Planning for Fall 2021

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) is currently engaged in planning for the coming academic year. Though final decisions will not be available until late May, we are currently expecting a full return to campus in Fall 2021 and our planning is focused entirely on how to restart all campus-based activities safely. 

We have set an ambitious goal for the fall, but the experience of the past year, in which we have had to reimagine nearly every aspect of our operations, has given us a running start in reaching it. While planning is still underway, current expectations of the fall experience and our understanding of what is required to make that experience possible is described below. 

Guiding Principles:
  • Put health and safety first
  • Protect the academic enterprise
  • Leverage our breadth and diversity
  • Preserve access and affordability

Undergraduate Residential Program

Our expectation is that all College students will return to campus-based learning this fall.
We are planning for a return to regular, full density accommodations in the Houses and Yards and to accommodate a larger number of students in Harvard-affiliated housing on or near campus, if needed. Contingency planning is underway to enable this residential return even if reduced density is required. We also expect full density occupation of on-campus graduate student housing.

Curriculum and Academic Resources

Our expectation is that all Harvard College and GSAS students will return to in-person learning and faculty, teaching fellows, and other instructional staff will teach on campus. Should public health conditions necessitate adaptations to in-person instruction this fall, we will be prepared to support course staff in teaching safely, including limited teaching in other modalities, informed by the lessons learned from our spring hybrid teaching pilots. Similarly, our expectation is that the full range of academic resources will be available in person this fall including libraries, archives, museums, and research facilities. To make this fall plan possible, we will prioritize operations that directly support our in-person teaching and research activities. 

Our stated goal is to revert to in-person instruction in the fall and beyond. In determining how soon and to what extent that can happen, we are continuously assessing the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic; the safety of in-person classes; our pedagogical objectives; and the public health regulations, orders, and guidance we receive from government authorities (among other considerations). We will communicate final fall 2021 semester plans later in May, but we cannot completely rule out the possibility that a resurgence of the virus could require us to hold courses remotely or otherwise cause us to adjust our plans.

International Students

We are eager to welcome our international students back to campus, but we also recognize that they may face particular hurdles. Students should confidently apply for visas knowing that we will offer in-person instruction. We recognize that some students may confront delays in visa processing that impact their ability to come to campus and the College and GSAS will work directly with these students to help them navigate their program options.

Return to Campus for Staff

As you saw in the message from President Bacow, Provost Garber, and Executive Vice President Lapp, the University is targeting Monday, August 2, as the date when staff, faculty, and researchers will be authorized to return to campus. This means that the remote status and Coronavirus Workplace Policies remain in place while the University updates its policies heading into this transition period. In the FAS, staff in some units have been transitioning back to campus over the past year as campus-based research and other activities have expanded. In units that are directly involved in summer programs and preparations of our campus for a fall return, such as the College, additional staff are now making this transition. As the University message stated, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Individual units will be engaged in planning for the return of their remote employees to campus based on their departmental needs and priorities, adopting a variety of flexible approaches and varying return-to-campus dates. Your Administrative Dean and local leaders will share guidance as it becomes available regarding transition plans and work expectations. More information is available here.