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Higher Education: Remote Education

Question for Department for Education

UIN 8571, tabled on 27 May 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions he has had with (a) university leaders and (b) other relevant stakeholders following the announcement by some universities that they plan to continue with lectures online in the Autumn term 2021; and if he will make a statement.

Answered on

14 June 2021

As autonomous institutions, it is for universities to determine their own provision, including their learning approach, taking account of any government guidance. We understand that a number of universities have announced plans on teaching in the next academic year: some will retain an element of blended learning. We know that the COVID-19 outbreak has enabled many providers to identify new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and students will continue to benefit from these alongside in person provision. We expect all universities to act in the interest of students and provide them with a full experience and in accordance with Office for Students guidance, which can be found here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/guidance-for-providers-about-student-and-consumer-protection-during-the-pandemic/. Higher Education (HE) providers should communicate clearly to their students what they can expect from planned teaching and learning so that they are able to make informed choices.

We are working with universities to identify a number of scenarios we should consider in planning for the autumn term, taking account of the latest public health advice. We intend to update the HE guidance in due course to support the return of students for the new academic year.

As outlined in guidance, we expect providers to continue to organise provision in a way that minimises the risk of outbreaks at the start of the new term.

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.

I am confident that universities will continue to deliver high-quality provision, as they have done throughout the COVID-19 outbreak and continue to ensure risks are managed appropriately. Students will still be able to expect a rich, rounded experience from their HE provider.