A survey commissioned by the University and College Union has found that almost three quarters of prospective first-year university students would prefer a delayed start to the next academic year.
After it was revealed that many UK universities are taking a ‘blended’ approach to campus learning, many new students have said they would favour a delayed start if it meant they would be able to have more face-to-face teaching than online learning.
71% of the 516 applicants who took the survey said that they were either ‘moderately’ or ‘very supportive’ of a delayed start to the year if it meant more on-campus teaching.
Some universities, such as University of Exeter, have said they would provide an optional delayed start date for a small number of students, but currently it appears that University of Southampton are aiming for the seemingly unfavourable ‘blended’ approach.
Also found in the survey, 49% were worried about budget cuts affecting their education, with 23% worrying that their chosen university would not have the funds to continue with educating students at all.
Jo Grady, UCU General Secretary, said:
[It was] hardly surprising that students are anxious about what the future holds for universities and for their education. Given the impact this uncertainty is having on students, it is now critical that government agrees to provide increased financial backing to the sector. Students need to be confident that they will get a high-quality education, despite the hugely damaging impact of the pandemic. No university should jeopardise the safety of staff or students to try and offer a more traditional university experience in the current climate. Government needs to guarantee funding so institutions are able to make decisions which put the welfare of their staff and students first, and plan for a delayed start if this is the safest course of action.
Furthmore, Claire Sosienski Smith, NUS Vice-President of Higher Education, said that the government must ‘advise institutions to carefully consider the start dates and format of any blended learning environments’ in order for the safety of all involved is secured.