photo from 2014)

There is uproar among people due to go to university – or already there – pledge to defer or not go at all

One critic said: ‘As a second going third year student I am going to comment on why you should defer if you can to make sure you have the first year you deserve. First year at uni is such a brilliant experience’.

How are the UK’s top universities going to hold lectures? 

University of Cambridge – lectures online until September 2021

University of Oxford – Mix of online and campus lectures

University of Edinburgh – Online lectures for “some time to come’

Some said there was a class gap, because elite universities, often with wealthier students are going online, while former polytechnics such as Bolton will continue as normal in September with students having to wear masks and ‘virtual’ freshers’ weeks.

Cambridge University, Britain’s second oldest university said that because social distancing appeared to be likely to continue for a long time, ‘there will be no face-to-face lectures during the next academic year.’

The institution, which prides itself on academic rigour, did not say how it would continue to maintain the highest standards with students kept at range.

Other universities, including Oxford, Edinburgh and Cardiff, are planning a mixture of on-campus and remote lectures from the start of the academic year.

A spokesman for Cambridge told the MailOnline: ‘Lectures will continue to be made available online and it may be possible to host smaller teaching groups in person, as long as this conforms to social distancing requirements.

‘This decision has been taken now to facilitate planning, but as ever, will be reviewed should there be changes to official advice on coronavirus.’

BBC presenter Mary Beard, a professor of classics at the prestigious university, has sided with angered students over the decision.

Prof Beard tweeted this morning: ‘I am rather on the Cambridge students side over moving all lectures online next year (though I don’t shed quite so many tears about some aspects of Freshers week!) but it IS complicated. (What is meant by ‘lectures’ for a start).Wd have been nice to hear someone explain rationale.’ 

The University of Oxford said students will have face to face teaching and research supervision from September, but ‘high quality online activities’ will be delivered ‘where necessary’

The University of Oxford’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education, Prof Martin Williams, set out plans for the first term of the academic year to Oxford students earlier this week, saying: ‘Face-to-face teaching and research supervision will be complemented by high quality online activities where necessary, delivered by Oxford’s world-leading academic staff and drawing on the exceptionally rich resources available through our colleges, laboratories, libraries and collections. 

It comes after the Office for Students said university chiefs had to give students ‘absolute clarity’ about what their future ‘campus experience’ would be.

Universities are still able to charge full fees while offering online courses. 

Cambridge is the first to take such a dramatic step, although the University of Manchester had announced last week it would be going online for at least the first (autumn) semester. 

Students from across the country have raised concern over the decision. 

A history student tweeted earlier today: ‘If Cambridge university goes online for the next academic year, how many others will also do the same? This is such a confusing and uncertain time.’  

Another added: ‘I don’t want to spend £9,250 to be taught on Zoom.’  

Almost all campuses have been closed since April, offering classes online, and graduating students have been notified there will be no traditional ceremonies.

A University of Edinburgh spokesman said: ‘We intend to provide outstanding education for all of our students, wherever they are in the world. 

‘Travel restrictions may prevent some students from being on-campus, so we intend to use a hybrid approach – a blend of on-campus teaching with online elements that allows everyone to continue with their programmes.’ 

Cardiff University’s spokesman said: ‘Whilst it’s still early to provide absolute clarity on what this will look like for individual students, there is likely to be a combination of on-campus provision and online learning.’ 

In a leaked email obtained by Cambridge’s Varsity newspaper, Head of Education Services, Alice Benton wrote to Senior Tutors on Tuesday to inform them of the decision. 

Ms Benton wrote that ‘rigid social distancing’ was ‘highly likely’ throughout the next two semesters.

Lectures will be live streamed and will also be recorded and uploaded for students to view in their own time. 

The institution, which prides itself on academic rigour, did not say how it would continue to maintain the highest standards with students kept at range (file photo)

The email adds that preparations are underway to ensure ‘the delivery of lectures online will be of the best possible quality.’

It also adds that by keeping the lecture theatres free, departments will be able to use them for teaching smaller groups and allowing for ample social distancing.

Ms Benton’s email added that the decisions have been made ‘on the understanding that it may be possible to roll back from this position should social distancing measures be lifted and large gatherings permitted later in the academic year.’ 

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