London (CNN)The University of Cambridge has said it will scrap all face-to-face lectures until mid-2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, becoming the first major education institution to officially scale back its operations for the whole of the next academic year.
A spokesperson for the prestigious British university said it expects social distancing measures to be in place throughout the upcoming year.
It will continue to make lectures available online, and some small-group teaching may take place if participants can maintain a safe distance, but students will not be able to attend lectures in person.
“The University is constantly adapting to changing advice as it emerges during this pandemic. 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,” a University of Cambridge spokesperson said in a statement.
“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,” the university’s statement added. The decision will be reviewed if guidelines around social distancing change.
Cambridge and Oxford, the UK’s two leading universities, rely far more on smaller group teaching than large lectures — so the move will probably not be as disruptive as it would be at most institutions.
But it demonstrates the dilemma facing universities around the world, many of which have been forced to shut their campuses and move classes online in recent months.
That situation has created uncertainty for people preparing to start their studies.
In the UK, university semesters begin in September. The traditional “freshers’ week” period at the start of the year sees students mixing in accommodation halls, bars and clubs, but it is seems likely that such activities will be discouraged this year.
On Monday, the University of South Carolina in the United States made changes to its fall semester in preparation for the likelihood that Covid-19 cases surge during cold and flu season this fall and winter.