St Andrews announces dual-mode teaching for next academic year

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Principal Sally Mapstone has confirmed that the University of St Andrews will begin the next academic year as scheduled on 14 September, but teaching will be through a blended approach coined “dual mode delivery.”

The decision comes after Scotland’s First Minister announced that Scotland is now entering the second phase of its four-phase plan to exit COVID-19 lockdown, which means that the University can begin planning for a phased reopening over the summer and can restart some areas of research portfolio.

The academic year will begin on 14 September 2020, with Orientation and Freshers’ Week starting on 7 September, both as scheduled.

As stated previously, halls of residence will open two weeks earlier, on 24 August, to accommodate students for the UK’s mandatory two-week quarantine period.

For as long as it is necessary, teaching will take place through dual mode delivery, or a blend of in-person classes, pre-recorded content, and live and interactive online teaching. However, larger classes will only be delivered online while Scottish public health restrictions remain in place, while smaller in-person classes will take place under social distancing regulations. All online classes will be recorded so that students can access them later.

These teaching methods will remain for as long as necessary. Principal Mapstone also stated, “All students can expect the same high level of teaching quality, academic attention, and support, whether online or in person.”

Students can expect more detailed information about how dual mode delivery will be implemented in their specific modules in August.

The announcement also stated that all students who can travel safely should make plans to be in St Andrews for the start of the semester. Arrangements will be made for online teaching where this is not possible, but Principal Mapstone noted, “Being here in person means you will be best placed to benefit from an optimal learning environment as Scotland completes the final phases of its exit from lockdown.”

Every student in halls of residence will have their own room, meaning no students will share a room in halls where this is common, such as St Regulus Hall or St Salvators Hall. For students required to quarantine for two weeks, the University will offer accommodation to students in hall contacts free-of-charge from 24 August until the quarantine period ends.

The University emphasised the importance of safety with in-person activities and announced that it will provide all students and staff with face coverings.

In the coming months, it will also re-purpose buildings to support physical distancing and make plans to regularly clean classrooms and common areas.

The First Minister confirmed that essential staff can return to work on site from 22 June to prepare for the reopening of universities and colleges, and labs and research facilities can resume work from 29 June. With this guidance, the University will ask key staff to come into work as these restrictions are lifted “to support our gradual re-opening.”

As the semester starts, the University will ask staff not directly involved in teaching or research to continue working remotely and only come to the workplace where “absolutely necessary”, as means to manage the number of people on campus at one time. The Principal noted that this is “to minimise any risk to our students in town, and the staff who will be carrying out small-group teaching and research, and those supporting them.”

The University also plans to provide “comprehensive” support to its staff, including some childcare provisions over the summer and initiatives to support their wellbeing, health, and professional development. For students, the Principal emphasised the support that will be offered by Student Services and plans by the Students’ Association to provide an engaging, dual-delivery Freshers’ Week and society events.

Provisions are also being made for staff and students with young children, specifically for childcare services this summer and possibly in September if schools and childcare facilities cannot open when the University does.

On their plans to proceed safely, the Principal stated, “Our planning is founded on a vision of St Andrews as safe, supportive and Scottish, where people come first.”

She continued, “We will be in lock-step with the Scottish Government’s programme for exiting lockdown. The Government’s prudent approach to managing risk, and the steady progress that Scotland has made in suppressing Covid in recent weeks, give us grounds to be optimistic that our University will be able to return to a much more familiar pattern of life in the coming academic year. We will continue to consult closely with our campus trades

From: The Saint Online June 19th, 2020

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