To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions he has had with universities on the resumption of face-to-face lectures in September 2021.
6 July 2021
We have regularly discussed a range of COVID-19 related issues with representatives from the higher education (HE) sector, through the Higher Education Taskforce, which was established in August 2020, and through meetings with representatives of the HE sector, including University Vice Chancellors, the National Union of Students, the Union for Colleges and Universities and the devolved administrations. This has included discussions on the approach to planning for the new academic year in September 2021.
From step 4 of the roadmap, we can confirm there will no longer be restrictions on the approach to teaching and learning in HE settings as a result of COVID-19. There will be no requirement for social distancing or other measures. Providers are, therefore, able to shape their courses without restrictions to face-to-face provision.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, many providers have developed their digital offering and, as autonomous institutions, some might choose to retain elements of this approach. However, they will not have to do this because of COVID-19 restrictions, and our expectations are very clear: universities should maintain the quality and quantity of tuition and ensure it is accessible to all students.
We expect providers to have contingency plans to deal with any identified positive cases of COVID-19 or outbreaks. HE providers should communicate clearly to their students what they can expect from planned teaching and learning under different circumstances and scenarios, so that they are able to make informed choices.
The Office for Students, as the regulator for English HE providers, has made it clear that they 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.
We have updated our HE guidance to support the return of students for the new academic year, which is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses.
We will continue to keep these measures under review, informed by the latest scientific evidence and advice.