St Andrews has become the latest UK university to announce all teaching will remain online until September, following announcements made by the University of Edinburg and the London School of Economics.
This means thousands of students will spend almost the entire academic year learning online.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to lay out plans on 22 February for students to make a phased return to universities in England from 8 March, with final year students in practical subjects able to return to face to face teaching, and other subjects soon to follow.
However, many teaching unions say as much tuition as possible should remain online for the rest of the academic year, for the safety of university staff and students.
Professor Sally Mapstone, vice-chancellor of St Andrews, told students in a letter that most will learn online until the end of the second semester in May, with exceptions for medical students, some postgraduate taught and undergraduate science students, and some postgraduate research students.
She wrote: “I am so sorry that our University and the town will be missing so many of you in the remaining weeks of teaching, and that your university experience continues to be disrupted by the pandemic and its attendant restrictions on all our lives.”
She added that even if restrictions were eased, this would not be to a degree sufficient to allow large numbers of students back to St Andrews for in-person learning.
LSE on its website states: “all compulsory teaching and learning will take place online for the remainder of the academic year.”
Cardiff, University College London, Bristol, Durham and Exeter are yet to make a decision, awaiting government guidance.
Universities UK, the representative of university vice-chancellors, said: “Universities are continuing to work with the Government on plans for the return of more students as soon as the public health situation allows.
“The government supports our view that face-to-face teaching ins important for the mental, emotional and educational wellbeing of students.”