By Frances Howe, LLB
SOAS will not hold in-person classes for undergraduate students for the rest of the year. Interim director, Graham Upton, confirmed this information in a general SOAS announcement emailed to students on 2 November. Upton wrote ‘…for Term 2 and 3 we continue to plan as in the autumn term for teaching to continue to be delivered and accessible online.’ The lockdown provisions announced by the Government on 1 November exempt schools, colleges and universities from closing. Upton assured that ‘in-person activities’ provided by departments will continue. This will occur alongside in-person facilities such as library services and study spaces. Assessments are expected to be accessible remotely.
The email also addressed the need to review planned additions to in-person library services set to open later in the term. The Brunei Gallery exhibition space will close and be made accessible remotely.
The plan to keep lectures and tutorials online was first made publicly available in a document posted online by the Students’ Union on 28 October. The document titled ‘Executive Committee Meeting Minutes’ revealed that the decision had been communicated to the Student Union at the school’s own executive meeting. The document states ‘In the School’s Exec meeting last week they decided all teaching this year will be online, including assessments. This hasn’t been communicated to students yet, but will be ASAP.’ The document adds ‘This is aiming to help students decide whether or not to come to London.’ The Spirit reached out to the Students’ Union who denied to comment publicly on the matter.
Upton’s announcement follows a series made by SOAS to students in regards to COVID-19 measures. Prior to the start of the 2020-21 academic year, SOAS’s ‘Plans for September 2020 at SOAS’ was made available to students via an email from Harri ap Rees, Deputy C.O.O. The plans announced that no lectures would occur in-person in terms one and two. However, the plans also entailed that whilst the majority of teaching would be remote, ‘some small group teaching/academic activities will happen on campus.’ In the email of 2 November, Graham Upton assured that these sessions would continue in term 2 and 3 ‘where departments can provide and students’ wish to access.’ These sessions are not mandatory for students to attend. It is unclear at this stage how many of these ‘small group’ sessions have taken place.
SOAS first announced the move to online classes in an email addressed to all students on 19 March. The closure was originally expected to last until the beginning of the Summer term on 20 April. However, another update provided by director Valerie Amos extended this period to June. Amos affirmed that the campus would re-open ‘as soon as it is safe to do so.’
Teaching will continue for students remotely despite difficulties faced in both providing and accessing modules. Following the first week of classes Scott Newton, Head of the School of Law, publicly addressed students stating ‘I am writing as well to express my profound embarrassment and apologies, shared among my colleagues, at the inconvenience, confusion, consternation, frustration and anxiety to which many of you have been unfortunately and unfairly subjected.’
Graham Upton concluded his email by stating that the situation may vary in future depending on changes in Government guidelines.
Photo Caption: Deserted Paul Webley Wing. Credit: Ewald Botha/Instagram.