Latest information from the University.
This page has been set up to provide information for anyone at the University with questions or concerns about coronavirus (COVID-19). It will be updated on a regular basis. For links to more detailed information on specific staff, student, applicant and operational needs, please visit our coronavirus hub.
Last reviewed 24 July 2020
View all page updates
Page published 29 January 2020
- 24 July: Message for Professor Martin Williams and Dr Mark Wormald added
- 14 July: Message from the VC added, content updated to reflect recent guidance
- 10 June: Message from Professor Patrick Grant added
- 8 June: Message from the VC added
- 27 May: Message from the VC added
- 15 May: Message from Professor Patrick Grant added
- 13 May: Updates made based on UK Government guidance
- 12 May: Updated information on Teaching and assessment
- 11 May: Updated information on staff work from home requirements pending Government udpates
- 6 May: VC update added and some tidying
- 22 April: PVC update added
- 21 April: VC update added
- 20 April: removed outdated content and update page structure
- 6 April: addition added to the Advice for staff section
- 3 April: travel answers updated
- 1 April: PVC update added and information about teaching, examinations and assessments in Trinity term
- 31 March: Staff wellbeing and visa information updated
- 28 March: VC update added
- 27 March: critical work question added
- 26 March: minor text changes and corrections
- 25 March: moved student related content to a dedicated student advice page.
- 24 March: a wide range of changes to reflect updates to the UK Government's advice
- 20 March: updated range of information for students
- 18 March: updated information for offer-holders based on UK Government's advice
- 17 March: a wide range of changes to reflect changes to the UK Government's advice
- 16 March: updated travel guidance; information about teaching and learning; Easter vacation advice
- 14 March: updated with information on seventh positive case in Oxford
- 13 March: a wide range of changes to reflect the UK Government's move to 'delay' phase of response
- 12 March: updated with information on additional positive cases in Oxford
- 11 March: updated with information on second positive case in Oxford
- 10 March: updated PHE guidance around Oxford cases, updated travel advice
- 9 March: updated with information on second positive case in Oxford; updated with information for staff and students
- 7 March: updated with information on positive case in Oxford; travel guidance
- 6 March: advice for applicants added; self-isolation guidance
- 4 March: updated hygiene guidance; formatting changes
- 3 March: examinations impact added
- 28 February: removed number of cases; formatting changes
- 27 February: updated number of cases
- 25 February: updated travel advice and areas affected
- 11 February: updated name of the virus
- 10 February: updated number of cases
- 7 February: updated travel guidance for additional countries
- 6 February: updated guidance for staff/students on self-isolation
- 6 February: updated guidance on hosting visitors from China
- 5 February: updated message on welfare
- 3 February: updated travel guidance to/from China
- 31 January: page published
The health, welfare and safety of students and staff is the number one priority for the University. As the UK Government takes measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, the University is adapting its strategy to safeguard our community.
Oxford has a strong history of welcoming students and staff from around the world to the UK, and they are an integral part of our international community.
We understand that students and staff may be worried about friends and family members in affected areas around the world, and our thoughts go to all those affected by this outbreak.
The University's advice and planning spans many areas of work. You may also wish to refer to the following pages:
This situation is placing extraordinary demands on many staff across the University. We would ask you to be supportive of each other and to look out for one another's welfare.
University operations and coronavirus
Please visit the NHS website for full information about coronavirus, including answers to common questions.
What is the University doing about coronavirus?
The University is acting on advice from sources including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, World Health Organization, the NHS and Public Health England. Our own academic experts in infectious diseases and other relevant subjects are involved in our response to coronavirus. We have taken proactive steps to contact our students and staff to ensure that everyone has access to the latest advice.
Is the University open and operating as normal?
We understand that staff, students and their families are justifiably concerned about coronavirus. We want to reassure you again that we are following all government guidance. Although the University’s business has largely moved online, education, research and other activities are adapting to the new circumstances.
The University has put a number of key measures in place to follow government guidance and keep our community safe:
- All non-essential staff members should continue to work from home. The University is running a phased return process to ensure workspaces are safe. Please see our Return to Onsite Working pages for more information.
- Students have been asked to leave the University unless they have a compelling reason to stay. We plan to welcome students back for Michaelmas term 2020.
- Libraries and museums are closed for the time being. However, a wide range of resources are being made available online and there are additional click and collect services available.
- We are currently reviewing the provisions that were made for Trinity term in order to plan for the autumn.
We continue to monitor the situation closely, and to provide as much advice, care and support as we can to our University community.
Are University premises (such as libraries and museums) still open to the public?
In line with government advice, the University's libraries and museums are now closed. However, a wide range of resources are available online and the Libraries are offering a limited click and collect service. Please contact the relevant library for further details, or visit https://bit.ly/BodleianOnline for more information.
The Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum have now reopened; please visit the Garden & Arboretum website for information about how to book. Wytham Woods has started to open and is using a booking system. The University Parks remain open; please practise social distancing while using the space.
The Iffley Road Sports Centre is currently closed, but some outdoor sports managed by Oxford University Sport are available elsewhere.
What can I do to help those who are vulnerable in Oxford?
We encourage those who are healthy and low-risk to join Oxford Together. Part of the Oxford Hub – a volunteering community created by Oxford University students – you'll find details of the support needed by those who are most vulnerable at this time; including practical activities such as taking out rubbish.
Our thoughts are with those affected by the virus, particularly those experiencing difficulty with small day-to-day tasks. Now is the time for us to support and encourage one another. Further information for staff can be found on our volunteering and community pages.
Information and guidance about coronavirus
Where can I find the latest guidance about coronavirus?
The situation is evolving rapidly. Staff and students are asked to visit and regularly check the following websites for the latest updates and guidance:
- the University's FAQ page for students and staff (this page)
- the UK Government's coronavirus webpages
- the NHS coronavirus pages
- the Public Health England website and Twitter page
- the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website
If you have staff visitors working in your department please ensure that they are kept updated with all of the University's coronavirus guidance.
I think I might have coronavirus. Should I call 111?
The following symptoms may develop after exposure to someone who has coronavirus (Covid-19):
- A cough
- Difficulty in breathing; and/or
- High temperature.
If you have these symptoms, use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.
Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.
What is the UK Government's guidance?
The UK Government has updated its guidance on social distancing.
More details on what this entails can be found in the government's guidance on staying safe and alert.
What other precautionary measures should I take?
The most likely means of transmission are droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Everyday measures everyone can take:
- Wear a face covering when appropriate
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitiser when you get home or into work, when you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands
- Avoid close contact with people who have symptoms
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
The NHS has a video explaining the best way to wash your hands.
What should I do if I believe I am particularly vulnerable?
The NHS has published advice for those who are particularly vulnerable, including guidance on what conditions make someone more vulnerable.
Public Health England advises those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus to be particularly stringent in following safety measures.
We understand you may be concerned if you feel you are more vulnerable to the coronavirus than others. If you are uncertain, members of staff should speak to their medical provider in the first instance, and students should speak to their college welfare lead.
The University will support you as much as possible. If you are not able to carry out your role remotely, you will be placed on furlough or granted special paid leave. We will also support people who live with and/or care for elderly people and people with vulnerable health conditions.
Advice for current Oxford students
A dedicated student page has now been set up providing a wide range of advice on teaching and learning, examinations and assessment and student life. Please refer to that page for further information about the impact of coronavirus.
Advice for staff
Detailed operational information is available for specific areas of work. Please refer to our coronavirus hub page links for operational and practical advice.
Managers overseeing business continuity plans can also access detailed planning information through the Coronavirus Continuity Planning SharePoint site.
Working from home, illness and wellbeing
Do I need to work from home?
For now, all but essential staff should continue to work from home. We are working to determine how to implement recent government guidance.
We understand that staff are eager for clarity on when and how they can return to University buildings. A framework of principles and operational guidance for a safe return to on-site working is being developed. Please refer to the Return to On-site Working pages for more details. In the meantime, the safety of our staff is paramount. Staff should continue to work as they currently do, and current mechanisms for departments to agree increased activity in buildings remain in force for the timebeing.
For more information about working from home, please see our Working From Home guide (single sign-on required).
I am working remotely due to coronavirus. What technology is available to support me?
Many University IT services are accessible away from University buildings. Detailed information about these services, including 'how to' guidance, is available on the IT Services Work remotely page. More detailed IT advice is also available in a new Working From Home Guide (single sign-on required). This also contains HR advice about working from home.
What support is available to help staff look after their wellbeing during this time?
Our new, dedicated HR wellbeing page offers extensive resources to support home working and wellbeing. The pages pull together information regarding ways of working, staying connected with colleagues and looking after your own health. We hope staff will consult it as much as possible.
What do I do if I have to undertake caring responsibilities and my child's school or nursery remains closed?
You should continue working from home if possible, but it is accepted that you may need to be flexible and may not be able to do so if, for example, you are not able to make alternative care arrangements. If working at home or making alternative care arrangements is not possible, you will continue to be paid as normal. You should keep in regular touch with your line manager or supervisor (if you have one) so that they know when you are working.
I need to self-isolate because I have coronavirus symptoms. What do I do now?
If you have coronavirus symptoms, or live with someone who does, you should discuss options with your line manager, including if and how you can work from home.
If you have to self-isolate, you would be expected to carry on working from home if possible, so long as your symptoms are mild enough that you would ordinarily continue to go to work.
If you have to self-isolate but are unable to work from home for operational reasons, you will be granted special paid leave at the normal rate of pay for that period.
If you are too unwell to work during the period of self-isolation, you should contact your line manager or supervisor (if you have one) from home to let them know.
You will not be required to use annual leave to cover a period of self-isolation, and this will not be included in your sickness record. If you are unwell beyond the self-isolation period required by PHE advice, then the resulting absence should be treated as sickness absence, and the University’s sick leave policy will apply.
Further information advice about remote work can be found in a new Working From Home guide, which has now been published (single sign-on required).
What if I cannot work because I am unwell?
You will be paid sick pay at the rate specified in your employment contract or contract for services. You should inform your line manager or supervisor (if you have one) that you are unwell as soon as possible. If you are unwell with coronavirus, this will not be counted towards your sickness absence record.
I have a suspected case in my part of the University. What should I do?
If an individual develops symptoms they should remain at or go home and self-isolate according to PHE guidance. No further action is required.
Teaching and assessment
Colleagues in departments and colleges looking for detailed guidance about student support should refer to the coronavirus advice page for student-facing staff on the Academic Support website (staff single sign-on required).
Teaching staff looking for advice about remote learning should visit the Teaching Remotely page.
Students should refer to the student coronavirus advice page.
How is the admissions process working this year?
Undergraduate and graduate admissions are continuing and the situation is being carefully monitored. Staff looking for detailed information should refer to the undergraduate admissions website (for undergraduate admissions) or the Academic Support website (graduate admissions).
Employment and HR questions
I am a casual or temporary worker. Will I still be paid?
The University will pay you for any work that you have been contracted to do, if you are well enough to do it. If you have been offered an assignment and accepted it, you will be paid for it, even if you carry out your duties from home or are unable to do so because of the nature of the work or your caring responsibilities. The work assignment will conclude on its current expected end date. The University has no obligation to extend assignments or to offer additional work.
I am a variable hours employee. What will I be paid?
If you have a reasonably regular or predictable pattern of work, you will be paid in accordance with that. If you do not, an average will be taken of your last three months’ pay and you will be paid that.
These arrangements may be reviewed in due course.
I am a consultant. Will I be paid?
You will be paid for any particular hours or days of work that we have committed to, provided that you are in a position to deliver the work or outcomes that you have agreed to.
I have an HR-related question that’s arisen as a result of coronavirus. What should I do?
The Working From Home guide provides answers to questions that you may have in relation to the impact of coronavirus on your working life (including both HR and IT information). If you have a question that is not covered by this document, you should speak to your line manager or supervisor in the first instance (if you have one).
Managers will need to make decisions relating to their teams and their work by applying their own judgment to the advice and FAQs that have been provided. They can also contact Heads of Administration and Finance and HR staff in their departments in accordance with normal practice. The HR Business Partner teams in University HR, who can be contacted by HAFs and departmental HR staff, will be continuing to provide an advisory service by email and phone.
Areas of my work in my department depend on key suppliers. Will these suppliers still be available?
The Purchasing Department continues to be in regular contact with preferred suppliers regarding their plans. Specific updates will be provided via the Purchasing news page.
Departments should continue to in the first instance engage with the Purchasing Department in respect of purchases exceeding £100k (ex. VAT), and you should continue to order important supplies via a purchase order in the usual way.
Departments should also make contact with key suppliers as part of their contingency planning to understand their emergency arrangements.
How will finance functions such as payroll, payments or research accounts be affected?
Services are continuing as usual – however they have been adapted to support remote working where possible. Colleagues in departments looking for detailed advice about finance services should contact their local finance manager. Guidance on the new 'remote working' process has been issued to local finance managers in departments and can also be found at the Finance Division's dedicated coronavirus update page.
What do I do if I need to purchase some equipment for work?
It is expected that departments will follow normal purchasing processes as far as possible, including obtaining relevant quotes and raising a purchase order (PO) in advance. However, we recognise situations may arise where it is not possible or practical to raise a PO, and in these cases use of the Barclaycard is encouraged (please note that quotations should be obtained).
If delivery is needed to home addresses, the Barclaycard should be used where possible. It is generally not expected that individuals will make purchases directly and reclaim via expenses. The University’s Payments team is currently processing documents in a priority order (determined by departments). It is likely that payment of low-value expense claims will be delayed.
Please note that any equipment purchased by the University (including through research funding) remains the property of the University.
I am running an event or conference. What should I do?
The UK is still restricting public gatherings. We do not know when the current restrictions will end, or we may return to a social distancing phase for some time; therefore if your event is imminent, you should take steps to postpone or cancel, or find a way of running it virtually. Guidance for running conferences and events virtually is now available. This includes details and costs of popular platforms that have been used by departments across the University as well as hints and tips to make your virtual event a success. Before you embark on using any platform (including ones not listed in the guidance), you must read the University’s Video Enabled Collaboration Software - Policy Statement. This guidance will help you to understand privacy and security concerns around the use of video-enabled platforms.
For events scheduled for the summer or beyond, you should be contingency planning, as it is currently unclear how long these measures will be in place. Decisions about whether to proceed with events outside the UK should be based on local health advice. Further guidance for event managers is now available (single sign-on required).
Travel and visas
I am currently outside the UK. What should I do?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised that all British citizens who are travelling should return now, where and while there are still commercial routes available. Many airlines are suspending flights and many airports are closing, preventing flights from leaving. You should follow the advice on the FCO website.
If you are outside the UK, and are not a UK citizen, you should follow the advice of the governments of your home nation and the country you are currently in.
If you are a member of staff, you should keep in touch with your department, and review your risk assessment and plans in light of the FCO’s advice. You should also contact your insurer.
If you are a student, you should contact your college (or department if you don’t have a college) to make them aware that you are in an affected area, and seek further advice.
I have plans to travel – what should I do?
I am from an area affected by coronavirus, and have concerns about my visa. What should I do?
The UK Home Office has published immigration guidance for individuals affected by coronavirus travel restrictions. If you are a visa holder, you may be uncertain whether you will be able to leave the UK before your visa expires, or may not be able to return to the UK as soon as planned due to travel restrictions. The Home Office realises that in many cases this will be outside of your control, and should not negatively affect your visa. If you have any queries, members of staff should contact the Staff Immigration Team, and students should get in touch with the Student Immigration Team. The Home Office has also set up a telephone helpline and dedicated email address, details of which can be found on the UK Government website.
I am a visa holder and my visa has, or is, about to expire and I am unable to leave the UK
The Home Office have updated their immigration guidance relating to coronavirus for those whose visas are due to expire, or have already expired, but who cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or they are self-isolating.
Those with a visa which expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020 can contact the Home Office's 'Coronavirus Immigration Team' to request an extension of their visa until 31 July 2020 explaining why they are unable to return to their home country. The contact details for the 'Coronavirus Immigration Team' are provided in the updated Home Office guidance.
I am a visa holder and my visa is about to expire and I need to switch to a new visa to stay in the UK
The Home Office have relaxed the rules on switching from one visa route into another from within the UK. Instead of requesting an extension of their visa until 31 July 2020, those who will be taking up other activities in the UK, and meet the relevant requirements, may be able to apply for a new visa under a different route without having to leave and apply from outside the UK.
Any queries about switching into a different visa route for activities within the collegiate University should be discussed with the Staff Immigration Team (SIT) who can advise on the best way to proceed.
I am a Tier 2 or Tier 5 (or other) visa holder whose visa is about to expire and I need to extend my visa to stay in the UK?
Those whose visas are coming close to expiry but are applying for extensions should follow the normal processes to apply to extend their visa before their current visa expires. The Staff Immigration Team is continuing to receive and process Tier 2 and Tier 5 CoS extension applications and to advise and assist applicants through the visa extension process.
I have to cancel my travel due to coronavirus. Will I be able to claim my money back?
I have a question that has not been answered above. What should I do?
If you are a member of staff, please contact your line manager or supervisor in the first instance (if you have one). If you are a student please contact your welfare lead or academic office. If they are unable to answer your query (after consulting professional services such as HR business partners or IT support), your question will be escalated either to your lead administrator or designated coronavirus lead (in the case of a department) or the College Bronze Group lead (in the case of a college). If you are a lead administrator or a College Bronze Group lead and have a question you cannot answer, you should contact the relevant divisional, UAS or Conference of Colleges coronavirus lead (staff single sign-on required).
Advice for applicants and offer-holders
Information for offer holders and applicants about the impact of coronavirus is now available on a dedicated webpage – for both undergraduate and graduate courses. It provides updates about our admissions processes, and will updated over time with information for applicants and offer holders.
Please note: all information in these statements was correct at the time of publication. The University will not be publishing further details of confirmed cases. Please refer to our FAQ above for the most up-to-date health, study and travel advice.
Update on confirmed coronavirus cases - 14 March 2020
The University can confirm that a seventh confirmed case has been diagnosed with Covid-19.
The University continues to work alongside Public Health England, and to follow the government guidance issued.
Update on confirmed coronavirus cases - 13 March 2020
Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed an additional student at University of Oxford has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). This brings the total number of confirmed cases at the University to six students.
Since Public Health England (PHE) has now moved from ‘Containment’ to ‘Delay’, testing protocol is changing. We’ll continue to update this section where possible.
Update on confirmed coronavirus cases - 12 March 2020
Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed that three additional students at the University of Oxford have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). All three are in self-isolation and are being provided with all necessary support and medical advice. This brings the total number of confirmed cases at the University to five students.
Our priority is providing support for affected students and their families, as well as offering support and information to other university staff, students, visitors and the local community.
PHE is currently assessing the most-recently diagnosed individuals and contacting those who had close contact with them. All close contacts will be issued with health advice about symptoms and emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact with the confirmed cases. PHE will also be advising the University on any necessary next steps.
The University continues to monitor the coronavirus situation and will adjust its response as necessary. Contingency planning is under way and as a result some upcoming events are being cancelled for a range of reasons. All significant changes will be updated on this website.
We ask all University members to refer only to official sources of information. Information for staff and students will be updated on this webpage, and further online advice can be found on the NHS 111 online service.
Second Oxford case confirmed - update 11 March 2020
Public Health England (PHE) has now completed its assessment of the second of the two University students to test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).
Following this assessment, PHE has advised that the University and colleges do not need to take any additional public health actions in the light of these cases. Regular University and college activity can continue as normal.
PHE is tracing all those who had close contact with either student. Everyone traced will be issued with health advice about symptoms and with emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after their contact with the confirmed students. The colleges of the two students are providing them with all necessary support. Other students and staff have been informed at both colleges.
The University will continue to monitor the situation and will adjust its response as necessary. Contingency planning is under way and as a result some upcoming events are being cancelled for a range of reasons. All significant changes will be updated on this website.
We ask all University members to refer only to official sources of information. Information for staff and students will be updated on this webpage, and further online advice can be found on the NHS 111 online service.
Second Oxford case confirmed - 9 March 2020
Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed that a second student at the University of Oxford has tested positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19). Our priority is providing support for affected students and their families, as well as offering support and information to other university staff, students, visitors and the local community. This brings the total number of confirmed cases to two.
PHE is currently assessing the individual and contacting those who had close contact with the students and will issue them with health advice about symptoms and emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact with the confirmed case. PHE will also be advising the University on any necessary next steps.
Once we have additional advice from PHE on whether we need to take further precautions we will make an announcement on the website, social media and through staff and student communications.
Information for staff and students continued to be updated here, and further online advice can be found on the NHS 111 online service.
First Oxford case confirmed - 7 March 2020
Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed that a student at the University of Oxford has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) after returning home from a specified country.
Our immediate concerns are for the affected student and their family, along with the health and wellbeing of our university staff, students and visitors. The student is being offered all necessary support.
It has been established that the affected student did not attend any university or college events after they felt ill, when they subsequently self-isolated.
As a result, PHE has advised that the risk to other students and staff is very low and that university and college activities can continue as normal. They have also advised that the university and colleges do not need to take any additional public health actions in the light of this specific case.
We have worked with PHE to make sure that anyone who was in contact with the student after they fell ill have been notified and that they are able to access support and information as needed. PHE do not consider individuals infectious until they develop symptoms.
The University is taking this situation very seriously and understand this development will cause concern among our students, staff, and the wider community. Support is available through Student Welfare, Colleges and Departments for University members with any concerns.
Staff and student communications
24 July from Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) and Dr Mark Wormald, Chair of Senior Tutors’ Committee to all staff
Further to the Vice-Chancellor’s message last week, we are writing to provide an update about how we all have been responding to the ongoing pandemic in relation to education and students. This message will be particularly relevant to academic staff, but may also be of interest to professional staff in student-facing roles.
Collective effort in Trinity term
We would like to start by acknowledging the enormous collective effort which got us through a very long and challenging Trinity term. We fully appreciate how much work went into supporting our students through such a turbulent period and would like to thank you for everything you have done to date.
We are all committed to learning from our experiences in Trinity term, and are now undertaking a rapid review of teaching and assessment – helping us to build on what worked well, and improve on areas where we experienced challenges. Early insights from the student survey have been very positive, and a staff survey is ongoing. Please do complete the staff survey before the deadline at the end of next Friday (31 July) if you haven’t already, as your insights will be invaluable as we move towards Michaelmas term.
Planning for the next academic year
The University centrally, departments, faculties and colleges have all now begun the complex and involved process of planning for the 2020/21 academic year, so that we all can resume teaching and research in as full a way as possible, with an ongoing commitment to maintaining our focus on personalised teaching.
A number of project groups have been formed to help us all prepare, with balanced university and college membership. This includes two teaching space groups - one focused on classroom-type teaching and the other on laboratory teaching; and a Student Experience Co-ordination Group - looking at the broader aspects of student life, including a behaviour code. For more information, please see the Michaelmas term 2020 page on the University website.
You will be aware that the University is encouraging students to return to Oxford for the start of the academic year – something which we understand many of our colleagues in departments, faculties and colleges are keen to support. We know from student feedback that they value in-person teaching very highly, and we hope that each student can receive the appropriate mix of in-person and online support as the year progresses – across their department/faculty and college teaching and learning. Whatever the mix of face-to-face and online, everyone wants students to have as fulfilling an experience as possible, and to benefit from being physically present in Oxford.
We expect that a relatively small number of students will be unable to return in Michaelmas term (particularly at taught postgraduate level) – and in these cases, we must all endeavour to provide an opportunity for them to start remotely, with as full an educational experience as possible. The Centre for Teaching and Learning can advise on approaches to this that minimise duplication of effort. We also need teaching preparation to take account of the risk of a return to lockdown or of a large number of students having to isolate for a period.
Support for colleagues
It is important that detailed education planning is conducted locally by academic and professional staff who understand the needs of individual cohorts of students. However, we fully appreciate the level of concern that many colleagues have about the year ahead – including around workload – and the University aims to support you as much as possible.
For example, the Centre for Teaching and Learning has developed a range of resources to help support a flexible and inclusive approach to teaching. The Teaching Remotely page has been updated with a range of resources in this area, and a series of webinars is now underway.
Resource has also been increased in the Centre for Teaching and Learning to support academics preparing online materials, which may be augmented locally by departments and faculties. One specific example is looking at the provision of dedicated spaces for academics to record and process their online teaching material, rather than having to rely on their home IT resources and internet connection. Departments and faculties will also be allowed some additional flexibility when setting their budgets to partially offset the added costs that they will incur delivering teaching in the current circumstances. Full details of these new measures will follow in the near future.
The University is following health guidance aimed at minimising risks, including providing a free testing service for staff and students, maintaining the 2-metre social distancing requirement in most teaching settings, and requiring the use of face coverings. We understand that there will be some colleagues who are clinically vulnerable and others who may be concerned about their own personal risk in returning to in-person teaching. A framework has been developed to identify and support colleagues with any vulnerability or other factors that require consideration before agreeing an approach to achieve a safe return to work. Guidance will be published shortly.
Governance and communications
Ongoing consultation with colleagues across the University and colleges has been key in recent months, and we would like to finish by summarising our approach to governance and communications briefly.
As you will be aware, the University is working within its Crisis Management Framework, and key education policy and planning decisions have been taken by Education Steering Group, a sub-set of Education Committee chaired by the PVC Education, with senior academic representation from our Divisions and Colleges. Planning for Michaelmas term is led by the Michaelmas Coordination Group (MCG), co-chaired by Professor Karen O'Brien, Head of the Humanities Division and Baroness Jan Royall, Principal of Somerville College.
A system has been developed in which updates are cascaded regularly through divisions to colleagues’ departments/faculties for local forwarding as appropriate, with a similar approach on the college side. While we think that this is the most efficient way of disseminating information, we realise that sometimes these messages may not reach every intended recipient; a full archive of the cascade messages can be found on SharePoint. The latest information that has been shared with students is available on the student coronavirus advice page on the University website, and the latest information for student-facing staff can be found on the Academic Support site.
Regular briefings for key committees are taking place on an ongoing basis, and we plan to host an ‘Open Forum’ event focused on education in September. Please do get in touch via this email address if you have any questions or suggestions at this stage.
We would like to thank you once again for your tremendous efforts to date. We hope that you all have an opportunity to have a break over the summer months ahead of what we expect to be another extraordinary – but we hope successful – academic year.
Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)
Dr Mark Wormald, Chair of Senior Tutors’ Committee
14 July from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff
As the academic year draws to a close, I wanted to write to thank each of you for the patience, resilience, commitment and talent you have demonstrated over the past several months, and on which we will all continue to rely in the months to come. A sense of shared endeavour and a deeply collaborative attitude has prevailed, as we adapted to the rigours of the lockdown and ensured our students received the education and assessment they deserved in Trinity term.
Council met yesterday and approved the budget for the year. We are in the deeply fortunate position that we have reserves on which we can draw which means that we have been able to avoid the more radical steps other institutions have taken. The University has committed to protecting the jobs we have, to seeing through our commitment to the Oxford Living Wage, and to ensuring that all staff on furlough receive 100% of their salary. We have invested in our Postgraduate Research (PGR) students to ensure that they have the time to complete their degrees, and we have enhanced our returning carers fund to ease the return to work. We have invested in IT to ensure that we can operate more effectively in this new world and we have brought forward plans for a new integrated system in the libraries to ensure greater access to our superb collections. We are investing in COVID-19 testing facilities for our students and staff. We have also had to cut costs and shelve treasured plans, and I know that this has been painful. At all times we have sought to balance our responsibilities to protect our mission, to care for our current staff, and to be mindful of our successors.
Last term, as we moved teaching online, closed our buildings and adapted to remote working, our academics continued to research, to publish and to form spin out companies. We announced a new graduate College, Reuben College, with an £80 million gift including endowed scholarships for students from deprived backgrounds. The publication of our Access report revealed real progress in diversifying our undergraduate student body. At 62.3% we admitted our highest ever number of students educated at state schools. Over the past five years the number of students from the most deprived parts of the country has risen from 8.6% to 12.2% and the number of BAME students has risen from 14.5% to over 22%. Notwithstanding this progress on Admissions, in the wake of the BLM protests, we were reminded of the depths of alienation felt by many BAME members of our community. We must address this sense of alienation. We must ensure that every member of our community is, and believes themselves to be, an equal member. The diversity of our community is part of its strength and we should celebrate it.
Over the summer we have three priorities: reopening our buildings, putting health measures in place, and planning for Michaelmas term. Over 70 – mainly lab based – buildings are now open, with the pace accelerating as experience is gained. Increasingly we are turning our attention to libraries and museums too. Details can be found on the returning to on-site working page. With the support of a team from the Medical Sciences Division we are putting comprehensive health measures in place for next term so that we can all feel reassured as we return to work. You can find more details on the Health and protection page. The planning for Michaelmas term is fiendishly complicated, and involves enormous effort by a large number of colleagues from across colleges and departments to whom we are all indebted. You can find more detail on the Michaelmas 2020 page.
With so much activity, I appreciate that it is difficult to stay informed but I do hope you are able to find the information you need. We have sought to communicate through all-staff emails like this, through the new weekly Blueprint Bulletin, through Open Forum events, through biweekly cascades of operational information to departments, and finally though the COVID-19 advice pages on the website.
The summer, and especially August, is usually a time to take it easy, concentrate on research, and go on holidays. This year will inevitably be different for many of us. I know that planning for next term will require a significant amount of work for many people. I strongly encourage you, however, to take a break and take some holidays. Individual departments may choose to have meeting-free Fridays, or quiet weeks in August, but I hope everyone will remember the importance of taking a rest before next term. The summer traditionally comes to an end with the August Bank holiday which this year falls on the 31st. This year the University will close, in addition, on Friday August 28th to give all University staff not on furlough an extra day off and a long weekend.
I know that this period since the lockdown has felt endless and is a real test of our resilience, but in the broader scheme of things, and certainly in the long history of this University, it is a brief blip. This University has weathered pandemics in the past and all the indications are that we will have more pandemics in the future. Thanks to you, we have adapted extraordinarily well. We have been amazed at what technology can do for us, enabling us to schedule meetings or teach from home. We have also learned its limitations; there is no substitute for a lab experiment and there is simply no substitute for the spontaneous and informal human interactions that occur throughout the day in an office, in which ideas are generated, problems solved, information shared and friendships enjoyed.
Even as the constraints of the lockdown are relaxed, I detect a patina of concern as we go out and meet others again; a sense of loss, for the casual and constant human interactions that formerly made up our lives. For some, of course, the loss has been so much greater. For most of us the pandemic is an unpleasant disruption, for some it has brought heartbreak. Our hearts go out to those who have suffered.
I have often said that universities like Oxford have lasted as long as we have because of the enduring value of what we do. The importance of our work has never been more apparent. Our colleagues are helping the world to understand the virus and its differential impact on people by age, race, and background. Our colleagues are saving lives by testing and developing therapeutics, such as the discovery of the role of dexamethasone in reducing deaths of patients on ventilators by 35%. Our colleagues are at the cutting edge of the world’s race for a vaccine against COVID-19. We can all take great pride in their work and in being part of an institution that enables that work to take place.
We still have a long way to go in the battle against this Coronavirus. But as we face many more months of uncertainty, and the very real possibility of a second wave of the virus, we can step forward confident in our demonstrated ability to plan carefully, to execute skilfully, and above all, to work effectively together. Thank you for all you have done.
10 June from Professor Patrick Grant to all staff
Following my message of 15 May (see below) that shared our plans to begin a safe and measured return to working in University buildings, I would like to update you on the next phase of this work.
The pilot phase in which nine departments began work to reopen 13 buildings that had been closed since March has progressed well. The learning we are gaining from these pilot departments is being incorporated into protocols and processes; these will guide the management of risk in the progressive opening of more and more University buildings over the coming weeks.
The next phase is to reopen remaining experimental lab-based buildings and selected library buildings on a schedule we have consulted on in detail, spread over the next 6-8 weeks. In line with government guidance, these buildings will be reopened only to support work that cannot be performed remotely and will include strict measures for social distancing.
For library buildings, the limited reopening is to provide remote services to readers; reading rooms must remain closed under government guidance. I would like to emphasise that because reopening involves many support functions of the University (depending on the building complexity), we must proceed according to an agreed timetable. I am grateful for your patience, which I know is being tested for those of you keen to get back to your normal place of work.
Then, after the reopening of labs, prioritised library and other facilities, further University buildings will begin to reopen. This will take place over the later part of the summer, and details of this schedule will be provided once consultation is complete.
Even if the building in which you normally work is reopened, you may still be asked to continue to work from home because, in line with government advice, only work that cannot be progressed remotely is currently within scope. If government advice changes, we will amend our plans.
The reopening plan will no doubt be welcomed by many and met with caution by others, and you may have questions about when you can return to your buildings and laboratories, if you will be able to return, how you will find out about this, and what you will need to do to stay safe. Details and full guidance are available on our return to on-site working webpage, and this information will be updated regularly. I would like to reassure you that the safety, physical and mental health, and wellbeing of all our staff are of paramount importance, and our first consideration in planning.
The overall aim of these plans, and other steps we will take to support departments, staff and students, is to find ways that maximise the extent of teaching and research we can conduct while managing risk. The current return to on-site working programme will feed into, and will become part of, the wider work of the Michaelmas Coordination Group.
Adapting our buildings, facilities and working practices to the "new normal" requires patience, collaboration and communication. We might not always get things right, and we must be flexible to optimise and improve as we go along. We will listen – to government guidance, to our professional and academic experts, and to you – and we will always put safety first.
I would like to thank the many individuals and teams across the collegiate University who have worked so hard in a short time frame to advance our plans for returning to on-site working and those staff who have remained working on site since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, either to conduct the essential research we all feel proud to be part of, or to keep essential operations running.
8 June from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff
As we enter the seventh week of term I know that everyone is exhausted. I am writing to acknowledge just how hard everyone has been working to transform Trinity term and ensure that our students receive a true Oxford education in these unprecedented times. I would like to express my deep appreciation to all the colleagues who have tirelessly adapted their teaching for the benefit of their students. I am also grateful to colleagues in the administration whose work has been relentless.
I have to acknowledge too the devastating impact on all of us of watching a defenceless man being murdered before our eyes on television, while the perpetrator’s colleagues looked on with depraved indifference. This has understandably led to protests against police brutality and racism across the globe. Here in Oxford it has also led to protests about our past and a legitimate insistence that we take practical steps to accelerate the pace of change and to ensure that every member of our community is treated fairly and equally. I will be addressing these issues jointly with the conference of colleges in a separate communication.
We have been asking students for feedback on teaching and assessment this term and the responses have been overwhelmingly positive. Students have praised the commitment, the sensitivity, the patience, and the skill of their tutors. Online assessments have also been going more smoothly than we dared to hope. I know that all of this has come at a high cost in time and effort on your part, and I would like to thank you. Under normal circumstances, ninth week is the week of Encaenia and Garden Parties when we celebrate the conclusion of another academic year. This year will, of course, be different. But I would like to suggest that everyone turn off your computers on the Friday of ninth week, June 26th. Please do not send emails, or convene or attend online meetings. Please take a break and enjoy a long weekend. (I know that a small number of colleagues will have exams to manage that day, so please take an alternative day off.)
We would love to receive your feedback on Trinity term. Please tell us what you feel worked well and what did not. We will use this information to inform our plans and improve the experience for next term. You can provide your feedback by completing a short survey. I know that the prospect of Michaelmas term under social distancing constraints is a daunting one and will require attention between now and the start of term. I hope that you will not neglect summer holidays and ensure that you can start the new term refreshed. Our Michaelmas term Coordinating Group will be providing details as soon as they possibly can. You will be able to find updates on the coronavirus webpages.
While many of you have been dedicated to meeting the challenge of on-line teaching and examining this term, you will also have been trying to make progress on your research. We are particularly concerned about our early career researchers and the pressure they must feel to demonstrate progress across research, teaching and administration in these times. We are considering where we can alter policies to reflect the impact of the pandemic. Personnel Committee, for example, is considering ways in which the Initial Period of Office (IPO) for Associate Professors might be adjusted to account for Covid-19 disruption. If there are other policies that you think we ought to consider, please let us know.
Staff well-being was identified as a priority in the Strategic Plan. A Well-Being Programme Board has been established and a staff Health and Wellbeing Strategy is being considered by Personnel Committee. Meanwhile, we have brought together some materials that I hope you find helpful on our website.
There are emerging signs of a return to a version of normalcy. We are starting to reopen nurseries and more colleagues are gradually being allowed back to their labs as departments develop a schedule and implement safety measures. We plan to open the the Arboretum and the Botanic Gardens in mid-June.
It has been a very difficult few months but the members of this community have pulled together and worked harder than ever before. Thank you.
27 May from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff and students
Dear Students and Colleagues,
As we emerge from another May bank holiday weekend and enter half term we are all acutely conscious that the usual markers do not apply in this time of lockdown. We have gradually realized that this is no short sharp crisis; rather, more than 9 weeks after we closed our buildings, it is clear that emerging from this crisis will be a slow and protracted process requiring patience and planning.
Tutors are nevertheless teaching and students studying as they have always done. I would, again, like to express my appreciation and admiration for the way we have adapted our teaching and assessment to this unprecedented situation. (I’m told that we held 40,000 Teams meetings alone in April.)
In times of uncertainty, the natural instinct is to hold on to the familiar. Many of us are craving a return to normalcy, to seeing our family and friends, to spontaneous interactions with colleagues, to picking up coffee or going out for a drink. I hope that when we return it will be to something even better than what we have left. We will have a new appreciation for the familiar, but I hope all of us will think of ways to improve our personal and professional lives and adapt to what we have learned so that we can build an even better future together.
Just as the pandemic has exposed the deep inequalities in our society, the impact of the pandemic has been felt differentially across our community. Some have been delighted to have more time with immediate families while others have struggled with the financial impact of partners losing their jobs. Long-anticipated degree ceremonies will not be happening this summer and our graduating students will be entering a very difficult labour market. I would like to remind you of the hardship funds that have been established to help the worst-affected students and staff and I would encourage everyone who can to contribute.
As the Prime Minister indicates that the constraints under which we have been living may be loosening I thought I would update you on the activities of senior teams as we try, with your help, to steward the University through this crisis.
We have organized a large number of committees at University, college, division and department level to draw as many people into the planning as possible and to ensure our integration with the usual governance structures. Our lodestar throughout is the advancement of the University’s mission of research, teaching and contributing to the world around us.
At the moment we are focused on three areas. First, we are still attempting to understand the financial implications of COVID-19 for the University. It will be several months before we understand the full financial impact but we know now that we will respond by a combination of protecting our income, containing our costs, and drawing on our reserves to see us through the crisis.
The second major piece of work is the return to onsite working. Our community, like the country generally, appears to be divided between those very anxious to get back to their labs and offices immediately, and those quite frightened of returning to their workplaces. There are not many certitudes in the current environment but we do know that it will be a long time before our buildings are fully occupied, and it is our intention that by the time they are, everyone will be reassured that risks have been effectively managed. Our COVID-19 researchers have remained in their labs throughout the crisis and we have been piloting the return of a number of departments. It turns out that it is a great deal easier to close a building than reopen it and plan its operation in accordance with government safety guidance. This process, which is being devolved to departments and assisted by Estates, will continue in the coming weeks as more colleagues are able to return to their labs. I would ask those of you who are eager to return to have patience and remind everyone that, in keeping with government guidance, we are asking all those who can work from home to continue to do so.
The third major piece of work is planning for Michaelmas term. We have every intention of resuming the life of the University next term with as large a student cohort as possible and with the optimal combination of face-to-face and online teaching alongside our globally recognized research, all while adhering to Government safety guidelines. I would like to thank the many colleagues – both academic and operational – from all across the collegiate University who are engaged in the very detailed planning involved. The Michaelmas Co-ordination Group is being co-chaired by Baroness Jan Royall, Principal of Somerville College and Professor Karen O’Brien, Head of the Humanities Division, and is drawing in widespread representation and expertise from colleges and departments which will enable maximum communication and consultation.
In many ways universities, and especially this one, have come into their own during this crisis. While we have not yet managed to persuade the Government to underwrite our lost income, there is nevertheless a growing realization that our universities will be critical to the regeneration of the nation’s economy.
There is also a growing appreciation of the critical importance of our research. It turns out that people cannot get enough of experts, after all. Our academics are regularly referenced at Government press briefings, they are constantly interviewed and cited in the media, and their crucial contribution to the national effort to respond to the pandemic is well recognized. People across the world are wishing success to our medics who are trying to find an effective vaccine as well as those who are testing medicines to mitigate the severity of the disease. I would like to thank our colleagues in the Public Affairs Department who have been working flat out to manage the global interest in our research.
Our research profile has never been higher than it is at present. This means that in the aftermath of the crisis we will be able to recruit the best academics and the best students, all attracted by the prospect of working with others of their calibre in an institution committed to creating an environment in which they can do their best work. That has been the secret of our success in the past and will be the key to our success in the future.
15 May from Professor Patrick Grant to all staff
Many of you will have heard the Prime Minister's statement last Sunday on the limited relaxation of the COVID-19 lockdown and be aware of the subsequent publication of government guidance on a return to work. Following this, I want to update you on what the new government guidance means for us and the plans for a return to working in University buildings.
First, I would like to acknowledge that you have had your professional and personal lives disrupted, sometimes severely, by the pandemic and the working from home requirements. Echoing earlier messages from the Vice-Chancellor, I would like to thank everyone in all roles for their flexibility and adaptability.
Many of us are keen to return to on-site activity but will have concerns about returning in the current circumstances. We are approaching the return to work carefully and the safety of our staff and students is paramount and guides our plan for the return to on-site working.
For staff who can perform their work from home, they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I realise this will disappoint some of you but it is a clear requirement within the current government guidance. The initial focus of our plans to return to working in our buildings only involves activity that cannot be performed by working from home, such as laboratory-based research. If government advice changes, we will adapt our plans swiftly.
Within these parameters, a return to on-site working in University buildings has begun. Earlier this week we began to pilot our plans and guidance (including latest government guidance), involving ten volunteer departments. These departments join those experimental facilities that have stayed open throughout the lockdown, researching how to tackle the pandemic.
The pilots have shown that resuming our on-site working will be a complex task and will require significant changes in how we work. This will include how we move around our buildings, when we arrive and leave work, and how we meet, interact and access facilities. The impact of ongoing social distancing requirements will restrict the occupation density and layout of our space. In the early stages of the return, this means choices are having to be made about which activities come back first, to manage the occupation density and to minimise demand on support services. I understand these choices, which are made at the departmental level with divisional support, may cause disappointment for some and your understanding is greatly appreciated.
We will undoubtedly learn quickly and we must exercise patience as we take feedback on board and consult appropriately and inclusively. In particular, the preparation and reconfiguration of buildings for re-opening makes large demands of our support services, which have reduced numbers of available staff. Please do not return to on-site working unless you have been advised to do so through your head of department.
In a few weeks, as more departments receive and implement our detailed guidance, the pilots will transition to a progressive wider roll-out of on-site working across more and more departments and buildings, and I am grateful to administrative teams for taking on this detailed work. The Bodleian is also working on a phased re-introduction of services, and will shortly be providing our students and research community with further details.
We will extend the opportunity for on-site working to some postgraduate research (DPhil) students who are currently living in Oxford and are able to commute on a daily basis to their research facility, and so would not be subject to any broader government restrictions on travel. Detailed timing is being worked on, involving further consultation.
As your department applies the guidance to its plans for a return to on-site working, you will be contacted with information on the changes that are being made, and what they may mean for any changes for you in how and where you work. As plans are implemented, they will account for the needs of those who are vulnerable and individuals with caring responsibilities.
Information on our return to on-site working, including FAQs and advice for staff and managers, is being brought together in a new webpage. This page will be updated regularly as more information becomes available.
I would like to thank the pilot departments, units and supporting services, and all members of the University for their patience, help and continued work in this difficult time.
6 May from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff and students
Dear Colleagues and students,
It's hard to believe this is Second Week of Trinity Term. The familiar streets are deserted, devoid of posters announcing musical and theatre performances, and students in sub fusc sporting carnations. The work of the University nevertheless continues and I would like to express my appreciation and admiration to those staff and students who have adapted so quickly to teaching and to studying in a strange new environment.
Like most global phenomena, this pandemic has exposed deep inequalities in our society. Some people are more vulnerable to this virus than others, depending on age, on health, on post-code, on occupation. Some people are feeling its effects more keenly than others, due to their living situation and family circumstances. As a community we cannot fix these inequities, but we can help one another in this difficult time.
I am pleased to announce that we have created two hardship funds for those adversely affected by COVID-19, one for staff and one for students. Students can learn how to gain access to the fund on the Oxford Students website and staff on the HR web pages. I encourage all those members of the University who would like to contribute to these funds to do so. You can make a contribution through the Development Office. We will be asking alumni and friends of the University to contribute to these funds but I hope that colleagues across the University will also choose to help.
As a University, our biggest contribution to the management of this global crisis is the work of our researchers. Colleagues are advising the government on modelling the disease, and developing tracing and patient monitoring apps. Our colleagues in Medical Sciences are working in the NHS, they are testing therapeutics to treat the disease, and they are working on developing a vaccine. You will have seen in the media that the University entered a partnership with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to ensure that, if the Oxford vaccine proves effective, it can be manufactured at scale and distributed at cost throughout the world. If you would like to learn more about our research please follow the new series "Covid Conversations" organized by our Public Affairs Directorate.
It is looking increasingly likely that the Government will soon begin to start loosening the restrictions on our movements. I know that this will be welcome news to many of you who are eager to get back to your research. Next week we are starting a pilot program with several departments across the University to facilitate a limited number of colleagues returning to work while adhering to the official guidelines. We will learn from these pilots and the experience of our COVID-19 researchers, who have remained onsite throughout the lockdown, as we gradually facilitate the return to work of more of our colleagues.
Over the next several months we will be planning for Michaelmas term. We intend to open for the next academic year in October, but in a changed world. As far as possible, we will preserve the face-to-face personalized education that is our hallmark. It may be, however, that social distance guidance will require that large group lecture teaching may have to be online, though our online offerings will be more developed than those assembled at short notice this term. In order to ensure the safety of our students and staff we anticipate that we will adopt a policy of test, trace and isolate. A great many details remain to be worked out, but extensive consultation is underway across the collegiate University in order to optimize our ability to operate safely next academic year as we continue to advance our mission of research, teaching and contributing to the world around us.
We haven't had a great many causes to celebrate lately so I hope that, like me, you enjoyed the 2020 iteration of Magdalen College's May Day celebration.
With best wishes to you and your families.
21 April from Professor Anne Trefethen to all staff
Following the Vice-Chancellor’s email earlier today, I’d like to echo her heartfelt thanks to all in the collegiate University community. The impacts of Covid-19 have brought rapid and often uncomfortable changes to the way we live and work and have left no one unaffected. It has been remarkable to see how colleagues have adapted and responded to what have been extremely challenging circumstances and have come together to support each other, while also caring for families, and often volunteering in the community.
As noted by the Vice-Chancellor we are beginning to understand the impact on the finances of the University. The lockdown has resulted in significant and immediate losses to our income and those losses are likely to continue through 2020/21. In order to sustain our academic excellence, secure the future for our staff and students, and mitigate any longer-term risks, we need to take sensible, pragmatic actions now.
As indicated by the Vice-Chancellor from today, we are taking the following steps:
1. A new recruitment freeze and redeployment protocol will be implemented initially for 12 months. It will:
- define a stricter authorisation process for the recruitment of all staff, except research posts that are fully funded from external grants; and
- support our current staff by strengthening redeployment arrangements to allow movement between roles to offer opportunities for those whose contracts are ending.
2. For staff unable to work because of the nature of their jobs or their caring responsibilities, we will place them on furlough and apply to the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS).
Furloughed staff members will see no changes to their salaries, benefits or pension arrangements due to the furlough arrangements; they remain employees on the same terms and conditions, but carry out no work at all for the University during the period of their furlough.
This will be rolled out as a pilot scheme in six departments in the next few days and having learned from the pilot will be rolled out to the rest of the University in the week beginning 27 April. This will allow us to assess and revise our guidance to make the process as smooth as possible for all involved. We will review our engagement with the JRS and its implementation in line with Government updates.
3. We are continuing to engage with funders and government and seeking to obtain cost extensions to grants where research has been disrupted in order to ensure continuity of our research excellence and delivery of our research aims.
We believe these changes are necessary to support our staff through the current situation and to sustain the excellence of our teaching and vitally-needed research. As the period of the current lockdown and its financial consequences become clearer, we should be better positioned to judge whether these mitigating actions are sufficient or further actions need to be taken. Our aim is to ensure that we emerge from this as a stronger institution, and these measures will help mitigate the immediate negative impacts of financial losses.
Full details of these protocols and guidance on their implementation can be found on the University's website and will be updated as required.
Over the coming weeks, we will continue to work with colleagues in the divisional offices and departments to provide the support needed to implement these protocols in each area of the University. More details will follow from your division or department.
I hope that this information addresses any questions you have about these next steps for the University. I welcome your feedback as we implement these changes and thank you in advance for your support in helping us manage them.
If you have questions that are not answered on the webpage or related guidance please ask your local HR support or departmental administrator in the first instance.
Professor Anne Trefethen
Pro Vice-Chancellor of People and Gardens, Libraries and Museums
21 April from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff
Now that the Government has extended the lockdown, the reality that we are engaged in a marathon not a sprint is starting to sink in.
There have been upsides to this lockdown: we all have a keener appreciation of the extraordinary talent, professionalism and commitment that resides across our University; our air is cleaner, our community stronger, and more wildlife is visible all around us. Indeed, a YouGov poll last week suggested that only 9% of British people want life to return to normal after the lockdown.
We can take pride in the fact that the work of academics across the world, and especially our own academics here in Oxford, will shorten the duration and soften the effects of this crisis. They are developing vaccines to prevent it, drugs to treat it, apps to track it, and labs to test for it.
Thanks to the very hard work of many people across the collegiate University we have plans in place for teaching and assessment in Trinity term, a term that will be unlike any other in our long and storied history.
We are now turning our attention to the longer-term, as we plan for the next academic year and consider how we will adapt when, as appears likely, some social distancing restrictions remain in place.
We are also attempting to understand the full financial impact of this crisis on the University. We know that our income from research funders, international students, the endowment, the press, executive education, and commercial activity will all decline, at a time when our costs will remain constant or increase. Like everyone else, we are operating under conditions of considerable uncertainty so we don’t yet know the scale of the losses we will face.
As we confront the financial implications of this pandemic, our priority will be to protect the research, teaching, and societal contribution, which have long been our hallmark. In order to do this we will have to work to protect our income and contain our costs, and this won’t be easy.
In order to retain as much financial flexibility as possible, we have taken immediate action on our capital programme. Projects – such as Biochem 2, demolition of the Tinbergen, and repairing the Radcliffe Science Library basement – which are already under contract and on site, will be completed. Projects that are at the conceptual development stage will also continue, but only until the next Gateway decision point. Each will then be reviewed in light of the new financial reality before any further funding is committed.
Our biggest single cost, and our most valuable asset, is our people. Our priority must be to protect our current staff. This is why we are introducing a recruitment freeze and redeployment protocol, and applying for assistance under the Government’s furlough scheme. Later today my colleague, Professor Anne Trefethen, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for People and GLAM, will provide details on the implementation of these new policies.
I know that these actions will be disappointing for some and will require the postponement of many long-held plans. Moreover, they may not suffice to address the scale of the challenge we face. Nevertheless, when we compare ourselves to others, we must realize how fortunate we are to work in an organization with strong financial foundations and in a city with spectacular medical facilities. We can be confident that with careful planning and by working together, we will make our way through this crisis and emerge with a University even better placed to pursue our mission of research, teaching and contributing to the world around us.
1 April from Martin Williams to all students
27 March from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff and students
Dear Colleagues and Students,
Each passing week seems to last a month so much has been happening lately. On Monday last, the Prime Minister imposed severe restrictions on our movements in an effort to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus. In response, the University moved to Stage 4 of our Emergency Response Plan, defined as Working from Home and Buildings Closure. Those of us who had been going to the office moved home and many of our buildings, including our beloved libraries, closed. (The sight of the empty Bodleian quad - beautiful and bare, with gates bolted and barred - seems so unnatural.)
Essential work, particularly research relating to Covid-19, is continuing in some buildings. Other core functions such as animal welfare, security and building maintenance are continuing too. For the time being, all other research is to be conducted at home, as far as possible. We fully appreciate just how difficult this is for so many of our academics, researchers and graduate students. Recent government guidance suggests that non-Covid related work that is considered essential may be permissible, provided it is carried out in keeping with social distancing guidelines. We are working with departments to clarify this point.
The University Parks will remain open until the Government instructs otherwise, so long as those who use them respect the national guidelines on social distancing.
I know that students are very concerned about the impact of the virus on Trinity term and in particular on examinations and assessment. The education teams have been consulting with departments and students and have agreed a set of principles on which the design of assessments will be based. These will be made available at the beginning of next week and will be followed by subject-specific guidance as soon as possible thereafter. FAQs will be updated on the Oxford Students website, and the Academic Support site; please consult them. In an institution as devolved as ours, which has long prided itself on personalised education and instruction tailored to the subject, solutions are not uniform and take longer to agree, but we believe are best suited to each course of study.
I would again like to express my deep appreciation to those colleagues who are working from home while caring for children and concerned for elderly relatives. Others are separated from family and friends and feeling their loss. We are fortunate to have access to video so that, unlike earlier generations, we are not reliant on telephones or waiting for the post to receive news from those we miss.
For those of you who do have time at home please consult our new staff health and wellness webpages. You will find information on working remotely, personal development, useful online resources and stories from your colleagues. There is also guidance on looking after your health, both mental and physical, as well as looking after your family and community. The Department of Continuing Education has also launched a programme of free online learning resources 'Curious minds'.
This University has thrived for as long as it has because of the enduring value of what we do, push at the frontiers of knowledge, educate the next generation, and contribute to the society around us. The third of these has never been more important. Over 500 of our colleagues are working on finding a solution to the problems posed by this pandemic. Please continue to consult our reasearch microsite to learn about their work, work that would not be possible without the talent and commitment of their support staff.
At a community level, some of our Colleges are offering key worker accommodation to the NHS, others are in discussion with Aspire, the homelessness charity about providing short term accommodation to rough sleepers. The Oxford Hub has launched a campaign, 'Oxford Together', to coordinate volunteers across the city, and over 4,000 signed up in one week. Our young final year medical students are graduating early so that they can join the front ranks in the fight against Covid-19. Please join me in wishing them godspeed.
There is an old Irish saying Níl tuile dá mhead nach dtránn - there is no flood that doesn’t recede. Difficult as this time is, it will pass, and when it does I hope we can all look back and take pride in how we came together as a community and how well we fulfilled our mission of research, teaching and contributing to the world around us.
With best wishes to you and your families,
20 March from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff
I’m writing to you at the end of another long week. It is a week that we will all remember as the gravity of the situation we face sinks in and we adapt our personal and professional lives to the new reality.
I would just like to say a heartfelt thank you to the many colleagues across the collegiate University who have been working flat out to take care of our students, to protect our research, to adapt our teaching, our examinations, our admissions, and so much more, to the new environment. You have done this while balancing concerns for children’s education, the health and well-being of elderly and vulnerable family members, and uncertainty about the financial implications of it all. In doing so you are demonstrating deep commitment to this community and this institution.
Every day I set out in search of silver linings. It makes the day a little easier. I am confident that a year from now, when we all look back on this time, we will be able to take pride in how we looked out for one another and came through it together, and how we as a University contributed to the national effort against Covid-19.
20 March from Martin Williams to all students
- Email to all undergraduate students
- Email to all postgraduate taught students
- Email to all postgraduate research students
17 March from Martin Williams to all students
17 March from Anne Trefethen to staff
After hearing the government advice yesterday you are undoubtedly wondering how this impacts the University and what it means to you. I hope that this message offers some clarification.
The University’s mode of operation is about to change but the priority should always be your health and wellbeing. The main thing I would ask you to do is to look after yourself, your family, and colleagues. Vulnerable staff should work from home. If you are not able to carry out your role remotely, you will be granted special paid leave. This guidance also applies to people who live with and / or care for elderly people and people with vulnerable health conditions.
The University has closed its public areas including its museums and is asking departments and units to implement local contingency plans. Planning includes working remotely wherever possible. If the nature of your role means you cannot work from home, you should discuss options with your line manager or supervisor. Please rest assured staff will continue to be paid as usual.
While we will seek to maintain as much operational continuity as possible in this difficult period Divisions and Departments will carefully consider their operational requirements before asking staff to work on site. The University has published a guide 'Coronavirus: working from home guide for University staff' in which we have tried to answer the immediate HR questions that you will have including pay, sick leave, holidays and the like.
The government is advising against all non-essential travel, within the UK or abroad. It is unlikely that research, teaching and other University business will be considered essential – although there may be exceptions, such as travel connected with tackling the coronavirus outbreak. Please consider that the global situation is changing rapidly, and if you are overseas then you risk difficulties with local quarantine, flight cancellations and border restrictions.
The change of operations is intended to have effect from today, 17 March 2020, you will hear details from your departments and you will be kept informed by email and via the University’s coronavirus website.
It is a difficult time for us all and we must support each other through it. If you have questions that are not answered on the webpage or the guide please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try to update the site to reflect them.
Look after yourselves,
Pro Vice-Chancellor of People, Gardens, Libraries and Museums
16 March from Martin Williams to all students
13 March from the Vice-Chancellor to staff and students
Dear Colleagues and Students,
I am writing to you as Hilary term draws to a close to update you on the situation with the Coronavirus (Covid-19).
To date we have six confirmed cases in the student body. We are in regular contact with these students and I am very happy to report that they are recovering well. I would like to thank the college and University teams and Oxford University Hospitals for the support they are providing. Out of respect for their privacy and following advice from Public Health England we have not revealed detailed information about these students.
You will have heard that the Government has now moved from the containment phase to one of delay in its response to the virus. This is an acknowledgement that we anticipate the number of cases to escalate significantly and that we expect this virus to be with us for many months.
You will know that the vast majority of people who are infected with the virus will experience only mild symptoms, and that those who are most at risk are the elderly and those with serious chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes.
In light of the projected length of the pandemic the Government has decided not to invoke at this time the more radical response adopted by some other countries. We are following Government advice. It is nevertheless the case that the operation of the University will inevitably be severely disrupted, starting with the measures outlined below.
I fully appreciate that the disruptions caused will have serious personal and professional consequences for many members of our community and will be deeply disquieting to all of us. I wish I could prevent that. What I can do is promise to communicate with you throughout the course of this crisis and to provide as much information as I can so that you can make decisions in the best interest of yourself, your family and your colleagues. I would also like to reassure you that we are very mindful that some staff and students have particular concerns about their own vulnerability or that of a close family member. We encourage you to speak in confidence to your college or department about your personal circumstances.
The University intends to remain open until instructed to do otherwise but we will have to develop new ways of working together. In particular, we will have to adapt to using technology for meetings, teaching and assessment in ways we have not done before. This will not be a smooth transition but a great many committed colleagues are working tirelessly to make it as effective as we can. We will use the Easter break to prepare for the transition to online teaching and assessment.
While the Government has not yet instructed us to cancel large gatherings many departments and colleges will make their own decisions about meetings and events. We encourage the use of technology wherever possible. We have cancelled a number of University access events over the break including Easter UNIQ and the Oxford Cambridge conferences, as well as the Alumni Reunion in Berlin. We have also decided that the May graduations ceremonies will be in absentia only.
All exams scheduled for the Easter break (March 16-April 2) have either been cancelled or rearranged. All students concerned have been notified directly. We are advising all domestic undergraduates to return home for the break unless they have a compelling reason to stay. This is to reduce the density of the population and the strain on college staff and support services.
International students who cannot travel home are welcome to remain.
For now, PGT students are encouraged to stay and study in Oxford.
The University will waive the residency requirements for Trinity term for those PGR students who choose to go home to work on their research.
The University and colleges will do everything possible to support those of you who have to go into self-isolation.
The Medical Science Division is cancelling all clinical teaching until further notice in order to release clinical teachers to the wards.
University museums and gardens will remain open for now. Libraries, like other University services, are putting in place contingency plans to allow services to continue digitally should they be required to close.
At this point, we intend to resume teaching in Trinity term but we will keep you informed as the situation develops nationally.
We are providing extensive information online. Please continue to consult the University website and FAQs which are updated regularly with the latest Government and PHE guidance, including the latest self-isolation guidance. Alongside the main website there is also online support and information for people who are in more medically vulnerable categories, as well as guidance documents on HR issues, events, and remote working.
I fully acknowledge that some of you will have specific questions which will not be covered in the guidance. I would ask for your patience as you contact your college or department for advice. This situation is placing extraordinary demands on many staff across the University. I would ask you to be supportive of each other, to look out for one another’s welfare and to be patient when things go wrong, as inevitably they will.
This is an extraordinary time which is posing a serious challenge to our University community. Personally, I feel great pride in addressing these challenges with a remarkable group of smart and committed colleagues across the University. We will learn a great deal from this experience and I am confident will be a stronger institution when it is all over.
13 March from Martin Williams to all students
7 March from the Vice-Chancellor to staff and students
Dear Colleagues and Students,
I am writing to let you know that Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed that one of our students has tested positive for coronavirus (Covid-19) after returning from travel overseas.
I am constrained in what I can say at the moment, but I am glad to report that the student self-isolated as soon as they developed symptoms and did not attend any university or college events after they fell ill. As a result, PHE has advised that the risk to other students and to staff is very low and that university and college activities can continue. They have also advised that we do not need to take any additional public health actions in light of this case.
It is important to bear in mind that PHE does not consider individuals infectious until they develop symptoms. Colleagues have been working with PHE to ensure that anyone who was in contact with the student after they fell ill has been notified and is able to gain access to both information and support.
We have anticipated this eventuality and have been preparing for it for some weeks now. Moreover, given the rate of infection across the country, there will in all likelihood be other cases. I know this news will be upsetting to some of you. Support will be available through Student Welfare and through Colleges and Departments.
We will continue to share further information as it becomes available here: www.ox.ac.uk/coronavirus-advice.
3 March from Vice-Chancellor to staff and students
Dear Colleagues and Students,
I am writing to update you on the University’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
We are all aware that this is a highly infectious virus and that the number of cases in the UK, while significantly lower than in many other countries, is growing daily. It seems inevitable that we will have cases here in Oxford before too long.
The critical point to bear in mind is that the overwhelming majority (over 80%) of those who contract this virus experience mild symptoms, much like the flu. The fatality rate is difficult to calculate precisely, given the uncertainty of much of the data available from other countries, but it is in the region of 1% and primarily affects the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
For the past several weeks, we have been preparing for an outbreak in Oxford. I chair a Silver Group of senior colleagues from across the collegiate University who have been meeting on a weekly basis, developing plans and deciding on our response. A Bronze Group, chaired by the Registrar, has been meeting biweekly, communicating with colleges and departments, implementing the contingency plans made by the Silver Group and identifying further issues.
We have decided to follow travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and public health advice from Public Health England (PHE). A University webpage is updated regularly to reflect new information and updated government advice. I commend this website to you to address any Oxford specific questions you may have. This is the single source of current University policy and guidance on all matters related to coronavirus.
The University and the Conference of Colleges have been working closely together and co-ordinating all our activity. We have identified facilities that we will be able to use should we need to provide central testing or isolation facilities, and Colleges have been working with their students to make arrangements for those who are unable to travel home for the holidays.
As we know, the outbreak of the virus initiated in China. Many of our Chinese and other Asian students and staff have felt isolated or even suspect, especially when wearing face masks. This is a time for us to come together as a community and to support not shun one another. We are a truly global institution and delight in bringing together diverse cultural norms, and we are, above all, a community of scholars and students coming together to learn, to research and to improve the world around us.
Our stellar academics, meanwhile, are doing what they do best, pushing at the frontiers of knowledge. They are attempting to create a vaccine, they are investigating therapeutic responses, and they are modelling the spread of the disease. To learn more about this work, please consult the coronavirus research microsite.
I would like to express my deep appreciation to all those colleagues across the collegiate University who have been working tirelessly to ensure that we are as prepared as we can be for the consequences of an outbreak here in Oxford.
This virus will pass, and when it does, I hope that we will be able to look back with pride on both the humanity and the efficacy of our response.