The University of Manchester is facing a mounting backlash from students after becoming the first to unveil plans to keep its lectures permanently online with no reduction in tuition fees. Online education has been around for years and is steadily growing in popularity. But many are questioning why this university, which charges £9000 per year, would make such a drastic move that could potentially alienate students who can’t afford or don’t want to take their lessons entirely online.
While some may see the benefits of taking university courses entirely online, many are worried about what this means for future generations and how it will shape the way universities operate as we know them now.
More than 3,000 students have signed a petition condemning the university’s decision to offer only seminars online, even when classrooms are left vacant. April McMahon, vice president for teaching and learning, also ruled out offering a credit-point discount of tuition fee discounts because she said it would not benefit all parts of society equally. However, Manchester pledged to continue in-person teaching for lectures with an “interactive” element.
Emily Bennet, who started the petition, said, “Students are obviously unhappy with the decision as we don’t feel like we were adequately consulted on the matter, and particularly for humanities subjects, this change would result in drastically lower contact hours per week as non-interactive lectures make up the majority of the content in many degree programs.
“There must be an option for online learning due to continued restrictions and access requirements, but the majority of students would be able to and would prefer to return to in-person teaching for the next academic year.
“Furthermore, the university has said that fees would be the same, and this is unacceptable. Courses delivered online by the Open University charge substantially fewer tuition fees due to them being digital. If the University of Manchester provides courses partially or wholly through this format in the long term, they should reduce their price accordingly.
The backlash was due to an interview with a student newspaper that said we’re moving towards a “blended learning” model. There will not be any price reductions for students.” since “it’s more expensive to produce a lot of the material, to ensure it’s an inclusive, accessible and high quality.”
“Ayma Khan, a student at The University of Manchester who’s researching the transfer to make lectures online-only, ‘Student feedback indicate that they are so demotivated by online learning that they want to keep all lectures in person.’
The university’s statement said in-person lectures on campus would be reserved for “labs, seminar discussions or in-depth Q&As.”
Students are angered by this adjustment since there is some question as to if the change was done for accessibility purposes or not. It feels to me like the university is trying to cut corners and maximize profits while not lowering tuition fees.”
The decision follows a tumultuous year for relations between the university and its student body, in which protests have already come to fruition. Last November, students tore down fences outside residence halls and protested because of what they believe is a botched pandemic response. The later result of this was large-scale rent strikes and no confidence in Nancy Rothwell’s vice-chancellor, no confidence in Nancy Rothwell’s vice-chancellor.
McMahon assured that the university is willing to “listen to student input.” When asked about the recent referendum where 89% of students voted that they had no confidence in senior management, McMahon responded that “Not everything we do will be something you can decide on by having a vote.”
Trust between students and universities has reached an all-time low. The teaching fee of £9,000 a year remains anchored despite the teaching hours being reduced. Instances where courses that were supposed to be taught in a 10-week timeframe have been reduced to 5-weeks. Students are angered over this move, as it infringes on the university experience, while Boris Johnson is set to announce plans to remove all social distancing rules.