Coronavirus: Queen's expects to open for some teaching in September

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

  • Published
Queen's University BelfastImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Staff and students are to be provided with facemasks

Queen's University (QUB) expects to open all of its campus for teaching and other activities in September.

However, lectures will continue to be provided online and facemasks will be provided for staff and students.

The university, though, aims to provide face-to-face seminars, tutorials and other small group teaching.

Both Queen's and Ulster University closed their campuses to all but a few staff and students in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ulster University (UU) has said it will not hold face-to-face lectures until at least Christmas but may offer small group teaching if it is safe to do so.

The new academic year at Queen's will begin on the 21 September.

The university has told staff and students that all its facilities including study areas, sports facilities, the Physical Education Centre and cafes will be open on that date.

The McClay Library and Graduate School will open earlier - on 3 August - although the numbers of students able to enter will be reduced to comply with social distancing.

'Labs and small groups'

QUB Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Greer, said the university would provide face-to-face teaching for students as much as possible.

"Clearly lectures create a considerable problem when it comes to social distancing but it's probably the least interactive way in which we teach," he said.

"That interaction tends to occur in laboratories or small group teaching or seminars and we will continue to run these."

Professor Greer acknowledged that there were uncertainties about what health and safety measures would need to be in place in September, but denied that Queen's was promising students more than it may be able to deliver.

Image source, QUB
Image caption,
Prof Ian Greer has said any face-to-face teaching will be supplemented by its digital platforms

"We don't believe that we are," he told BBC News NI.

"We obviously have to operate within the public health guidance that's relevant at that time, but with the current direction of travel we believe we can deliver that small group teaching in an in-person or face-to-face manner, supplemented by our digital platforms to give a really good campus experience."

University accommodation

Queen's is also encouraging students to move in to university accommodation in September, saying they would make relevant adjustments to ensure social distancing.

That will also be the case on campus, along with measures like some one-way systems for those walking around buildings and the provision of facemasks for staff and students.

Professor Greer urged students thinking of deferring their studies until 2021 not to.

"I can understand the uncertainty that all of this has created for students but this will be a difficult year to defer in because there are fewer employment opportunities and difficulties in travelling so it may be a time to invest in your higher education and spend your time in that way," he said.

Universities across the UK are considering similar measures for the new term, with most planning a mix of online and face-to-face teaching.

The National Union of Students has urged universities to provide clarity to individual students about how they will be taught in the 2020-21 academic year as some courses may involve more on campus teaching than others.