To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with universities regarding a move to online teaching.
3 November 2020
We applaud the resilience, innovation and dedication shown by higher education staff and students in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In August, my hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Universities, convened, and continues to chair, the Higher Education Taskforce, which includes representatives from a number of university organisations, through which we have provided public health advice and discussed matters to help providers to keep students and staff as safe as possible. In addition, universities are working with their local health protection teams and Directors of Public Health to determine the most effective measures that will help reduce transmission.
The Office for Students (OfS) has published information for providers, detailing practical guidance on how best to ensure students continue to receive a high-quality academic experience. The OfS will keep this guidance under review to ensure it remains relevant to the developing circumstances of the pandemic. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has also published a series of guides to support providers to secure academic standards and to support student achievement during the pandemic.
The OfS published a statement on 9 October, setting out a number of measures that it is taking. These include making direct contact with those providers which have moved predominantly to online provision as a result of local COVID-19 restrictions. The OfS is actively monitoring these providers to ensure that they maintain the quality of their provision, that they are making all reasonable efforts to ensure online learning is accessible for all students, and that they have been clear in their communications to students about how arrangements for teaching and learning may change throughout this year. If the OfS has any concerns, it will investigate further.
My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, has also commissioned Sir Michael Barber, the Chairman of the OfS, to lead a review to consider how to enhance the quality of digital teaching and learning and the opportunities which digital education presents for universities in the medium and long term. The review is expected to report in spring 2021.