The Office for Students, which is the industry regulator for higher education in the UK, has warned top universities like Southampton to be honest with students about whether lessons will be taught online next semester.
Many undergraduate and postgraduate courses abruptly shifted online earlier this year in response to the national lockdown necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic, but Nicola Dandridge CBE, Chief Executive of the OfS, has told universities not to mislead students by offering the ‘campus experience‘ if most teaching will stay digital.
Speaking to MPs on the Education Select Committee in Parliament, Dandridge said:
The important thing here is absolute clarity to students, so they know what they’re getting in advance of accepting offers […] What we don’t want to see are promises that it’s all going to be back to usual – an on-campus experience – when it turns out that’s not the case.
The urgent call comes just one week after a petition calling for refunds for undelivered tuition reached over 300,000 signatures, with the student who started the petition, Sophie Quinn, saying that students have been ‘completely ignored.’ Some universities, including institutions in the United States, have agreed to pay back money for student accommodation and food.
Last week Wessex Scene reported that Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton, Mark Smith, had cast down on campuses returning to normal in time for the 2020/’21 academic year in a radical exit strategy framework which seeks to minimise all ‘non-essential expenditure.’