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Three universities halt in-person teaching

Teaching moves online-only at three northern universities

Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Manchester and the University of Sheffield have moved almost all teaching online in response to a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in their cities.

Manchester Metropolitan University, which has had 1,700 students isolating in halls of residence due to Covid-19, and the University of Manchester said they had taken the decision to end face-to-face teaching from 7 October until the end of the month following an increase in the number of coronavirus cases in Manchester. In-person teaching for some clinical or practical-based courses will continue.

MMU said the decision had been taken after meeting with local health authorities and Manchester City Council “to help minimise the risk of the spread of the virus in the city”.

In a separate statement, the University of Manchester said it would “increase the level of online learning for most programmes and will retain in-person provision for some courses which, for example, include clinical and medical and some laboratory-based teaching”.

The university told students that the move to online teaching “won’t impact the quality of your learning experience and we will ensure that the learning outcomes of your course are met”. The decision to move teaching online will be reviewed on 23 October.

Commenting on the switch to online learning, University and College Union regional official Martyn Moss said the union had been calling for online learning to be the default position since the summer, and said the Manchester universities had made “the right decision”.

“Manchester’s universities need to make sure all students and staff are supported to stay off campus as much as possible and allow students to safely return home if they wish to do so,” Moss said. “The universities also need ensure staff are given the resources to provide students the best possible remote-learning experience under these difficult conditions and undertake careful longer-term planning, instead of rushing to return to in-person teaching.”

Meanwhile, the University of Sheffield confirmed it would also move all teaching online with the exception of clinical classes from 9 to 19 October. “Our campus, services and facilities, such as student support, the libraries and cafes, will remain open throughout this period and research activity will continue as planned. All lab and studio-based teaching will be paused or moved online for this transition period,” the university wrote.