Your course and learning


Phase 2 and a return to face-to-face teaching

As part of our continued commitment to keeping our campuses as COVID-19 secure as possible, the University has decided not to bring phase 2 students back into face-to-face teaching on 2 November.

Our Director of People and Culture and our Academic Registrar have written to all staff and students. Here is some further information about the decision and what it means for you.

Who took this decision?

This decision was taken by Chair of Council on behalf of Council, our governing body, based on a recommendation from our Vice-Chancellor.

This is the approach we have taken to all decisions relating to moving between different phases of protection during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why are we not implementing Phase 2?

Having considered a range of factors, the Vice-Chancellor has recommended to the Chair of Council that we do not bring the whole of the Phase 2 cohort of students back to our campuses on 2 November. This is to ensure that we can continue to successfully manage the risks posed by COVID-19. A formal decision was made on 23 October and communicated to all staff and to students on 26 October.

We will continue to review our approach regularly and, in doing so, consider changes to government policy; experiences elsewhere, including other universities both in the UK and internationally; and changes to our local circumstances. We will communicate any updates or changes to our position in a timely manner, whether these relate to the University as a whole, or are specific to one or more of our campuses.

Although we have had a very small number of cases on our campuses, the feedback we have received from public health experts in Essex is that cases are increasing in the region. We are committed to carefully managing our campuses to minimise the impact of a rising national and regional infection rate on our students and staff.

We are making this decision to ensure we can continue to successfully manage infection control, contact tracing and student self-isolation.

What evidence is being used (eg. transmission in classes etc)?

The evidence we used included a range of external and internal data points. This includes the decision to elevate the Essex County Council area to the high alert level (Level 2) within the Government’s alert levels. We also reviewed the pattern of infection on our campuses; the effectiveness of our support and other services in being able to respond appropriately in supporting students who are unwell or self-isolating; and the experience of other universities in the UK and internationally.

The evidence indicates that the steps that we have taken, including antibody testingantibody testingantibody testing and a phased return to teaching, as well as the amazing support from our students and staff in behaving responsibly to keep each other safe have resulted in our campuses being successfully COVID-secure to date.

To date we have managed to avoid significant numbers of COVID-19 cases on our campuses, despite rising rates of infection within our wider communities. We are one of the UK universities with the lowest number of COVID cases and we want to do all that we can to maintain this.

Our decision to delay Phase 2 is to ensure that we can continue to successfully manage and limit infection levels, through infection control, contact tracing and student self-isolation.

If our campuses are safe why the change?

Monitoring the external context, as well as the current position on our campus, enables us to anticipate levels of risk in the coming weeks and to take precautionary steps to ensure the safety of our staff and students. Given evidence of rising rates of infection beyond our campuses, we have decided that continuing to carefully manage the numbers of students and staff on each of our campuses is our best way to control the spread of COVID-19.

We are confident that we can continue to manage the current number of staff and students we have living, working and learning on our campuses, while keeping our campuses COVID-secure.

Will fee rebates be available?

Our priority throughout the pandemic is to offer our students the best teaching and learning and student experience we can, and to ensure continuity of learning irrespective of whether our students are learning on or off campus.

This has been both an opportunity and a challenge, as we have fast tracked planned advancements to develop the amount of blended learning in our programmes.

We are confident that there are benefits for students from this approach: this is why our Education Strategy, approved before the pandemic, committed to embedding more blended activities in all of our courses over the next five years.

We are confident that our teaching and learning – although different – will remain of the quality and standard that our students expect.

The changes we have put in place in response to COVID-19 to support the delivery of teaching, student support and wider student services have included additional investments of £10m to support blended and online delivery.

We have also offered the option of fully online learning, as well as offering a flexible accommodation policy so that our students can choose how they prefer to study through the year.

If any students have any concerns about their learning, we encourage you to raise these as soon as possible so that they can be addressed.

Please contact your department in the first instance.

This does not affect any of your legal rights under our student contract. We are committed to addressing any problems you may experience so please do let your Department know so we can take action.


An update on the impact of this decision upon accommodation can be found on our student accommodation web pages.

Student experience and teaching

What does this mean for Phase 2 students?

We have decided to postpone the return to face-to-face teaching for those students in Phase 2 (planned to return to face-to-face-teaching on 2 November 2020). We’ll be updating your timetable for the remainder of the Autumn Term on 2 November. Please keep talking to your department if you have any questions.

We will review this again on 6 November 2020 and if a decision is taken to proceed to Phase 2, those students would return to face-to-face teaching where it is scheduled from 16 November. We will communicate the outcome of the 6 November review to students on 9 November.

In a limited number of cases, we are reviewing a return to face-to-face teaching from 9 November for students whose programmes include professional, statutory and regulatory body requirements to have face-to-face teaching or specific laboratory classes. We are also reviewing the case for a return to face-to face teaching for postgraduate taught programmes from 9 November. Departments or Schools will notify students on 27 October 2020 if this affects their programme.

What does this mean for Phase 3 students?

We are also considering the impact on Phase 3 students and will provide more information after 6 November review point. If we are able to introduce some face-to-face teaching from 16 November for students in Phase 2, consideration of Phase 3 will be deferred until 8 December as part of our planning for the Spring term 2021.

Can I come on campus if I am not accessing face-to-face teaching?

Our campuses remain open and our libraries, study spaces and facilities are available to use – whether you’re studying online or face to face. If you are living on campus or in the local area, or you need to come to campus to access learning resources, facilities or student support services you can book study space on campus through our booking system, which is designed to manage social distancing on campus.

What are the plans for January?

The amount of face-to-face teaching we can deliver will vary during the year depending on infection levels. We are monitoring developments and will keep you informed of changes when we can. In all cases, we will aim to manage the balance between online and face to face delivery across your whole course. Your Department or School will tell you more about the extra things they have put in place to support your learning in the coming year.

What are the current plans for face-to-face teaching in January?

We will continue to keep our plans under review, and follow a phased approach to delivery of teaching, with the health and wellbeing of our students and staff as our first priority. We will continue to provide regular updates during this term, and we will review our plans for face-to-face delivery in the Spring Term on 8 December. We will communicate the outcome of this review during the week of 14 December 2020.

Applicants information

 Information for applicants can be found on our dedicated applicant web pages.

Teaching and learning overview for 2020-21

Departmental teaching and learning for 2020-21

Please visit our department pages below which have further details about how teaching will be delivered this academic year. These pages will be updated further once we have more information, so please check back again over the coming weeks.

Faculty of Science and Health

Computer Science and Electronic Engineering

Health and Social Care

Life Sciences

Mathematical Sciences


Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Science

Faculty of Social Sciences


Language and Linguistics



Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic studies

Essex Business School

Faculty of Humanities



Edge Hotel School

Literature, Film and Theatre Studies

Philosophy and Art History

Essex Pathways

East 15 Acting School

What will this mean for my learning experience?

For the 2020 academic year, we are focusing on ensuring that we are able to deliver a quality education and that your teaching and learning can continue if there is further disruption. That’s why we’ve been working hard to ensure that our students are able to start with us in October – in whatever way possible. The changes we have made to support you and protect your health and wellbeing mean that, for most of our courses, this will include blended learning – with lectures, classes and other teaching taking place both online and face to face. Much of this teaching will be offered “live” (even if online/ virtual) but will also be available to access at times that suit you.

We know that your learning experience is about more than just attending classes, and our campuses can provide you with all you need to make the most of your studies. This includes private space to study, in your on-campus study bedrooms as well as in PC labs and other spaces on our three campuses for self-study. We can also offer you access to laptops on loan and access to our library services; as well as enhanced wifi provision across our campuses.

Your learning experience will also include:

  • Flexible learning

If you can’t live on or travel to campus, you will be able to study online, switching to campus-based study when you can.

  • Online discussion forums

All lectures will be complemented by an online discussion forum in which you can access the lecture, ask questions and prepare for the next session. This will be mixed with on-campus and online teaching in smaller groups. Smaller group teaching will be carefully organised with plenty of time to prepare and focused questions to allow you to participate fully.

  • No changes to module content with flexible learning

Module content will be the same as other years.

  • Live webinars, pre-recorded lectures and online discussions

Students studying online will have live webinars, bespoke pre-recorded lectures, live online seminars, and online discussions with lecturers available to answer your questions.

  • Academic support hours

Your tutors will hold weekly academic support hours online and (where possible) in-person, offering you one-to-one support and guidance.

  • Virtual drop in sessions

You will have the opportunity to access virtual ‘drop in sessions’ for every module we teach, to encourage you to ask questions and get any support you might need.

  • Reduced number of assessments

We have reduced the number of assessments and included more opportunities for you to practice the assignments for different modules before you submit them to be marked.

  • Carefully designed assessments

Your assessments have been carefully designed to ensure that they are clearly structured and organised to help you to succeed. You’ll be doing a whole range of different things, and we will guide and explain what you need to do so that you get the best out of them that you can.

  • Access to digital resources

You will have access to online digital resources, such as; reading lists; important core texts; and recorded lectures. We are well-placed to support you, whether you will be learning face-to-face or online. We are adapting all our resources to be available online, with new ways for you to contribute to discussions and different means of engaging with fellow students and staff.

  • Weekly virtual ‘Open Door’ meetings with the Head of Department

The Head of Department will hold a regular virtual ‘Open Door’ meeting with students every week, so you can tell us about what you think is going well and any areas where you need more help. We also have a number of History students who act as representatives for their fellow students, should you wish to provide feedback through them.

How long can I study online? Can I do the whole year online?

We want as many of our students to join us on campus as possible; this is not an online degree. We hope that if you begin studying online, you will be able to join us on Campus as soon as you can.

Please note that whether you can study online for the whole year is dependent on what department and course you are applying for. To find out more please visit our department pages which have further details about how teaching will be delivered. These pages will be updated further once we have more information, so please check back again over the coming weeks.

If you are an East 15 Acting School applicant, please refer to their website for updates on term information.

Information for Postgraduate Research students and Research staff

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