Updated: September is Coming. Will Students be On Campus?

By Logan Bright Modified on May 13, 2020

Will you be learning online or heading back to school? We're not sure yet.

A happy student on campus in September.

Wondering what some of the biggest institutions in the country are doing for the fall 2020 semester? As we move through summer, we're getting more clarity on plans for autumn from schools across Canada. Click the button to find a list og schools and what their plans are.

Check Out College and Uni Fall 2020 Plans

Several Canadian schools will be online-only for September 2020

Many Canadian schools, including big universities like McGill University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Ottawa, and others, will offer most classes online-only for the fall 2020 semester. The growing list of schools going online-only this fall is mainly made up of universities, though colleges could follow suit.

Some schools, including UBC, will still run a few smaller classes face-to-face, with social and physical distancing measures in place. This likely means labs and seminars that are difficult to replicate virtually.

More information is sure to arise in the coming weeks, but so far, your chances of taking courses on-campus this fall seem to be fading. Still, much can happen between now in September! We'll bring you updates as they come.

It's hard to understate how much COVID-19 has shaken up normal life. School is no different. Colleges and universities across Canada have been working since this crisis began to move students online and keep the year together.

But now, exams are done, the summer semester is online, and eyes are turning towards September. Will students be on campus when the new school year starts?

Phased reopening

Around the world, countries like South Korea are reopening schools, taking required precautions as health officials manage the outbreak. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, may delay further. Announcements about post-secondary could follow.

Still, some Canadian provinces, including Quebec and Ontario, have plans to open up in phases over the summer, monitoring changing case numbers and adjusting accordingly. These experiments will offer good evidence about whether we should open colleges and universities in September.

Why return to campus?

There are arguments in favour of a return to campus. Online lessons are valuable, and have their place in education, but can't deliver the post-secondary experience students expect — and in many cases, like the trades and hard sciences, are far from perfect substitutes. Some students argue the value of an online-only education isn't worth the full cost of tuition.

Further, some students, especially those in rural areas, may not have reliable internet access to study online effectively. Others may not feel like home is a safe place to be.

In a hypothetical return to campus, social and physical distancing measures would have to persist, alongside frequent testing and contact tracing. Some classes, like 1,000-seat lectures, may require rethinking, but small labs and workshops could potentially be sanitized between uses.

What are the risks?

Of course, there are risks, too. Living in residence is a big part of post-secondary for many students, but could be a dangerous place to spread the coronavirus. Some experts suggest another wave of the virus could strike in fall, which may be even more disruptive if students have just returned to campus. Further, new international students would need to quarantine before classes even begin.

Will students return to campus in September?

The benefits of a return to campus may outweigh the risks, if schools can effectively protect the most vulnerable, and act in accordance with public health advice. This is moot, however, if students don't want to return. We can only expect on-campus classes in September if students, faculty and staff feel safe.

Schools, in consultation with government, are still working out their plans for the fall semester. It's unclear if students will return to campus in September, but there's reason to hope. We'll keep you updated with details as they come.

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