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”.
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.