Coronavirus outbreak: higher education braces for impact

Coronavirus concerns have led the LSE to move all teaching online

The London School of Economics has become the first UK university to move all teaching online for the rest of the academic year as it responds to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement on coronavirus, the university said: “Given the decision to extend our policy on authorised absences, and challenges in delivering hybrid models of in-class and digital teaching, all teaching will be delivered online for taught students from 23 March, or before where possible.

“Academic faculty will decide how best to conduct teaching and learning activities, using a range of resources to best support students.”

I assure you that these actions have been taken with consideration of a range of perspectives and with all members of our community in mind
– Dame Minouche Shafik, LSE

All taught undergraduate and postgraduate exams and assessments scheduled for the summer team will be delivered online or via an alternate method, the university announced.

The university is also “investigating student visa implications as a result of this change”.

Despite the scale of this announcement, the university said it had received no advice from Public Health England – which is coordinating the UK’s response to the virus – that it should close its campus. “Staff and students can be on campus and our LSE Library and halls of residences are also open,” the university said.

Public events, including July 2020 graduation ceremonies will be rescheduled.


Read more: Coronavirus: Office for Students writes to universities as more student cases are confirmed


Durham University has instructed its staff to “change the format and delivery of their teaching from Monday 16 March”.

Classroom teaching “of all forms will cease”, and staff should prepare deploy “alternative modes” of study by Monday 16 March, the university said.

University and College Union, which is on the final day of its 14-day industrial action, tweeted to its members that strike action would continue despite the coronavirus outbreak, but added: “We advise branches to postpone large events and rallies until such time as the potential health risks from large assemblies have reduced.”

LSE’s director, Dame Minouche Shafik, said in a statement to staff: “Colleagues are advised that there will be flexibility in terms of the assessment that you decide to set, with a range of options available. Assessment methods will be at the discretion of academic faculty and will need to be signed off by the chair of your departmental teaching committee.

“Finally, I want to recognise that there are many different views and opinions on campus around our school’s approach to Covid-19, and I am aware that these decisions may not be in line with some thinking.

“I assure you that these actions have been taken with consideration of a range of perspectives and with all members of our community in mind. Most importantly, this must be a collective effort, and everyone at LSE needs to engage. We are stronger when we come together as a community, and I hope we can continue to work in partnership with the same commitment to each other in the weeks ahead,” the LSE director added.

Universities issue urgent updates:

  • University of Oxford confirmed that five of its students have been tested positive for coronavirus
  • Imperial College has announced “several reported cases of Covid-19” among its students and staff and has stopped all face-to-face learning. Students will either take their examinations at home where possible, or sit exams later in the year.
  • University of Hertfordshire confirmed that one of its students has been tested positive for coronavirus and has cancelled a university open day this weekend
  • University of Bristol confirmed that a student has been tested positive for coronavirus, after returning to Bristol from abroad. The university subsequently announced term would finish early and all face-to-face learning would halt Wednesday 18 March. Exams are still expected to go ahead.
  • University of St Andrews confirmed that a student has been tested positive for coronavirus. The university tweeted to tell students “to prepare for remote learning”
  • University of Liverpool announced face-to-face classes including lectures, laboratory-based classes, seminars and tutorials at the university’s Liverpool and London campuses are now cancelled for the remainder of the 2019/20 academic year.
  • Lancaster University has announced it will end classroom teaching of all forms from Monday 16 March
  • University of Surrey announced it will end face-to-face learning from March 23, after a phased week-long introduction of distance learning
  • University of Bolton library tweeted: “Please limit the amount of time spent in Library to essential work only”
  • University of Central Lancashire has temporarily banned foreign travel and warned students lecturers and seminars may be delivered through digital means from Monday 16 March
  • University of Exeter has reminded staff and students to be vigilant to racism during the coronavirus outbreak and has banned travel to affected areas
  • University of Glasgow told staff and students in an email that the university is preparing to support distance learning and take home examinations
  • University of the West of England told students: “There are currently no plans to change any teaching or assessments and the university is not advising international students to return home”
  • Abertay University‘s School of Applied Sciences have held hand-washing demos
  • Cardiff University has declared the coronavirus outbreak “a major incident for the university” and has said all student field trips/placements outside the UK will be cancelled/postponed until further notice. Students currently on placement in international locations will be contacted and offered support should they wish to return home. Work-related travel should also be postponed, says the university, with risk assessment forms to be submitted to senior management before staff make any concrete plans
  • Durham University has asked staff to cease classroom teaching and “change the format and delivery of their teaching” from Monday 16 March. Students have been told they can go home following their last class on Friday 13 March, and participate in classes remotely for the final week of term
  • Glasgow Caledonian University has suspended all new international travel bookings; there are also restrictions on existing bookings
  • Goldsmiths University are “going beyond”: public health advice and have put various new rules in place, including not accepting keep cups at food and drink outlets
  • Keele University has cancelled its offer holders day tomorrow (14 March)
  • Loughborough University has suspended ‘normal’ lecturing activity from Monday 16 March and lecture material will be posted online. Students will be able to leave early for the Easter holidays
  • Northumbria University has announced all classroom-based teaching will now be remote
  • Queen’s University Belfast is postponing all large-scale events with immediate effect – but not lectures or other teaching activities
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