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Universities: Remote Education

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL7021, tabled on 16 March 2022

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the savings to universities of delivering courses online and re-using digital teaching materials; and what plans they have, if any, to require universities to pass these savings on to students.

Answered on

30 March 2022

The former Secretary of State for Education commissioned Sir Michael Barber, in his former capacity as chair of the Office for Students (OfS), to lead a review following the rapid shift toward digital teaching and learning in higher education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conclusion of the review set out a series of recommendations for higher education providers outlining what a successful approach to building digital skills looks like, with practical suggestions for action. Sir Michael Barber’s report can be read here:

Crucially, Sir Michael Barber’s review of digital teaching and learning found that universities had invested significantly in developing their digital teaching and learning offer, and did not find evidence that online tuition is less expensive to deliver than face-to-face provision.

The government has removed all restrictions on in-person teaching, meaning providers are able to offer the full face-to-face teaching experience that they were offering before the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual learning is a fantastic innovation that can be used to complement and enhance a student’s learning experience, not detract from it, but it should not be used as a cost-cutting exercise.

The OfS has recently launched a review of blended learning. The review will examine blended methods of course delivery and consider which approaches represent high-quality teaching and learning, as well as which approaches fall short of the OfS' regulatory requirements.