UC Berkeley will only partially reopen to students in the fall. Most learning will be remote

The university will offer optional in-person classes for smaller discussion sections for large lectures and other activities.

Sather Gate. Photo: Pete Rosos

UC Berkeley will not fully reopen this fall but instead will offer a combination of online learning lectures and small in-person classes.

The in-person classes will be optional and will include smaller discussion sections for large lectures and other activities. The university is determining which courses will be offered on campus and a full schedule will be available in July.

Remote learning options will be offered for “almost all academic offerings,” including in-person classes, and all classes and final exams will be remote after Thanksgiving break because so many students travel home during the holiday. The in-person classes are being billed as a “set of options” available for students and their families, including a new, remote “Semester in the Cloud” program to fulfill major requirements with introductory courses.

“Between now and the start of the fall semester, we will continue to operate amid great uncertainty,” Chancellor Carol Christ and campus leaders said in an email to students Wednesday. “It is an uncomfortable feeling for many of us, requiring enormous flexibility, patience, resilience and grace. All of the unknowns make for a very challenging planning environment, and ultimately we must be prepared at very short notice to reduce or limit on-campus activities and move to fully remote teaching should pandemic conditions worsen at any point before the end of fall semester.”


Despite fewer in-person classes, the university is not reducing tuition or mandatory fees and reiterated this in its message to students Tuesday.

On-campus residence halls and apartments will remain open with reduced density, but single graduate student housing and family housing will operate with their normal capacity.

At the beginning of the pandemic,  6,000 people – or 86% of the Cal students who were living in residence halls – moved out. This departure of students and faculty from campus dealt a major blow to the city’s economy, especially in downtown and Telegraph Avenue restaurant and shopping areas located near the university. Between March and May, restaurants saw a 50% to 90%  drop in revenue compared to the previous year, and a coalition of business organizations wrote a letter to Christ in May asking the university to consider in-person instruction in their planning for Fall semester.

In response, Christ said ensuring the health of students, staff, faculty and the broader community was paramount, but that she was “absolutely aware of the symbiotic relationship between UC Berkeley and that Berkeley community.”

The university shut down most in-person classes in March, and the campus was eerily deserted days later, but it has since allowed graduate students and certain researchers to return to their work. On Monday, the Daily Californian reported that the university sent an email to staff and faculty saying it could not accommodate all requests to work on campus, and advised they should continue to largely work remotely through the rest of the year. The university is continuing to adapt its instruction schedule according to state and local guidelines regarding COVID-19 and will announce further changes in the coming months.

Supriya Yelimeli is Berkeleyside's general assignment reporter. Email: supriya@berkeleyside.com. Twitter: SupriyaYelimeli. Phone: (510) 585-8315.