Online learning is bad news for students

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s announcement that universities can resume face-to-face teaching this autumn has been welcomed by many students. But vice-chancellors are not so happy about the news. Most Russell Group universities have said they will continue to keep some elements of their teaching online – so-called ‘blended learning’ – revealing their opportunistic embrace of a digital ‘new normal’. For cynical university leaders, it seems that lockdowns weren’t a disaster, but an opportunity to accelerate their pre-existing plans for digital education. Since the disastrous marketising reforms of 2011, most universities have been locked into a ferocious competition to attract students and maximise fee income. For many institutions, this has involved grandiose, debt-fuelled and speculative investments in