Ben HaywardOctober 6th
2020

Three major universities have moved the majority of their teaching online following large spikes in the number of coronavirus cases on their campuses.

Outbreaks have hit campuses across the UK since students came back in September, resulting in thousands being forced to self-isolate, but now the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and Sheffield University have all announced a greater shift to virtual learning after hundreds of students tested positive for Covid-19 at each institution, reports the Independent. 

Although many universities were already offering blended learning, consisting of a mixture of face-to-face and online teaching the latest move comes to try and limit further the amount of contact between the student population, staff and the general public.

On Monday (October 5th) Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) - where over 1,000 students have been told to self-isolate in halls -  said it was moving all its teaching online until at least October 30th, except for a small number of clinical or practice-based courses, due to an increase in coronavirus cases in the city.

At the University of Manchester, where over a thousand infections have been reported to date, they revealed that would be increasing how much online learning they do from today (Wednesday October 7th).

“In practice, this means that we will 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,” a university statement said.

The university said: “[The decision was made] in response to an increase in the Covid-19 infection rate in Manchester and in line with a commitment to protect the health and well-being of our students, staff and the wider community.”

The plan is for the measures to remain in place until October 30th, although it will be reviewed the week before. 

The University of Sheffield, where around 500 students and staff who have tested positive for Covid-19 positive since term started, said it would be transferring all its teaching online temporarily following a surge in cases in the city and among the university community, although clinical teaching will not be affected, and face-to-face teaching is planned to resume on October 19th.

Speaking earlier this week, the universities minister, Michelle Donlan said students who weer ignoring Covid-19 guidance when socialising were ‘on the whole’ responsible for the spikes in Covid-19 cases on campuses/

However, Ms Donlan did add that while she believed the ‘vast majority’ of students had been following the rules in place to limit the spread of coronavirus, a minority had been ‘socialising in a way that is not fit with the guidance’.

“That is why we have seen some of these spikes on the whole arising,” she told the Education Select Committee.

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