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Teaching and Learning at UCL in 2021-22

A message for incoming students from our Director of Undergraduate Teaching, Dr David Sim.

Dear all, 

As the academic year draws to a close here at UCL we are thinking ahead to the next one and we wanted to update you, our offer-holders, about our expectations for what your teaching will look like in 2021/22. This is a very long email on a big subject, so apologies in advance. The skinny version for you as historians who might arrive to study with us in the autumn is this: lectures will be online, seminars will be in person. There is much more detail below, however, and I encourage you to take your time to read through it carefully. If you have any questions, then do of course email me at david.sim@ucl.ac.uk and I’ll do my best to answer. There are a few things that are still to be determined and we remain, as ever, subject to changing public health advice. Below is our sense of how things will look for you as we welcome you back in late September.

Our plans for teaching and learning

Term One begins on 27 September 2021; teaching will begin the following week, on 4 October. We are planning for our campus to be open to all students for the start of the new academic year. College expects you to come to campus for face-to-face teaching and it will not be possible to study entirely online.

The last year has taught us a lot about how to support our students’ academic progress remotely and surveys consistently showed that students appreciated the flexibility of online lectures and having access to content and activities that they could work through at their own pace. We have learned a great deal about best to support your learning remotely, and much of that expertise will inform our teaching next year. You can be assured, too, that if the public health situation takes a turn for the worse, we have the structures and experience to pivot to online learning. That said, both UCL and the History Department recognize that meaningful face-to-face education is a priority, so that we can build and sustain a close community. In short, we miss having students in the classroom. Our teaching – your learning – makes us all better historians, and we’re excited to return to face-to-face teaching.

Let me give you a rough sketch of what your schedule will look like in the first year. Most students will study Writing History in Term 1; Making History in Term 2, and two Survey options plus Approaching History across both terms. The precise details might vary by degree programme, and you can choose to take interdepartmental options such as a language in place of one of the Survey options, but this is the general profile:

  • Writing History will mostly be taught by in-person, weekly, small-group tutorials
  • Survey modules are taught by a combination of lectures and seminars. The lecture component will be online, as will any preparatory tasks for your week’s learning. Seminars, which are weekly, will be taught in person.
  • Likewise, Making History is taught through lectures and seminars. Lectures will be online, seminars will be in person.
  • The arrangements for Approaching History are still to be confirmed.
  • Teaching for interdepartmental options, like languages, will vary but most seminar teaching is scheduled to be in person, and most large group teaching (like lectures) is scheduled to be online.

Finally, I should note that we used online take-home examinations this year in place of invigilated exams. We are going to use these again in 2021/22 but there will be much more information about how this will work, as well as guidance about how to approach these in the course of your studies with us. 

Just as we value in-person interaction in the classroom, we know that there is a great premium on the interaction outside it. You will have many opportunities for informal learning, networking and connecting with your fellow students, on campus and online. The Students’ Union is arranging a comprehensive programme of in-person events for the new term, including all of our club and society activity. In addition, we have been working closely with UCL Libraries to make sure you have good study facilities on campus and the physical and digital materials you need for independent study and analysis, developing your skills as an active researcher.  

International students

Please ensure that you plan your arrival in the UK so that you can attend your on campus activities. Currently, everyone planning to travel to the UK, whether vaccinated or not, must still follow the traffic light system of rules. We are continuing to develop our support package for international students, but we can confirm that if you are an international student joining us for Term One from a country where hotel quarantine in the UK is required, you will be able to apply for a means-tested financial contribution towards your quarantine costs. In addition, students who are in quarantine or are self-isolating will have remote access to our support and wellbeing service, while students in UCL student accommodation will receive assistance from the student residences team. UCL’s International Student Support webpages have more information on the advice and support available as you prepare to arrive to London, as well as orientation activities available to you as a new or returning international student. The traffic light system is likely to change before September and we will update you as soon as possible.

International students at UCL on all visas and of all nationalities will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Students who have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine overseas that is also available in the UK should receive the same vaccine for their second dose here. Students who have received the first dose of a vaccine not available in the UK should contact a GP (doctor) surgery when they arrive and inform them which vaccination they received as early as possible. If the vaccine they received for their first dose is not available in the UK, the most similar alternative should be offered. Students who have not received any COVID-19 vaccine dose before arriving in the UK are eligible to be vaccinated here and must register with a GP as soon as possible. This guidance is likely to be updated nearer to the start of term and updates will be provided in future communications. Find out more about student vaccinations.

We recognise that some students may not be able to join us in London at the very start of the year, because of continuing coronavirus travel restrictions. If this affects you, we will do our best to support you until you are able to join us in person but, as above, do bear in mind that UCL expects all students to prepare for study on campus. 

Joining us in person

If you are waiting to find out if you have met your offer to study with us, we hope that you hear good things. After A-level results day, which is August 10th, you should look out for regular emails from the UCL Welcome team, which will guide you through the process of becoming a UCL student, including enrolment, visas, fees and funding, accommodation, getting to know UCL and our great city, making the most of all the opportunities there are to develop your networks, skills and interests. You will also receive emails from the History Department, guiding you through the induction process ahead of the start of your studies in late September. We know that the journey from school to university can be a tricky one even in normal times, and that these are not normal times. We have worked hard to make sure that our induction and first-year teaching programmes bring you up to speed with study at university without proving overwhelming. We’re confident you’ll find the Department a happy and welcoming home for the next couple of years.

Your safety

Our blended model of education will help us adapt through the coronavirus pandemic. By conducting most large group teaching online and maintaining our commitment to small-group teaching, we are optimistic that we can continue interactive face to face learning, even if social distancing is required at some point in the year. A resurgence of coronavirus is always a possibility at some point in the next academic year. However, we have robust contingency plans, based on our experience and the resources we developed this year, and we are confident that you will be able to engage with your education with us whatever the circumstances. You can find out more about the safety measures we’re putting in place on campus and what you can do to help keep our community safe here.

I appreciate that this is a vast amount of information in one email, and that there may be many questions that remain outstanding. As we learn more about College’s plans for the next academic year, and as we know more about precisely what the schedule of induction events looks like, we will keep you updated. Don’t be shy to email if you have any queries. If you are waiting for your results, then we wish you the very best of luck.


All best

David Sim
Director of Undergraduate Teaching