St Andrews to take phased approach to in-person teaching

Monday 31 August 2020

The University of St Andrews is to take a phased approach to the introduction of in-person teaching when the new semester starts on 14 September.

The University confirmed today that it would phase in face-to-face teaching in classrooms over the first seven weeks of new term, and called on staff and students to continue to work together to maintain the institution’s good record on managing the effects of the pandemic.

St Andrews Principal, Professor Sally Mapstone, said the new approach to the start of the new academic year – in which less than 10% of classes will be delivered in person to begin with – was a prudent and pragmatic response which would allow the University to build community confidence in its robust safety measures.

St Andrews said it was taking a phased approach having listened to staff, student leaders and its local community, in light of new evidence which suggests a larger number of students than expected will be in St Andrews at the start of term, and in the current absence of a national asymptomatic testing regime.

The late changes to the way A level and Higher results were calculated, coupled with a high demand from overseas students despite the restrictions of the pandemic, have boosted its current population of 9000 to an estimated 10,000 students, with up to 1000 of those enrolling for remote learning only. Earlier in the summer, St Andrews modelling suggested it should prepare for its student population to drop by 2000 as a result of international travel restrictions and anxiety about the UK”s handling of the pandemic.

In the last few days, the university has moved to secure additional student housing in Dundee and Leuchars to meet demand from students for university-managed accommodation.

In a message to staff and students, Professor Mapstone said:

“I have listened carefully to our staff, and students, and our local community, and while there is a substantial desire to return to doing what we do best as a university, there is an understandable anxiety amongst some members of our teaching staff about the next few weeks.

“I know that tutors want to teach in-person, and our students want to learn that way, but the experience of all of us is diminished if apprehension affects the classroom dynamic disproportionately, as I believe it could at present.

“In all these circumstances therefore, it is prudent to begin our new semester with the phased approach to in-person teaching which I have described, subject to Scottish Government guidance.

“For clarity, I remain utterly confident in our risk assessment procedures, developed jointly with our campus trade unions, and the very considerable steps we have taken over the summer to plan for the safe resumption of teaching and research in St Andrews.

“The incidence of Covid in Fife and more broadly in Scotland remains low, and we will maintain our robust, evidence-based approach to our planning for a safe return to work and study.

“We say and we mean that the safety our students, staff and townspeople is our overriding priority. By adopting this progressive approach, we have an opportunity to demonstrate to each other that we can do this safely, in a compact founded on a clear understanding of our individual responsibilities. Phasing allows us to build community confidence.”

St Andrews said it would be putting additional resources into a fund designed to support students who are digitally excluded or who may find difficulty in learning remotely for the initial part of the first semester.

It has recommended that students should still be in St Andrews if possible, where they have access to libraries and resources, dedicated study space, computing centres, wifi, IT services, sports facilities, student services, and the support and activities offered by the Students’ Association.

Being in St Andrews also allows students to acclimatise to the University’s new safety regimes, and to engage with in-person teaching as it is phased in over the autumn.

Professor Mapstone said the University was also sharply focused on “safety beyond the classroom”, and was working with it staff, student leaders, and consulting the Scottish Government on measures to support responsible student behavior.

The full message from the Principal is available online.

Issued by the University Communications Office.

Category Covid community response

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