Sources have told The Mancunion that all teaching at the University of Manchester is due to be moved online imminently due to the surge in Covid-19 cases across the country.
This surge is said to be due to the new Omicron variant, which preliminary data shows is more transmissible than previous strains of the Covid-19 virus. However, scientists are still uncertain of this new variant’s exact features and how resistant to the vaccine it will be. As a result, many restrictions have been reintroduced nationally over the past week.
For the University of Manchester, this has meant that many students have seen their classes get either cancelled or moved online for the final week of teaching this semester.
The Mancunion has seen an email from a lecturer informing students that all teaching will be moved online for the rest of the week. The email reads as follows: “The Head of School has this evening circulated a message saying that all teaching will be moved online for the remainder of semester one – with immediate effect. This is in light of the developing Covid situation and to allow students to return home early for Christmas and/or to isolate before doing so.”
This email was sent to students on a SALC (School of Arts, Languages, and Culture) module at 10.55pm on Monday 13th December. Its contents also revealed that staff had only just been told about the change in guidance from the University.
Another source told The Mancunion that their lecturer informed them on the night of December 13th that all teaching would be moved online for the remainder of the week. The source elaborated further, revealing that the original communiqué made to the academic came from their Head of School. It is so far unclear whether any teaching will be exempt from this alleged change in guidance.
Furthermore, one member of staff on twitter alleged that the University previously insisted that all teaching for week 12 be held as face-to-face sessions, as had been done throughout the semester.
They stated that they wanted to move teaching online for this final week so they [the students] “can be safe & wfh [work from home].” However, the University then allegedly insisted on continuing in-person teaching as planned, only for them to reverse the decision the next day.
The member of staff then went on to say that “Now 9pm the night before I get [an] email saying no f2f [face-to-face teaching], Ok to wfh [working from home].”
However, another member of University staff has told The Mancunion that they “don’t know what the plan is after Christmas but the last week of teaching is going ahead”. Elaborating, they stated that “work from home is encouraged apart from any student facing activity…so teaching is going ahead face-to-face”.
Some students have also allegedly been asked to take a lateral flow test before attending face-to-face teaching.
Following these developments last night (December 13th), SALC sent an email to all its students at 10.20 AM on Tuesday 14th December confirming that all teaching will be moved online from Wednesday 15th December. The School of Social Sciences (SSOC) sent a similar email.
It is so far unclear whether it is just the Faculty of Humanities that have moved teaching online or if the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and the Faculty of Biology, Medicine, and Health, have moved teaching online as well.
A second year student, studying Spanish and Portuguese expressed dismay at the potential for a move to online learning, telling The Mancunion: “What more do you [the University of Manchester] want us to do? We have all put the masks on and socially distanced. So what more can we do?”
All this comes as the number of cases per day in the UK has regularly risen to over 50,000. On December 11th, 2021, the UK saw around 58,000 cases per day, the highest it has been since early January 2021. Furthermore, the country recorded its first death with the Omicron Variant on December 13th.
When contacted for comment, a University of Manchester spokesperson said this:
“The majority of in-person teaching will continue, but there may be some temporary online teaching where local teams feel that this is in the best interests of students to provide them with added flexibility ahead of the Christmas break. We will continue to ensure that all the precautions we have in place will remain.
Our libraries, learning spaces, catering, sports, and student support facilities will all remain open.
Currently, plans for Semester 2 remain unchanged as announced last week, focused on in-person teaching on campus. We are currently reviewing options based on the latest intelligence and we will provide an update as soon as possible.”
This is a developing story. Follow The Mancunion on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to keep up with the story as it develops.