Coronavirus: Minister urges universities to stay open as classes shut down and exams cancelled

Oxford tells UK undergraduates to return home for Easter after six students test positive

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Friday 13 March 2020 16:13 GMT

The education secretary has urged universities to remain open to students as institutions across the UK announced plans to shut down classes and cancel in-person exams over coronavirus fears.

Gavin Williamson has urged all educational establishments, including nurseries and universities, to look at medical and scientific advice and to refrain from closing their doors.

It comes as a number of universities have cancelled face-to-face lessons and switched to online teaching due to coronavirus fears — despite guidance saying they should remain open as normal.

Oxford University has cancelled exams over Easter and has urged all UK undergraduates to return home for the holidays after six students tested positive for coronavirus at the institution.

Plans are being drawn up that include using more technology for teaching and assessment next term.

The London School of Economics (LSE) has said all undergraduate and postgraduate courses will soon be “delivered online” for the rest of the academic year to arrest the spread of coronavirus.

King’s College London (KCL) also plans to end traditional face-to-face exams in April and May.

Speaking at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) conference, Mr Williamson said: “I would urge any educational establishment, whether it be a school, whether it be an early years setting, whether it be a college or whether it be a university to look at what the medical and scientific advice is.

“And the medical and scientific advice is that we shouldn’t be closing educational settings at the moment.

Durham University and Northumbria University have also encouraged online lectures as a replacement for classroom teaching where possible, in a bid to minimise face-to-face contact.

Students at Durham have been advised they can leave the university a week early and participate in classes remotely for the final week of term.

The University of Glasgow has also cancelled all field trips, both in the UK and internationally, in a bid to prioritise preparations for online teaching after the Easter break.

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