Some Bristol Uni subjects to remain online after Easter following lack of government guidance

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By Megan Evans, News Subeditor

The university has announced that there will not be a return to ‘blended learning’ for all subjects, following a lack of ‘further clarity from the government’ on students’ return to campus.

The University of Bristol has today announced that only Priority 1 and 2 courses will be offered any in-person teaching from 19 April onwards.

These courses permitted to return to campus are those which are largely practical or practice-based, which will be primarily STEM subjects, along with some creative arts courses.

Not all students will return to some in-person teaching from 19 April onwards, despite the latest easing of the national lockdown | Epigram / Lucy O’Neill

The announcement comes despite a previous email on March 15, before the Spring vacation, in which the university expressed being ‘hopeful that a wider student return will be possible after the Easter holiday.’

No reference to Higher Education has been made in recent government updates on the easing of lockdown, including the Prime Minister’s April 5 update on Step 2 of the Roadmap out of lockdown.

As a result, universities are unable to make large-scale plans to return to on-campus teaching.

Students at Bristol University are now due to be contacted directly about whether their course will offered in-person teaching or not from 19 April onwards.

The news follows comes amidst frustration from Higher Education leaders among the government’s lack of clarity around university students’ return to campuses.

Last week, Universities UK (UUK) had written to the Prime Minister, calling for greater clarity around students’ return to campuses and for the allowance of more socially-distanced, in-person teaching as part of the government’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown.

In a letter to the PM, UUK President, Professor Julia Buckingham CBE said: ‘The list of sectors which are allowed to operate in-person activities in England from 12 April is extensive – all shops, personal care businesses, gyms, spas, zoos, theme parks, public libraries and community centres – and restrictions will be lifted enabling people to travel anywhere in England for a self-catering holiday.  

‘It therefore seems illogical that students are not allowed to return to their self-catering accommodation and resume their studies in Covid-safe university facilities, particularly at this crucial time of the academic year.’

In an all-staff email sent earlier today, Bristol University’s Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Judith Squires, and Lucinda Parr, Registrar and University Secretary sent an email outlining how ‘no reference was made to higher education in the Prime Minister’s update on 5 April.’

As a result of which, they added, Bristol University ‘is likely to begin the remainder of the teaching block after the Spring Vacation without further clarity from the government.’

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol, has also said: ‘We, along with all universities in England, have been disappointed by the lack of information about when students will be able to return to campus.

‘Although we’re able to reopen libraries and some sports facilities, it seems unfair that students who have been studying online up until now are being told they still cannot access socially-distanced teaching on their Covid-safe university campus – nor when this might be possible.

‘Ensuring students can return to some in-person teaching and benefit from in-person social and sporting activities is vital to their wellbeing and personal development.

‘Working with Russell Group and UUK colleagues, we have made our unhappiness with the delayed guidance very clear to the Department for Education. We have also written to our local MPs asking for their assistance in pressing the government to provide further clarity.

Blended learning to resume if Government permits students’ return to campus
All Bristol University libraries plan to reopen on 19 April

‘We believe students deserve to know the government’s rationale behind allowing other sectors of the economy to open up while they continue to be advised against returning to campus where regular testing is now in place.’

Yesterday, in response to the easing of some national restrictions despite the lack of plans for students’ return Bristol SU also released a statement calling for further clarity from the government.

They said: ‘We’re frustrated that once again the government has ignored university students and the difficulties they are facing.

‘We are urgently seeking clarity from the government on when students will be allowed to return to campus. We’re also seeking clarity from the university on what this means for the final term of teaching and assessment, and we’re expecting them to send details on this to students this week.’

The statement also reminded students of Bristol SU’s current ‘Fee Justice Now’ campaign, which is seeking a reduction in tuition fees for students in light of the pandemic.

Despite the plans, all university libraries and study centres are still scheduled to open from April 19 to facilitate additional students on-campus.

Featured Image: Siavash Minoukadeh


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