Image Credit: John Husband
Earlier today, 11 May, the Vice Chancellor, Charlie Jeffery, outlined the University’s plans for the next academic year as well as commenting on the government’s announcement last night regarding the next stage of lockdown restrictions easing.
The Prime Minister’s announcement last night has confirmed that universities are allowed to return to in person teaching on 17 May. However, as the email suggests, this has little impact on most students as universities are now entering their assessment periods, with York’s teaching period ending for most on 14 May.
The Vice Chancellor has expressed his dismay in previous emails that the Government has waited this long to allow a return to in person teaching and has pointed out several times that students appear to be an afterthought.
This lack of regard for students and universities was pointed out to the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, during a question and answer session on 15 April. She expressed that the main reason that schools could return to in person teaching, but universities could not, was due to the formation of new households if students returned to university.
Consequently, the Vice Chancellor has suggested caution in his email and pointed out that “While the Prime Minister and others have been bullish about the likely removal of restrictions on 21 June, other voices in Government - especially in the Department of Education - have been much more cautious including suggestions that universities may face continuing restrictions at the start of the next academic year”
He goes on to say that “We will continue to press the Government for greater clarity and clear, early guidance. We do not want universities and students, once again, to look like an afterthought”
Despite this caution, the two scenarios for how teaching will look in September are relatively positive. The two options presented by the Vice Chancellor are:
. A near- normal scenario without social distancing
. A restricted scenario with 1m social distancing
The email states that “In both scenarios, the norm will be in-person teaching and we will expect students to be present in York.”
“The second scenario responds to the caution we are hearing from the Department of Education, but would also give us a carefully considered plan to use in case there were a Covid surge in the autumn that forced us back into restrictions.”
The Vice Chancellor also acknowledges the difficult circumstances for international students and states that the University will be exploring the use of chartered flights from key destinations for students to return in September. All Covid related post arrival costs will be covered by the University.
The email states that “All international students will have at least until 1st November 2021 to join us on campus. Even with this support, it may be that students from some places may not be able to get to the UK by then so some of our academic departments may continue online only teaching beyond 1 November”
“I am sorry we cannot yet be more definitive but we are dependent on the Government roadmap unfolding to plan and on timely Government guidance.”