UCL News


UCL teaching to remain online for Term 2

29 January 2021

A message from the President & Provost, Dr Michael Spence, with information for UCL students.


In response to the latest guidance from the UK Government, I am sorry to tell you we are now planning for all teaching and other face-to-face activities to remain online for the remainder of Term Two, except for a small number of exempt courses. I wanted to give you a little more background to this decision, and to let you know how we are responding to requests for a ‘no detriment’ policy that recognises the impact the pandemic has had on learning.

The Continuation of Online Teaching in Term Two

When I wrote to you on 2 January, we hoped that case rates would reduce to a level where we could return to in-person teaching on campus after reading week. At that time, I raised the possibility that the pandemic might force us to extend online-only teaching for longer. 

Sadly, that gloomier assessment has proved accurate. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to put the UK’s National Health Service, our partner hospitals in London and our community under extreme pressure. 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.

This is why we are now planning for all teaching and other activities to remain online until the end of Term Two. There will be no in-person teaching except for the list of exempt subjects, already announced.

We will use the Government review date of Monday 8 March to see whether and how any further programmes could return to some face-to-face teaching after that date. As I write this, I can only speculate on whether this will be possible. If it does prove possible, it is most likely that it would be only for a very small number of programmes in specific disciplines, where essential professional body requirements or practice-based learning outcomes could be covered in the relevant period. Your department will let you know if this is a possibility for your programme.

In any case, we will monitor the situation closely, taking advice from our own Public Health experts and share further information with you about plans for Term Three towards the end of Term Two. 

‘No Detriment’

As you know, your studies have been organised so that you can achieve your learning outcomes for this year online. Nevertheless, I know that many of you remain concerned about the impact of the ongoing pandemic on your learning. That is why, working closely with Students’ Union UCL, we are developing a new ‘no detriment’ policy to support your assessment in 2020-21. We are finalising the details so that we can announce the final package at the end of next week. I am sorry that this has taken a little while to develop, but we are keen to ensure that the policy is as fair as it can possibly be to everyone, while maintaining the quality and value of your UCL degree. Read the latest update on UCL’s COVID mitigation for 2020-21 assessments. 

I know that this decision to remain essentially online for Term Two will be a disappointment to a very great many of you. But the national situation remains serious. We must follow government regulations and play our part in protecting the health of students, staff and the general public and relieving the pressure on the NHS. In my brief time at UCL I have been impressed by how our community is stepping up to support each other. Your education, wellbeing, and success remain core to all we do. If you feel that you need either academic support, or someone to whom you can talk about your current situation, please do reach out to UCL’s Student Support & Wellbeing team.

This pandemic is more challenging than any of us could have imagined. But there are reasons for optimism as the vaccination programme gains pace and our understanding of this virus and its treatment develop. I am proud that UCL staff and students, their work and their research, are making a significant contribution to the fight against this disease. It is inspiring that UCL is part of the solution to the pandemic that has so affected all our lives. I look forward to celebrating that contribution with you when we all return to campus. 

Stay safe and well and best wishes for your studies.

Dr Michael Spence
President & Provost

Further information and support

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 in Term Two

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

1. Students on exempt courses

Students who are studying the following practical programmes have been allowed to return to campus:

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

2. 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.

3. Postgraduate Research students

Postgraduate Research students who require specialist facilities for their work have been permitted to 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.

Student Support & Wellbeing

If you would like to talk to someone about how the pandemic is affecting you, please get in touch with UCL’s Student Support & Wellbeing team.