On Friday 28 October, the Proctor, Professor Clare Peddie, announced in a letter to students that the University will be expanding in-person teaching for Semester 2 of the 2021 – 22 academic year. Though online teaching will continue for larger lectures (those with more than 155 people), the 35-person limit on classes has been removed to allow for larger classes and lectures while still accounting for one-metre distancing. However, tutorials, seminars, and in-person teaching in small groups will be prioritised when scheduling teaching spaces in the coming semester. More information on which classes will have in-person lectures will be provided in the new year when the confirmation of the Semester 2 timetable is available. Online teaching will continue despite the increase of in-person teaching, and lecture recordings will still be made available to students. Due to the size restrictions of lecture theatres, there will be around 40 modules that will remain online next semester. The Semester 2 schedule will also utilise the entire Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm schedule in order to allow for the maximum amount of in-person teaching. This means that the majority of students will have at least 90% of their scheduled teaching hours in person. The decision by the University to remove the35-person limit and increase in-person teaching was based on a survey of students and discussions with teaching staff as well as the guidelines of the Scottish government.
Because of the continued uncertainty surrounding the pandemic as well as the ap- proach of flu season, some aspects of learning will remain virtual. The decision to expand in-person teaching is contingent on the Scottish Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the University will continue to assess the COVID-19 situation while responding to any major develop- ments relating to the pandemic. In her letter to students, Professor Peddie stated, “Our decision making has always been grounded in ensuring the safety of our staff and students as well as in resilience to potential changes in governmental advice. We have also been keen to respond to student demand for more in-person teaching, where this can be done safely. So far, we havebeen successful in ensuring that there have been no cases of transmission of COVID-19 in a teaching setting, and we are keen to maintain this record. Since the pandemic is still with us, and we do not know for sure what lies ahead in terms of both COVID-19 and seasonal flu, we had to opt for a prudent course. We believe that the approach we have chosen will allow you to benefit from more in-person interaction, whilst retaining some of the advantages of digital learning and continuing to take a responsible approach in relation to public health.” The letter comes after a petition filed by members of the Students’ Association called for in-person teaching in Semester 2, stating, “Most aspects of life have returned to normal, for example students with full or part-time jobs will now be expected to return to work (in person, if required) now that furlough has ended.” The motion, which opened on 28 September and closed on 22 October, garnered the signatures of 286 Students’ Association members as well as support from 15 school presidents but was voted down by the Students’ Association.