Lancashire universities return: What can students expect in the new term?
With UCLan, Edge Hill and Lancaster all returning over the next few weeks, various approaches have been taken to online learning.
Bosses at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have confirmed the university will maintain a mix of online and face-to-face lessons when the new term starts.
But the Post can also reveal that, despite the majority of courses retaining a mix of online and real life learning, there will be no reduction in tuition fees.
Lancaster University and Edge Hill have meanwhile confirmed they will return fully to in-class lectures.
It comes as Gavin Williamson, speaking before he lost his job as education secretary, urged universities to end online learning.
Speaking at a Universities UK conference earlier this month, he said parents would find it “odd” if students could go to other social activities but were not allowed back into lecture halls.
Urging universities to provide face-to-face teaching, he said students should be taught “in-person and alongside other students”, and whilst it would be right to stay online when there’s a “genuine benefit to using technology”, he warned university leaders: “I do not expect to see online learning used as a cost-cutting measure.”
Edge Hill and Lancaster have confirmed to the Post that they will be returning to full face-to-face teaching, with the online offer of live-streamed lectures and recordings being additional for students who wish to access them.
The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) will instead keep some of their lectures online only.
“Our priority throughout the pandemic has been the safety and well-being of our students and staff as well as delivering the best possible learning experience, which up to this point has included both in-person face-to-face and online delivery in line with government guidelines,” a UCLan spokesman said.
“Now, with the easing of restrictions, our expectation and current plan is to deliver the vast majority of teaching in-person on campus from the start of the new academic year later this month, with some learning taking place online where we know it works better.
“The approach has been developed course by course and subject by subject, to ensure we provide the best, interactive and engaging learning for all.”
The university says it’s BSc Biomedical Sciences course represents the average degree split, with 12 to 15 hours of teaching being delivered face-to-face each week, and two to five hours online, although this varies across course.
Tuition fees will not be reduced to reflect the blended learning approach.
The spokesman added: “Simply moving more instruction online does not fundamentally alter our overall teaching costs as our experience shows that the time needed to prepare and produce on-line materials can be much higher than for on-campus teaching.
“Whether tuition is available on campus, online or as a blended approach, we aim to provide the best possible learning experience by keeping our students motivated, supported, and focused on their studies.
“And as our current graduation ceremonies are demonstrating, our students continue to excel and earn their qualifications without having to extend their study timescales.”
Edge Hill and Lancaster say some live lectures will be streamed online for students who can’t attend in person.
A spokesperson for Edge Hill said: “We are looking forward to welcoming our students back with a return to business as usual for the new academic term, providing them with a high quality face-to-face teaching and learning experience.
“Reflecting our shortlisting for the Times Higher Education Outstanding Support for Students award, we will also be providing an enhanced learning offer, where full in-person teaching will be further complemented by the use of technology within and between teaching sessions, a model which has already been successfully adopted and implemented throughout the university.
“Moving forward, we are committed to providing a safe, vibrant place for our students, staff and wider community and have taken all of the necessary measures to ensure that our campus is safe while continuing to follow the latest Government and Public Health England advice.”
A spokesperson for Lancaster added: “As we look ahead to the new academic year (2021-2022), we fully expect to return to in-person studies in October thanks to the high vaccination rate and easy availability of testing in the UK. We will also retain some elements of online learning which our academic staff, in consultation with current students, feel added value to our teaching.”
All of the universities also added that decisions are subject to change, depending on government guidance.