UCL News


Changes to teaching in Term 2 in view of Government guidance

2 January 2021

A message from the Provost Professor Michael Arthur and incoming Provost Dr Michael Spence with information for new and returning students for Term 2 in view of Government guidance.

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We are writing to you about UCL’s response to the UK Government’s new coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance and what this means for your studies this term.

The Government is seeking to reduce the movement of students into and across the country to minimise transmission risks. Their current advice is that students should not return to campus until Monday 25 January 2021. However, in London, the number of cases is rising rapidly and our partner hospitals are at or beyond their capacity.

The health of everyone at UCL is our highest priority and we also have a responsibility to support local and national efforts to protect the NHS and save lives.

We want to be honest and transparent with you about the decisions we are making. Our current and most realistic assessment is that it is unlikely that case rates will have reduced sufficiently to allow students to return to campus before at least mid-February, and quite possibly the end of March.

We will therefore be moving all teaching and other face-to-face, in-person activities on-line from the start of term until the end of reading week. There will be no in-person teaching on campus until Monday 22 February, at the earliest (except for a small number of exempt subjects, see below).

We are aware that this is later than the Government is advising but we believe this is the most responsible course of action in this complex situation.

We strongly advise that you do not plan to come to campus until reading week at the earliest. If you stayed in London over the winter break or you have already returned, you should remain here and not travel home again. The campus is open and so you can have access to our facilities.

We are advising you not to travel, as we do not want to accelerate transmission of the virus and put everyone at greater risk. By remaining where you are, you will be helping to protect each other and get the pandemic under control.

The Government has said it will provide further guidance in the week commencing Monday 18 January. UCL will continue to monitor the situation closely and review the situation on a weekly basis, taking advice from our own Public Health experts. We have to be alert to the possibility that the pandemic might mean we need to extend online-only teaching until the end of Term 2. We will share further information with you about plans for the second half of term at the start of February, or earlier if possible.

We know this is disappointing news and you may be concerned about your education this term. Your department will be in touch with you shortly if the Government has deemed your course as exempt and you are allowed to return to campus. If you have any questions about your studies, please get in touch with your department who can give you more specific information about arrangements for your programme.

We are looking forward to seeing you in person as soon as we can get through this critical phase of the pandemic. You have all shown remarkable resilience and dedication to your studies so far. Your perseverance through just a few more weeks will stand you in good stead to continue your hard work in 2021, despite everything the pandemic throws at us.  As you know, we have organised your studies so you can achieve all of your learning outcomes online for this year, and we will do everything possible to restore in-person teaching at the earliest opportunity.

We are very proud of how everyone at UCL has pulled together over the last few months, and we are confident that through supporting each other you will succeed. Libraries and study spaces will remain open and our research will continue, including urgent projects in the national effort to tackle the pandemic.

The next few weeks are going to be difficult, but with the vaccination programme now being rolled out, there is light at the end of the tunnel and cause for optimism about the future. Thank you again for your resilience, your support for each other and for your dedication and commitment to your studies. We promise that we will support you all the way to achieve your goal of a UCL degree and we wish you a healthy and happy New Year.

Stay safe and well and best wishes for your studies,

Professor Michael Arthur
President & Provost

Dr Michael Spence
Incoming President & Provost

Further information and support

The Government’s new guidance applies to UK and international students who were planning to return to London for the start of term, as well as students who usually live at home and commute to campus. If you are a Study Abroad student or on a placement, you should contact your department to discuss any changes to your studies in Term 2.

Whether you’re studying remotely or here in London, please continue to follow the Government guidance for your area, including:

  • Washing your hands frequently;
  • Wearing a face covering around others;
  • Staying at least 2 metres apart wherever possible.

Students who can return to campus from 4 January

The Government has deemed the following groups of students as exempt.

  1. Students on exempt courses

Students who are studying the following practical programmes will be allowed to return to campus from Monday 4 January:

  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Pharmacy
  • Teacher Training
  • And a small number of other courses

If you are studying one of these programmes, your department will be in touch with you with information about plans for Term 2.

  1. Students on practice based courses which are not exempted

Your department will be in touch with you with more information shortly.

  1. Students who cannot study remotely

You are also permitted to return to campus if your personal circumstances mean it is not possible for you to study remotely. This includes students: 

  • Who have remained in university accommodation over the winter break, or have already returned to London, including overseas students;
  • Without access to appropriate study spaces or facilities at home;
  • Who require additional assistance at university, such as mental health support;
  • On placements where the provider has put appropriate safety measures in place.
  1. Postgraduate Research students

Postgraduate Research students who require specialist facilities for their work can return to campus from Monday 4 January. Please speak to your supervisor about local arrangements for your department before you arrive. Otherwise, if you are able to work from home you should do so.

Getting tested for COVID-19

If you fall into one of the exempt groups and you are planning to be on campus in Term 2, please remember to get tested for COVID-19 as soon as you arrive. Find out how to book your free tests on the UCL website.

Library services

UCL Library Services will continue to provide a wide range of electronic resources for all students to access, wherever you are studying in the world.

Some library buildings and study spaces will remain open, although services will be reduced. Please see the UCL Library Services website for details about what is open.

Students in UCL halls

If you were due to stay in UCL halls this term, our Accommodation team will be in touch soon with more details about what this means for you.

Student Support & Wellbeing

If you would like to talk to someone about how the pandemic is affecting you, or if you’re not sure if you are considered exempt from the new Government guidance, please get in touch with UCL’s Student Support & Wellbeing team.