Virtual open days: Just five Russell Group universities offering fully in-person visits

Nov 1, 2021 News

Virtual open days: Just five Russell Group universities offering fully in-person visits

Just five Russell Group universities are offering fully in-person open days, an analysis shows, as parents vent their fury over virtual visits.

Universities typically hold open days during the summer and autumn terms, so students can visit before submitting their Ucas applications.

But the majority of the country’s most prestigious institutions have either cancelled their open days altogether or are offering only pared back “hybrid” versions.

University College London told prospective students that all open days will take place online, with all campus tours and visits “suspended for the foreseeable future”.

The universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, York and Durham, as well as the London School of Economics, are all running online open days as well.

Several universities – including Bristol and Manchester – are allowing students to come and look around the campus in person, but they are banned from visiting accommodation blocks or university departments.

King’s College London has told school-leavers that they are running a series of online events instead of open days, saying: “You don’t need to visit us in person to get a feel for King’s!”

Where in-person open days are being held, they are generally limiting the number of places, meaning many students miss out.

Jenny Lovatt, a 50-year-old property manager from London whose son is applying to university, said teenagers are being denied a “right of passage”.

“Only two of my son’s five university choices had proper open days, and one of them was fully booked because they were limiting numbers. We had the Labour party conference and the Tory party conference,” she said. 

“Why can adults get together like that and young people can’t even go to an open day? It’s disproportionate.

“University is a very large investment financially. You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it or buy a house without seeing it.”

The universities of Oxford and Cambridge held virtual open days, but many colleges held face-to-face events for prospective students.

Cardiff, Newcastle, Sheffield, Birmingham and Southampton universities have all held in-person open days this term.

Arabella Skinner, of the parent campaign group UsForThem, said: “Once again young people are being subjected to much stricter rules than adults, who are able to carry on as normal. There is a general frustration that education institutions seem to be much stricter than anything else.”

Last week, Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, wrote to vice-Chancellors to complain that she “continues to hear too many concerns from students who feel that too much activity remains online”.

She said that students deserve to have a high-quality, in-person experience at university.

“Our expectation is that students returning to university can now expect to benefit from in-person teaching, learning and student support – as well as the extracurricular activities that enrich university life,” Ms Donelan said.

“As you know, the Government has not lifted the restrictions on in-person teaching so higher education providers should not be limiting face-to-face learning, or other activities, based on Covid-19 restrictions”.

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