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As coronavirus creates uncertainty about whether universities will be able to resume face-to-face classes in the coming months, many prospective students are questioning whether to attend.

Institutions from Cambridge in the UK to the University of California system in the US have said that classroom lectures are likely to be reduced or deferred in the 2020-21 academic year as part of social distancing measures.

The shift to online teaching raises concerns about quality and depth — especially for those seeking work experience, practical and hands-on courses in the creative arts or laboratory work for scientists and engineers.

Attendance during lockdowns — whether off or on campus — will also limit the broader value of university for many, including participation in clubs, sports and social interactions between students.

The disruptions are raising questions for students about the nature of the experience, how much they are prepared to pay and whether there are better options.

The disruption is also generating fresh questions for future students about attending universities’ open days and understanding what, whether and where they should study.

The longer-term economic downturn that is following the immediate health effects of Covid-19 means there are also fewer jobs or alternative opportunities available, limiting the options for those hesitating whether to study.

Live Q&A

With students unable to visit campuses for open days, how should they gather information on where to study and the best type of course, given the current circumstances? Jonathan Black, director of the careers service at Oxford university, and Andrew Jack, the FT’s global education editor, will answer readers’ questions in the comments below this article at 12pm on July 6.

With students unable to visit campuses for open days, how should they gather information on where is best to study? What is the best location and type of course in the current circumstances? 

Should they defer for a year in the hope that the more traditional face-to-face experience will resume in 2021; and what are the options for doing so and alternative activities to undertake during a gap year?

What is the best subject to study in the current economic climate? Will a humanities degree be any use or should they focus on degrees in Stem or medicine?

If students are aiming for mid-level universities and non-core degree subjects, would they be better off doing apprenticeships including — if they have a specific vocation — applying directly for a degree apprenticeship?

Join the discussion in the comments section below this article.

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