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University of Suffolk to hold some lectures face-to-face from September

PUBLISHED: 14:48 10 June 2020 | UPDATED: 14:49 10 June 2020

The University of Suffolk will offer a mixture of online and face-to-face learning from September. Picture: UNIVERSITY OF SUFFOLK

The University of Suffolk will offer a mixture of online and face-to-face learning from September. Picture: UNIVERSITY OF SUFFOLK

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The University of Suffolk has pledged to hold some face-to-face lectures from September - to give students as much of an on-campus experience as possible during the Covid-19 crisis.

Professor Helen Langton, vice-chancellor of the University of Suffolk Picture: JAMES FLETCHERProfessor Helen Langton, vice-chancellor of the University of Suffolk Picture: JAMES FLETCHER

Students have been finishing all their studies, coursework and exams for the 2019/20 academic year remotely, with the Waterfront campus closed since the coronavirus lockdown came into force in March.

But from September, the university has promised that all students will get some face-to-face learning time, even if it may be less than before the crisis.

The remainder of teaching time will be online, with students promised an “excellent” experience whatever form their learning takes.

MORE: See the latest Suffolk coronavirus news here

Life will be different for University of Suffolk students from September. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNLife will be different for University of Suffolk students from September. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Many students will be able to have tutorials and seminars in smaller groups - but for subjects which are more lecture-based, the university will continue to hold some lectures on campus.

The approach differs sharply from Cambridge University, which has moved all of its lectures online until summer 2021.

What will be different?

Those starting the new academic year on September 21 would normally be getting used to student life, attending freshers’ events and visiting different places in Ipswich alongside attending their first lectures and seminars.

The University of Suffolk will offer some face-to-face provision. Picture: DAVID VINCENTThe University of Suffolk will offer some face-to-face provision. Picture: DAVID VINCENT

However Professor Helen Langton, vice-chancellor of the university, said: “Like other universities across the country, we are not in a position to guarantee a fully open and operational campus for students.”

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It is currently looking at what services can be open to students from September but has pledged that: “All of our students will experience a significant part of their course on campus and face to face.”

Prof Langton added: “We are committed to ensuring that all of our new and returning students have access to their course teams, library resources, and the support services necessary to support them in their learning, as well as creating a safe and friendly community campus in which we can all work and learn during this ever-changing time.”

How many lectures and seminars will students attend?
Prof Langton says the number of face-to-face sessions students will attend depends on their course.

Those reading science-based subjects, for example, will be able to do laboratory work in smaller groups, as will art students in studios.

However, she said: “If you have a course that is predomnantly lecture-based, you cannot say there isn’t going to be any campus provision.

“They need to have some time on campus and we’ll make sure they have that.

“We will try and treat all groups fairly.”

What will lectures look like?

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Most University of Suffolk lecture halls have a capacity of 100.

With two-metre social distancing rules in place, Prof Langton said the maximum that can be seated in any hall at any one time is 25.

They will be spaced out according to government guidelines, although the university has not yet decided whether students will be asked to wear personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks.

The university is currently deciding whether to hold repeat versions of some lectures, but a large number will still be online.

Will the quality of teaching be as good?

There have been some concerns nationally that, with fewer face-to-face lectures, many students will decide to not go to university or delay their studies.

Prof Langton said: “I understand that’s a major concern for everyone.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure the learning and teaching is excellent.

“Students can be assured that they will have a good time with their learning and teaching, whatever medium it is delivered.

“What’s important is the students meet their learning outcomes.”

What about the social side of university?

Regardless of the quality of teaching, many students will be concerned about the potential for less social interaction with their peers.

Prof Langton said the university is working with its student union to discuss how activities and friendship support groups might be provided during the coronavirus crisis.

She assured students that the university would be “using technology not only for learning and teaching, but for additional things too” - for example, the university held its student awards online.

It has organised social events, such as quizzes, by online video apps, while personal tutors have made regular video calls to check on students’ wellbeing.

“I agree, it’s not the same,” said Prof Langton.

“It’s different, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as good.”

What will happen in 2021?
Even though universities like Cambridge have announced their plans for the entire academic year, Prof Langton said: “As things are changing so rapidly, we don’t want to set a timetable for beyond the first semester.

“We want to continue to play a role in the town and we need students to committed to university in the coming year.”

She added: “The health, safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and the wider community is our number one priority and we are confident our plans for the new academic year will provide a high-quality learning experience.”


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