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The University of Cambridge says all its face-to-face lectures are moving online for the 2020-21 academic year because of uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
The world-famous institution is the first in Britain to announce such a move as colleges and universities around the globe are trying to determine how they will instruct students safely in the months ahead.
“Given that it is likely that social distancing will continue to be required, the university has decided there will be no face-to-face lectures during the next academic year,” it said in a statement late Tuesday, according to the BBC. “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.”
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Cambridge University says it is moving all of its face-to-face lectures online for the following academic year. (iStock)
“This decision has been taken now to facilitate planning, but as ever, will be reviewed should there be changes to official advice on coronavirus,” Cambridge added.
The university, which has about 12,000 undergraduate students, sent students home and moved all its teaching online in March as the United Kingdom went into lockdown, and exams are being held remotely.
Elsewhere, British universities are warning they will face a financial crisis if students decide they don’t want to pay tuition fees — currently $11,300 a year in England — for a college experience without in-person teaching, extra-curricular clubs and socializing. Some students who were due to start in the fall are likely to defer for a year in hope that things get back to normal by then.
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Nicola Dandridge, who heads U.K. higher education regulator the Office for Students, said this week that universities needed to come clean about what kind of experience students could expect before June, when school graduates decide whether to take up college places for the autumn term.
“What we don’t want to see are promises that it’s all going to be back to usual — an on-campus experience — when it turns out that’s not the case,” she told Parliament’s education committee.
Analysis by consulting firm London Economics estimated that as many as 120,000 students in Britain could delay going to university if classes remain online, causing a “severe” financial hit to academic institutions.
Lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed because of the pandemic have also cut off the flow of international students, who pay higher fees and form a major source of income for U.K. universities.
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The University of Edinburgh in Scotland says it is going to adopt a “hybrid model” rather than going fully virtual.
“Having hundreds of students packed into lecture theaters close together probably isn’t going to be safe or possible,” vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson told the BBC on Wednesday. “But we intend to provide small-group teaching and all the other campus experiences that distinguish us.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.