Live updates: The universities cancelling face-to-face lectures next year

Some have postponed Freshers’ weeks

Last night, Cambridge became the first university in the UK cancel face-to-face lectures until Summer 2021. The only in person teaching students will receive next year will be in small groups, in line with social distancing guidelines. Last week, The University of Manchester made a similar call, pulling the plug on face-to-face lectures in term one.

Since the world went into lockdown, universities across the country have been teaching and assessing students online, and most have plans to deliver a combination of face-to-face and online teaching in September, but decisions made by Cambridge and Manchester will raise questions about how other universities will deal with next academic year.

The Tab contacted 30 British universities asking for the latest updates regarding Freshers’ Weeks, term one teaching, and years abroad. We also checked each university’s FAQs on coronavirus and the current term dates displayed on their websites, and collected the most up to date information available for each. This article will continue to be updated with new information as it is released.


Last month it was announced Aberdeen University would be postponing their Freshers’ Week, and the first day of term was pushed back from the 7th of September to the 21st. In an email to students, the university said: “The University Senate has approved a delay of two weeks to the start of the 2020/21 academic session, and this will provide some time for all of us to adapt to our new environment, and to prepare for the new session.”

The University also told staff and student to prepare for online teaching to continue in September for those who can’t travel, or for all students should restrictions continue.


Term is due to start at Glasgow on the 14th of September. The University website says incoming students wishing to defer a year may do so if they are “impacted by extenuating circumstances.”

UPDATE: An email sent to students confirms the University is prepared to deliver a “blend” of online and in person peaching, with restricted numbers in lectures and laboratories. Some post grad degrees are being delayed until January 2021. Further measures the University will employ include staggered shifts and rota working.


The start date for Edinburgh students is currently the 21st of September. The University website warns students wishing to defer that a high number of deferrals is anticipated and will be “limited.” Work placements and years abroad are still expected to go ahead, but the Uni is monitoring the situation closely.

UPDATE: Appearing on the Radio 4 Today programme, Vice-Chancellor Peter Mathieson said it was likely Edinburgh lectures would remain online “for some time to come.” A hybrid model of online lectures and small-group face-to-face teaching is planned for next academic year. The Vice-President has said campus will open in September “subject to government restrictions”.


The academic year at St Andrews is still expected to start on the 14th of September, with orientation week beginning on the 7th. Face-to-face teaching is also expected to resume. The Uni website says “dual delivery of teaching” will be offered to students “for as long as necessary as a stepping stone towards a more comprehensive return to traditional approaches to learning and teaching.”


Newcastle’s FAQs state there has been no change to the start date of the academic year (28th September), although it says it will update students should this change. The website adds: “Remote and blended delivery models to allow for social distancing and/or an additional period of lockdown should there be another outbreak of COVID-19.”


According to its website, Leeds’s term starts on the 23rd September. A document sent to staff  outlining the University’s approach to the return to campus says: “It will be necessary to practise some form of ‘social-distancing’ throughout the summer and autumn, and perhaps for longer still.”

The document also explains heads of services will have to “identify which of their functions need to be delivered on or from campus (as opposed to remotely) between May and December 2020.”


Term dates at Birmingham remain the same, with Welcome Week beginning on the 21st of September. The University is, however, offering discounts for those wishing to stay on to do a Master’s.


Bristol has not changed the start date of term, which remains the 21st of September. The University is considering the possibility of delaying the start of term, continuing online learning, or “additional intakes” of students later in the year.


Cambridge’s Michaelmas term has always started late compared to most unis, and the website lists the start date as the 6th of October. The Modern Languages faculty has outlined plans for a “virtual year abroad.” Whether year abroad students will be allowed to remain in Cambridge is a “decision for colleges.”

UPDATE: The University made the decision on the 19th of May to move all lectures online until summer 2021. Exams scheduled for term one will also likely not take place in examination halls. Group teaching and seminars will still go ahead in line with social distancing guidelines. A spokesperson told The Cambridge Tab the decision was made now to “facilitate planning,” but will be reviewed should official advice change.


According to a leaked email, teaching at King’s College London may remain online until 2021, and the University is expecting a large number of dropouts will leave a £150-200 million hole in its finances. Years abroad have been delayed until 2021, and a virtual alternative was announced today.


In the FAQs for prospective students, UCL says it is still considering applications from students from other countries. Term is still due to start on the 28th of September.

“We are doing everything we can to limit any impact coronavirus may have on current applications to study at UCL, it reads. “Our Admissions team is working hard to process all applications and provide a decision as soon as possible.”


York’s Vice-Chancellor Charlie Jeffery told students in an email that term is due to start in September as planned. The email explained the University is planning a mixture of online and face-to-face teaching for term one.


After plans to deliver courses online were panned by academics, Durham reversed plans to teach courses online, informing students in an email which said it was “very clear most academics do not want to let go of their courses.” The decision came after a document outlining the possibility of 500 courses moving online was leaked.

“On the worst-case assumption that nobody is here [in the autumn], our original idea was to say it might be a bit ambitious to get all 100 per cent of our modules ready by October”, the VC told students. “So we did initially say perhaps you would care to think about not putting on 25 per cent. That was done to try and acknowledge the fact it is a difficult time for people and workload pressures.”


Liverpool was one of the first unis to pull the plug on all face-to-face teaching earlier in the year, but term dates for the coming academic year remain the same, according to the website.


Manchester made national headlines yesterday with their decision to cancel all face-to-face lectures for term one, becoming the first uni to do so.

“As we anticipate social distancing measures will be in place for some time, we have taken the decision to conduct all lectures for Semester 1 online, as a lecture theatre environment does not easily support spatial separation,” a spokesperson said.


The University of East Anglia is prepared to offer both online and face-to-face teaching in term one next year. In a comment to The Norwich Tab, a spokesperson said: “We are working across UEA to welcome back students and welcome new students to UEA when the new academic year starts. We will be looking forward to welcoming our students onto campus and virtually if need be depending on the COVID-19 guidance from government.

“We will be offering students courses on campus and ensure these can be blended with online too if we need to, again depending on COVID-19 guidance from government.”

As for years abroad, they said: “We are working closely with our study abroad partners to see what is possible within the guidance from the government and the latest travel advice.”


Term dates for Queen’s University Belfast remain unchanged, according to their website. 21st of September is the current start date.


Nottingham has not changed term dates at the time of writing, although a “dedicated recovery group” is planning how to tackle next year. The University told The Tab “a series of online lectures, videos, and live chats with current students and staff” are being offered to prospective students in the absence of open days.


Brookes’s Vice-Chancellor confirmed to students the academic year is still planned to start in September, although social distancing measures may sill be in place. The university is also planning online delivery for teaching “which would either completely replace face-to-face teaching or be used alongside some face-to-face teaching methods.”


Lincoln has delayed the start date of term by three weeks, meaning it will now start on the 5th of October, with the first day of teaching scheduled for the week after (the 12th). The University said: “In order to give us the maximum opportunity for current lockdown restrictions to be eased further, we will move the start of the term back several weeks. The first day of teaching for the 2020/21 academic year is now planned for Monday 12th October 2020 for most students.”

Plans for Freshers’ Week are still contingent on government advice. A spokesperson told The Lincoln Tab: “Once we know what Government restrictions are in place for October, then we will be able to release our freshers plans.”

Students at Lincoln were also told this week they won’t receive their maintenance loans until October either because of the later enrolment date.


The coronavirus FAQs section of the Southampton Uni website doesn’t specify the approach to term one next year. Term is listed to begin on the 24th of September.


Term dates at Warwick remain unchanged, according to their website, with the first day of teaching listed as the 28th of September. Years abroad are also scheduled to go ahead, although the University is monitoring the situation closely.


Exeter University campus remains closed while teaching continues online this semester. Term is scheduled to start in September as planned.

UPDATE: The University emailed students to inform them lectures will continue online in term one. Campus is planned to open in September provided it is safe to do so, although the University anticipates international students may not be able to return until January.


No changes have been made to the term dates at Bournemouth so far. A website page specifically geared towards applicants says: “We are currently working on the basis that the autumn term will be operating as normal, however, we’re continually reviewing government guidance and planning for alternatives.”


There’s no date change listed on Coventry’s website for September. Coventry does however have a large intake of students on industry degrees which tend to start in May. For those students, the University will offer them the chance to defer to later intakes.


An FAQ on Sheffield’s website says the University hopes the start of term will be in September and not in January, it continues: “Intro Week is scheduled for the week beginning Monday 21 September. We’ll let you know of any changes, then we’ll confirm start dates in our pre-arrival communications.”


Lancaster is another typically late-starting uni, and their website clarifies term is still expected to begin in October 2020, and the University is constantly monitoring the situation.


Royal Holloway is still due to start on the 21st of September, according to their website. An FAQ about deferral says: “Our applicants do occasionally decide to defer, and we have a standard process for considering deferral requests. However, in the current situation we recommend that you delay making your request until plans around the award of qualifications are announced.”

The University has also adapted to include face-to-face and online teaching for the coming term, and has communicated to students their options if they are unable to travel to university. Some courses are planning for a January start date.


Students at Sussex may be expected to stagger their return to campus, according to a Sunday Times interview with Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell.

“We are all looking into whether we should have staggered opening dates [for different subjects]” he said. “We are hoping to start as normal in late September but we are also making contingency plans to start [some students back] as late as January and to teach degrees online in the Autumn.”

A spokesperson for the University added: “There is a discussion amongst universities about there being a sector agreement on the start date of the 2020/21 academic year – as this will help all students in the long term.

“The University is considering a range of scenarios for the next academic year and is working through these options, based on the latest Government advice and what is in the best interest of its students and staff, with their health, safety and wellbeing the most important factors.”


Online learning is “likely” to continue for Cardiff students in term one next academic year, a spokesperson told The Cardiff Tab.

“Whilst it’s still early to provide absolute clarity on what this will look like for individual students, there is likely to be a combination of on-campus provision and online learning,” they continued.

No decisions have been taken yet, and the VC is is chairing a Task Group who are “reviewing options for the re-opening of campus and delivery of our education.”

Have you tried to defer a year and been told you can’t? Let us know: email [email protected]

Related stories recommended by this writer:

These are all the things you can get fined for with the updated lockdown laws

Meet the student medics graduating early to join the NHS on the front line

PLT is selling a mask with ‘single’ on, so you can find love in the bread aisle

Featured image: Stock image via SWNS