Universities Should Offer Face-To-Face Lessons To Charge Full Fees, Says Education Secretary

Gavin Williamson says students deserve in-person lectures.
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Gavin Williamson has said universities should not charge students full fees if they do not offer face-to-face teaching.

The education secretary said on Tuesday the government expected all universities to now move back to in-person lectures, after the Covid pandemic saw lessons move online.

“I think if universities are not delivering, not delivering what students expect, then actually they shouldn’t be charging the full fees,” Williamson told Sky News.

“I think universities have got to sort of stand up their offer to their own students.

“I think that they have the flexibility and the ability to deliver face-to-face lectures, and expect them to be delivering face-to-face lectures.”

It comes as the proportion of A-level entries awarded an A grade or higher rose to an all-time high after exams were cancelled for the second year in a row due to the pandemic.

In total, more than two in five (44.8%) of UK entries were awarded an A or A* grade this summer – up by 6.3 percentage points on last year when 38.5% achieved the top grades.

Hundreds of thousands of students have been given grades determined by teachers, rather than exams, with pupils only assessed on what they have been taught during the pandemic.

Girls performed better than boys at the top grades, and female maths students overtook boys for the first time in the number of A* grades achieved, figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland show.

Overall, the proportion of entries awarded the top A* grade this year has surged to 19.1% – the highest proportion since the top grade was first introduced in 2010.

The figures, published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), cover A-level entries from students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This year, teachers in England submitted their decisions on pupils’ grades after drawing on a range of evidence, including mock exams, coursework and in-class assessments using questions by exam boards.

According to an analysis by Ofqual, some 6.9% of students in England were awarded three A*s this year – compared with 4.3% in 2020 and 1.6% in 2019.

Last summer, the fiasco around grading led to thousands of A-level students having their results downgraded from school estimates by a controversial algorithm before Ofqual announced a U-turn.

This year, no algorithm was used to moderate grades.

Instead, schools and colleges in England were asked to provide samples of student work to exam boards, as well as evidence used to determine the grades for the students selected, as part of quality assurance (QA) checks.

Random and targeted sample checks of evidence were also carried out after grades were submitted.


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