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UoM moves towards online teaching amidst coronavirus panic

The University of Manchester is understood to be moving towards online teaching as universities across the country prepare to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Durham University and Liverpool University are among those ending face-to-face teaching and telling students that from next week, they will not be expected to attend classes. Earlier today, it was announced that all schools and colleges in the Republic of Ireland would close over the virus.

An email sent to Durham students says that, starting next week, all classes will be moved online in order to “reduce the risk of immediate infection”. A source from the University of Liverpool told The Mancunion that students on non-clinical degrees will also not be expected to attend lectures and seminars next week.

King’s College London (KCL) have sent an email to students confirming that all exams scheduled for the summer examination period will be changed to alternative methods of assessment, saying they “will not hold conventional unseen exams over this period”.

An email sent to Durham students regarding the Unviersity response to coronavirus. Photo: Nicole Wootton-Cane @The Mancunion

Manchester Metropolitan University have told students that face-to-face teaching will not resume after Easter break, but could halt “potentially sooner, if requested by the government.”

However, university vice-chancellors have told the government that a complete shutdown of UK universities would be “impossible” as it would leave thousands of students stranded.

Speaking to The Guardian, vice-chancellor of the University of the West of England (UWE) Professor Steve West, said: ““My bottom line back to government has been that they can’t treat universities like big schools because we aren’t.

“I’ve got 4,500 students living on campus: some of them are care leavers or estranged from their families and many are international students. We can’t just shut down as they would have nowhere to go.”

Whilst classes are moved online at Durham, the library and university accommodation will remain open.

“The health and wellbeing of the Durham University community and the wider communities within which we sit must be the primary concern of all of us at this time,” reads an email sent to Durham students.

“These decisions have not been taken lightly and are similar to those taken at other leading universities around the world. They are designed to reduce the immediate risk of infection to yourself, our staff and our wider community.

“We know that this may not be your preferred method of learning and that being in classrooms is an important pat of your university experience. However, moving to online learning will help limit exposure to Covid-19 by reducing group activities. This will help all of us as the coronavirus spreads.”

Spencer, a third-year History student at Durham University said: “While I understand the need for Durham Uni to close immediately, meaning moving all teaching online, the fact the Library is being kept open, to me, suggests the uni don’t care about our wellbeing.

“When you compare a seminar room of 10 people, or a lecture theatre of 100 to the Library which can hold 1800 people, it seems obvious which you would close first. The library staying open is simply to stop students complaining and asking for extensions – that is their main worry, not our health.”

The University of Manchester told The Mancunion that their position in response to coronavirus has not changed: “Lectures and seminars are currently taking place as normal, but we are closely following the latest Government advice, and will update students if the situation changes.

“If you need further information beyond this, our relevant staff and student websites are being consistently updated.”

At the time of publication, The Mancunion understands that teaching weeks 8 and 9 will be used as a transition period to move all teaching online. No lectures with a registered attendance of over 100 will be held face-to-face, and smaller lectures will be encouraged to move online.

Tags: coronavirus, durham university, manchester metropolitian university, self-isolation, students

Nicole Wootton-Cane

Deputy Editor of The Mancunion

3:59 pm

Nicole Wootton-Cane

Saudi Arabia announces lockdown in response to coronavirus

Saudi Arabian residents studying in the UK have been forced to make the difficult choice of either remaining in the country or returning home, after Saudi Arabia gives 72 hour warning for lockdown in response to increasing cases of coronavirus.

Aya-zoe Atallah, a final year undergraduate student at the University of Manchester, has made the decision to return home before all international travel to and from the country is suspended:

She told The Mancunion that she felt she had little choice in the matter but is worried about the impact this will have on her degree: “I couldn’t risk being stuck away from home, but I’m stressing about how this will affect my studies more than anything else. As a final year student I’ll have no access to the libraries or contact hours with lecturers, so on top of all the strikes I’ll have zero support for my upcoming deadlines and dissertation.

“I’ve been told by student support to apply for mitigating circumstances so hopefully that helps, but how much can they do without knowing the future of the virus? The uncertainty about the whole situation is what scares me the most. What happens with my education is all up in the air at the moment.”

On Thursday March 12th, the Saudi Press Agency released information from the Ministry of Interior about the country’s precautionary measures, stating that, “the kingdom’s government has decided to temporarily suspend the travel of citizens and expatriates and suspend flights.”

People have been given 72 hours to either exit the country or return, before the country goes into temporary lockdown.

This follows the decision of the Italian government on March 10th to restrict international travel to and from the country, allowing only those who can provide medical certification that they do not have coronavirus to cross the border.

The impact of coronavirus on those studying at UK universities continues to grow as not only are many students studying abroad and within the UK being forced to make decisions regarding returning home, but also a number of UK institutions, including Durham and KCL, have recently announced a move towards online teaching and examinations.

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