Cambridge University cancels face-to-face lectures until fall 2021

The 800-year-old university moved all teaching online in March.

The University of Cambridge announced it would cancel all in-person lectures for the entire 2020-21 school year in one of the most sweeping measures any international educational institution has made amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Given the likely need for continued social distancing, we have decided to suspend mass lectures in person for the next academic year. Lectures will be available online," Graham Virgo, the university's senior pro-vice-chancellor, said in a statement Wednesday.

"Lectures are only one part of the rich education that Cambridge offers and freeing space in lecture halls will allow us to concentrate on delivering small group teaching, lab work and practicals," Virgo said.

Cambridge, like its rival Oxford, frequently relies more on small group learning and tutorials than lectures for many subjects.

Yet, the move characterizes a new struggle facing universities and colleges across the world as they weigh when and how to reopen their facilities for students.

Throughout the United States, colleges and universities have come to different conclusions on how to respond to the upcoming semester.

The California State University system, with its 500,000 students, announced last week that fall 2020 classes would remain online. However, the University of Arizona told ABC News it plans on resuming in-class learning.

Harvard Medical School has already announced that it will move first-year learning online for next fall’s semester.

In Canada, McGill University, home to over 40,000 students, also decided to move the majority of classes online.

As universities around the world weigh when to reopen their doors for face-to-face learning, some institutions are warning of significant financial losses.

The University of Michigan anticipates losses between $400 million to $1 billion this year across its three campuses due to the coronavirus crisis. University of Colorado-Boulder expects to lose at least $67 million through the summer.

In the U.K., Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced an aid package for the country’s universities to combat their financial difficulties.

Whether the government’s support will help British universities is still to be seen. Cambridge is facing its one of its greatest challenges in its storied history.