University of St Andrews plans ‘phased’ return to in-person teaching

As the start of term nears, most universities have not announced what percentage of teaching will be in-person

With the autumn term fast approaching, one university has revealed that just 10% of teaching will be conducted in-person because of coronavirus restrictions.

The University of St Andrews has announced a “phased approach” to face-to-face teaching, in which less than a tenth of classes will be delivered in person for the first seven weeks of the new term. In-person teaching may intensify later in the term if Covid restrictions permit.

The university said its decision was “a prudent and pragmatic response” to the pandemic “in the current absence of a national asymptomatic testing regime”.

The university said students should return to St Andrews where they have access to libraries, study space, IT services, WiFi, sports facilities and students’ services.

In a message to staff and students, St Andrews principal, Prof Sally Mapstone said the decision had been taken because “there is an understandable anxiety amongst some members of our teaching staff” about teaching students in-person.

“In all these circumstances therefore, it is prudent to begin our new semester with the phased approach to in-person teaching which I have described, subject to Scottish government guidance,” Prof Mapstone said.

“By adopting this progressive approach, we have an opportunity to demonstrate to each other that we can do this safely, in a compact founded on a clear understanding of our individual responsibilities. Phasing allows us to build community confidence,” the St Andrews principal added.

St Andrews said it expected its university population to grow by more than 11% compared to last year, following “high demand” from overseas students and the re-grading of A-level and Higher results last month.

Last week, the University and College Union general secretary Jo Grady told the BBC that the re-opening of campuses could prompt a “silent avalanche of infections”.

Ms Grady suggested universities were not prepared and risked becoming the “care homes of the second wave”.

Universities will be taking different approaches to reopening campuses, although no other institution so far has told students what percentage of normal timetables will be conducted online.

A Universities UK survey published in June suggested that 97% of universities would provide in-person teaching at the start of term this year, but no details were given as to what amount of teaching would be face-to-face.

A group of senior scientists recently warned universities against in-person teaching. The Independent Sage committee recommended 100% remote teaching for all but lab-based and practical degree courses.

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