The coronavirus pandemic has forced UK universities to rapidly shift online, and no date has been confirmed for campuses to reopen. With the second coronavirus peak projected to take place in autumn, many institutions are already planning to move at least their first semester online. Whatever happens, universities are not going to look how their students expect for some time.
So if universities are online, will students still come? New research suggests that 20% of students are reconsidering plans to start university in the autumn – a possible 120,000 student shortfall. Yet so far, the University and College Admissions Service reports that very few have reneged on their offers. And for those already at university, a National Union of Students survey found that almost half of students were happy with their online learning.
The future of UK universities may lie in mixing online curriculums and offline experiences, known as blended learning. Many are already planning to introduce this to enable social distancing on campus. “[This] can enhance students’ experience of studying,” says Michael Horn, co-founder of the Christensen Institute, a global education thinktank. “I expect to see a lot more universities offering blended courses post-pandemic.”