Cambridge university and other further education institutions have announced their lectures will be online only until 2021, while keeping some smaller seminars and tutorials face-to-face. Universities UK, an organisation which represents universities in Britain, has estimated that an absence of tuition fees from deferrals and course cancellations could possibly result in a revenue drop by as much as £7 billion in the next academic year.
According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, this would see a 17 per cent drop on last year’s £41 billion income which included £19 billion from tuition fees.
Anna Lise Gordon, the Director of the Institute of Education at St Mary’s University, explained how financial impacts will affect all areas of the university system.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, she said: “There are also many other financial impacts – loss of accommodation income, loss of conferencing income over the summer, loss of income for the catering department and so on.
“The impact of the pandemic is much wider than just university teachers, as it affects all university employees.
How will UK universities be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic?
Financial impacts will affect all areas of the university system
“I have no doubt that there will be cuts and redundancies across the university sector as a result of the pandemic, mirroring the impact in many other organisations beyond education.”
Although some have announced their plans, such as the University of Bolton who have pledged a “fully operational” campus with compulsory face masks, temperature checks and social distancing measures, other institutions are still yet to reveal theirs.
Ms Gordon described how in her experience, universities have reacted well to the coronavirus pandemic.
She said: “University teachers reacted swiftly and effectively to move to online teaching and we’ve tried to give our students additional academic and pastoral support via Zoom meetings etc.
Another vital source of income to universities in the UK comes from foreign students
“We’ve improved our digital skills hugely in a very short space of time, but most university teachers are missing the face-to-face interactions with colleagues and students, as it is hard to maintain the sense of community that is so much part of university life when working remotely and online.
“For many final year undergraduate students, the lack of any opportunity to celebrate in person with peers and university teachers has been a source of huge disappointment and frustration for everyone.”
The impacts on university students and prospective students will also be severe and remains hard to quantify.
Ms Gordon explained: “If we think of the typical undergraduate student who comes to university from A-Level or equivalent studies, the impact of the pandemic is massive.
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Cambridge university has announced their lectures will be online only until 2021
Many universities have already moved to online teaching
“This group of students are finishing school or college with a sense of loss. Initially, they may have been excited at the thought of no summer examinations, but that has quickly moved to a feeling of betrayal for many young people, coupled with increasing anxiety about their predicted grades.
“They worry about being known as the Covid-19 generation whose grades cannot be trusted and so on.”
She continued: “In addition, this group of students will have been out of formal education for six months by the time they start university, without the opportunity to have gained additional experience and finance through summer jobs and travelling.”
Ms Gordon revealed how St Mary’s is planning carefully for the introduction of new students, particularly if they start their studies online.
She said: “We are trying to provide re-assurance to new students with some clear communications, but we also need to be careful not to over-promise as the landscape is changing all of the time.”
She also highlights how challenges vary depending on each subject area.
For example, at St Mary’s there are about 800 students training to be primary and secondary school teachers, “so we have had to be agile to respond to the changing situation with regard to the reduction of school placement experience as a result of the pandemic”.
Some universities in the UK are also facing demands for refunds of fees for this academic year as well as students asking if they can defer their studies.
Some universities in the UK are also facing demands for refunds of fees for this academic year
Another vital source of income to universities in the UK comes from foreign students who typically pay up to three times the fees of domestic students.
Ms Gordon advised students to focus on things they can control and try not to worry about the rest.
She said: “For example, sign up for some of the free online courses that have proliferated during the pandemic. Learning gives a sense of personal and professional purpose and development for most people.”