We are getting a lot of signals that students and teachers would like to know what will happen in the autumn: should we prepare to return to on-campus education or continue with distance education?
We are not going to take a decision on this now. The reason is that we do not want to force all programmes and courses to be deivered remotely this autumn before we know it is absolutely essential. In the current situation our hands are tied by the recommendation of the government and the Public Health Agency of Sweden imposing distance education. Our hope is that the restrictions will ease up so that we can at least have a partial return to on-campus education in the autumn. This is in line with the signals we are receiving from others who are more knowledgeable about these matters than we are. We therefore ask you to be patient a little longer and plan for alternative scenarios.
It would be particularly desirable to be able to welcome our new students – our freshers – to campus in the autumn. The introduction to university studies is important, and is best experienced on campus if possible. Even if things work out as we hope, we are fairly sure that it will not be business as usual. We will still have to observe rules of hygiene and maintain distance, and certain restrictions are likely to persist. Consequently, even if on-campus teaching is possible in the autumn, this will require responsible management and careful consideration. This means that the online types of instruction we have developed will certainly need to be used to some extent.
Our advice at present is to plan for a scenario in which students and teachers can meet in various ways, but not gather too closely or in large groups – in other words, a modified form of on-campus teaching. One request on our part is to give priority to first-year students, so that they can get to know our study environment, our buildings and facilities, teachers, each other and our city. We will ask students’ unions and student nations to make special welcoming efforts this autumn. We know that a good start is vital for the whole student career.
Courses or teaching components that for one reason or another are best continued remotely will naturally be allowed to do so this autumn, even if the restrictions have been relaxed. As we have said before, no matter when the government and the Public Health Agency cancel their decisions and recommendations imposing remote teaching and assessment, the Vice-Chancellor will not issue a decision ordering everyone to return to campus immediately. The return to campus-based teaching will happen in the way and at the pace judged best at local level.
Some have already made strategic decisions that their international Master’s programmes, to begin with, will be delivered both on campus and remotely this autumn, to enable international students to join in on campus later in the programme. We think this is excellent, as it is impossible to predict what the possibilities of travelling will look like in different countries in a few months.
As regards those who have received approval for exchange studies in the autumn, Uppsala University has urged them all also to apply for courses/programmes at home so as to have a good alternative in case it should be impossible to go through with the exchange as planned or in case they themselves feel that they do not want to travel. Normally it is not possible to keep both the option of studies at home and the option of an approved exchange open, but we have allowed an exceptional solution because of the situation. Whether or not it turns out to be possible to go ahead with exchange studies depends not just on what the Swedish authorities say but also on the host institution and the regulations in that country. Uppsala University will not take a general decision to cancel all exchange studies (or the possibility of coming here as an incoming student) unless the Public Health Agency of Sweden and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs recommend/advise against travel.
To sum up, we are prepared to wait for at least another month or two before taking more definitive decisions about the autumn and are closely monitoring the course of the pandemic and the recommendations of the Public Health Agency so as to be able to issue clearer information as soon as possible. We know the uncertainty is problematic, but we are doing this with the best interests of the students in mind and in the hope that we will be able, at least in part, to conduct on-campus education this autumn.