I know that you are all working exceedingly hard this semester under some very difficult circumstances and commend how you have all adapted so well, to these ever-changing events.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of an England-wide lockdown from 5 November, we communicated our decision to continue operating with the current mix of online and in-person teaching until the review of the current national restrictions on 2 December. Government guidance has made it clear that universities should remain open and continue to provide teaching and support for our students, and that is what we are working to do.
The recent Government announcements remind us that we all have to be prepared to respond and adapt to changing situations, to ensure the safety of all. Whilst we cannot control the external environment, I am aware that you will be eager to know how we are aiming to deliver teaching and learning in Semester 2. You will understand that infection rates and other external factors are constantly changing, so we can’t be completely definite about this or make any guarantees. But we want you to know how we are planning, to help you with your plans too.
Our aims for Semester 2
We’re committed to an on-campus experience as part of our blended, flexible learning model and are therefore keen to offer teaching activities on campus when we can safely and practically deliver them, alongside our high-quality online teaching and learning.
On that basis, and provided that external factors are favourable, our aim is to deliver teaching in Semester 2:
- with all of your lectures online – but remember that lectures are just one aspect of your teaching and some other teaching will be delivered in-person on campus where we can;
- by planning to deliver an average of two hours’ in-person, on-campus teaching per week for every student present in Manchester, where it is safe and feasible to do so;
- by prioritising laboratory, clinical and practice-based teaching because those tend to be essential for particular programmes. Your Faculty will work with your programme team to figure out the right mix of on-campus and online for you;
- with academic advising and project and dissertation supervision activities taking place online, with an on-campus option should you require and request this, or where in-person supervision is essential (for example, for some laboratory-based projects).
Operating in this way will also mean that our Library and on-campus study spaces will aim to further extend their opening hours into the evenings and weekends, and PC Clusters (our suites of on-campus computers) will be accessible in-person, in addition to via remote log in.
To ensure everyone stays safe, we must also be prepared to adapt in response to the changing situation, should we need to. None of us can be sure what the next semester will bring, but we are planning for the best.
Assessing options for remote study
Our teaching is designed to be delivered via a blended, flexible model, but due to the current pandemic we decided to give many of you a choice of studying remotely for Semester 1, where that was possible for your particular programme.
Some of you have been asking if you can stay at home to study for Semester 2, or remain at home if you return there for Christmas. In response to these requests, we are now reviewing the skills and competencies that need to be attained for successful completion of each year of our programmes (known as ‘Intended Learning Outcomes’), to work out whether we can deliver and assess these online. If that is the case for your programme, we’ll give you a choice of studying remotely for the rest of the academic year. This won’t usually be possible for programmes with laboratory, clinical or practice-based components, because you need to be on campus to do that work, and without it, you wouldn’t be able to progress to the next stage of your programme or to graduate successfully. Either way, we will communicate these details to you shortly after 11 November.
Of course, before we get to Semester 2 we will also have the Christmas holidays, which I know many of you will be thinking about. We are still awaiting any further Government guidance on how this is to be managed, but will update you as soon as we can; we do very much hope that you will be able to return to your families for the Christmas break.
I would like to once again thank you for your continued patience, and for the great amount of hard work and commitment that you are putting in to make your studies a success, in what we all know are very challenging circumstances. Please do remember that we are here to support you at all times and if you are experiencing difficulties in any way, please do reach out to your tutor, academic advisor or one of our support services.
Professor April McMahon
Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students.