Breaking: Cambridge tuition fees to remain the same next year despite no face-to-face lectures

The Senior-Pro-Vice-Chancellor told The Tab that ‘all other aspects of education’ will continue

In an interview with The Tab Cambridge today (20th May), Cambridge’s Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor said that no matter how teaching is carried out next term, whether remote or in-person, “student fees will remain the same.”

This follows yesterday’s news that all lectures in 2020-21 would be online.

The justification for fees being unchanged is that the University is “not intending student education to be significantly disrupted.” So far, “there has only been a decision made about lectures” which will still be taking place, but online and they will also be recorded.

Virgo has revealed the University is planning for “all other aspects of education” to continue. This means that “supervisions, small group teaching, seminars, small practicals” will still be taking place.

However, Virgo told The Tab: “I need to caveat all of that by reference to what the circumstances are at the time to the extent we are able to within the confines of social distancing”, highlighting the final decision made will be dependent on government guidelines on social distancing.

“All other teaching will occur face-to-face” and “learning opportunities” such as access to libraries will remain available.

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor has emphasised lectures are the “only part of the learning package” that is planning on being changed, but of course, this will be “kept under review.”

The intention behind these actions is to provide “the highest quality educational experience”, and the University wants online lectures to be “the best possible experience they can be” and that “all other types of learning” still need to be worked through.

Some offer holders have responded to the news of next year’s teaching plans with questions regarding deferral of places until the following academic year. When asked about this, Virgo responded: “The first thing is to say we are doing everything we possibly can to ensure that all students, including freshers, will get the best possible student experience, education and whole student experience within the limitations of the Covid response.

“If a student, an offer holder, says in the light of what we’ve said we want you to defer our place, we are not going to consider that until later in the summer. Crucially if a student wishes to defer for what we may describe as normal reasons and forget the pandemic, a student has been ill for example or their family circumstances are very difficult, we usually would consider an application for deferral.”

When asked why online lectures are only being launched now, given that many especially disabled students have been asking for this for years, Virgo said: “What we have been doing in the past is working hard to ensure that lectures are made as inclusive as we possibly can and we’ve been developing the lecture capture project. There are some faculties and departments that have captured lectures.

“That’s not online lectures, that’s simply a recording of the lecture. Some of that is what will happen next year. Some of that is what has been happening this term, but for others because of the context we’re in, there’s an opportunity to reflect on what the lecture is and how we deliver the material etc.

“Our focus is very much on blended learning. Blended learning is one of those terms you hear a lot about. Flipping the classroom is when you have an online lecture or material first and then you have a discussion. We already do that already really with our supervision system, but we’re developing that. I think there’s an opportunity here for the benefit of all students. What would be really concerning is if we said we’re doing this and we said we’re not worried about quality – absolutely not – we want it to be the best possible whole education package it can be.

“If the online lecture is successful following the pandemic, and students are still asking for this package in regard to disabilities – would there be an option for this online education scheme to continue? The answer must be yes and we would have to reflect on it. It depends very much on the subject and how it’s being delivered, and we’d have to evaluate it very carefully.

“This term we put some lectures and teaching online and we got the online assessments online and we’re going to evaluate that really carefully to see what the lessons learnt are. We will be doing that at every point in the year. And if we find that actually this is really working, greater opportunity for student experience etc, why wouldn’t we change that? If all evolves and gives us actually a better form of education, bearing in mind with the other elements as well, why would we wish to go backwards? I’m not making any judgements on that, but we’d have to evaluate it.

“This is not us putting a sticky plaster on a particular problem, we actually really want to engage with it properly and see.”

Cover photo credit: Flickr