Impact on Universities in September

BJames

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I wanted to make a thread specifically about Universities as this has popped up a few times over the last few days but it's probably better not to detract from the general "public life" thread.

Although the point of this thread was general University discussion, the main point was this article, alluded to in another thread, which surfaced yesterday - the quite frankly preposterous idea of "Students might have to stay in a protective bubble" (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-52897727):
Students might have to stay in a "protective bubble" of the same small group, when the UK's university campuses reopen in the autumn.

University leaders suggested students would live and study with the same group to minimise mixing.

They were setting out safety measures for a socially-distanced student life - including a virtual freshers' week.

A survey suggested 71% of students would prefer to start the term later, if they got more in-person teaching.

University campuses have been closed since the coronavirus lockdown, with teaching switching online, and their representative body, Universities UK has been setting out how they might bring students back for the autumn term.

How might campuses stay safe?
To prevent the risk of infection, the Universities UK briefing suggested students could be kept in small groups, sharing accommodation with people taking the same course, using the "protective bubble" approach used in primary schools in England.

Liz Barnes, vice-chancellor of Staffordshire University, said she had been discussing the idea of protective bubbles with other universities - with her university expecting to have eight people per bubble.

By housing students in groups taking the same subjects, with timetables that bring them on campus at the same time, it would minimise contact with other students.

"The more that we can keep them into a small group of regular interaction the better in current circumstances," said Prof Barnes.

Students could see others outside, but there would be controls on who could go inside accommodation.

This would also assume that university accommodation would have a big reduction in capacity, so that social distancing could be possible and facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms could be safely shared.

If lectures are delivered online, there would also be fewer people on campus.
The above quote is the first section of the linked article. And there are quite a few problems with this. Firstly, students live in halls of residence in their first year only (with some very very small exceptions). So sharing accommodation with people taking the same course would already not work for second, third, fourth years etc. We've all sorted out our housing, I am living with 4 others and all of us are doing different courses to each other. But the idea makes little sense anyway - is it to increase in person teaching? In which case, we've got groups of 8 people sitting in different corners of the lecture theatre, and capacity is still vastly reduced? Small group teaching without social distancing? It seems a lot of effort to go to for something that poses little threat to the group anyway, and it would mean that tutorials can go ahead but seminars would have to still be 2/3 separate groups. Not that it matters anyway, because it's only possible for first year students. Not to mention the fact that people don't want to and will not do this anyway - they will continue to mingle in student accommodation and there will not be enough staff to stop them. It makes no sense.

I've also looked into these surveys of people, of which "71% of students" wanted term to start later to get more in person teaching. This article does not cite its source for the figure, but my previous research has found that these are very small sample sizes of less than 1000 students (bearing in mind that there are 1.8 million undergraduate students at institutions across the UK - 2018/19 figure, https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/facts-and-stats/Pages/higher-education-data.aspx). One thing they've forgotten to consider is that students don't want to put off their study until January - they want to resume where they left off in September with as little (or preferably no) social distancing as possible, and as much of the student experience restored as possible.

Second point. Reducing capacity in accommodation blocks (as mentioned in the article). So we will have less international students, with unprecedented impacts on student finances. The Universities can't win - they either accept less students because they're attempting to maintain social distancing for a ridiculous amount of time, or they try and attract more domestic students (which I'm not sure is going to work), fill up accommodation and then there's people sharing few bathrooms between many. But accommodation rakes in money too, and at the moment, some institutions are starting the process of voluntary redundancy. Like a lot of the economy, we can't afford to continue like this for much longer. Students are becoming increasingly restless about paying over £9k (myself included) and it worked as a short term measure in the summer term but it won't satisfy people come autumn.

And I accept the point in the article about lectures online meaning fewer people - but there's still going to be a lot of people wandering around campus trying to use facilities as not everything can be done online. And people don't want to just sit in their rooms 24/7, especially with pubs and (more specifically) clubs closed - nothing for a lot of people (I know not everyone) to look forward to in the evening.
 
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Mag_seven

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"Students might have to stay in a protective bubble"
Yet we know our young are the least susceptible to serious implications as a result of the virus. A big part of going to uni as well as for the education is to socialise with others of the same age. If this "protective bubble" nonsense really becomes a reality then in my view there will really be no point in going to university. The young will therefore decide just to go straight into employment - if there are any jobs left to apply for that is.
 

underbank

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I think the 71% was the figure for new starters rather than existing students going into years 2/3 etc.

My son was due to start this September. He's probably going to change his Uni choice and go to our local one instead of one the other side of the country, so he can live at home and just go to the campus when he has to. He has no interested in trecking hundreds of miles to go and sit in a gloomy student flat watching online lectures - he can do that in the comfort of his own bedroom.

Yes, students are at low risk themselves, but all this social distancing, like the NHS, is to protect the staff, not the students/patients. The Unis will have many vulnerable staff and it's not safe for them if there are hoards of young healthy people around them who aren't taking precautions against Covid.
 

MikeWM

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I feel terribly sorry for students starting, or at university, right now. What a miserable experience compared to what it ought to be :(

Plus at many places, the way we're going, there's no guarantee that most universities will even be in existence in a few years time, as their funding model was bad enough previously, and has been totally broken by our response over the last few months.
 

BJames

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A really interesting article on University of Nottingham's finances: https://exchange.nottingham.ac.uk/blog/covid-19-and-university-finances/

Some key points:
Before COVID-19, our financial position for the next academic year looked healthy. For example, we had planned to receive £165 million in income from international student fees – of which £88 million would be from new students – as well as £108 million from first year UK/EU undergraduate students. We had also planned to receive £140 million in research income, £60 million from conferencing and student accommodation and £13 million from the hotel and conference centres. However, all of these sources of income are now under threat.

Immediate economic impact of coronavirus
The immediate economic impact of the virus on our University is known. Over the next four months alone, we will definitely lose £58 million: £25 million from cancelled conferences and hotel reservations, £20 million from commercial ventures and £13 million in cancelling student accommodation fees. £60 million from research income is due before the end of July, and some of this is also at risk.

If we did nothing and carried on spending as normal, our debt could increase to around £175 million by August 2020, meaning, with our current facilities, we would no longer be able to operate and pay the bills that we need to pay. Of course, we are not going to do nothing. Like domestic households in tough times, we will scale back big spending plans, reduce unnecessary costs and find other ways of increasing our income.

That is why we are delaying all uncommitted investment in buildings and infrastructure, with the exception of costs related to the health and safety of our staff and students. That is why we have put emergency spending controls in place to ensure that we are only spending money on the things that really matter at this moment in time. And that is why we are seeking to increase our maximum capacity for additional borrowing by £60 million.

This will ensure that we can continue to pay our staff, teach our students and conduct our research for the rest of the academic year to July, while we deliver our plans to meet the new challenges for the next academic year and work to sustain and grow in future years.
Despite some of this the Uni is not in as much trouble as some institutions. I wonder if we may begin to see mergers or closure of some of the smaller unis in the country?
 

MikeWM

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The conferences point is an interesting one that I'd overlooked. Even many Oxbridge colleges are only kept afloat with income from conferences - if that has gone, those colleges are going to need bailouts from the richest colleges, or the university itself.
 

BJames

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Yet we know our young are the least susceptible to serious implications as a result of the virus. A big part of going to uni as well as for the education is to socialise with others of the same age. If this "protective bubble" nonsense really becomes a reality then in my view there will really be no point in going to university. The young will therefore decide just to go straight into employment - if there are any jobs left to apply for that is.
Completely agree and if I was a year younger I may have been looking very differenty at what I chose to do in September. However, right now I'm sort of stuck in the system - if I left now and restarted I'd have to pay an additional year's tuition cost plus maintenance costs and would have to retake the first year... but housing contracts are already sorted from this summer so I would be paying to live in a different city and not be studying at all for a whole year.
 

6862

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It's good to see a thread being started on here to cover this topic. I've previously posted a few comments on my experience as a postgraduate research student, and my general feeling is that the lockdown and social distancing will do massive damage to our university system. Even the university I attend, which is incredibly wealthy, has acknowledged that the situation will cause a massive amount of damage to the university's finances. I hope at some point the government will take a realistic look at the situation, and realise that as students are generally young and healthy, there should be no greater restrictions on them going about their normal lives than there are on other people in society in general. By this I mean that they shouldn't adopt ridiculous measures such as fully online courses or 'social bubbles' - imposing restrictions like these will doubtless cause even more hardship for the universities.

Of course universities should make efforts to minimise the spread of the virus to vulnerable employees, but if this situation is to continue for a long time (as we are led to believe), this must not come at the expense of them being able to fulfill their role in the education of young people. As a postgraduate researcher who requires access to a lab for all my work, my progress on my research has ground to a halt for the past 3 months, and shows no sign of resuming. Worryingly, my university has said that research activities may be restricted even if the university fully opens in the autumn. If this is the case, I think we will have a massive research crisis on our hands, and this is significant because it is only through rigorous academic research that we are able to teach undergraduate students (not to mention the income generated by research).

I also think a return to normality for universities would require the people who make up the majority of the student body (young, and for the most part healthy people), to get a sense of perspective on the very small risks which this virus poses to the majority of people. Only once things are in perspective will we be in any position to move on.
 

BJames

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Of course universities should make efforts to minimise the spread of the virus to vulnerable employees, but if this situation is to continue for a long time (as we are led to believe), this must not come at the expense of them being able to fulfill their role in the education of young people. As a postgraduate researcher who requires access to a lab for all my work, my progress on my research has ground to a halt for the past 3 months, and shows no sign of resuming. Worryingly, my university has said that research activities may be restricted even if the university fully opens in the autumn. If this is the case, I think we will have a massive research crisis on our hands, and this is significant because it is only through rigorous academic research that we are able to teach undergraduate students (not to mention the income generated by research).

I also think a return to normality for universities would require the people who make up the majority of the student body (young, and for the most part healthy people), to get a sense of perspective on the very small risks which this virus poses to the majority of people. Only once things are in perspective will we be in any position to move on.
In post #5 I linked to the article from one University detailing its finances. An interesting point there was that they've quite clearly stated that £60 million, expected to come from their research activity, is at risk. So your point is incredibly important: we simply cannot pretend that working with restrictions with practical, lab-based work and research is sustainable for any amount of time at all. I suspect you also attend a Russell Group institution, and the biggest point that these institutions have repeatedly made is that we drive "research-led teaching". Obviously circumstances are somewhat unexpected but with the rate that things are evolving at the moment, we just can't put this on hold indefinitely.
 

MattA7

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I am/was away to be starting college this year but am now wondering if I would be best delaying it until the following year when things would hopefully be back to normal (although not holding my breath) especially as I have additional support needs in education due to mild Asperger’s syndrome.

I may look into a evening maths course and then do the full time course the following year. Not sure I definitely feel as if I couldn’t have picked a worse time to start college
 

Ianno87

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I feel terribly sorry for students starting, or at university, right now. What a miserable experience compared to what it ought to be :(
Remembering that university is the first experience of solo, independent living for many. The social experience is part of the support network in doing this for the first time. Some Freshers will find it very hard and lonely this September.
 

nedchester

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My son is supposed to be going to University in September; hopefully Dentistry so not something that can be done from home!

I asked him what he thought of these proposals and he described them to me as 'insane' and thought up by an idiot. He's right.

Do those that run universities really expect students to remain in 'protective bubbles'? The person from the University on the BBC News was claiming that the students 'were adults and know the importance of social distancing'. The naivety of this woman was beyond belief. I expect she's also advising the railways on social distancing polices as well!
 

PTR 444

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As a student going into their third year this September, I cannot see how the protective bubble system is going to work. For starters, not all accommodation is owned by the university, with many returning students having a choice between different private halls. If that was to happen like the article is suggesting, then the university would have to negotiate with every single private halls provider to ensure the occupants of each flat are on the same course. What if only one person on a particular course has chosen to live in a particular privately owned hall? Are they going to have to live alone for the year? Also, myself and one of my close mates studying on a different course have already booked to live together in private halls, so we would be split up if protective bubbles are introduced. Can't see how that's going to work, particularly when my mate has already paid extra for the one premium room in the flat.
 
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BJames

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I love this from that article I mentioned:
Prof Buckingham, vice-chancellor of Brunel University, said she wanted to "dispel the image" that learning online was not the same quality.
Not sure what planet she is living on. I can guarantee this is quite simply not true. It concerns me that the boss of a University thinks this. Naivety? Or just trying to calm students and attract a strong cohort in September?
As a student going into their third year this September, I cannot see how the protective bubble system is going to work. For starters, not all accommodation is owned by the university, with many returning students having a choice between different private halls. If that was to happen like the article is suggesting, then the university would have to negotiate with every single private halls provider to ensure the occupants of each flat are on the same course. What if only one person on a particular course has chosen to live in a particular privately owned hall? Are they going to have to live alone for the year? Also, myself and one of my close mates have already booked to live together in private halls so we would be split up if protective bubbles are introduced. Can't see how that's going to work, particularly when my mate has already paid extra for the one premium room in the flat.
Indeed. I've observed this as well, communication between providers and the uni certainly has varying levels of consistency. They seem to think there's infinite space, but start messing around with rooms and they're going to have a difficult financial mess to sort out. Better quality room than expected, and they lose money as they can't charge students more money for something they haven't chosen. Worse quality room, and a refund of the difference has to be given. Plus the fact that students want to mix with people outside of their course so they can actually broaden their social experience.
 

nedchester

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I love this from that article I mentioned:

Not sure what planet she is living on. I can guarantee this is quite simply not true. It concerns me that the boss of a University thinks this. Naivety? Or just trying to calm students and attract a strong cohort in September?

Indeed. I've observed this as well, communication between providers and the uni certainly has varying levels of consistency. They seem to think there's infinite space, but start messing around with rooms and they're going to have a difficult financial mess to sort out. Better quality room than expected, and they lose money as they can't charge students more money for something they haven't chosen. Worse quality room, and a refund of the difference has to be given. Plus the fact that students want to mix with people outside of their course so they can actually broaden their social experience.
Do they also think the students will be imprisoned in these 'bubbles'? Obviously they won't be going out and having parties, meeting in the park etc etc.

Oh and how do practical subjects like science or medicine get done online?

One thing this virus has uncovered is the utter cluelessness of some people in some very senior positions.
 

6862

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In post #5 I linked to the article from one University detailing its finances. An interesting point there was that they've quite clearly stated that £60 million, expected to come from their research activity, is at risk. So your point is incredibly important: we simply cannot pretend that working with restrictions with practical, lab-based work and research is sustainable for any amount of time at all. I suspect you also attend a Russell Group institution, and the biggest point that these institutions have repeatedly made is that we drive "research-led teaching". Obviously circumstances are somewhat unexpected but with the rate that things are evolving at the moment, we just can't put this on hold indefinitely.
Yes, I am a student at a Russell Group institution, and it pains me to see the complete shutdown of all research output from the university which will inevitably arise should this situation go on for much longer. As it is, some people have been able to process data over the past few months and move things towards publication (unfortunately I am not in a position to do this), but going forward, there will simply be nothing to publish. No publications means less grant money coming in, less grant money coming in means the university can't attract the best staff and students, and the cycle continues. The government need to realise that research universities are a crucial part of this country's economy. In fact, I've heard it said that our research and education sector is one of our most important 'exports'.

Only half the blame lies with the government in my opinion, because I suspect the universities are very reluctant to do anything which will negatively impact their media image. Some universities are already frequently vilified in the media for all sort of ridiculous reasons, and having a coronavirus outbreak (which is unlikely to seriously impact on the health of many (if any), members of a department such as the one I work(ed) in) would be a feeding frenzy for the media. Just take a look at the media response to schools reopening - no university is going to want to be on the sharp end of that treatment! I genuinely suspect that the vast majority of research students will be sitting idle doing essentially no new research for much of the next year, as we are led to believe that social distancing is here to stay for the long term.
 

Scotrail12

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I'm at Strathclyde and got an email yesterday. It was really 500+ words of waffle and it sounds like they don't know yet for sure but they do seem to think that there will be a "blend of campus based activities...supported by our online environment and services".

My main guess from this is that tutorials could be going ahead but lectures will be online.
 

trebor79

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I feel terribly sorry for students starting, or at university, right now. What a miserable experience compared to what it ought to be :(
Agree. I stuffed up my first degree after 2 years and transferred direct into the second year of a different course at a different institution.
Long story, but it boiled down to not enough of a social life first time around. If I hadn't had the good fortune to join a couple really good societies and done stuff every weekend second time around I'd have failed again.
I can't imagine anything more depressing than day after day and week after week sat watching video lectures.
I'm doing lots of video conferences at the moment, it's very hard work and no fun. I'm also slowly working my way through a 2.5 hour training video. I've managed an hour so far, started on Monday.

I'm not sure how I'd have coped if I was expecting to go off to uni this autumn. I think I'd have been looking for the most "normal" Russel group uni and applied there.
Just jumping straight into work won't be an option for many. Might just have to make the best if a bad job.
 

Scotrail12

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Agree. I stuffed up my first degree after 2 years and transferred direct into the second year of a different course at a different institution.
Long story, but it boiled down to not enough of a social life first time around. If I hadn't had the good fortune to join a couple really good societies and done stuff every weekend second time around I'd have failed again.
I can't imagine anything more depressing than day after day and week after week sat watching video lectures.
I'm doing lots of video conferences at the moment, it's very hard work and no fun. I'm also slowly working my way through a 2.5 hour training video. I've managed an hour so far, started on Monday.

I'm not sure how I'd have coped if I was expecting to go off to uni this autumn. I think I'd have been looking for the most "normal" Russel group uni and applied there.
Just jumping straight into work won't be an option for many. Might just have to make the best if a bad job.
Totally agreed. I struggled a lot with not having a good social life at uni last year and was really hoping to change that this year. Being stuck in a room looking at online lectures is going to wreck my mental health, not to mention lower my grades as the motivation just won't be there.
 

trebor79

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Totally agreed. I struggled a lot with not having a good social life at uni last year and was really hoping to change that this year. Being stuck in a room looking at online lectures is going to wreck my mental health, not to mention lower my grades as the motivation just won't be there.
Feel for you buddy. Don't tell yourself your going to get lower grades, that won't help, keep positive.
I failed 13 out of 14 exams in my second year. Uni offered me the chance to resit in phases and redo the year if necessary but I chose to transfer because I convinced myself I would never succeed. In hindsight I should have stayed but it did all work out in the end.
 

Huntergreed

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I'm a first year student who literally just finished (ie in the last 15 minutes). I must admit due to various mental health problems, before I started university I had a very poor social life, and had not developed a number of social skills to a standard that may be expected of a student entering university. I came into first year and I met the most supportive, kind group of students, and this really boosted my mental health. I felt like I was more motivated to complete coursework and get good grades as a result of this as well, increasing my future prospects. Ever since this social aspect of university has been removed from me due to the lockdown, my motivation has exponentially depleted, and a number of the mental health issues which I was well on the way to fixing have now worsened or returned to their previous state. This lockdown has been very tough on many students mental health, especially people in the 'freshers' year as this is the year when the coursework isn't quite as intense allowing for us to build up social skills and relationship skills and find new interests, essentially it was an opportunity for us to leave school behind and begin a new stage of adulthood. Having all of that removed has had a drastic effect on many aspects of our lives. People I knew who were mentally strong are struggling with the prospect of facing years of being stuck in this 'socially distant' society where everything that we as young people value and enjoy seems to have been removed. The prospect of being restricted to a 'bubble' is absolutely ludicrous and the fact that they think this is even worth considering is quite distressing to me and many others in a similar situation that I know of. University provides a platform to build deep lifelong friendships, strong professional connections which can help you throughout your career, and confidence in your ability to live independently. Now that these have been removed, most people on my course, myself included, have seen a significant drop in attainment and motivation, and if it's tough now, I dread to imagine what it will be like locked in a tiny dorm with a 'bubble', with no end in sight, no aspect of socialising with others, and no ability to enjoy any of the experiences that make university an enjoyable experience worth attending.

It's all very well saying 'uni isn't there to get drunk and socialise, it's there for you to study, be that online or in person', however there are multiple factors to consider:

It's becoming clear to me that consideration for students mental health has been neglected altogether, considering that the ideas of restricting students to 'bubbles' and 'online learning only' are even being considered. University attainment will drop drastically if these measures continue whatsoever into the next term. This term has been hard enough, let alone having to live with the though of putting up with these unbearable restrictions that take the only good experiences out of what many consider the most beneficial and enjoyable years of life.

Online tuition is nowhere near on par to face-to-face teaching. In person, there is the ability to ask questions freely, ask a classmate about content if you are unsure, meet up afterwards and go over content. I've found university is a mix of 'serious' studying and 'enjoyable' social time with friends, both of which contribute greatly to the overall experience, and if one of these is removed, mental health and attainment significantly deteriorate. It's clear whoever thought up of this idea has no care for mental health or motivation in students, and is only focused purely on massively overestimated risk of the virus that they have perceived as dangerous enough to take these measures.

Practicality, how do they expect to restrict us to 'social bubbles'? If someone told me 'there's a virus out there, it almost certianly won't harm you and the chances of it killing you are less than 0.1% but we're going to lock you away and worsen your mental health to protect you from it' me and most other rational students would simply ignore it. There's absolutely no way for staff to enforce this, they aren't going to call the police, who would be more at risk, because I bumped in to someone and decided to spend some time with them if they weren't in my 'bubble', and if they do then that is just ludicrous.

Financially - If most students got wind that these restrictions would be in place if they decided to study, they simply wouldn't. They would find another route or career, or simply defer. This would cost the university massively and would not be viable or sustainable, eventually forcing the university to close.

I appreciate that the risk to the vulnerable is certainly higher, however I don't think it's fair to quite literally ruin the best years of student's lives, significantly deteriorate their mental health and career prospects, and prevent them from developing meaningful friendships and relationships because of a virus which arguably poses less risk to them than crossing the street. This country, along with others, has quite literally went bonkers over trying to protect everyone from the 'big scary virus', and it's time for everyone to grow up a little, open their eyes, and start planning realistic solutions to be implemented in the real world, rather than dystopian lockdown fantasies which are more fitting in an orwellian dictatorship. What does worry me is that every day, nobody in power seems to consider this, and it's almost like they actively want to damage our prospects and future and blow things totally out of proportion without rational thinking, and this is admittedly starting to cause my mental health to deteriorate futher, as I'm beginning to realise that I might actually have to sacrifice my happiness and prospects for no real benefit.
 

Qwerty133

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Online tuition is nowhere near on par to face-to-face teaching. In person, there is the ability to ask questions freely, ask a classmate about content if you are unsure, meet up afterwards and go over content.
I think you are catastrophizing things somewhat there, while it is probably fair to say that having no in person teaching would not be a good situation it is extremely unfair to suggest that online teaching will always be considerably worse than the same type of teaching in person. Moving lectures (as opposed to other forms of more interactive teaching) online is unlikely to have any meaningful impact on their quality as such teaching has never contained meaningful opportunities for interaction, and in many cases the experience will be improved online as students will not have to rely on poorly located and too small projectors to view the power point slides and attempt to make legible notes either on their lap or on badly located and too small pieces of wood acting as desks.
 

MikeWM

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I'm a first year student who literally just finished (ie in the last 15 minutes).
Very sorry to hear about the specific issues you're having. I've no idea why the world has suddenly, simultaneously gone entirely bonkers, and it must be devastating for anyone where this has coincided with an important time in their life. (Conversely, I've been very lucky in that respect, nothing interesting should be happening in my life right now, and I'm very thankful for as I don't know how well I'd be coping if it was...)

People I knew who were mentally strong are struggling with the prospect of facing years of being stuck in this 'socially distant' society where everything that we as young people value and enjoy seems to have been removed.
Not just the young, though it will hit them hardest. I'm in my early 40s and this has been alarming me since the start - far more than the prospect of catching a virus.

It's all very well saying 'uni isn't there to get drunk and socialise, it's there for you to study, be that online or in person',
Anyone who says that is quite clearly wrong :) The point of University is to do all those things (and learn how to *successfully* juggle doing all those things ;)
 

route101

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I'm at Strathclyde and got an email yesterday. It was really 500+ words of waffle and it sounds like they don't know yet for sure but they do seem to think that there will be a "blend of campus based activities...supported by our online environment and services".

My main guess from this is that tutorials could be going ahead but lectures will be online.
I was at caley . Some liked the online stuff because they never came to uni outwith lectures anyway to use uni library . I didnt enjoy doing my work at home , some people struggled with specialist software on laptops and in my case slow internet. I got there in the end.
 

CeeJ

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Going to be really difficult for people at university - particularly for first years.

These social bubbles should be theoretically possible for first year, but realistically it will be futile with house parties, interactions on campus, social spaces, social groups/societies, etc. Almost totally impossible for second/third/masters students who will be living with friends who may not necessarily be course mates.

A more realistic way of reopening would be to seek to reduce rapid transmission of the virus. Fortunately most universities are moving away from catered accommodation, so existing options on site could have takeaway food only. Large lectures can be moved online and smaller lectures/seminars can be done in a socially distanced way socially distanced where possible. Libraries (where collections can't be digitised) can institute some form of social distancing with plastic gloves.
 

trebor79

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Going to be really difficult for people at university - particularly for first years.

These social bubbles should be theoretically possible for first year, but realistically it will be futile with house parties, interactions on campus, social spaces, social groups/societies, etc. Almost totally impossible for second/third/masters students who will be living with friends who may not necessarily be course mates.

A more realistic way of reopening would be to seek to reduce rapid transmission of the virus. Fortunately most universities are moving away from catered accommodation, so existing options on site could have takeaway food only. Large lectures can be moved online and smaller lectures/seminars can be done in a socially distanced way socially distanced where possible. Libraries (where collections can't be digitised) can institute some form of social distancing with plastic gloves.
Gloves are pointless. As soon as you touch your nose or mouth or rub your eye or sneeze or blow your noise they are no longer sterile. Making people use hand sanitizer when entering would be just as effective.
 

BJames

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These social bubbles should be theoretically possible for first year, but realistically it will be futile with house parties, interactions on campus, social spaces, social groups/societies, etc. Almost totally impossible for second/third/masters students who will be living with friends who may not necessarily be course mates.
Exactly and any pretending otherwise is delusional. A lot of people my age are no longer following the rules. Think yesterday's protest which went just a little bit above 6 people meeting! Anyway people will make new friends when they go to uni. The last thing they want to do is to be stuck with 5 people that they don't get on with and be told you have to live with them, go to seminars with them and relax with them.
A more realistic way of reopening would be to seek to reduce rapid transmission of the virus. Fortunately most universities are moving away from catered accommodation, so existing options on site could have takeaway food only. Large lectures can be moved online and smaller lectures/seminars can be done in a socially distanced way socially distanced where possible. Libraries (where collections can't be digitised) can institute some form of social distancing with plastic gloves.
Reducing rapid transmission of the virus is the overall goal globally. But my university retains a catered culture* - indeed all halls of residence on campus are catered and do not have kitchens (rather they have small pantries) so they cannot be converted to self catered for the short term (or at all really without a complete re-fit). At the moment, anyone staying at campus has to collect their food from a designated hall and take it away with them. That's fine for a handful of students (those who couldn't get home) but not for hundreds. Agree with above that wearing gloves is actually more unhygienic than not.

*Edit: just to say this is actually quite unusual nowadays but it's not something that can be changed overnight (or realistically at all in the next few years now that the finances of unis are being so vastly decimated).
 

CeeJ

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Reducing rapid transmission of the virus is the overall goal globally. But my university retains a catered culture* - indeed all halls of residence on campus are catered and do not have kitchens (rather they have small pantries) so they cannot be converted to self catered for the short term (or at all really without a complete re-fit). At the moment, anyone staying at campus has to collect their food from a designated hall and take it away with them. That's fine for a handful of students (those who couldn't get home) but not for hundreds. Agree with above that wearing gloves is actually more unhygienic than not.

*Edit: just to say this is actually quite unusual nowadays but it's not something that can be changed overnight (or realistically at all in the next few years now that the finances of unis are being so vastly decimated).
Of course - some universities still maintain quite a lot of catered halls so it will be more of a challenge for them. I think in any case they would need to ensure there are ample takeaway options (which, in the case of my uni, there were), social distanced queuing and reduced capacity in the dining halls. If universities haven't already moved to a pay-per-meal system like uPay, then options for only paying for dinner should be available to reduce peak crowding at breakfast. An extreme measure could be scheduled eating times but god help the staff who have to implement that.

Gloves are pointless. As soon as you touch your nose or mouth or rub your eye or sneeze or blow your noise they are no longer sterile. Making people use hand sanitizer when entering would be just as effective.
Good point...hand sanitiser would be more useful, along with wipes to clean surfaces.
 
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I wanted to make a thread specifically about Universities as this has popped up a few times over the last few days but it's probably better not to detract from the general "public life" thread.

Although the point of this thread was general University discussion, the main point was this article, alluded to in another thread, which surfaced yesterday - the quite frankly preposterous idea of "Students might have to stay in a protective bubble" (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-52897727):

The above quote is the first section of the linked article. And there are quite a few problems with this. Firstly, students live in halls of residence in their first year only (with some very very small exceptions). So sharing accommodation with people taking the same course would already not work for second, third, fourth years etc. We've all sorted out our housing, I am living with 4 others and all of us are doing different courses to each other. But the idea makes little sense anyway - is it to increase in person teaching? In which case, we've got groups of 8 people sitting in different corners of the lecture theatre, and capacity is still vastly reduced? Small group teaching without social distancing? It seems a lot of effort to go to for something that poses little threat to the group anyway, and it would mean that tutorials can go ahead but seminars would have to still be 2/3 separate groups. Not that it matters anyway, because it's only possible for first year students. Not to mention the fact that people don't want to and will not do this anyway - they will continue to mingle in student accommodation and there will not be enough staff to stop them. It makes no sense.

I've also looked into these surveys of people, of which "71% of students" wanted term to start later to get more in person teaching. This article does not cite its source for the figure, but my previous research has found that these are very small sample sizes of less than 1000 students (bearing in mind that there are 1.8 million undergraduate students at institutions across the UK - 2018/19 figure, https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/facts-and-stats/Pages/higher-education-data.aspx). One thing they've forgotten to consider is that students don't want to put off their study until January - they want to resume where they left off in September with as little (or preferably no) social distancing as possible, and as much of the student experience restored as possible.

Second point. Reducing capacity in accommodation blocks (as mentioned in the article). So we will have less international students, with unprecedented impacts on student finances. The Universities can't win - they either accept less students because they're attempting to maintain social distancing for a ridiculous amount of time, or they try and attract more domestic students (which I'm not sure is going to work), fill up accommodation and then there's people sharing few bathrooms between many. But accommodation rakes in money too, and at the moment, some institutions are starting the process of voluntary redundancy. Like a lot of the economy, we can't afford to continue like this for much longer. Students are becoming increasingly restless about paying over £9k (myself included) and it worked as a short term measure in the summer term but it won't satisfy people come autumn.

And I accept the point in the article about lectures online meaning fewer people - but there's still going to be a lot of people wandering around campus trying to use facilities as not everything can be done online. And people don't want to just sit in their rooms 24/7, especially with pubs and (more specifically) clubs closed - nothing for a lot of people (I know not everyone) to look forward to in the evening.
Sounds like a quite important topic for me. I'm planning to start uni in September, but who knows if it will be done online or on person. Hopefully on person as I'd love to enjoy my time on campus, but I think it's likely that they will do online teaching until November-December (unless there is a second wave), where hopefully treatments will become so effective to the point it no longer matters if you catch coronavirus or not as you'll be basically 100% guaranteed that you will survive. And after November-December, normal on person teaching.
 

BJames

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I know this isn't the UK but I came across this this morning (https://www.theguardian.com/austral...e-plummets-due-to-covid-19-crisis#maincontent):
Several regional Australian universities are planning to shut campuses while others are set to announce hundreds of job losses in coming weeks to deal with the sharp falls in revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Without access to jobkeeper – the sector has been specifically excluded by the Morrison government – universities are frantically working on strategies to deal with billions in revenue shortfalls from the loss of international student fees. Most expect the situation will continue to get worse into 2021.

Experts say the number of job losses over the 38 universities could reach into the tens of thousands and would affect administrative staff to professors.
[snip]
Goes to show that it is so important to keep as many revenue streams open as possible. That's why, for example, research students must be allowed to continue working - it's ultimately low risk for the vast majority and some factions of Universities need to be allowed to reopen as soon as possible, or everything will grind to a halt and we can expect to follow the path that Australian institutions could be forced to take.

Sounds like a quite important topic for me. I'm planning to start uni in September, but who knows if it will be done online or on person. Hopefully on person as I'd love to enjoy my time on campus, but I think it's likely that they will do online teaching until November-December (unless there is a second wave), where hopefully treatments will become so effective to the point it no longer matters if you catch coronavirus or not as you'll be basically 100% guaranteed that you will survive. And after November-December, normal on person teaching.
Without knowing which University this is, you may be able to get a general feeling for their plans on their website, as more and more institutions are beginning to underline their plans for September (although I'm sure not all Universities have quite worked out what they want to do yet). The more prepared institutions are trying to get as many people back to teaching in campus as possible - the removal of any restrictions means that it would be a much smoother transition back to in person teaching. I hope everything works out for you as best as possible in September.

Any University students - how well has your institution been communicating with you throughout this crisis? How functional do you think online learning would be come September? I'd be very interested to hear from different institutions. I think we could make ours work for a short time as long as as much learning in person takes place - many need access to labs and University computers for a start.
 

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