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Higher Education: Remote Education

Question for Department for Education

UIN 179508, tabled on 12 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions he has had with (a) universities and (b) higher education providers on the continuation of online teaching in the academic year 2021-22.

Answered on

20 April 2021

My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, and I have regular discussions with the higher education (HE) sector on a range of issues. I also continue to engage closely with HE representative bodies and mission groups through the HE Taskforce to identify emerging issues as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and to work with the sector to address these.

HE providers are autonomous institutions responsible for their own teaching and assessment but should be delivering teaching in line with the latest HE guidance and public health advice.

The government’s clear and stated expectation is that universities should maintain the quality and quantity of tuition and seek to ensure that all students regardless of their background have the resources to study remotely. The Office for Students (OfS), as regulator for English HE providers, has made it clear that HE providers must continue to comply with registration conditions relating to quality and academic standards, which set out requirements to ensure that courses are high-quality, that students are supported and achieve good outcomes and that standards are protected. The OfS has published guidance which sets out expectations for providers in maintaining quality and standards and how it will assess compliance with these conditions in the light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In June 2020, the Secretary of State commissioned Sir Michael Barber to conduct a review into the shift toward digital teaching and learning in HE since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. The report, published on 25 February 2021, builds on lessons learned through the outbreak and sets out recommendations to help providers to seize opportunities for the medium to long term future and includes ‘six actions’ HE providers can take for next academic year. We welcome the publication of the report which will be important in supporting HE providers to prepare for the next academic year and to realise the opportunities presented by digital teaching and learning in the medium to long term.

The full report can be found here: