University College London (UCL) has told students it will not offer face-to-face teaching until mid-February at the earliest, in light of increased coronavirus transmission rates.
The announcement this weekend (2 January) is in contrast to the announcement from the government that students should return to higher education campuses in late January, with only those on courses such as medicine or nursing allowed back initially.
The statement from provost Prof Michael Arthur and incoming provost Dr Michael Spence said the decision had been taken because, in London, “the number of cases is rising rapidly and our partner hospitals are at or beyond their capacity”.
The statement continued: “Our current and most realistic assessment is that it is unlikely that case rates will have reduced sufficiently to allow students to return to campus before at least mid-February, and quite possibly the end of March.
“We will therefore be moving all teaching and other face-to-face, in-person activities online from the start of term until the end of reading week. There will be no in-person teaching on campus until Monday 22 February, at the earliest.”
It added: “We are aware that this is later than the government is advising but we believe this is the most responsible course of action in this complex situation.”
A small number of students will be exempt from these restrictions. Students that remained at the campus through the Christmas holidays were instructed to remain on-site, and not travel home. London is currently in England’s highest tier of coronavirus restrictions, tier 4, and nearly all of the city’s boroughs have infection rates higher than the national average, according to Public Health England data.
“The next few weeks are going to be difficult, but with the vaccination programme now being rolled out, there is light at the end of the tunnel and cause for optimism about the future,” the academics added.