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Changes to courses

This website is designed for those applying to the University of Oxford in 2023-24 for graduate study. 

The University will seek to deliver each course in accordance with the description set out in the Course Information Sheet sent to applicants with their offer of a place. Course webpages at the A-Z of courses page give further details.

However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after you commence your course. There are two main scenarios in which such changes might happen:

  1. Normal circumstances (where there is no pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency); and
  2. Circumstances where a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency arises, or has arisen. (‘Local health emergency’ is defined at the end of this document)

This policy should be read together with the Student Terms and Conditions. The provision of course options which depend on the availability of specialist teaching, or on placement at another institution, cannot be guaranteed in advance.

Changes to courses in normal circumstances

Where desirable or necessary changes are to be made, the University will offer, where possible, appropriate and alternative options for affected students. If you do not wish to accept any alternative arrangements then you will have the opportunity to withdraw from your course.

The University will not make very substantial changes to courses (for example, a change to the course title, significant restructuring, substantial change in course content, or the introduction of a progression hurdle) which would impact on you once you have started your course. In exceptional circumstances the University may need to make such a change after you have accepted your place. This will not normally happen less than 3 months before the first day of the Full Term in which you start your course. In exceptional circumstances we may need to suspend, discontinue or combine courses. This may be because of academic changes within subject areas, or as a result of low student numbers on a course.
Other changes could be made to course content, delivery and teaching provision because of developments in the relevant subject, enhancements in teaching or assessment practice, requirements of external accreditation processes, changes in staffing, resource constraints or changes in the availability of facilities. Such changes will take account of the reasonable expectations of prospective and current students.

Once you have accepted your Offer, you will be notified of any material change made before you start your course (as compared to the description in your Course Information Sheet) and you will be offered the opportunity to withdraw from the course.

On-course students will be consulted about any proposed material course change (except changes which are solely for their benefit) which would affect the part of the course which they have already started studying.

Changes to courses because of a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency

Where a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency necessitating measures to reduce risk of infection or illness arises the University may make reasonable changes to comply with government or local authority regulations or guidance, and/or its own health and safety advice and/or to ensure the health and safety of staff, students and third parties and/or to respond to consequential staffing or resource constraints. If it makes any such changes the University will inform you and will also provide broadly equivalent teaching and assessment services, and key University services by alternative means if reasonably possible, although the manner of delivery may need to change. Examples of possible changes under this paragraph include:

  1. Providing teaching, assessment or other services wholly or partly online or via other remote means;
  2.  Moving the location of teaching and/or restricting student numbers permitted to attend any location at one time (including restricting numbers at libraries, lectures, seminars or laboratories);
  3. Teaching at evenings, weekends or outside Full Term (Full Term is defined below);
  4. Requiring students to comply with health and safety measures the University deems necessary which are specific to particular sites or activities, which may be in addition to any HSI (Health and Safety Instruction – defined below), such as additional social distancing measures, or wearing of face-masks or personal protective equipment;
  5. Staggering attendance by students at University so that for part of a term some students are not allowed to attend University premises in person;
  6. Varying, limiting or cancelling elements of course content, including reducing the number of optional modules available;
  7. Varying, limiting or cancelling access to any University services or facilities;
  8. Varying, limiting or cancelling any learning experiences that would normally happen face to face or in-person (eg work in laboratories, museums, studios, music facilities or via fieldwork or work-placement).
  9.  Varying, limiting, cancelling or putting in place measures to reduce the risk of any time due to be spent in education or work abroad or on a placement (including varying destinations) as a mandatory or optional component of courses. If a year abroad, or other placement, has to be cancelled entirely then this includes moving a student to an appropriate degree course that does not include the time abroad or placement.

Subject to this Policy, and to the Student Terms and Conditions, no refunds, discounts, damages or waivers of course fees or other charges will be payable to you where changes or delays have resulted from, been caused by, or are in relation to a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency necessitating measures to reduce risk of infection or illness.


Supervisory allocations for students may change during the course of study for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, maternity leave, change in employment or other changes connected to a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency. If this occurs the department will be responsible for ensuring that a new supervisor is appointed as soon as possible (either on a temporary or permanent basis) and the student will be kept informed as soon as reasonably possible.


At the time this Policy was last updated (Michaelmas 2023) the University, in line with national guidance, is providing in-person teaching and access to services, and is not requiring measures, or making changes, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, if renewed measures need to be taken in future to reduce risk of infection from COVID-19 (eg as a result of a new disease variant, a rise in cases and/or reintroduction of national restrictions) then COVID-19 would then be treated as a pandemic under the provisions of this Policy and the Student Terms and Conditions.


Definitions of some terms used above:

'Local Health Emergency' includes, but is not limited to: (a) a threat to health which is not infective in nature (eg radiation or poisoning); or (b) an outbreak of infective illness which has not yet been classed as an epidemic or pandemic because cases are confined to a part of the UK (including Oxford).

Full Term means the University’s dates for Michaelmas (Autumn), Hilary (Spring) and Trinity (Summer) terms which are advertised in the Oxford Gazette.

A HSI sets out standards of behaviour required of students during any pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency. ‘HSI’ includes any University code, policy or guidance issued in such circumstances. If a HSI is in force students must comply with it as a condition of in-person access to teaching and facilities, and may be disciplined for non-compliance.

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