Should my child defer their university place this year?
Many students are in a quandary about university deferrals. Some who are due to start their courses in September this year feel uncertain about what might lie ahead since coronavirus has led to key changes in the way universities run their courses. With social distancing and online learning playing a much larger part in education, will their experience be what they had hoped or will it be better to wait until 2021, when things have settled?
If your child is wondering whether it might be better to defer their university place to 2021 (or to cancel their deferral and start in 2020), read on to discover three steps to helping them make the right decision.
1. Quality of education
Following Cambridge University’s announcement that all their lectures will take place online for the academic year 2020-2021, many universities are considering moving to online teaching and supervision.
Feedback on the quality of education universities have provided during lockdown has varied, sparking concerns that, in some cases, students could be paying full fees without receiving the quality of education offered previously. Since lockdown took effect, universities and colleges have been able to dedicate more time and resources into improving their online capabilities and are likely to offer better options in September and beyond. Progress will continue as the digital world innovates and expands.
Most universities have not ruled out face-to-face learning, with some suggesting that seminars and smaller sessions are likely to go ahead so long as renewed lockdown restrictions do not prevent this. This means your child might benefit from a mix of online and face-to-face learning or 'blended learning', offering them greater flexibility in their approach to study. A degree that has been earned through a mix of online and face-to-face learning could well have more value in the workplace, because it reflects better how business takes place. Additionaly, remote working is likely to become increasingly important to many businesses in the future, so learning online will develop extremely valuable skills needed in the modern workplace, and could prove an advantage.
Whether universities revert to previous teaching methods in September 2021 (assuming the threat from coronavirus has abated) is uncertain. Successful implementation of online learning may well mean it’s here to stay. Therefore, if the reason for deferral is to avoid online learning, whilst this will possibly be reduced in September 2021, it’s unlikely to be eliminated completely.
2. State of the economy
The economic consequences of coronavirus and lockdown are likely to be far reaching. The slowdown in the economy is now visibly hitting the labour market, with job losses, reduced working hours and a fall in the number of entry level jobs, internships and placements offered to young people. Some economic forecasters have suggested that it may take up to three years to recover from the effects coronavirus has had on the UK and for the economy to return to levels of growth seen in 2019.
If your child is thinking about deferring their place at university in favour of working or applying for an internship, then it is important to encourage them to think carefully about how their industry or sector might have been affected by the economic slowdown. With many organisations choosing not to take on additional employees, a year out may prove fruitless.
Likewise, if they hope to enjoy a gap year to work and travel, there will be limited opportunities this year. Those students that included a deferral in their application may find it better to ask not to defer and enjoy their gap year once their further education is over, the economy has picked up and travel restrictions have been completely lifted.
With current predictions suggesting the UK economy could return to its pre-coronavirus levels by 2023, choosing to start university now could be well timed: graduating in 2023 just as the job market begins to recover.
3. Missing out on the university experience
Freshers week, clubs, societies, living in halls of residences and social events in student unions are an important part of the university experience. Many young people feel that the impact of social distancing will mean they miss out on the typical university experience – particularly on opportunities to make new friends and develop new hobbies.
It’s true that freshers week will look and feel different this year, but universities and their student bodies are working extremely hard to provide starters with opportunities to meet new people, take part in social events and join clubs, societies and sporting groups – albeit slightly differently. As lockdown restrictions continue to ease, this will provide universities with opportunities to combine some face-to-face interactions with virtual and online meetups. This unique situation could result in some interesting experiences! Of course, as coronavirus is controlled, social opportunities will open again.
If your child is still unsure about whether or not to defer their place at university, then a good starting point is to focus to their alternative options. Can they come up with a better plan on how they might like to spend the next year? For some, applying for a deferral will be the right choice, even if this means reapplying to university next year. However, for most students who had planned on starting university this year, sticking to this will be the best option. Simply deferring a place to “wait until things get back to normal” probably isn’t a good idea. Ultimately, the decision to defer is a personal choice and one which your child will need to make for themself.