Universities were yesterday branded a ‘mega rip-off’ after announcing a third academic year of remote lectures despite charging annual fees of £9,250.
Nineteen of the 24 Russell Group of leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, said a portion of learning would remain online in the new term.
Covid restrictions have been scrapped but some lectures will still be delivered remotely, depriving youngsters of face-to-face contact with lecturers and fellow students.
Some Freshers are also having to live more than an hour from campus or are under pressure to defer places because of accommodation shortages.
Covid restrictions have been scrapped but some lectures will still be delivered remotely. Pictured, Trinity College, Oxford
A Mail survey has found most of the Russell Group are bringing back face-to-face learning, but offering a ‘blended’ model where some tuition stays online. Pictured, Corpus Christi, Cambridge
Last night, campaigners called for tuition fee refunds and urged teenagers to boycott online-heavy courses.
It comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson warned last week there is ‘no excuse’ to use online learning as a cost-cutting measure.
A Mail survey has found most of the Russell Group are bringing back face-to-face learning, but offering a ‘blended’ model where some tuition stays online.
For some institutions, it means large lectures – a staple of campus life – are being delivered remotely.
At University College London, students have been told: ‘Most small group teaching – including seminars, workshops, laboratory and studio practicals – will be in person and most of your lecture-based large group teaching will be online.’
Warwick University plans to deliver ‘most seminars in-person on campus…and to deliver lectures online’ while Exeter said ‘some lecture-based teaching sessions may move online as our students found that this was more inclusive than traditional lectures’.
Leeds also plans a mix of face-to-face and online teaching, with large lectures delivered remotely. Meanwhile, Oxford said ‘most’ teaching would be ‘in-person’ but would be ‘enhanced’ by online tuition in ‘some instances’.
Cambridge said while ‘small-group teaching’ and ‘as many lectures as possible’ would be in-person, web sessions would be used ‘where there is a strong reason’.
However, Southampton stressed it was delivering all its teaching ‘in-person and on campus’ and Birmingham said ‘lectures will typically go ahead in person in the normal way’.
Mr Williamson warned vice-chancellors last week that students should be taught ‘in-person and alongside other students’.
He insisted: ‘I do not expect to see online learning used as a cost-cutting measure’.
Many universities believe it is necessary to keep some learning online in case the pandemic takes off again
Last night, former Government adviser Chris McGovern claimed: ‘Universities are trawling them in, grabbing their fees and then forgetting that they have a responsibility to deliver a good education. It’s a brass-necked, mega rip-off. The Consumer Rights Act needs to be extended to provide refunds for any shoddy and second rate educational provision by universities.’
Remote learning first emerged in March last year during the national lockdown, with students only allowed back to campuses in full this summer.
Many universities believe it is necessary to keep some learning online in case the pandemic takes off again.
Others say online learning has been proved to benefit students. Meanwhile, several universities are finding it difficult to find accommodation for all the students they accepted this year.
Bristol recently told new students they might have to live in Bath – more than an hour away – due to local halls being full.
The new head of a Cambridge college yesterday said the university should try to reflect society better by taking up to 93 per cent of students from state schools. For decades, private school pupils have been given around 40 per cent of places at Oxford and Cambridge despite only making up 7 per cent of the child population.
Former Channel 4 news chief Dorothy Byrne, 69, president of the all-female Murray Edwards College, said: ‘Private school students need to get over their obsession with getting into Oxford and Cambridge.’