Teaching and Learning at UCL in 2021-22 (MA)

A message for incoming students from our Director of MA Programmes, Professor Ben Kaplan.

Dear all, 

As the academic year draws to a close here at UCL, we’re 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 MA historians who might arrive to study with us in the autumn is this: We are planning to deliver lectures online, History Department seminars and optional modules in person, and the arrangements for interdepartmental/intercollegiate modules are not yet confirmed. There is much more detail below, however, and I encourage you to take your time and read through it carefully. If you have any questions, then do of course email me at b.kaplan@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 as we welcome incoming students 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 all students 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 best 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 learning remotely, and much of that expertise will inform our teaching next year. You can be assured, too, that in the event that 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 recognise 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 – students’ 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 the schedule will look like for each of our MA programmes:

MA Ancient History 

We are planning for History Department optional modules to be taught in person. The arrangements for the core module, Sources and Methods in Ancient History (taught at Royal Holloway), and optional modules from other UCL departments and University of London Colleges are not yet confirmed.

MA History

We are planning for the lectures for the core module, Advanced Skills, Concepts and Theory for MA Historians, to be taught online, and for the theory units for the module to be taught in person.  We are planning likewise for History Department optional modules to be taught in person.  The arrangements for optional modules from other UCL departments and University of London Colleges are not yet confirmed.

MA Chinese Health and Humanity 

We are planning for History Department optional modules to be taught in person. The arrangements for optional modules from other UCL departments are not yet confirmed.

MA Medieval and Renaissance Studies 

We are planning for History Department optional modules to be taught in person. The arrangements for optional modules from other UCL departments and University of London Colleges are not yet confirmed.

Finally, I should note that UCL 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 the academic year. 

Just as we value in-person interaction in the classroom, we know that there is a great premium on the interaction outside it. We will provide many opportunities for informal learning, networking and connecting with 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 students have good study facilities on campus and the physical and digital materials needed for independent study and analysis, developing one's skills as an active researcher.  

International students

Once your place at UCL is confirmed, 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. From late summer, 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. 

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.

All best wishes,

Professor Ben Kaplan
Director of MA Programmes