Staff and student communications

The University takes the safety of its staff and students, as well as the wider community, very seriously and will respond to any changes caused by the virus if and when they are needed.

Below, you will find the messages that have been sent to staff and students during the pandemic since March 2020 to provide updates, explanations and reassurance as we work together to navigate the changes we're experiencing.

15 September 2021 from Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), & Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges, to all international students

Message for international students: action needed before the start of term

We are writing to all international students to ask you to take action before the start of term, due to the pandemic.

Travelling to the UK

We hope all students will be able to come to live and study in Oxford from the start of the academic year, and the University is working hard to welcome you to Oxford. However, we recognise that arrival in the UK may not be possible due to ongoing pandemic constraints.

The UK Government is currently operating a ‘traffic light’ system for those arriving from overseas, with differing levels of restrictions for ‘green’, ‘amber’ or ‘red’ list of countries. There is a wide range of rules about testing and vaccination requirements, depending on the country or territory that you are arriving from. These rules are subject to regular change, so it is vital you carefully review both local travel advice in your own country, and the UK Government website.

Students in red list countries – complete a residency exemption form if you are unable to travel to Oxford

If you live in a country which is on the red list and are unable to travel to Oxford for the start of the academic year, you will qualify for an exemption from residency requirements for your Oxford course, but you must complete an online application form as soon as possible.

To qualify for the exemption, the country you live in must have been on the red list as of 1 July 2021 (or subsequently been added to the list between 1 July and the start of the academic year). You will still be exempt from our residency requirements even if the country is removed from the red list before the start of the academic year.

If you choose to travel to Oxford, you should be aware that the University and colleges will not routinely meet the quarantine costs for students arriving from red list countries (currently £2,285). You may also be placed in a hotel which is some distance away from Oxford (and will be provided with transport back to the airport you arrived at after your quarantine ends).

If you have concerns about your ability to travel to Oxford, you should first discuss this with your college or department and then complete an online residency exemption application form for students in red list countries. You should complete the form even if your course has already started.

Students in amber-list countries – be aware of quarantine rules

If you are arriving in England from a country that is on the amber list, you must quarantine for 10 days on arrival, unless you are exempt under ‘fully vaccinated’ rules. Go to the UK Government website to find out what fully vaccinated means.

If you wish to take part in in-person teaching at the start of your course, you will need to arrive in the UK with enough time before your course start date to complete your period of quarantine. If this is not possible, you will need to complete quarantine and participate in your course online for that initial period.

If you believe you will be unable to travel to Oxford for the start of term due to travel disruption or visa delays, it may be possible to apply for an exemption from residency requirements. You should first discuss this with your college or department and then complete a residency exemption application form. Please note, this form is a different to the one for students in red list countries.

Vaccine information for students coming to Oxford

If you have access to a UK-approved vaccine in your home country, please get vaccinated as soon as you can before arriving in Oxford. If you don’t have access, you will be able to get vaccinated when you arrive in the UK for free, and regardless of your nationality or immigration status. We encourage you to register with a GP as soon as possible to facilitate this. You can complete the necessary forms before you arrive in the UK in order to speed up this process. Please contact your college for more information.

Further information

Detailed information for new and returning students is available on the student pages of the University’s coronavirus site. We encourage you to read it carefully, and if you have any further questions, please contact your college or department in the first instance.

Best wishes,

Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges

6 September 2021 from Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), & Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges, to all new and returning students

We are writing to ask you to help reduce the risks of COVID-19 as we look forward to welcoming you to Oxford for the new academic year. 

Get vaccinated  

Firstly, please get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible if you haven’t already.  

This will help to:  

  • Avoid self-isolation: those who are fully vaccinated no longer have to self-isolate in their room if they come into contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. 
  • Reduce disruption: the more people who are vaccinated, the more we will be able to retain the unique aspects of Oxford’s student experience, and help you make the most of university life. 
  • Protect friends and family: vaccines dramatically reduce the risk of transmission and serious illness. Getting vaccinated will help protect the people you live and work with, and the wider community.  

Nearly 90% of people in the in the UK aged over 16 have now had a vaccine. The more students who are fully vaccinated, the safer our community will be, and the less disruption there will be to your university experience. 

If you’re outside the UK, and have access to a UK-approved vaccine, please get vaccinated as soon as you can. If you don’t have access, you will be able to get vaccinated when you arrive in the UK.  

Walk-in vaccination centres are available for you to access in Oxford, but remember you are only fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose, so if at all possible, please get vaccinated before coming to Oxford with at least your first dose. 

You can find detailed information about vaccinations – whether you are in the UK or another country – on the new and returning students page of the University coronavirus website.  

Get tested  

It’s essential that you get tested both before you travel to Oxford, and once you arrive.  

If you are arriving from outside the UK, you should follow carefully all testing and quarantine advice from the UK Government, and from your home country.

If you live in the UK, you should take a lateral flow device (LFD) test before you travel to university. You must then take another on the day you arrive in Oxford, and one three days later.  

Everyone should then get tested twice a week, every week while they are living or studying on site. Go to the website for more information about testing.  

Follow health advice 

Once you are in Oxford, we ask you to Be Responsible. Be Considerate. Be Safe. In particular you should: 

  • Wear face coverings where indicated (unless exempt) 
  • Test regularly, and if you have symptoms 
  • Stay at home if you are unwell 
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap or sanitiser
  • Be considerate of other people’s space 

You will not have to socially distance, apart from in specific locations, in which case your college or department will notify you. 

Face coverings will be encouraged during in-person University teaching of larger groups. They will not be expected in smaller-group teaching, such as seminars and classes. 

Each college will provide specific advice, in line with local circumstances, as will the hospital for students in clinical settings. 

Further information 

You can find additional information for students about COVID-19 on the University website, and your college and department will also provide more detailed information that is relevant to you. 

The pandemic continues to impact us all; and as a University community, along with wider society, it is clear that we must now learn to live with COVID-19. By working together in a supportive and considerate way, we can continue to protect our community and help you make the most out of Oxford.  

Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) 
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges

25 August 2021 from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff

Message from the Vice-Chancellor: Preparing for the next academic year

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you have managed to get something of a break over the summer.

For the past 18 months we have been buffeted about by the waves of Covid, the surges, the lockdowns, the variants, and all the attendant anxieties. I am immeasurably proud of how we, as a community and an educational institution, have weathered this storm. Now it is time to enter a new phase: Learning to live with Covid.

The Silver Group has decided that the University will move to Business Continuity Plan (BCP) Stage 1 from Monday, 6 September. This will bring the University into line with Step 4 of the UK government’s roadmap, allowing for in-person teaching, a return of staff to their offices and labs, and increased public access to the University. For most of us, it will mean a return to some semblance of normalcy.

From 6 September we are moving from the requirement that everyone who can should work from home, to the expectation that everyone who can will transition to returning to their offices and labs, so that by the beginning of Michaelmas term we will be fully prepared for the next academic year.

Many of the restrictions under which we have been living will be lifted. Face coverings will no longer be mandatory and social distancing will no longer be required. That said, residual mitigations may be required in crowded and less well ventilated areas.

More information is now available online, and your department will soon confirm details on local guidance and timescales.

We have learned over the past 18 months that we all respond differently to uncertainty. Some people will be anxious about the impact of the return on their health, others will be anxious about the impact of being at home on their research. We will all have to be considerate of others, to be kind to one another and appreciate that we have all experienced this pandemic differently. We have also learned that we can operate effectively with more flexible ways of working. We expect that, over time, departments will want to engage with the New Ways of Working framework once we have re-established our relationships and work patterns.

It is only because of the extraordinary work of our academics who have developed a lifesaving vaccine and those who have discovered effective treatments for Covid that we can contemplate returning to on site working. While the virus will persist, the odds of serious illness are now very low. Regular testing will continue to be available and I would plead with any members of our community who have not been vaccinated, please get a vaccine.

We have been reminded over the past few weeks that while our lives have been dominated by the pandemic, the world marches on. We are watching a humanitarian catastrophe unfold before our eyes in Afghanistan and I would like to take a moment to thank those who have worked so tirelessly over the past few weeks to make contact with students, former students and offer holders to do what we can to help facilitate the safe evacuation of those who wish to leave.

We have been tested mightily these past 18 months, and thanks to the talent and dedication of our staff, our successes have been widely acknowledged and celebrated. We now need to call on those same attributes: academic brilliance, personal resilience, flexibility, creativity, commitment to our mission of teaching and research, and consideration for one another, as we enter the next phase of the pandemic.

Yours sincerely,
Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor

26 July 2021 from Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), & Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges, to all students

Updates on our plans for Michaelmas term 2021

We are writing to give a further update on our plans for the next academic year, following our message to you at the end of June.

We look forward to welcoming all new and returning students for the start of the next academic year. England has now moved to Step 4 of the Government’s Roadmap for easing COVID-19 rules. Whilst restrictions are lifting, it is clear that the pandemic is not yet over, and it is essential that we continue to take appropriate precautions to protect the health of our community. As such, existing health measures remain in place in Oxford at the current time, and this will be kept under review in the weeks ahead.

Latest updates
We are now able to provide the following updates about the next academic year, in light of the latest developments:

  • Teaching, learning and assessments: In line with the latest UK Government guidance, we’re planning to provide most teaching in-person next academic year, as normal. This will be enhanced by high-quality online resources and, in some instances, online teaching.  There will be a variety of different assessment types offered depending on your course, both online and in-person, and you will learn more about how you will be assessed at the start of your studies this year.
  • Contingency plans: We will have contingency plans in place to move more teaching and assessment online, if Government restrictions are re-introduced or if local circumstances make this necessary. Decisions will be made based on the level of local cases in the Oxford area and the prevailing health advice in the run-up to the start of term
  • Health and wellbeing: Our expert advisory group of clinical academics are carefully reviewing the Government guidance and responding to the situation as it unfolds. We continue to focus on the health and wellbeing of the entire community and will outline the health measures that will be in place at the start of term once they have been confirmed

Arriving in Oxford
As we said in our last email, we hope that as many students as possible will be able to start their course in-person in Oxford this autumn. However, we recognise that some international students may not be able to arrive from the start of their term. Residency exemptions are in place for students in territories that are on the UK Government’s ‘red list’; and we support these students starting their courses online where necessary. We have now also outlined how we will support international students quarantining on return from amber list countries on the website.

Keeping you updated
We will continue to share the latest information as the situation develops. We expect to provide a fuller update in early September, with more details about teaching and learning and health measures that will be in place in the new academic year.

The webpage for returning students and offer holders will be regularly updated, so please do check back frequently; and as ever, your college or department will be the best first point of contact for any additional queries you may have.

Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges

13 July 2021 from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff

Dear Colleagues, 

You will have heard the prime minister’s announcement of the government plans to move to Step 4 of its roadmap out of lockdown from July 19. This involves changing the advice to work from home where you can, and lifting the requirement to wear face masks and maintain social distance. 

At a meeting of the Silver group last week we decided that, in light of the very high infection rate in Oxford – currently 70% above the national average – we would not change our current Return to On-Site Working guidance for the moment. This means that the University’s current policies on social distancing and face coverings will remain in place beyond July 19. Council yesterday endorsed this decision. 

We will keep this position under constant review in coming weeks and will adapt as the local and national situation evolves. I will, of course, keep you fully informed of developments. Meanwhile, we will continue our planning for Michaelmas term when we can come together to celebrate all we have achieved during the past difficult year and refocus our energies on our enduring mission of teaching and research. 

Yours sincerely,

Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor 

30 June 2021 from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff

Dear Colleagues,

As the longest and strangest academic year many of us can remember draws to a close, I am writing to thank you for all you have done to protect – and indeed to advance – the mission of the University this past year.  

We have adapted, innovated and collaborated at a pace that occasionally surprised even ourselves.

While the academic year is winding down, the virus is not. We have seen ever-increasing numbers of infections in recent days and our PCR testing facilities are operating at full capacity. Meanwhile we have opened surge vaccination centres in the University Club and the Iffley Road Sports Centre so that students and staff can get their first vaccine shot.

The government’s delay in lifting restrictions has necessarily entailed a deceleration in our own plans to return to on-site working. Nevertheless, we do expect most of our community to be back at work in person in good time for the start of the new academic year. 

We have made Teams and Zoom work for us, but there is no substitute for the joy that comes from the spontaneous interactions between colleagues; the spark of insight that comes from the dialogue between student and tutor, the sense of camaraderie that accompanies teamwork in a lab or in an office.

I hope that many of you saw our own Dame Sarah Gilbert and Sir Andy Pollard receive a standing ovation at the opening day of Wimbledon. Thanks to their work and that of their colleagues in Medical Sciences and across the University, the entire country appreciates the importance of the work that we do.

I know that for many of us the pace this past year has been relentless. Please try to take a break this summer. You have certainly earned it.

Yours sincerely, 

Louise Richardson 
Vice-Chancellor 

25 June 2021 from Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), & Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges, to all students

Keeping you updated: information about Michaelmas term 2021

We are writing to update you on our early plans for the next academic year.

We realise that this year has been very challenging for many of you and we thank you once again for your adaptability and resilience during this extraordinary time.

With your support and feedback, we have learnt a huge amount about adapting to the pandemic, and are confident that we will continue to provide the very best educational and wider student experience as we start to move towards a more normal way of operating.

Plans for Michaelmas term
We are looking forward to welcoming all new and returning students in Michaelmas term and have set up a new webpage outlining our plans. outlining our plans. This includes information about:

  • Teaching and learning: how we’re working to continue with the highest possible standards of education, with a focus on in-person teaching wherever possible, with enhanced digital support.
  • Keeping you safe and well: our continued focus on protecting you and the community, building on the measures introduced this year.
  • Student life: what we’re doing to maintain the wide variety of opportunities that contribute to the Oxford experience.
  • Welfare support: the steps we’re taking to support you, and in light of any continued impacts from the pandemic.

Arriving in Oxford We are very much looking forward to welcoming you back to Oxford at the start of term. Residency requirements will be in place once again, and we expect students to be in Oxford. However, we recognise that getting here may be more difficult for some – particularly those travelling from overseas. Exemptions will be in place, including for those who live in ‘red list’ countries. More information is available on the website.

Information for leavers For those of you who are leaving Oxford this year, we will be in touch in the near future with updates about degree ceremonies, and other essential information. In the meantime, we encourage you to review the ongoing support available from the Careers Service and Alumni Office.

Keeping you updated Clearly there is a lot more information that those of you who are returning will need before the start of the year – for example, how much of your learning will go ahead in-person or online, and the detailed health measures that will be in place. Given the evolving nature of the pandemic, it is not possible to provide all this information at this stage. We are also expecting Government guidance for universities later this month, and are committed to keeping you updated as we find out more.

The new 2021/22 academic year webpage will be regularly updated, so please do check back frequently, and we’ll continue to provide updates over the summer. As ever, your college or department will be the best first point of contact for any queries you may have.

Thank you once again for your patience and understanding this year. We hope you are able to enjoy a relaxing summer, and look forward to seeing those of you who are returning to Oxford in the autumn.

Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges

25 June 2021 from Nadia Pollini, Director of Graduate Admissions and Recruitment, to graduate offer holders

Keeping you updated: plans for your first term in Oxford

I am writing to update you on our early plans for welcoming you to Oxford in October once your place is confirmed.

We are looking forward to welcoming all new and returning students in the autumn term and have set up a new webpage outlining our plans for your arrival. This includes:

  • Teaching and learning: How we’re working to maintain the highest possible standards of education, with a focus on in-person teaching wherever possible, with enhanced digital support.
  • Keeping you safe and well: Our continued focus on protecting you and the community while you are studying with us.
  • Student life: What we’re doing to maintain the wide variety of opportunities that contribute to the Oxford experience.
  • Welfare support: the steps we’re taking to support you and in light of any continued impacts from the pandemic.

Arriving in Oxford We are very much looking forward to welcoming you at the start of term. We expect students to be able to come to Oxford, although we recognise that getting here may be more difficult for some – particularly those travelling from overseas. Residency exemptions may be possible, for instance for those who live in ‘red list’ countries. More information is available on the website.

Keeping you updated Clearly there is a lot more information that you will need before the start of the year – for example, how much of your learning will go ahead in-person or online, and the detailed health measures that will be in place. Given the evolving nature of the pandemic, it is not possible to provide all this information at this stage, but we are committed to keeping you updated.

The 2021/22 academic year webpage will be regularly updated, so please do check back regularly. We’ll continue to send you regular Preparing for Oxford newsletters, and are planning to hold online Q&A sessions over the summer; your department and college may also be in touch. In the meantime, as ever, your department will be the best first point of contact for any queries you may have about teaching, supervision and residency arrangements.

We want everyone to enjoy Oxford’s academic and social opportunities as we start to move out of the pandemic, and are taking all the steps we can to make this happen.

Wishing you all the best for successfully meeting the conditions of your offer, we hope very much to see you in Oxford in October.

Nadia Pollini
Director of Graduate Admissions and Recruitment

25 June 2021 from Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach, to undergraduate offer holders

Keeping you updated: plans for your first term in Oxford

As the holder of an offer from the University of Oxford you will be receiving important information from your college over the summer and you may also receive emails from the department(s) of the subject(s) you have an offer for. I am writing to you on behalf of the University in order to update you on the early plans for welcoming you, once your offer conditions have been fulfilled, to Oxford in October.

We are looking forward to welcoming all new and returning students in the autumn term and have set up a new webpage outlining our pandemic-related plans for your arrival. This includes:

  • Teaching and learning: How we’re working to maintain the highest possible standards of education, with a focus on in-person teaching wherever possible, with enhanced digital support.
  • Keeping you safe and well: Our continued focus on protecting you and the community while you are studying with us.
  • Student life: What we’re doing to maintain the wide variety of opportunities that contribute to the Oxford experience.
  • Welfare support: the steps we’re taking to support you and in light of any continued impacts from the pandemic.

Arriving in Oxford
We are expecting to welcome our new students, after their places are confirmed in August, to Oxford at the start of Michaelmas (autumn) term in early October. We recognise that getting here may be very difficult for some – particularly those travelling from ‘red list’ countries. If this applies to you then please don’t worry as some exemptions to the requirement to be in Oxford will be in place, and more information, including on teaching arrangements, is available on the website.

Keeping you updated
  Clearly there is a lot more information that you will want to know before the start of the year – for example, how much of your learning will go ahead in-person or online, and the detailed health measures that will be in place. Given the evolving nature of the pandemic, it is not possible to provide all this information at this stage, but we are committed to keeping you updated.

The webpage will be your source of the most recent information, so please do check back regularly. We’ll continue to send you regular Preparing for Oxford newsletters over the summer, and your college and department will also be in touch. As ever, your college will be the best first point of contact for any queries you may have.

Please be assured that everyone in your college, department, and the University as a whole wants students to be able to benefit from Oxford’s many academic and social opportunities as we start to move out of the pandemic, and that we are working together in order to take all the steps we can to make this happen.

Wishing you all the best for results day and in your preparations for starting this exciting next phase in your life,

Samina Khan
Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach

22 June 2021 from Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), & Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges, to all students

Important message for all Oxford students: COVID-19 case levels, and vaccination opportunity

We are writing to you alert you to rising numbers of cases of COVID-19 among the student population, and to notify you of a vaccination opportunity for you.

Limit the spread at the end of term
As you will know, the Delta variant of the virus is much more transmissible than previous forms, and there have been increasing numbers of cases across the University. We realise that you will want to enjoy your last few days in Oxford after a difficult year, but urge you to take note of the following:

  • Follow health advice, particularly around college events
    All University and Government health guidance remains in place. Colleges will continue to run COVID safe events, and it is essential that you follow all health guidance - not only when attending these, but also before and after. In particular. Please avoid mixing with too many people – particular indoors to help reduce infection spreading.
  • Continue to test twice a week, every week
    You should carry on taking LFD tests two times a week (even after you have been vaccinated as you can still catch COVID-19 and infect others). If you have a positive LFD result, you must immediately self-isolate and book a confirmatory PCR test through the Early Alert Service.
  • Take a test before you attend any major events
    Your college may require you to take an LFD test before you attend any planned social event in college. This is very important for containing the spread of COVID-19.

Temporary vaccination centre
As you will know, all adults in the UK are now eligible to get vaccinated, and we strongly encourage all students to do so. A range of vaccine information is already available on the student health page of the University coronavirus website – including for UK and international students who may need to get their second dose elsewhere.

In addition, we are pleased to say that a temporary vaccination centre will open at the University Club on Mansfield Road tomorrow (Wednesday 23 June) for students looking to get their first dose of the vaccine.

The centre will be open at 10am tomorrow; and will then be open from 9.30am to 8.30pm seven days a week until Sunday 4 July. It will provide a walk-in service, with no pre-booking necessary (entry via the back entrance of the club).

All undergraduates and taught postgraduates who have not yet had their first vaccine dose can access the centre from tomorrow; and all students including postgraduate research students from next Monday (28 June). Please remember to wear a face covering unless exempt and have your University card with you- and please don’t attend if you have any symptoms of COVID-19.

The centre will only be able to provide a total of 240 vaccinations per day, so please keep this in mind. Notifications will be posted on the University student Twitter channel about capacity levels at the centre, so please check for updates before you set off. It is helpful, although not essential, if you have your NHS number ready when your visit the centre. You may be able to find it via the NHS lookup service.

For more information please go to new temporary vaccine centre page on the University coronavirus website.

Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges

16 June 2021 from Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), & Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges, to all students

Message for all Oxford students: update following Government announcement

We are writing following Monday's Government announcement to outline what this means for Oxford students.

Continued restrictions

As you will be aware, the Government has delayed the move to 'Step 4' of its Roadmap for reducing restrictions until 19 July.

As such, you must continue to follow 'Step 3' advice. That means two households or the ‘rule of 6 inside’ (or any specific rules within colleges); and groups of up to 30 outdoors. It is important that any events planned for after 21 June follow Step 3 rules. There will be no changes to teaching or assessment as a result of the announcement.

Keep following health advice

It is essential that you continue to follow all current health guidance. Cases of COVID-19 are rapidly increasing across the country, and it is essential that we continue to work together to protect the community. This includes getting tested twice a week until you leave Oxford.

In particular we ask you not to take part in trashing, and remain vigilant around social distancing and avoid gatherings, particularly in public places. A small meet-up can quickly grow, putting everyone at risk, and you may be liable to Police fines.

We also strongly encourage you to get vaccinated when you are eligible. Information about vaccinations can be found on the student health page on the University coronavirus website.

Supporting your remaining time in Oxford

We realise that the continued restrictions will be disappointing for many of you and this news comes at a time when you were hoping to make the most of Oxford after a difficult year. We understand your concerns and would like to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to make your last few weeks in Oxford as rewarding as possible.

Colleges in particular will be working to see what is possible to allow as many events as possible to go ahead within existing guidance; and the Love Oxford page continues to provide the latest events news - whether you are in Oxford or studying remotely. All University and college welfare services continue to be available to you.

Further information

As ever, the student pages of the University coronavirus site have all the latest information, and for those of you who are returning next year, we hope to provide an update about the Michaelmas term in the very near future.

Best wishes,

Martin Williams Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges

14 May 2021 from Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), & Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges, to all students

Important message for all Oxford students: update on arrangements from 17 May

We are writing to provide an update about arrangements for Oxford students after 17 May, following the Government announcement this Monday. We appreciate your patience as you have waited for this information.

Teaching and assessment

As you will know, the UK Government confirmed that restrictions on in-person teaching in universities will be removed from Monday 17 May. This change comes at a point in Oxford’s term when many courses will have finished teaching for the academic year, and social-distancing constraints will remain in place.

This means that large group teaching and lectures are likely to remain online. However, where feasible, departments may be able to offer in-person teaching to students on courses which have now been permitted to restart. Colleges are also looking to make tutorials available in-person.

Your department and/or college will contact you to inform you if any of your teaching will take place in-person. If you do not hear from them, you should assume that it will remain online. If your course has already been permitted to restart in-person teaching, there are no changes to the current arrangements.

Examinations will proceed in the format already communicated to you; with the majority taking place online. If your exam is taking place in-person, it will be listed on the examination timetables page of the Oxford Students website.

Return to Oxford

All students are now permitted to return to Oxford. If you are offered-person teaching, we strongly encourage you to take advantage of that opportunity. However, residency requirements are still suspended for Trinity term.

Advice for international students remains unchanged. If you do not have a large amount of in-person teaching or assessment which requires you to be in Oxford, you may wish to take advantage of the residency exemption. If you are in a country that is on the UK Government’s 'red list', we advise you to take advantage of the residency exemption, unless you have substantial in-person teaching commitments.

Keep protecting the community

You must continue to follow all health guidance to protect the community. While the outlook is more optimistic and restrictions are gradually easing, the pandemic is not yet over and we need to continue working together to prevent case numbers rising again.

From Monday, up to six people, or two households will be able to meet indoors; and up to 30 people outdoors. There may be specific requirements around households in colleges, and your college will let you know if this is the case.

You are still expected to get tested before you return to Oxford, twice when you arrive, and then twice a week while you are at university. After 24 May, we plan to offer pre-packed LFD test kits that you will be able to pick up from your college and other locations. Alternatively, the symptom-free testing centres will also be available to you, as well as other Government routes. You will be able to choose the route that works best for you. It is important that you participate in some form of testing, as the number of people studying and working on-site increases.

Making the most of Trinity term

We want to help you make the most out of your final term at Oxford after such a difficult year. However, restrictions will remain in place until 21 June at the earliest, which means this term will not be the same as in previous years.

Whether you are in Oxford or studying remotely, there are a range of student-led events taking place across the University, many of which are listed on the Love Oxford events page.

We ask that you continue to enjoy Oxford responsibly as the restrictions ease. In particular, with so many examinations taking place online, it is essential that everyone is considerate and respectful of students taking their exams in their rooms and other locations, by keeping noise to a minimum.

Colleges will support student life as much as possible under current restrictions: your college will be able to tell you more about what is possible.

Further information

Detailed information has now been published on the student section of the University coronavirus pages. We recommend you read the information in detail to ensure you are aware of the latest situation.

We thank you as ever for your continued commitment to Oxford, and wish you all the very best for the rest of the term.

Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education)
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges

4 May 2021 from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff

Dear Colleagues,

As we enter our second Trinity term under lockdown and our third term of the academic year, I wanted to write to acknowledge your hard work and to express my appreciation and admiration for all that has been accomplished. The pandemic is not yet behind us, but as the days get longer, the streets get busier, more students return and people congregate outdoors, we can finally anticipate a return to a life of near normalcy.

We met last Trinity term with shock and a Dunkirk spirit. In Michaelmas we had a laser-like focus on the job at hand as we welcomed and educated our largest student cohort ever, while keeping everyone healthy. We despaired at the variants and second lockdown of Hilary term, and now we face what we hope will be the final hurdle, to complete the teaching and assessment of the academic year while continuing our research and keeping everyone healthy.

I know that it has been a long, laborious and often lonely slog but we have accomplished so much. Quite aside from teaching and assessment, we moved our Access programmes, admissions interviews, Counselling Service and Careers Service online. (The Careers Service displayed particular creativity in redeploying their catering budget to fund student internships.) We created a state-of-the art PCR testing service which has recently been augmented by three assisted LFT testing sites.

We also maintained momentum on a number of University priorities. The annual Admissions Report will be published this month and will demonstrate continued progress on our ambition to diversify the make-up of our student body. The Sustainability Strategy, on which so many colleagues have worked, will be launched on May 7. The Race Equality Taskforce, which has been meeting monthly since last autumn, has set up seven working groups. This term they will host a series of external speakers for Conversations on Race and over the summer will produce a draft report and recommendations. Finally, we have not forgotten that this is the centenary of the admission of women as formal members of the University. We will be holding a hybrid event on May 19 in the Sheldonian and on YouTube as part of the Women Making History Centenary campaign.

It is too soon for a comprehensive look back on our response to the pandemic, but the Silver Group has commissioned a review of the functioning of the Crisis Management Framework put in place last year, which we plan to dismantle gradually over the coming months. I think we can say at this point that we achieved our primary goal of protecting the University mission of teaching and research while also protecting the health of our staff and students. We have managed the financial fallout of the pandemic while protecting all our jobs and paying 100% of salary to all University staff on furlough.

I realize that many of you are very keen to know when you will be able to go back to your labs and offices, and the extent you will be able to work from home post-pandemic. As ever, we are dependent on the government to set the parameters within which we will operate. We are engaged in planning for a range of scenarios and your department head will be in contact with you as soon as firm plans are in place. Meanwhile, I hope you will think about this past year, what we have learned, and how we can hold on to the positive experiences and practices so that together we can improve our working environment in the future.

Finally, in the past few weeks we have celebrated the first anniversary of two of the University’s most important contributions to the global battle against COVID-19. The RECOVERY trial, led by Professors Peter Horby and Martin Landray, has saved an estimated 22,000 lives in the UK and over one million globally. Meanwhile, on April 23 the Oxford Vaccine Group and the Jenner Institute celebrated the fact that, in one year, they went from one vaccine administered to a human being to 250,000,000. If you need a pick-me-up, just think of that!

Yours sincerely,
Louise Richardson

16 April 2021 from Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), & Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges, to all students

Message for all Oxford students: update about Trinity term following new Government guidance

We are writing to provide another update on plans for Trinity term, following the publication of updated Government guidance earlier this week.

Teaching and learning

As you will know, the Government has confirmed that for students on non-practical courses, in-person teaching should not resume until 17 May at the earliest, alongside Step 3 of the Government’s Roadmap for easing national restrictions.

This means that formal University in-person teaching may only resume from the start of Trinity term for those students who have already been given permission. All other teaching must take place online at this stage.

We are disappointed by this decision as we are sure many of you will be. However, the University must adhere to Government guidance. We are considering the implications of this latest development for teaching and learning later in the term, and further information will follow in due course.

Postgraduate research students (including final year students undertaking research on integrated Masters courses) continue to be exempt from this guidance.

Returning to Oxford

The Government has now updated its guidance on other students who can return to universities. This means that as well as those who have in-person teaching scheduled, you may also be able to return to Oxford if you meet one of the following updated criteria:

  • If it is necessary to support the continuation of your studies (including preparing for inperson assessments later in term)
  • If you do not have access to appropriate alternative accommodation, facilities or study space at home
  • For health or safety (including mental health and wellbeing) reasons
  • If you believe that any of these criteria apply to you, you should contact your college (or your department if you don’t have a college). Please do not make plans to travel to Oxford until you have confirmed with your college when you are able to return.

In light of the changes to guidance, you can contact your college (or your department if you don’t have a college) to request to return even if you have previously applied and were not given permission. Please note that if you do return to Oxford, current government guidance then requires you to stay at your term-time address throughout the term unless you have a legally permitted reason to leave.

Advice for international students

Advice for international students remains unchanged. You will be supported to return in time to take part in in-person teaching where necessary. However, if you do not have a large amount of in-person teaching or assessment that requires you to be in Oxford, you may wish to take advantage of the ongoing residency exemption, particularly if you are in a ‘red list’ country. The University and colleges will not routinely meet the costs of COVID-19 PCR tests taken or booked before travelling back to the UK, or quarantine costs for students returning from red list countries (currently £1,750). Please refer to the ‘returning to Oxford’ section of the student coronavirus page for more information.

Assessments

While the majority of exams will take place on-line in Trinity term, a small number of exams will take place in-person and we can now confirm that these will be going ahead. We can also confirm that in line with Government guidance, preparing to take part in-person assessments is a valid reason for returning to Oxford. If you are not able to return to Oxford for in-person assessment, or are self-isolating, you can apply through your college to take the exam via remote invigilation.

If you are taking open-book exams this term, please make sure you read the essential guidance on the Oxford Students website. In particular, make time to take some practice exams in Inspera, so you know what to expect on your exam day.

Keeping you safe and well

We remind you that if you return to Oxford, you must continue following all University and Government health advice – even if you have already had the vaccine. You are now also expected to get tested for COVID-19 before you travel back to Oxford, as well as when you return (or at the start of term if you didn’t leave during the vacation), and twice weekly thereafter. All welfare support continues to be available, whether in-person or online.

Further information

More detailed information has now been updated on the student pages of the University coronavirus website. Your department or college may also follow up in the near future with more detailed local arrangements.

We will contact you once again as and when we have further information, and we encourage you to keep reading the University Student News - which will be sent weekly once again from next Monday - for the latest updates.

We wish you all the best for the coming term, whether you spend it in Oxford or elsewhere.

Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges

12 April 2021 from Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), & Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges, to all students

Message for all Oxford students: update about Trinity term

We are writing to provide a brief update about the arrangements for Trinity term.

As you will be aware, the UK Government has not yet confirmed when students on non-practical courses can return to universities. This is very frustrating for all of us, and we understand that it will be especially so for those of you who have not yet been given permission to restart in-person, and those who would need to make international travel arrangements. However, we are now expecting an announcement later this week, and so hope to be in a position to tell you more next week. We appreciate your continued patience while we wait for the updated guidance.

Returning to Oxford 

At this stage, taught students should only return to Oxford if:

  • you are on a practical or practice-based course and your department has invited you to take part in in-person teaching in Trinity term; or:
  • you have agreed with your college that you can return because you meet one of the exemptions that have been published on the ‘returning to Oxford’ section of the student coronavirus website
  • Postgraduate research students continue to be exempt from this guidance, and can continue to carry out their research on-site where it cannot take place at home.

Stay COVID-safe. Keep protecting the community 

If you return to Oxford, you must continue following all University and Government health advice – even if you have already had the vaccine. The outlook is more optimistic this term, and restrictions are gradually easing - but the pandemic is not yet over. We need to continue working together to prevent case numbers rising, and protect the entire community.  We encourage you to enjoy Oxford responsibly – particularly making use of outside spaces as the summer months approach. 

Get tested twice, then twice a week 

If you’re in Oxford, you are expected to get tested for COVID-19 when you return (or at the start of term if you didn’t leave during the vacation). Your college will provide you with two Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests to take yourself.  After these initial tests, you should then get tested twice a week every week via the new symptom-free testing centres. The centres will be in easy-to-access sites around Oxford, and they will follow strict safety measures.   

We know that the pandemic has affected all students. All welfare support will continue to be available – whether in-person or online – and we are committed to telling you more about the term ahead as soon as we can.

Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges

15 March 2021 from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing as we mark the first anniversary of the impact of the pandemic on the University. I would like both to thank and to congratulate each one of you as we emerge from our third COVID-19 term.

Last Trinity term we were in near-total lockdown with only essential research taking place in person, our students sent home, and all our teaching and assessment conducted online. In Michaelmas term, thanks to painstaking work by many of you throughout the summer, we welcomed back a full cohort of students and taught them both in person and online while continuing our research and containing the spread of infection. The third lockdown – this Hilary term – was in many ways the hardest, partly because it was so unexpected, partly because it came in the middle of winter after ten exhausting months, and partly because of the uncertainty around variants, as well as the sheer difficulty of combining work with caring responsibilities and homeschooling.

In an all-staff email last March I wrote: "I am confident that a year from now, when we look back on this time, we will be able to take pride in how we looked out for one another and came though it together, and how we as a University contributed to the national effort against COVID-19." My confidence was well placed, even though I never imagined that a year hence we would not yet be through it.

Our two guiding principles this past year have been to protect the health of our staff and students and to protect our mission of research and teaching.

We were able to welcome back a small number of finalists and taught postgraduates last week and we very much hope to be able to welcome back more undergraduates after Easter, and even more in the course of Trinity term, in keeping with government guidance. As government restrictions are lifted we expect more and more staff to be able to return to on-site working.

As we look ahead to the summer months we have made the difficult decision to postpone many of the hallmarks of the Oxford summer: Encaenia, garden parties and degree ceremonies have been postponed due to the difficulty of planning in the midst of uncertainty and to relieve some of the pressures on an already very busy staff.

While it has been a difficult year, and many of us have suffered in a myriad of ways, there have also been many upsides. We have learned new ways of working and new ways of teaching and we must hold on to those insights as we return to normalcy. We have seen one another less but communicated more. I notice, for example, that the attendance at online open fora is 600% greater than the attendance at the physical events. While some families have felt the strain of homeschooling, many families with grown children have had the unexpected pleasure of more family time.

Above all, we have seen what our university can do. The vaccine developed here in Oxford by our colleagues Sarah Gilbert, Adrian Hill and Andrew Pollard and their teams, is saving lives all around the world and hastening the day when we can all return to life as we knew it. (I could hardly contain my delight when I was offered the Oxford vaccine at the Kassam Stadium last week.) Theirs is only one of the many contributions colleagues across the University have made in mitigating the impact of this pandemic on people across the globe.

I remain confident that when we look back at this time, whenever it is appropriate to do so, we will be proud of how we came through it together. Truly, in the immortal words of Seamus Heaney: "If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere."

Yours sincerely,

Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor

10 March 2021 from Professor Martin Williams to all students

Message for all Oxford students: Easter vacation travel update

We are writing to provide the latest advice about travel during the Easter vacation.

As you will know, the Government is currently asking people to limit travel to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This previously meant that students were advised not to leave university during the Easter vacation, apart from where special legal exemptions applied.

Updated Government guidance

In the last few days, Government guidance on student travel over the Easter period has been updated.

The Government continues to advise students to remain in their term time accommodation where possible. However, an exemption has been added for students during the Easter vacation.

Under the new advice, students are permitted to travel back and forth between their university accommodation and their home address– but only once.

Whether or not to travel in the UK is a decision for students to take based on their individual circumstances, in line with Government guidance.

The guidance does also allow international students to travel home and return once over Easter. However, the Government continues to advise against travel to countries outside the UK, and given the complexities involved, international students are advised not to travel home for the vacation.

The importance of testing

If you do decide to leave, you must follow safer travel guidance and you are strongly advised to get tested for COVID-19.

Your college will provide you with a Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test. You should take the test just before you leave Oxford - either on the day before your departure, or on the day you leave.

It is very important that you record your result via the University Testing Service – whether it is negative or positive.

If the result is positive, you must also book a confirmatory PCR test via the University Testing Service and self-isolate until you receive a negative result. If the PCR result is positive, you must self-isolate in Oxford for ten days.

Where possible, you should also get tested before you travel back to university after your Easter break – through community testing facilities near your home address.

You will also need to take two LFD tests when you return to Oxford – once on the day you arrive, and once three days later. You should not start in-person teaching until you have received a second negative test and recorded the result.

This information has now been published on the student section of the University coronavirus website; and your college may follow up with more detailed guidance in the near future.

Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges

26 February 2021 from Professor Martin Williams to all students

Message for all Oxford students: arrangements for the remainder of the academic year 

We are writing to provide you with an update of our plans for the remainder of this academic year, following the Government’s announcement earlier this week. We appreciate your patience while you have waited for this information.  

Students are the lifeblood of our academic community and we know that many of you want to return to Oxford in order to be able to work as effectively as possible. We therefore aim to support you returning where Government guidance allows it – although unfortunately you will see below that this is not possible for all students at present.   

The broad plans for the year are outlined below, with full details available on the student pages of the University coronavirus website.  

Teaching and learning

The Government has advised that some courses can resume in-person teaching from 8 March; with plans for other courses to be confirmed around Easter. This guidance is not expected until 5 April at the earliest. 

At Oxford, teaching will generally take place within normal term dates, whether it be online or in-person. When in-person teaching restarts will depend on your course and level of study.  

In-person teaching  
  • Undergraduates
    Because 8 March falls at the end of Hilary term, teaching will continue to take place online for the rest of this term for most undergraduates (unless you are on a course where in-person teaching has already restarted).   

    For Trinity term, in-person ‘catch-up teaching’ will resume for a small number of students from Monday 12 April (Week -1 Trinity term). For some other courses, particularly those with a practical element and those which are practice-based, in-person teaching will start from Monday 26 April (Week 1 Trinity term). 
  • Taught postgraduates
    Some taught postgraduate courses with a practical element, and those which are practice-based, will resume in-person teaching from Monday 8 March.

    If you are on a non-practical taught course, we will not be able to give you exact dates for when your in-person teaching will begin until the Government review around Easter, but we will provide more information as soon as possible. 

    Your department will write to you in the near future to confirm teaching arrangements for your course.  
Postgraduate research students

Postgraduate research students (including final year research-based students on integrated Master's courses) are not affected by the Government announcement. You can continue to conduct your research on-site where it is necessary, and you have been permitted to do so.  

Returning to Oxford

As previously communicated, residency requirements will not be in place for Trinity term, so you do not have to be in Oxford. However, we encourage you to return in time for your in-person teaching when it begins.  

In line with Government guidance, as well as returning for in-person teaching, you may also be permitted to come back to Oxford if you need access to facilities such as libraries and study space. These needs are likely to be particularly acute if you are nearing the completion of your degree, with important submissions and final assessments in the next term.

Therefore, taught postgraduates in their final year, including those on one-year Master's programmes, may be able to return from 8 March; undergraduate finalists may be able to return from 12 April.  

Colleges will continue to consider requests to return on welfare (including mental health and wellbeing) grounds. Please refer to the student area of this website for further details if you believe you need to return. 

Please do not make plans to travel to Oxford until you have confirmed with your college when you are able to return.  
You must take testing arrangements into account when planning your return - see below for details.  

If you have in-person teaching scheduled, but are not able to return, you should discuss with your department what alternative arrangements can be put in place for you.  

We realise that for those students on non-practical courses who are not covered by the exemptions above, it will be disappointing not to get more clarity on when you can return to Oxford at this stage. However, we are committed to reviewing our arrangements as soon as possible after we get more guidance from the Government, and we remain hopeful that a wider student return will be possible in Trinity term. 

International students

International students will be supported to return in time to take part in in-person teaching where necessary. However, if you do not have much in-person teaching scheduled, you may wish to take advantage of the residency exemptions for Trinity term, particularly if you are in a ‘red list’ country (see below). 

When you return, you will need to follow national and international travel guidance and must self-isolate for ten days on arrival in the UK. If you plan to self-isolate in college accommodation, you must agree this with your college in advance to ensure they are able to support you.  

If you are in a country that is on the UK Government’s ‘red list’, ​we advise you to take advantage of the residency exemption, unless you have substantial in-person teaching commitments.  

We regret that the University and colleges cannot routinely meet the costs of COVID-19 PCR tests taken or booked before travelling back to the UK, or quarantine costs for students returning from red list countries (currently £1,750). 

You should also be aware that countries can quickly move onto the Government’s ‘red list’ (see below), which could significantly increase the cost and complexity of travelling.   

Please refer to the students pages of the coronavirus website for further details about international travel.  

Protecting the health of you and the community

It is essential that we all continue to take action to prevent the spread of COVID-19, to protect the health of the whole Oxford community. 

As such, you will be expected to take Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests when you return to Oxford – on the first day you arrive and one three days later. You should not take part in in-person teaching until you have taken two tests and reported negative results; and you should factor this into your travel plans. 

We also expect to be able to offer regular asymptomatic testing to all students, as well as staff working on-site from Trinity term. More information about this will follow in the near future.

You must follow all aspects of the Student Responsibility Agreement when you are in Oxford, as well as all Government and University health guidance – even if you have already had COVID-19 or you have received your vaccination.

Student life

While the national lockdown is being progressively eased, there will continue to be significant restrictions on what we can and cannot do for some time. This means that student life in Trinity term will not be the same as it has been in other years.  
However, we are committed to supporting students who are already in Oxford, or who are allowed to return. Welfare support and all other student services will be operational – either in-person or in remote form. 

If you are already in Oxford, Government guidance states that you should not move from your term-time address, unless you have a legal exemption to do so. This currently includes during the Easter vacation. We will shortly be providing advice about support available during the vacation. 

Further information

There is a lot of detail to provide you with, so we very strongly recommend that you read the student pages of the University coronavirus website as soon as possible. Your college and department will also follow up with more detailed information about local arrangements in the near future, so there is no further action required at this stage.  

We thank you as ever for your continued commitment to Oxford, and we will keep you updated with more information as it becomes available. 

Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges  

12 February 2021 from Professor Martin Williams to all postgraduate research students

The message below has just been sent to all taught students, and I am now sending it to all postgraduate research students by way of this email, for your information.

I also wanted to let you know that the COVID-19 Scholarship Extensions Fund (CSEF) will open soon for a new round of applications. As you will know, the scheme provides funding extensions for those postgraduate research students most affected by the pandemic. You will be eligible to apply for this next round if your funding end date is between 1 April and 31 December 2021.

Full details of the fund, including eligibility and the application process, are available on the CSEF page of the Oxford Students website, and a further announcement will be made once the next round of applications is open.

I am writing to provide you an update on our plans for Trinity term, following my last message to you on 22 January.

I know from speaking to numerous students how difficult the last few weeks have been for many of you – whether you are in Oxford or at home, and we continue in our commitment to supporting you as much as we can through our welfare and wider support.

I am also fully aware that you would like some certainty about next term, but as you will know, the UK Government has not yet confirmed when the current national lockdown will end, which means we cannot give you all of the details.

However, at this stage, I am pleased to be able to give you an update on our plans for assessments, and confirmation of residency arrangements.

Assessments update

Most exams will take place online in Trinity term, and as announced earlier this week, most of you will use Inspera. This is a modern, flexible platform, which I am sure will provide an excellent experience.

If they have not already done so, your department will contact you in the very near future to outline the format of your exams. For the small number of you with exams taking place in-person, they will confirm contingency arrangements in the event that your exam needs to move online. A final decision about whether remaining in-person examinations will go ahead in Trinity term will be made in Week 8 of Hilary term.

A single webpage outlining the format of all exams will be published on the Oxford Students website in the near future and further information will follow via the Student News as soon as possible.

Assessment support

I am pleased to give you some more details about the academic support package, designed to ensure all students receive fair grades, in light of this year’s exceptional circumstances and to ensure you are not disadvantaged relative to pre-pandemic years. I can now confirm that this will include the following measures:

Measures for whole cohorts

Exam boards will be asked to:

  • Make adjustments for papers that have been particularly impacted by the pandemic
  • Review average marks at paper level, and scale them to bring them more into line with expected outcomes and previous years’ results
  • Review overall outcomes and make adjustments in reference to previous years

Measures for individual students

You will be able to:

  • Submit a statement along with some submitted work to describe the impact of lack of access to in-person resources or activities has had on your submission
  • Use an enhanced Mitigating Circumstances for Examiners (MCE) process from Week 6 of Hilary term, including a new ‘student impact statement’, as well as changes that will allow you to submit MCEs direct rather than through your college from early Trinity term
  • Benefit from periods for self-certifying for extensions and late submissions, to reflect difficulties in accessing GPs for non-urgent medical matters

Further information about this support package can be found on the teaching learning page of the University coronavirus website, and more detail will follow between now and the end of Hilary term.

Information about returning to Oxford

We continue in our aim to provide you as full an experience as possible this year within the constraints of the pandemic and hope we will be able to invite you back to Oxford in time for Trinity term, with a mix of in-person and online learning in place.

However, the exact arrangements very much depend on Government guidance, which we expect to be published in the week beginning 22 February.

I can confirm at this stage that residency requirements will not be in place for Trinity term, with all students automatically given a blanket exemption for the whole term. This means you will not need to apply for an exemption if you are not able to be here.

If you are able to return, we will strongly encourage you to return to Oxford in Trinity term to attend in-person teaching and practical work, and make the most of University and college facilities, if local and national restrictions allow it.

We will provide more information as soon as possible after the Government issues its updated guidance. In the meantime, we ask that, unless already agreed with your college and department, you do not return to Oxford at this stage.

Continuing to support you

I would like to finish by letting you know that we are thinking carefully about how to make your experience in Oxford as positive as possible in the weeks and months ahead. This includes thinking about the social and community aspects of student life; as well as ensuring welfare support is in place, both during the Easter vacation, and when you return to Oxford.

Staff across the University and colleges (many of whom have their own caring and other commitments) are working as hard as they can to support you throughout the pandemic; and I look forward to telling you more about our plans for next term in the near future.

Best wishes,

Martin Williams
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)

12 February 2021 from Professor Martin Williams to taught students

I am writing to provide you an update on our plans for Trinity term, following my last message to you on 22 January.

I know from speaking to numerous students how difficult the last few weeks have been for many of you – whether you are in Oxford or at home, and we continue in our commitment to supporting you as much as we can through our welfare and wider support.

I am also fully aware that you would like some certainty about next term, but as you will know, the UK Government has not yet confirmed when the current national lockdown will end, which means we cannot give you all of the details.

However, at this stage, I am pleased to be able to give you an update on our plans for assessments, and confirmation of residency arrangements.

Assessments update

Most exams will take place online in Trinity term, and as announced earlier this week, most of you will use Inspera. This is a modern, flexible platform, which I am sure will provide an excellent experience.

If they have not already done so, your department will contact you in the very near future to outline the format of your exams. For the small number of you with exams taking place in-person, they will confirm contingency arrangements in the event that your exam needs to move online. A final decision about whether remaining in-person examinations will go ahead in Trinity term will be made in Week 8 of Hilary term.

A single webpage outlining the format of all exams will be published on the Oxford Students website in the near future and further information will follow via the Student News as soon as possible.

Assessment support

I am pleased to give you some more details about the academic support package, designed to ensure all students receive fair grades, in light of this year’s exceptional circumstances and to ensure you are not disadvantaged relative to pre-pandemic years. I can now confirm that this will include the following measures:

Measures for whole cohorts

Exam boards will be asked to:

  • Make adjustments for papers that have been particularly impacted by the pandemic
  • Review average marks at paper level, and scale them to bring them more into line with expected outcomes and previous years’ results
  • Review overall outcomes and make adjustments in reference to previous years

Measures for individual students

You will be able to:

  • Submit a statement along with some submitted work to describe the impact of lack of access to in-person resources or activities has had on your submission
  • Use an enhanced Mitigating Circumstances for Examiners (MCE) process from Week 6 of Hilary term, including a new ‘student impact statement’, as well as changes that will allow you to submit MCEs direct rather than through your college from early Trinity term
  • Benefit from periods for self-certifying for extensions and late submissions, to reflect difficulties in accessing GPs for non-urgent medical matters

Further information about this support package can be found on the teaching learning page of the University coronavirus website, and more detail will follow between now and the end of Hilary term.

Information about returning to Oxford

We continue in our aim to provide you as full an experience as possible this year within the constraints of the pandemic and hope we will be able to invite you back to Oxford in time for Trinity term, with a mix of in-person and online learning in place.

However, the exact arrangements very much depend on Government guidance, which we expect to be published in the week beginning 22 February.

I can confirm at this stage that residency requirements will not be in place for Trinity term, with all students automatically given a blanket exemption for the whole term. This means you will not need to apply for an exemption if you are not able to be here.

If you are able to return, we will strongly encourage you to return to Oxford in Trinity term to attend in-person teaching and practical work, and make the most of University and college facilities, if local and national restrictions allow it.

We will provide more information as soon as possible after the Government issues its updated guidance. In the meantime, we ask that, unless already agreed with your college and department, you do not return to Oxford at this stage.

Continuing to support you

I would like to finish by letting you know that we are thinking carefully about how to make your experience in Oxford as positive as possible in the weeks and months ahead. This includes thinking about the social and community aspects of student life; as well as ensuring welfare support is in place, both during the Easter vacation, and when you return to Oxford.

Staff across the University and colleges (many of whom have their own caring and other commitments) are working as hard as they can to support you throughout the pandemic; and I look forward to telling you more about our plans for next term in the near future.

Best wishes,

Martin Williams
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)

25 January 2021 from Professor Martin Williams to all postgraduate research students

The message below has just been sent to all taught students. It is being shared with postgraduate research students for information. The position for postgraduate research students remains as it was when I emailed you on 12 January: you may conduct your research in Oxford if this is necessary, but you should work from home if you are able to do so.

I am writing to provide you with an update about our plans for University in-person teaching for the remainder of the academic year, and to give you some more information about the measures we will be putting in place to support students.

Plans for students’ return to Oxford
As you will be aware, rates of COVID-19 continue to be very high, and the number of cases in Oxford are the highest they have been since the start of the pandemic, putting enormous strain on the health service.

For this reason, I can confirm that we have taken the difficult decision that we expect teaching to take place online for the remainder of Hilary term for most students, other than those who have been given specific permission to resume in-person teaching.

Some students on a small number of additional courses will be invited to return in time for University in-person practical teaching to begin in Week 5 of Hilary term, where this is vital for them to complete the year. This includes some part-time, and some full-time courses. Your department will write to you early next week if this is the case.

Unless you hear from your department, or have already agreed with your college that you can return, you must not travel back to Oxford at this stage.

If Government restrictions are lifted, it may be possible for more students to return to residence in Oxford later this term. However, formal teaching is very likely to remain online for most students, unless there is a significant change in Government policy.

We realise that this will be disappointing for many students, but I would like to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to maintain the highest standards of education, albeit in online form.

At this stage, we anticipate that we will be able to welcome students back to Oxford in Trinity term, and are currently exploring the options for teaching and wider student life next term. This includes considering whether any measures such as catch-up in-person teaching may be required for small numbers of students (for example, laboratory or studio work). We will provide a further update by the middle of this term.

Assessment support package
As outlined in my email of 12 January, the University is committed to supporting all students during the pandemic, given the disruption we all face.

I have received calls from some students to reintroduce a blanket ‘no detriment’ policy, as we implemented last year. While I understand the strength of feeling on this matter, the University continues to believe (in line with other Russell Group universities, and their student unions), that a formulaic policy for all students is not the right approach, and that a more considered and tailored solution is required. The reasons for this are set out clearly in the Russell Group statement.

To this end, we plan to put in place an assessment support package, comprising of a set of mitigation measures designed to ensure all students receive fair grades, in light of this year’s exceptional circumstances. These new measures will fall into two broad areas:

  • Measures for whole cohorts
    Firstly we will ensure that, at cohort level, this year’s students are not disadvantaged relative to pre-pandemic years. This will be achieved by comparing the overall class distribution as well as the mean and spread of marks and adjusting by scaling where necessary. 
  • Measures for individual students
    Secondly, we will ensure we consider the impact of the pandemic on individuals. To do this, we will introduce an enhanced Mitigating Circumstances notice to Examiners (MCE) process. As in Trinity term 2020, you will be able to make direct MCE applications setting out the disruption you have experienced during the pandemic. We are exploring changes to make the process easier, and you will not need independent medical evidence. We will also offer improved support and guidance for both students and examiners, to ensure MCEs are handled with empathy and consistency. Separately, if you submit work that has been affected by access to resources (for example, library archives), you may be able to include an explanatory statement with your submission, so that it can be considered during the marking phase, rather than after marking by exam boards.

These measures are in addition to steps we have already taken to redesign teaching and assessment approaches in light of the pandemic. We believe this package will offer the fairest outcomes for all students. Beneath these high-level statements, there is a lot of implementation detail that is currently being worked through, in consultation with Oxford SU representatives. We are committed to providing full details of these processes by the middle of this term. 

At this stage, I would encourage you to keep a log of any disruption you face as a result of COVID-19, so that this can be considered as part of the MCE process. Further details about how to do this can be found on the teaching and learning page on the University student coronavirus site.

Access to library resources
Finally, I know that some students are concerned about library access, and while for most of you, access to the Bodleian libraries is primarily online, I would like to reassure you that the libraries are working to maximise the range of resources and support available to everyone through these means. Please do continue to use its Live Chat with any queries you have.

For those students who are in Oxford, the Bodleian is also providing access to library study spaces, starting with the Old Bodleian Library and expanding opening hours and spaces as the term progresses. Please check regularly for updates on reading room availability and opening hours, and use Space Finder to book your space (and please do use your space if you book it). Please support your fellow students, library staff and academic staff, by wearing a face covering at all times unless you have a medical exemption, and by leaving a two-metre space between you and other library users and staff.

I would like to sign off by reiterating that staff at all levels across the University are in no doubt about what an exceptional and difficult year this has been for students. We have lived through the pandemic with you, and many of us have children in school or at university. We fully empathise with you, and many colleagues have gone to extraordinary lengths to give you the best academic experience we can. We also remain committed to supporting your wellbeing, whether you are in Oxford or studying remotely. I remind you that both your college and University support services remain available to you and I encourage you to contact them if you need to.

None of us has the power to undo all the impacts of COVID-19, but we are committed to supporting you in your studying, learning and academic success at this turbulent time.

Martin Williams
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)

25 January 2021 from Professor Martin Williams to all taught students

I am writing to provide you with an update about our plans for University in-person teaching for the remainder of the academic year, and to give you some more information about the measures we will be putting in place to support students.

Plans for students’ return to Oxford
As you will be aware, rates of COVID-19 continue to be very high, and the number of cases in Oxford are the highest they have been since the start of the pandemic, putting enormous strain on the health service.

For this reason, I can confirm that we have taken the difficult decision that we expect teaching to take place online for the remainder of Hilary term for most students, other than those who have been given specific permission to resume in-person teaching.

Some students on a small number of additional courses will be invited to return in time for University in-person practical teaching to begin in Week 5 of Hilary term, where this is vital for them to complete the year. This includes some part-time, and some full-time courses. Your department will write to you early next week if this is the case.

Unless you hear from your department, or have already agreed with your college that you can return, you must not travel back to Oxford at this stage.

If Government restrictions are lifted, it may be possible for more students to return to residence in Oxford later this term. However, formal teaching is very likely to remain online for most students, unless there is a significant change in Government policy.

We realise that this will be disappointing for many students, but I would like to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to maintain the highest standards of education, albeit in online form.

At this stage, we anticipate that we will be able to welcome students back to Oxford in Trinity term, and are currently exploring the options for teaching and wider student life next term. This includes considering whether any measures such as catch-up in-person teaching may be required for small numbers of students (for example, laboratory or studio work). We will provide a further update by the middle of this term.

Assessment support package
As outlined in my email of 12 January, the University is committed to supporting all students during the pandemic, given the disruption we all face.

I have received calls from some students to reintroduce a blanket ‘no detriment’ policy, as we implemented last year. While I understand the strength of feeling on this matter, the University continues to believe (in line with other Russell Group universities, and their student unions), that a formulaic policy for all students is not the right approach, and that a more considered and tailored solution is required. The reasons for this are set out clearly in the Russell Group statement.

To this end, we plan to put in place an assessment support package, comprising of a set of mitigation measures designed to ensure all students receive fair grades, in light of this year’s exceptional circumstances. These new measures will fall into two broad areas:

  • Measures for whole cohorts
    Firstly we will ensure that, at cohort level, this year’s students are not disadvantaged relative to pre-pandemic years. This will be achieved by comparing the overall class distribution as well as the mean and spread of marks and adjusting by scaling where necessary.
  • Measures for individual students
    Secondly, we will ensure we consider the impact of the pandemic on individuals. To do this, we will introduce an enhanced Mitigating Circumstances notice to Examiners (MCE) process. As in Trinity term 2020, you will be able to make direct MCE applications setting out the disruption you have experienced during the pandemic. We are exploring changes to make the process easier, and you will not need independent medical evidence. We will also offer improved support and guidance for both students and examiners, to ensure MCEs are handled with empathy and consistency. Separately, if you submit work that has been affected by access to resources (for example, library archives), you may be able to include an explanatory statement with your submission, so that it can be considered during the marking phase, rather than after marking by exam boards.

These measures are in addition to steps we have already taken to redesign teaching and assessment approaches in light of the pandemic. We believe this package will offer the fairest outcomes for all students. Beneath these high-level statements, there is a lot of implementation detail that is currently being worked through, in consultation with Oxford SU representatives. We are committed to providing full details of these processes by the middle of this term. 

At this stage, I would encourage you to keep a log of any disruption you face as a result of COVID-19, so that this can be considered as part of the MCE process. Further details about how to do this can be found on the teaching and learning page on the University student coronavirus site.

Access to library resources

Finally, I know that some students are concerned about library access, and while for most of you, access to the Bodleian libraries is primarily online, I would like to reassure you that the libraries are working to maximise the range of resources and support available to everyone through these means. Please do continue to use its Live Chat with any queries you have.

For those students who are in Oxford, the Bodleian is also providing access to library study spaces, starting with the Old Bodleian Library and expanding opening hours and spaces as the term progresses. Please check regularly for updates on reading room availability and opening hours, and use Space Finder to book your space (and please do use your space if you book it). Please support your fellow students, library staff and academic staff, by wearing a face covering at all times unless you have a medical exemption, and by leaving a two-metre space between you and other library users and staff.

I would like to sign off by reiterating that staff at all levels across the University are in no doubt about what an exceptional and difficult year this has been for students. We have lived through the pandemic with you, and many of us have children in school or at university. We fully empathise with you, and many colleagues have gone to extraordinary lengths to give you the best academic experience we can. We also remain committed to supporting your wellbeing, whether you are in Oxford or studying remotely. I remind you that both your college and University support services remain available to you and I encourage you to contact them if you need to.

None of us has the power to undo all the impacts of COVID-19, but we are committed to supporting you in your studying, learning and academic success at this turbulent time.

Martin Williams
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)

18 January 2021 from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff

Dear Colleagues,

I thought I would write to you on this – the first Monday in First Week of the new term – to acknowledge that this is a very difficult time, that it is likely to continue for a while, and that we are going to continue to ask you to do many difficult things. I want you to know, however, that my colleagues and I appreciate that you cannot do everything. You are not expected to work as if there were no pandemic. We encourage you to take time to look after yourselves. Your best is good enough.

At a Teams meeting of Heads of Department last week, one put a question in the chat. I called on him to ask his question and it immediately became apparent that he was participating in this meeting while home schooling his children. The experience took me back to the toughest time in my career, when I had to balance caring for three children under five and a junior faculty position.

I remembered the time, at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, when I arrived at a lift with my six-week-old in one arm, a bag of papers in the other, and my two-year-old at my side. The lift door opened, my excited daughter ran in, and the door closed behind her. My stomach sank as I watched the lift carry her up, floor after floor, through the vast Washington Hilton.

These, and many other memories, flooded back when I heard the familiar background sounds at the Heads of Department meeting. But I never had to home school my children. I can only begin to imagine how difficult it must be to balance caring for children with teaching students, fulfilling administrative responsibilities, and keeping one’s research going, all while worrying about the personal, professional and national consequences of the pandemic.

Nor do I wish to suggest that the difficulties are confined to those with children. The complete cessation of social life has been especially hard for our colleagues who live alone. As one said to me: “I haven’t touched another human being in nearly a year.”

I know that I speak for the senior team when I say that we are committed to supporting you in every way we can. We have flexed several of our policies in addressing immediate needs and recognizing the potential for longer-term impact on careers. We have also put in place financial support and mental health and wellbeing resources. I hope you are taking advantage of them. Please visit the new webpage which brings together – for academic, research and teaching staff – the various support measures that have been put in place during the pandemic, alongside support for all staff.

We are very interested in hearing any ideas that you may have of other ways we can help, or if there are activities or programmes that can easily be postponed. I will be holding an Open Forum for all staff on 22 January, the Registrar will hold a forum for Professional Services staff on 8 February, and I will hold one for Academic staff on 17 February.

I do hope that, like me, you are deriving hope from the scale and speed of the vaccination programme thus far, and from the fact that the days are gradually getting longer and brighter.

Yours sincerely,

Louise Richardson

Vice-Chancellor

12 January 2021 from Professor Martin Williams to all research students

Important message for all research students: exams and assessments in Hilary and Trinity terms

The message below has just been sent to all taught students. It will be relevant to the small number of postgraduate research students taking examinations this academic year. Existing information about assessments for postgraduate research students can be found on the FAQ page of the student coronavirus site.

I am writing to update you on our plans for examinations and assessments in Hilary and Trinity terms 2021.

First, I want to acknowledge what a troubling time this is for all students, and I would like to thank you for your continued cooperation and patience as we respond to the latest national lockdown and the ongoing disruption brought about by COVID-19.

I understand that many of you will be concerned about the impact on your studies. I would like to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to support you in spite of the pandemic, and to give you as much clarity as possible given the ongoing uncertainty we all face. Departments have the situation under constant review, and will be adapting teaching and learning as appropriate to ensure you are fully prepared and supported for exams and assessments.

Plans for Hilary and Trinity terms

At this stage, I am able to confirm the following information:

Hilary term
  • There will be no in-person exams in Hilary term (with the exception of one medical exam needed to meet professional body requirements).
  • The vast majority of exams that were due to take place in-person in Hilary term will now be taken either online or by other means of assessment. Your department will contact you in the near future if you were due to take an in-person exam in Hilary term to tell you more.
  • All online open-book examinations will take place as planned using WebLearn
  • All coursework will continue to be submitted online.
  • These decisions are final, and arrangements for Hilary term exams are not expected to change again.
Trinity term
  • As things currently stand, we plan for a full suite of Trinity term exams to take place around their usual time.
  • Most students sitting examinations will be using Oxford’s new online assessment platform, full details of which will be announced in the near future. We have selected a platform that provides the benefits of a modern service, but with ease of use, and a smooth transition for students as a priority: more information on the new system is outlined below.
  • A number of examinations are planned to take place in-person, but contingency plans are in place should the pandemic restrictions prevent in-person exams taking place.
  • All coursework will continue to be submitted online.

Over the next few weeks we will be considering whether any changes are necessary to Trinity term exams as the pandemic develops. These might include changing a small number of in-person exams to a different format, using other forms of assessment, or making small adjustments to timing.

I fully understand that you will want certainty as soon as possible about how you will be assessed this year, and we are committed to confirming clear plans for Trinity term by the middle of this term. In the meantime, you should assume that your assessments will be as already advised.

New online exams platform

If you are taking open-book exams, you will use a new user-friendly and intuitive online assessment platform. Details of the new system will be provided in the near future.

You will have opportunities to familiarise yourself with the new system, and we aim for you to have hands-on access with a ‘demo’ version from February. If you are sitting your exams in Trinity term, you will also be able to take a practice exam at least two weeks before your first exam to become confident about using the new platform. We are creating a new set of webpages with guidance on how you can prepare for and take online exams this year. This will be made available from mid-February.

Timetables

Your exam timetables (including the format of your exams) will be published on the Timetables page of the Oxford Students website throughout Hilary term, as soon as they are agreed with your Exam Boards. Personal exam timetables will be issued via Student Self Service at least two weeks before your first exam.

Support for you

We will provide as much support as possible during your exams this year, with department guidance, college briefings and support, recorded exam preparation briefings, exam-specific wellbeing resources and the usual exam adjustments in place.

We are also committed to supporting students impacted by COVID-19, with a focus on targeted measures for individual students.

The mitigating circumstances notices to examiners process also remains in place, allowing Exam Boards to take a range of actions for both individual students, and for whole cohorts. We are reviewing this system to ensure it is suitable for the current pandemic situation, and will confirm any changes as soon as possible.

In line with our targeted approach, and the Russell Group’s position, we will not be introducing a blanket ‘safety net’ for all students as was done in Trinity term 2020. This is because teaching and assessment is being structured and delivered in a more established way this year and with more support available. Nevertheless, in consultation with Oxford SU representatives, we are giving careful thought to what additional measures may be needed to support students and achieve fair degree outcomes in this year’s assessments. A further announcement will be made by the middle of Hilary term.

‘Declared awards’ will still be available this academic year. Like last year, the declared outcome is intended only for those students who cannot complete their assessments and who are unable to suspend and return the following year.

Further information

As outlined above, we plan to provide information about any further changes to Trinity exams and the support available to you by the middle of this term. We will also provide more information about the new exam system, and other updates in the days and weeks ahead. Please continue to review the student coronavirus pages and the Student News for the latest information. As above, you should assume your assessments will take place as previously advised unless you hear otherwise, and there are no further actions required from you at this stage.

The pandemic continues to provide us with significant challenges, but please rest assured that supporting your academic success is a key priority for everyone at the University, and we are committed to keeping you updated with the latest information as soon as it becomes available. With your continued flexibility, I am confident that we can have another successful exam season regardless of the ongoing disruption we are all facing.

With best wishes,

Martin Williams
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)
University of Oxford

12 January 2021 from Professor Martin Williams to all taught students

Important message for all taught students: exams and assessments in Hilary and Trinity terms

I am writing to update you on our plans for examinations and assessments in Hilary and Trinity terms 2021.

First, I want to acknowledge what a troubling time this is for all students, and I would like to thank you for your continued cooperation and patience as we respond to the latest national lockdown and the ongoing disruption brought about by COVID-19.

I understand that many of you will be concerned about the impact on your studies. I would like to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to support you in spite of the pandemic, and to give you as much clarity as possible given the ongoing uncertainty we all face. Departments have the situation under constant review, and will be adapting teaching and learning as appropriate to ensure you are fully prepared and supported for exams and assessments.

Plans for Hilary and Trinity terms

At this stage, I am able to confirm the following information:

Hilary term
  • There will be no in-person exams in Hilary term (with the exception of one medical exam needed to meet professional body requirements).
  • The vast majority of exams that were due to take place in-person in Hilary term will now be taken either online or by other means of assessment. Your department will contact you in the near future if you were due to take an in-person exam in Hilary term to tell you more.
  • All online open-book examinations will take place as planned using WebLearn
  • All coursework will continue to be submitted online.
  • These decisions are final, and arrangements for Hilary term exams are not expected to change again.
Trinity term
  • As things currently stand, we plan for a full suite of Trinity term exams to take place around their usual time.
  • Most students sitting examinations will be using Oxford’s new online assessment platform, full details of which will be announced in the near future. We have selected a platform that provides the benefits of a modern service, but with ease of use, and a smooth transition for students as a priority: more information on the new system is outlined below.
  • A number of examinations are planned to take place in-person, but contingency plans are in place should the pandemic restrictions prevent in-person exams taking place.
  • All coursework will continue to be submitted online.

Over the next few weeks we will be considering whether any changes are necessary to Trinity term exams as the pandemic develops. These might include changing a small number of in-person exams to a different format, using other forms of assessment, or making small adjustments to timing.

I fully understand that you will want certainty as soon as possible about how you will be assessed this year, and we are committed to confirming clear plans for Trinity term by the middle of this term. In the meantime, you should assume that your assessments will be as already advised.

New online exams platform

If you are taking open-book exams, you will use a new user-friendly and intuitive online assessment platform. Details of the new system will be provided in the near future.

You will have opportunities to familiarise yourself with the new system, and we aim for you to have hands-on access with a ‘demo’ version from February. If you are sitting your exams in Trinity term, you will also be able to take a practice exam at least two weeks before your first exam to become confident about using the new platform. We are creating a new set of webpages with guidance on how you can prepare for and take online exams this year. This will be made available from mid-February.

Timetables

Your exam timetables (including the format of your exams) will be published on the Timetables page of the Oxford Students website throughout Hilary term, as soon as they are agreed with your Exam Boards. Personal exam timetables will be issued via Student Self Service at least two weeks before your first exam.

Support for you

We will provide as much support as possible during your exams this year, with department guidance, college briefings and support, recorded exam preparation briefings, exam-specific wellbeing resources and the usual exam adjustments in place.

We are also committed to supporting students impacted by COVID-19, with a focus on targeted measures for individual students.

The mitigating circumstances notices to examiners process also remains in place, allowing Exam Boards to take a range of actions for both individual students, and for whole cohorts. We are reviewing this system to ensure it is suitable for the current pandemic situation, and will confirm any changes as soon as possible.

In line with our targeted approach, and the Russell Group’s position, we will not be introducing a blanket ‘safety net’ for all students as was done in Trinity term 2020. This is because teaching and assessment is being structured and delivered in a more established way this year and with more support available. Nevertheless, in consultation with Oxford SU representatives, we are giving careful thought to what additional measures may be needed to support students and achieve fair degree outcomes in this year’s assessments. A further announcement will be made by the middle of Hilary term.

‘Declared awards’ will still be available this academic year. Like last year, the declared outcome is intended only for those students who cannot complete their assessments and who are unable to suspend and return the following year.

Further information

As outlined above, we plan to provide information about any further changes to Trinity exams and the support available to you by the middle of this term. We will also provide more information about the new exam system, and other updates in the days and weeks ahead. Please continue to review the student coronavirus pages and the Student News for the latest information. As above, you should assume your assessments will take place as previously advised unless you hear otherwise, and there are no further actions required from you at this stage.

The pandemic continues to provide us with significant challenges, but please rest assured that supporting your academic success is a key priority for everyone at the University, and we are committed to keeping you updated with the latest information as soon as it becomes available. With your continued flexibility, I am confident that we can have another successful exam season regardless of the ongoing disruption we are all facing.

With best wishes,

Martin Williams
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)
University of Oxford

6 January 2021 from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff

Dear Colleagues

Welcome to Hilary term 2021. I hope that each of you managed to have a restful break over the holidays and that you are feeling refreshed and ready for the challenges ahead.

This pandemic has tested us in unprecedented ways. Last Trinity term, thanks to the extraordinary efforts and talents of each of you, we moved our teaching online. Over the summer, we safely reopened our buildings, created COVID-19-secure workplaces and established a state-of-the-art testing service. Last term, we brought our students back to Oxford and provided them with the educational and social experience that is our hallmark. Throughout all the ups and downs of the pandemic, we have continued our vital research.

Now, for a third term, we will have to adapt again. As you know, we were instructed by the Department of Education to stagger the return of students this month. Last week we received new guidance severely restricting the numbers of students who could return to the University in January. On Monday evening the Prime Minister announced further national restrictions until at least mid-February. As of now, we still do not have detailed guidance from the Department of Education.

As soon as we receive more detailed information we will post it on our website, publish it in the University Bulletin, and send it to Departments through the communications cascade. Colleges will also send their own communications. The general principles, however, remain clear. Most teaching will be online until at least mid-February and most students are discouraged from returning to Oxford before then (exceptions are listed here).

Our commitment to protecting and nurturing our research remains. We will keep buildings open so that those who cannot work from home can have access to a COVID-19-secure workplace. Our commitment to the education of our students remains as strong as ever, but we will again have to be creative in how we teach our students. Our commitment to the health and wellbeing of our staff, on whom our research and education depend – and who again may need to juggle caring and work – remains unequivocal.

Last term, as you know, we established a PCR Testing Service for our students and staff. Over the course of the term we tested approximately 6,000 staff and students. 20% had positive results. Of those 95% were students. Of the staff who tested positive almost all were able to trace the source of infection to family or social situations, not the workplace. I would like to encourage you to use the testing service if you are concerned that you might have COVID-19. We are also exploring the possibility of introducing asymptomatic Lateral Flow Testing for staff who have to come to work.

I will be holding an Open Forum with some of my colleagues on 22 January so that we can address any detailed questions you may have.

I should add that we are also assessing the detailed implications for the University of our exit from the EU in light of the new Trade Agreement. We were relieved to have secured Associate Status for Horizon Europe and we continue to seek details from Government on the new Turing Scheme. The Brexit webpages will be updated by the end of the week.

I trust that the MHRA approval of the Oxford Vaccine, and its rollout this week, is a source of enormous pride for you as it is for me. It also means that we know that there is an end to this difficult period in which we find ourselves. I am reminded of an old Irish saying: “An ceann is dorcha roimh breacadh an lae”, meaning, it is darkest before the dawn. We have a few more difficult months ahead but the end is in sight. I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done, and continue to do, for this great University and our critical mission of research, education and contributing to the world around us.

Yours sincerely

Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor

6 January 2021 from Professor Martin Williams and Miles Young to all taught students

Important message for all taught students: update on Hilary term arrangements

We are writing to provide another update following our message last week about returning for Hilary term.

As you will know, a national lockdown is now in place across England, and we are now considering the implications for the University and colleges. We fully realise this will add yet more frustration to what has been such a difficult time for all of us, and are committed to providing as much clarity as we can as soon as possible.

In the meantime, we are able to confirm the following information:

Update on return for Hilary term

As per our previous email, Government guidance states that only specific groups of taught students can return to university from 4 January.

All other students were previously instructed not to return until at least 25 January. The Government has now revised this date to at least ‘mid-February’.

In line with wider government guidance to limit travel, students should access learning remotely from home wherever possible. There are limited exemptions available, which are outlined on the Christmas vacation page, and will be applied strictly. If you feel you meet the criteria, you must discuss with your college and before you travel back to Oxford. Colleges will follow government guidance when evaluating applications for exemptions.

We can now confirm that students on a very small number of additional courses will also be able to return early. Your department will contact you as soon as possible to invite you back to Oxford if your course is included in this list.

Unless you have agreed with your college that you meet the strict criteria already provided, or your department informs you that you can return for in-person teaching, you must not come back to Oxford until at least mid-February. We will be in touch when we are able to provide more information about return dates.

Please ensure that you contact your college before you make any plans to travel to Oxford.

Postgraduate research students remain exempt from this guidance, and have been written to separately.

Teaching and assessment

The University has moved to Stage 3 of its business continuity planning framework. This means that while University and college buildings will remain open for on-site working and research, teaching and learning will need to take place online for the time being, apart from the courses outlined above where in-person teaching is permitted. You can prepare for learning online by following our advice for getting the most out of remote learning at university.

Most Hilary term assessments up to at least mid-February will move online unless there is a strict regulatory requirement for them to take place in-person. We are now considering our plans for exams later in the term. Your department will inform you of any changes to exam arrangements as appropriate.

Libraries will prioritise remote and zero-contact digital services, although a small number of ‘hub’ libraries will be open for bookable study spaces. Go to the Bodleian Libraries website for further details.

We realise that some students will have concerns about the impact of these changes on their academic work, and we are working through the detail of how this will be managed. More information will follow as soon as possible.

Student life

Clearly the national lockdown and the restrictions that come with it, will impact student life, which means that being in Oxford will not be the same as it was in Michaelmas term. Nevertheless, we are committed to supporting students as much as possible. Colleges will be working to support students who have returned to Oxford, or stayed throughout the vacation. We expect student clubs and societies will continue to operate online with a range of offerings based on experiences gained in 2020. University services such as the Careers Service and the Language Centre will continue online as before.

We realise that the pandemic continues to have a significant impact on many students’ mental health. College and University welfare provision will remain in place throughout the term, and the Mental Health Task Force will focus on what is needed so that we can continue to offer the highest level of support to students.

Residency requirements

In light of the current COVID-19 restrictions, the decision has been taken to suspend all residency requirements for Hilary term. A blanket dispensation is now in place for all students for the whole term, and you do not need to make any applications if you are unable to return.

We remain hopeful that we will be able to provide in-person teaching and support when the current pandemic ‘spike’ subsides. Once we are permitted by Government guidance to restart in-person teaching we will look forward to welcoming you back.

The policy for residency requirements in Trinity term will be considered later in Hilary term – in line with the evolving pandemic.

Next steps

We share your disappointment in not being able to provide more in-person teaching, and that we can’t have more students in Oxford, but are fully committed to helping every student to make the most out of their university experience within the constraints of the pandemic. Colleges and departments have been planning for scenarios such as this for several months, and are confident that based on our experiences last year, we will be able to provide effective online teaching and assessment, and to support students as much as possible whether you are at home or here in Oxford.

We also realise that you will have a number of additional questions about the rest of the academic year – in particular the impacts on teaching and assessment, and arrangements for later in Hilary, and in Trinity term. There is a lot to consider, but we would like to assure you that we are working through the details, and will provide updates as soon as possible.

All of the information above has now been published on the Christmas vacation page, and an overview of welfare support available to students is also online. Further details will be updated on the wider student pages on the coronavirus website, and in the Student News from next Monday (11 January), to help keep you up to date. Please do continue to check back regularly.

Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges

6 January 2021 from Professor Martin Williams and Miles Young to all research students

Important message for all research students: update on Hilary term arrangements

We are writing to provide another update following our message last week about returning for Hilary term.

As you will know, a national lockdown is now in place across England, and we are now considering the implications for the University and colleges. We fully realise that this news will add yet more frustration to what has been such a difficult time for all of us, and are committed to providing as much clarity as we can as soon as possible.

In the meantime, we are able to confirm the following information:

Research and wider University activity

The University has moved to Stage 3 of its business continuity planning framework. This means that University and college buildings will remain open for on-site working and research, but most teaching will take place online for the time being.

As per our previous email, Government guidance states that only specific groups of taught students can return to university from 4 January. All other taught students have now been advised that they will not be allowed to return until at least ‘mid-February’.

Postgraduate research students remain exempt from this guidance. In line with University employees, you may access university facilities if necessary for your research, but should work remotely if you are able to do so. You should speak to your department about whether you will be able to conduct your research from home or on-site.

Libraries will prioritise remote and zero-contact digital services, although a small number of ‘hub’ libraries will be open for bookable study spaces. Go to the Bodleian Libraries website for further details.

We realise that some students will have concerns about the impact of these changes on their academic work, and we are working through the detail of how this will be managed. More information will follow as soon as possible.

Student life

Clearly the national lockdown, and the restrictions that come with it, will impact student life, which means that being in Oxford will not be the same as it was in Michaelmas term. Nevertheless, we are committed to supporting students as much as possible. Colleges will be working to support students who have returned to Oxford, or stayed throughout the vacation. We expect student clubs and societies will continue to operate online with a range of offerings based on experiences gained in 2020. University services such as the Careers Service and the Language Centre will continue online as before.

We realise that the pandemic continues to have a significant impact on many students’ mental health. College and University welfare provision will remain in place throughout the term, and the Mental Health Task Force will focus on what is needed so that we can continue to offer the highest level of support to students.

Residency requirements

In light of the current COVID-19 restrictions, the decision has been taken to suspend all residency requirements for Hilary term. A blanket dispensation is now in place for all students for the whole term, and you do not need to make any applications if you are unable to return.

We remain hopeful that we will be able to provide in-person teaching and support when the current pandemic ‘spike’ subsides. Once we are permitted by Government guidance to restart in-person teaching we will look forward to welcoming you back.

The policy for residency requirements in Trinity term will be considered later in Hilary term – in line with the evolving pandemic.

Next steps

We also realise that you will have a number of additional questions about the rest of the academic year – in particular the impacts on teaching and assessment, and arrangements for later in Hilary, and in Trinity term. There is a lot to consider, but we would like to assure you that we are working through the details, and will provide updates as soon as possible.

All of the information above has now been published on the Christmas vacation page, and an overview of welfare support available to students is also online. Further details will be updated on the wider student pages on the coronavirus website, and in the Student News from next Monday (11 January), to help keep you up to date. Please do continue to check back regularly.

Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges

1 January 2021 from Professor Martin Williams and Miles Young to all taught students

Important message for all taught students: changes to arrangements for the start of Hilary term

We are writing to notify you about some important changes to our plans for the start of Hilary term.

On Wednesday 30 December, the UK Government published new guidance about which students are allowed to return to universities in the New Year.

In line with this guidance, only very specific groups of taught students will be permitted to return to Oxford from 4 January. All other taught students are advised not to travel back to university until at least 25 January, with all teaching taking place online until at least that point.

If you are taking part in initial teacher training or medicine courses, you should return to Oxford as indicated previously. Students on a small number of additional courses (for example, some of those with professional accreditations) may be invited to come back to Oxford earlier than other students. Further guidance will follow on this next week.

If you are not on an initial teacher training or medicine course, you should only return to Oxford at this stage if you meet at least one of these criteria:

  • You are an international student and have remained in the UK or have already arrived back, or have booked travel which cannot be rescheduled
  • You have stayed in university or college accommodation over the Christmas vacation
  • You require additional support, including if you are having mental health difficulties
  • You do not have access to appropriate study spaces or facilities at home

If you meet these criteria, you should return to Oxford as you had already planned at the end of Michaelmas term. If your circumstances have changed since the end of last term, you should discuss your plans with your college before returning.

This guidance applies to both full and part-time students. Postgraduate research students are exempt from the guidance, and have been written to separately.

If you are not taking part in one of the courses above, or do not meet these criteria, you are asked not to return to Oxford until you hear from us again.

The importance of testing and health measures on your return

As you will know, there has been a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases at a national level recently, in part as a result of a new strain of the virus. It is therefore vitally important that you continue to follow the health measures and the behaviours outlined in the Student Responsibility Agreement.

If you are coming back to live in Oxford, you are also very strongly advised to get tested for COVID-19. Your college will provide you with three Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests when you return to Oxford. You should take the first test as soon as possible after you arrive back in Oxford, one three days later, and one more on your tenth day in Oxford. This is extremely important for stopping the spread of the virus.

While LFDs do not detect every case of COVID-19, if you follow the training carefully and take three tests at the start of term, this will significantly increase the chances that cases are detected – and in particular, it will help to detect cases that would otherwise probably be transmitted to others.

Further information

We realise you will have many detailed questions about arrangements for the start of term.

Discussions are now taking place about the exact timings of taught students returning, how University and college services will be managed, and a number of other issues. We are committed to providing a fuller update next week.

In the meantime the Christmas vacation page of the University coronavirus site has now been updated with the interim information. A letter from the Universities Minister to all UK students is also available online.

The University is currently in its Fixed Closure Period, so staff may not be available to answer your questions this week, but will be available from next week.

We realise that this last-minute change of arrangements provides yet further uncertainty in an already difficult year. We had some very good news this week about the approval of the Oxford vaccine for use in the UK. This provides us hope that we will be able to return to a more normal studying environment later in the year, but, for now, we would like to thank you for your patience as we work through this difficult period.

Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges

1 January 2021 from Professor Martin Williams and Miles Young to all research students

Important message for all research students: arrangements for the start of Hilary term

We are writing to provide an update about our plans for the start of Hilary term.

On Wednesday 30 December, the UK Government published new guidance about which students are allowed to return to universities in the New Year.

Postgraduate research students are exempt from the guidance, which means that you can continue your research (and return to Oxford if you left during the vacation) as you planned at the end of Michaelmas term.

Only a small number of taught students will be permitted to return at the start of term, with all others being taught remotely until at least 25 January. Taught students have been written to separately with further details.

The importance of testing and health measures on your return

As you will know, there has been a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases at a national level recently, in part as a result of a new strain of the virus. It is therefore vitally important that you continue to follow the health measures and the behaviours outlined in the Student Responsibility Agreement.

If you are coming back to live in Oxford, you are also very strongly advised to get tested for COVID-19. Your college will provide you with three Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests when you return to Oxford. You should take the first test as soon as possible after you arrive back in Oxford, one three days later, and one more on your tenth day in Oxford. This is extremely important for stopping the spread of the virus.

While LFDs do not detect every case of COVID-19, if you follow the training carefully and take three tests at the start of term, this will significantly increase the chances that cases are detected – and in particular, it will help to detect cases that would otherwise probably be transmitted to others.

Further information

We realise you will have many detailed questions about arrangements for the start of term. Discussions are now taking place about the exact timings of taught students returning, how University and college services will be managed, and a number of other issues. We are committed to providing a fuller update next week.

In the meantime the Christmas vacation page of the University coronavirus site has now been updated with the interim information. A letter from the Universities Minister to all UK students is also available online.

The University is currently in its Fixed Closure Period, so staff may not be available to answer your questions this week, but will be available from next week.

We had some very good news this week about the approval of the Oxford vaccine for use in the UK. This provides us hope that we will be able to return to a more normal studying environment later in the year, but, for now, we would like to thank you for your patience as we work through this difficult period.

Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)
Miles Young, Chair, Conference of Colleges

17 December 2020 from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff

Dear Colleagues,

As this extraordinary term draws to a close I’m writing to thank each and every one of you for all you have done to see the University, and all who work and study here, through this memorable year.

It is a time of mixed emotions: pride in our researchers who have done so much to combat the virus, in our staff who worked tirelessly to ensure that the University’s mission of research and education continued through the pandemic, and in our students who behaved responsibly throughout.

There is also a sense of sadness for all that we have lost this year, and in my own case, for the definitive departure of the UK from the European Union.

And if I am to be completely honest, I should admit to a sense of relief that so many things went as well as they did.

Above all, I feel a sense of optimism for the future. Our vaccine is on its way and will bring untold benefits to our University, our country, and critically to the populations of developing countries around the world. 2021 will be better.

I wish you all an enjoyable and relaxing holiday.

Louise

23 November 2020 from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff and students

Dear Colleagues and Students, 

Today is the day we – and people all over the globe – have been waiting for. The day when we would learn the results of the phase III trial of the Oxford Vaccine, ChadOx (ChAdOx1 nCoV-2019).

The results to date suggest a composite efficacy rate of 70%: 90% for people who receive two doses of the vaccine; a half dose followed by a full dose. For people who receive two full doses of the vaccine the efficacy rate is 60%. None of those who received the vaccine became seriously ill or required hospitalization. Vast reams of safety data have been gathered which attest to the safety of the vaccine. 

This is wonderful news as the vaccine, developed jointly with AstraZeneca, will be available at low cost all over the world. It is the result of a global effort with Oxford at the hub. Our colleagues in Thailand, Kenya and Vietnam working on infectious disease have contributed to the research that made this possible. Partners in Brazil and South Africa have been conducting trials of the vaccine which have been integral to this result. Generous foundations and funding agencies in the UK, Europe and the US, along with private individuals, have invested in this research, and partners like the Serum Institute of India will be manufacturing the vaccine at scale for the developing world. Today’s result also demonstrates what can be achieved in the UK when universities, the Government and the private sector are aligned and working together towards a common goal. 

Above all, I would like, on behalf of all of us, to express my appreciation and admiration of the work of Professors Andrew Pollard, Adrian Hill and Sarah Gilbert and the 280 members of their teams who have been working seven days a week since January to get us to this point. 

On March 23rd, eight months ago today, I wrote to you announcing that we were effectively shutting down the university except for essential research. It is truly extraordinary what has been achieved in this time. Clearly, putting our brainpower in service to society is what we do best. 

I know that this has been a very difficult eight months for many of us, students and staff alike. While today’s news shows a bright light at the end of the tunnel, we still have some difficult times ahead. It is not yet time to relax, to travel and socialize or to mourn properly those we have lost. Colleagues across the collegiate university are working hard to ensure that we will be able to offer two lateral flow tests to all students in 8th week so that you can safely travel home for Christmas confident that you will not be endangering the health of your family and friends. 

Today’s news brings closer the day when people all over the world will have access to a safe, effective and affordable vaccine against COVID-19. I hope that, like me, you feel an enormous sense of pride in being part of the university that has made this possible. 

Yours sincerely, 

Louise Richardson 
Vice-Chancellor

3 November 2020 from the Vice-Chancellor to all taught students

Dear Students,

You will always look back on this period of your lives and realize what a unique experience you had as university students during a global pandemic.

I know that the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Professor Williams, wrote to you yesterday explaining that, as education is exempt from the national lockdown due to begin on Thursday, the University will be continuing broadly as we have been since the beginning of Michaelmas term. I know that your College is also in touch with you about the implications of changing government guidance.

I would like to express my deep appreciation to College staff for the work they have been doing over the past several months to ensure that your educational experience is the best that it can possibly be in these strange circumstances. I also thank the vast majority of students who are following our guidance, and embracing life at Oxford.

I’m writing to you this morning to share a letter from Michelle Donelan MP the Minister of State for Universities. She has asked me to forward this letter to you.

Yours sincerely

Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor

2 November 2020 from Professor Martin Williams to all students

I am writing to provide an update following the prime minister’s announcement about the introduction of national restrictions across England from this Thursday (5 November).

While the introduction of new restrictions is not what any of us was hoping for, I would like to reassure you that the situation within the University remains stable, and we fully intend that University life will continue throughout this period.

What the new guidance means

The Government guidance states that universities, like other educational institutions, are exempt from many of the new restrictions. We will continue to offer a mix of in-person and online teaching.  Planned in-person examinations will also continue to be administered in a COVID-secure setting, and libraries will remain open, as will our parks and gardens. We will have to close our museums to the public, and there will likely be additional restrictions to sport – details of which will follow in the near future.

Travel restrictions

Oxford remains in Tier 2 restrictions until the fuller lockdown starts on Thursday. Government guidance for Tier 2 is that you must not move back and forward between Oxford and your permanent home during term time. From Thursday, the Government restriction is that you should not return home until the end of term. There are already more stringent rules for travel to other parts of the UK (in particular Wales and Scotland), so it is important that you follow all local guidance. 

Residency requirements at Oxford remain in place until the end of term. Universities are exempt from many of the new restrictions and all the feedback shows that the wide range of measures we have put in place to support you continue to be effective. We therefore encourage you to stay in Oxford to make the most of your academic experience, unless you have specific reasons for needing to leave. If you have any concerns about staying, you should speak to your college in the first instance (or your department if you don’t have a college).

The Government has not yet published guidance about arrangements for the end of term, but we will provide advice as soon as we hear more.

Supporting your wellbeing

We are acutely aware that these are unsettling times for all of us, and that the additional restrictions add to the challenges. We believe that maintaining a mix of online and in-person teaching, and supporting students to keep engaging with their studies, will be beneficial for mental health and wellbeing. The University and colleges are strongly focused on supporting students’ wellbeing, and on providing COVID-safe activities where possible. We are also committed to strengthening our resources in this area, in particular through the new Mental Health Task Force announced in today’s Student News.

Stop the spread

While the Government’s announcement, and the statistics and projections that underlie it, are worrying, it is important to be clear that the level of infection within the University has not risen. Case numbers have been steady for the past two weeks and we have not seen any evidence of transmission in teaching or assessment settings. Nevertheless, it is essential that we all continue to take action to prevent the numbers from rising. In particular we ask you to continue to:

While many students are asymptomatic, if you have COVID-19, you risk passing it on to vulnerable members of the community if you do not follow these rules. 

Testing update

I would like to give you an update about testing at the University. In addition to our testing service for those with symptoms, we are now involved in a trial of rapid Lateral Flow Test to identify those with an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infection, in partnership with the Department of Health and Public Health England. Initially this is being trialled in two colleges and one department. If it proves effective, we aim to extend it across the whole University. In the meantime, please continue to use the University testing service as usual – this has proved invaluable in helping us to control the spread within the University.

Thank you

I would like to extend a huge thank you to every student at Oxford. COVID-19 has, of course, changed university life in ways we would not have chosen. However, we have taken a wide range of steps to ensure you can continue with your Oxford experience this year, and I have been heartened by the positive response from our student community. You have all shown great resilience and adaptability, and I am pleased that we can continue to support your education and wider Oxford experience in the weeks ahead.

More detailed information about the new restrictions will be published on the student pages of the University COVID-19 Response site in the near future, so please continue to check back regularly.

If you have any further enquiries, please contact your college or department in the first instance.

Best wishes,

Martin Williams 
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)

2 November 2020 from Vice-Chancellor to all staff

Dear Colleagues

I am writing to you in light of the prime minister’s announcement on Saturday that England would be entering a second lockdown on Thursday.

I fully appreciate that this was unwelcome news to many of us, especially coming as it does after seven months of restrictions on our activities. You will have noticed, however, that universities, like other educational institutions, are in the fortunate position of being exempt from most of the strictures of this lockdown.

Broadly speaking, we anticipate continuing largely as before. We will have to close to the public and so our museums will have to close, but libraries, gardens, the Arboretum and Wytham Woods will remain open. Unlike in March, we do not anticipate closing University buildings, though those who can work effectively from home are encouraged to do so.

We will continue to offer a mix of in-person and online teaching. I know that some staff, especially those aged over 60 or in vulnerable categories, may be anxious and so may wish to rethink, with departmental support and agreement, their particular mix of face-to-face and online teaching. Examinations will continue to be administered in a COVID-secure setting, and, according to HMG, students will not be permitted to travel home.

The prime minister also mentioned an extension to the furlough programme. We are looking into this and will provide more information as soon as it is available to us. We will continue to adapt our policies in light of national guidance and will constantly update the relevant pages of the website.

Thanks to the extraordinary commitment and detailed planning of colleagues all across the collegiate University, we have been able to welcome back all our undergraduate students, and 75% of our postgraduates have also started in person. While the experience is not what any of us would have wanted, I think we can all take enormous pride in the extent to which we have been able to continue the educational and research mission of the University in spite of the pandemic. It is precisely because of this planning that we are able to adapt to the latest national developments without disrupting the work of the University.

I would like to pay particular tribute to those colleagues and volunteers who have established the University’s COVID-19 testing service in record time and with consummate professionalism. They have been assisted by a large cohort of volunteers, initially medical students and later retired GPs, who have operated our Early Alert Service that has enabled us to keep the pandemic under control. The data clearly reveal that, whenever an outbreak occurs, the college steps in to support students in isolation and prevent the transmission of infection. The overwhelming majority of those testing positive have been undergraduates (88%; postgraduates make up 8% of positive tests and staff 3%). If you would like more information on our test results please see the test results page. While the trajectory of the national and international figures is quite alarming I would like to reassure you that the level of infection within the University remains stable. There have been no cases of classroom transmission or student-to-staff transmission at Oxford, and none nationally, of which I am aware.

As you know, our academics have been leading the global search for a vaccine and for therapeutics to treat the virus. They have been advising government, designing apps and evaluating tests. We hope there will be further opportunities for more of us to be involved as we launch FACTS (Feasibility and Acceptability of community COVID-19 rapid Testing Strategies). This is a trial Oxford has developed with the Department of Health and Public Health England. Initially the test – a Lateral Flow Test – is being trialled in two colleges and one department but, if it proves effective, we will roll it out across the University. If we do so, there will be many opportunities either to volunteer to trial the test, or to volunteer to help with the logistics of the trial. The point of the test is to identify people who have the virus but are not exhibiting symptoms in an effort to prevent their spreading infection.

As a small gesture of appreciation, and in an effort to ensure that everyone gets a good rest at Christmas, I’m happy to tell you that the University will extend the Christmas closure so that it will begin on Saturday, December 19, and run to Monday, January 4. Monday and Tuesday, December 21 and 22, will now be two additional holidays so that you will have a full two-week break. I know that colleges will make their own plans and the demands of work across the collegiate University mean that not everyone will be able to take these particular days off, but I very much hope that everyone will be able to take an extra break as close to Christmas as possible.

When the national lockdown began on March 23 we never imagined that, seven months later, we would still be in partial lockdown and facing the prospect of further restrictions. Yet here we are. We must draw on deep reserves of patience and resilience as we find strength in community, support in family and friends, pleasure in helping others less fortunate, and meaning in knowing that the mission of our University has never been more important.

Yours sincerely

Louise Richardson 

Vice-Chancellor 

2 October 2020 from Professor Martin Williams to all students

A message to all new and returning students from the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)

I am writing ahead of the start of what is shaping up to be an extraordinary academic year to give you an idea about what to expect from the University; and to outline what we need from our student community.

Responding to the pandemic

We are very much aware of the rising number of cases across the UK. We are monitoring the situation very closely and listening to student concerns. The government is currently advising that universities should proceed with a mix of online and in-person provision. As such we are encouraging students to live in Oxford if they can – so that you can benefit from Oxford’s enriching experience.

We have taken a wide range of steps to ensure you can resume in-person teaching safely. However, we know that arriving for the start of term may not be possible for some students – and others may have health and welfare concerns. If you are worried about returning, you should speak to your college or department in the first instance. If you are unable to return, you can apply for a residency exemption, and will be offered online support until you are able to arrive in Oxford.

Our commitment to you

Countless colleagues have been working hard throughout the summer to prepare for the year ahead; I am hugely grateful to them. We are all committed to ensuring your time at Oxford is as rewarding and fulfilling as possible, in light of the unfolding pandemic.
In particular, we are committed to:

  • Offering the highest possible standards of education, maintaining our historic focus on personalised teaching. While lectures will be delivered online, small group teaching, laboratory and practical work will take place in-person where it is possible to do so in a safe and secure manner
  • Taking all the necessary steps to protect your health while you are studying with us
  • Adapting our colleges and accommodation for the pandemic – with the majority of our services open, and a ‘households’ system in place
  • Retaining vital aspects of student life – from online events to support for student clubs and societies
  • Maintaining our outstanding system of welfare and personal support, with additional welfare provision and hardship funding in place for those impacted by the pandemic

Your role in keeping our community safe and well

We are resolute in our commitment to supporting you – but also need your support in helping reduce the spread of COVID-19.

As such it is absolutely critical that everyone follows the steps outlined in our health campaign: Protect the Community. Protect the Vulnerable. Protect Yourself. In particular we ask that you:

  • Keep your distance, wash your hands and wear a face covering
    Some students are exempt from wearing face coverings. They may choose to wear a badge or a lanyard to indicate this, but these are a matter of personal choice.
  • Use the University’s dedicated testing service when you have symptoms
  • Self isolate when necessary.

We also encourage you to download the NHS COVID-19 app.

We worked very closely with Oxford SU as the University’s student representative body to develop our health measures. I would very much encourage you to find out more about the work the SU sabbatical officers are doing for students during the pandemic via the Oxford SU website.

When you arrive in Oxford, your College (or your Department if you don’t have a college) will ask you to sign the COVID-19 Student Responsibility Agreement. The Agreement is our way of asking you to affirm your commitment to protecting our community, and especially the staff who will be working hard to look after you.

The Agreement will be taken seriously, and Colleges and Departments will ensure compliance when and how they deem necessary. We will take a consistent approach to behaviour across the University and Colleges as far as possible, so that you know what to expect. Your college and department can advise you on specific expectations, in line with local arrangements.

Why this matters

These measures are essential for controlling the spread of COVID-19. Failing to adhere to them is likely to put the lives of vulnerable people at risk. This includes fellow students with health conditions, teaching and support staff who you come into contact with, and the wider local community of which we are a part.

Increased numbers of cases will increase the likelihood of lockdowns – which will significantly impact student experience. We need you to work with us to help keep Oxford open.

I know that you all want to keep our community safe and that the overwhelming majority of you will follow this guidance closely. However, I must warn you that students who do not follow University or College disciplinary regulations or who breach government restrictions may be liable to disciplinary processes – up to and including expulsion – or Police fines of up to £10,000.

Keeping you updated

As you know, the situation is evolving rapidly, but we are committed to monitoring and responding to all local and national guidance, and will keep you updated as quickly as we can.

I encourage you to regularly check the student pages of the University’s coronavirus website, which will be continually updated based on the latest situation. The Student News will also be sent on a weekly basis from 0th week, and will also include key information. You should also regularly check your college and departments’ own information channels.

As ever, your college or department will be best placed to respond to any questions you may have, and I will be hosting a webinar at the virtual Freshers’ Fair, where I look forward to speaking to many of you direct.

We coped with the pandemic over the past six months, in large part thanks to the adaptability, resilience and kindness of Oxford students. I have no doubt that you will all rise to the challenges of the next few months, and continue to contribute positively to our community, regardless of what the ongoing pandemic brings our way.

All the very best for the year ahead.

Martin Williams
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)

14 September 2020 Staff Open Forum

Preparing for Michaelmas term: slides from the Michaelmas Coordination Group given at the VC's Open Forum.

7 September 2020 from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to September. Ordinarily, at this time of year we are renewed and refreshed after taking some time off over the summer. I know that many of us have had to curtail our holidays as we prepare for the academic term ahead. Indeed, over the past six months we have all relied heavily on the deep reserves of talent and dedication across our community as we have adapted our research, our teaching and our ways of working to the constraints imposed by COVID-19.

I would like to express my appreciation to each one of you, as well as my pride in working in an institution in which so many people have volunteered to do more, and have worked collaboratively and creatively across colleges, administrative units and academic departments. In particular, I would like to express my thanks to those of you working in Admissions across the University for the extraordinary way you responded to the A-level debacle and protected the interests of prospective students.

Thanks to your commitment, we have achieved a great deal and we are prepared for the term to come. We have moved down to stage 2 of our emergency response process, which means that we are operating in line with social distancing restrictions and expecting to optimise our research and welcome a full cohort of students in Michaelmas term.

We have reopened 119 buildings with 75% of laboratory, special facility, library and collections buildings in MSD, MPLS and GLAM open, with a further 16% in the final stages of the reopening process. 92% of Humanities and Social Sciences Buildings are either open or going through a supported reopening process, while 10 UAS buildings are open with a further 32 due to open by the end of September. The reopening of buildings has been a slow and painstaking process requiring, in many cases, a significant internal reconfiguration to reduce coronavirus risk. The Ashmolean and Bodleian have reopened and additional click-and-collect and online services are available. The Botanic Gardens, Harcourt Arboretum and Wytham Woods are open, while the University Parks have remained open throughout.

We have opened our own testing facility for those showing symptoms of COVID-19. Initially testing has been limited to staff but will shortly be available for students too. New technologies are developing quickly and we are constantly evaluating options for better and wider testing. Following the advice of our Health Measures Advisory Group we review developments in government guidance, existing NHS/PHE facilities, local requirements and any new and appropriate tests as they become available.

We are all acutely conscious of our responsibility to protect the health of our staff, our students and the local community. With this in mind, today we are launching a COVID-19 Health Campaign. The key message of the campaign is: 'Protect our Community. Protect the Vulnerable. Protect Yourself'. This campaign has been created with guidance from the University’s medical and behavioural experts and in consultation with colleagues across the collegiate University. It draws together all the advice we have developed and guidance we have agreed throughout the summer into a collection of over 80 communication tools: videos, printed material, signs and social media content. It offers advice and information on: adhering to social distancing requirements; washing/sanitising hands; wearing face coverings; reporting symptoms and self-isolation; participating in testing and contact tracing.

I hope you are finding that you are receiving all the information you need. We will be holding an Open Forum on September 14 on preparations for Michaelmas term should you have other questions.

The launch of the Health Campaign coincides with the launch of the Student Responsibility Agreement, which all students are required to sign to confirm that they will follow the behaviours expected of them. As members of this community, whether students or staff, we are all going to have to adopt new ways of interacting with one another in order to mitigate the risk of infection. We also have a responsibility to our City, and we hope that with this Campaign and this Agreement, we will demonstrate our determination to act responsibly to protect the health of the wider Oxford community.

On the one hand, it is quite sobering to consider that we are facing the winter with the virus still posing a grave threat. On the other hand, over the past six months we have demonstrated that we can adapt and can continue to advance our mission of research and teaching. We understand the virus far better now, we know who is most vulnerable, we know what we can do to mitigate the risk of infection, we have much better therapeutics to treat it, and above all, we are much closer to a vaccine.

Finally, I would like to sign off by acknowledging the national and global recognition we have received this past week. For the fifth consecutive year, Oxford was ranked number 1 in the world by the Times Higher Education Rankings. We were ranked number 1 in the country by the Guardian University Ranking. The THE ranking emphasises research and global connections, the Guardian focuses on teaching and career prospects for students. That we have prevailed simultaneously in both is a remarkable achievement, a testament to the calibre of the people who work and study here, and an indication of the importance of the mission we must strive to protect in the challenging months to come.

Yours sincerely,

Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor

10 August 2020 to returning students 

You will have received an email on Thursday 30 July letting you know about a new set of webpages outlining the University and Colleges’ arrangements for the next academic year – including plans for teaching and learning, keeping you safe and well, student life, colleges & accommodation and travel & visas.

The information included on these pages outlines important University-wide changes, will be made in the 2020/21 academic year due to coronavirus. You must read this information as it notifies you of changes to your contract with the University, along with any details of changes sent by your College or Department. When you register with the University ahead of the start of term, you will be asked to confirm that you have read this information and that you have consented to the changes. Further information about the changes, and your options should you have any concerns (such as the option of declining your University place), can now be found on the teaching and learning page of the website.

The information on the pages will be regularly updated during the long vacation, so we encourage you to keep checking back to find out about the latest arrangements.

Student feedback to shape remote teaching and assessment in Trinity term

Your feedback is playing a key role in our planning for remote teaching and learning in Michaelmas term. More than 3,000 of you completed the Trinity term teaching and assessment survey at the end of last term.

The insights will inform the online support that will supplement in-person teaching and exams in Michaelmas term. A summary of the survey results is now available on the student engagement page of the website. Thanks to everyone who took part.

In addition, the University’s Centre for Teaching and Learning is working with student experience interns to develop resources to support students and staff as they adapt to online teaching and learning, with a particular focus on supporting students’ transition and induction next year. You can read an interview with the interns over on the website and more information about the resources will follow over the Long Vacation.

Enrolment opens soon for courses at the Language Centre

Enrolment opens this Friday 14 August for language courses taking place both in and out of term-time.

In Michaelmas term we'll be offering a range of courses in Academic English and 11 Modern Languages. Whether you’re a beginner, need languages for your studies or just wish to learn for fun, there's something for everyone.

We will also be running Advanced Intensive courses i next month in French, Italian, German and Spanish. The courses will run for three weeks starting from 15 September.

Please check back to the Language Centre website for more information and to enrol.

Meet your 2020/21 Oxford SU President

Nikita Ma is your new Oxford SU President for 2020/21. She's recorded an exclusive video to share her plans and how she'll be supporting you in the year ahead. 

Celebrating Ramadan in lockdown

We’ve met members behind the first edition of the Islamic Student Society (ISoc) magazine Ikhlaas, to share how the publication has helped them to not only stay connected during the pandemic, but to celebrate Ramadan together.

Have you been getting active with our new app?

Active Anywhere is the new digital membership from Oxford University Sport. It's still free to join until further notice and there are over 500 on-demand fitness and wellness classes to explore, appropriate for all ages and abilities, lasting between ten to 60 minutes. You'll also find quick stretch breaks and nutrition guides - all to access whenever and wherever you wish. Log in to the Sport membership portal (sign in or register with your University email), download the app or go to Wellbeats.com to start streaming.

Visit the reopened Ashmolean Museum

The Ashmolean Museum reopens its doors from today (10 August) and you can book your ticket to visit now. Entry is free, but you will need to pre-book a timed ticket online. To help keep everyone safe, a timed entry system will be in place. The museum was founded in 1683 and features world famous collections from Egyptian mummies to contemporary art, what will you discover?

New study explores changes household eating and activity patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic

It has been widely suggested that mental health has been hit during the pandemic, but preliminary findings from an Oxford University study suggest poor nutrition and less physical activity during lockdown had a serious impact on mental health in England. Read more about the findings from Professor of Human Ecology and the University's Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity Director, Stanley Ulijasze. 

10 August 2020 to postgraduate offer holders

You will have received an email on Thursday 30 July letting you know about a new set of webpages outlining the University and Colleges’ arrangements for the next academic year – including plans for teaching and learning, keeping you safe and well, student life, colleges & accommodation and travel & visas.

The information included on these pages outlines important University changes which will be made in the 2020/21 academic year due to coronavirus. You must read this information as it notifies you of changes to your contract with the University, along with any details of changes sent by your College or Department. When you register with the University ahead of the start of term, you will be asked to confirm that you have read this information and that you have consented to the changes. Further information about the changes, and your options should you have any concerns (such as the option of declining your University place), can now be found on the teaching and learning page of the website.

The information on the pages will be regularly updated during the summer, so we encourage you to keep checking back to find out about the latest arrangements.

Updates to information for offer holders

We understand that you will have questions about taking up your place and we had many questions raised in our offer holder Q&A sessions. We’ve made some updates to our website to answer more of these and the webpages will continue to be updated in the coming weeks. This includes:

  1. Further details about accommodation, colleges and self-isolation
  2. Keeping you safe and well: information about healthcare and testing
  3. Arriving in Oxford
  4. Fees and funding 

If your question is specific to your course or college, please contact your department or college directly. In the coming weeks, some colleges, divisions and departments will also be holding their own Q&A sessions.

Applying for your visa

The Home Office has recently published new guidance for Tier 4 students (PDF) with the University as your sponsor and also additional information for short-term students. This covers many of the disruptions that may be caused for International Students and what you should do next.  

You will receive an initial travel vignette to come to the UK, these are usually valid 30 days but due to the pandemic may be valid for 90 days. You need to travel during the period of its validity. If this is not possible contact student.immigration@admin.ox.ac.uk. The Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) is your visa for the full duration of your course. You can collect it) from either your college between 28 September and 6 October (​if you have used code 2HE627 ​when applying for your visa); or from the Post Office in Oxford. The ten-day timeframe for BRP collection has been relaxed and your BRP will be kept for you but you should aim to collect it as soon as you can (for instance after the 14-day period if you need to self-isolate).

Start your search now

Colleges are working to accommodate as many students as possible. However, if your college isn't able to house you, the University has some accommodation options for full-time graduate students. For more information on graduate student properties and how to apply for accommodation, visit the University's Graduate Accommodation Office website and contact the team.

The Oxford University Students Union (Oxford SU) provides guidance on living out and can help you if you have questions or concerns about accommodation. You can also search for properties to let on the Oxford SU Accommodation Service website.

Meet Ciaran Gilbride, a third year Oxford DPhil student working as part of the University's COVID-19 research team. We interviewed Ciaran about his experience contributing to Oxford's response to the pandemic and how watching Killing Eve helped him through lockdown. 

Here for you

We offer many services to support you during your studies and these will continue to be available to you in full, either online or in-person. The full list of University health and welfare support can be found on the Oxford Students website. Student health is primarily handled within colleges: your college will have a recommended National Health Service (NHS) doctor and many also have a nurse on site. The University also offers advice on other local services like dentists, and recommends vaccinations. 

Every college also has a welfare team, which provides support to students including signposting you to specialist services when necessary.  You will normally be introduced to your college welfare team as part of your induction when you start your course. You can find more information here.

The Counselling Service

The Counselling Service offers free and confidential support to Oxford students. It's available to help you gain insight into any difficulties you may experience and to help you develop emotional resilience, so you have the tools you need to fulfil your academic and personal potential. 

The Student Resolution Service offers a free and confidential mediation service for students who find themselves in conflict with another student and would like to find an agreed way forwards. 

In addition to the support available via Student Welfare and Support services, Oxford students can access free online support 24/7 through Big White Wall, a free service providing a safe space to help you get support, take control and feel better.

Disability Advisory Service

If you have a specific learning difficulty (such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, or ADHD), an autism spectrum condition, a sensory or physical/mobility impairment, or a long term physical or mental health condition, please get in touch with us early, as our Disability Advisory Service (DAS) is here to help you. DAS offers a range of support including practical study assistance, and can recommend adjustments to teaching and assessment. More information can be found on the DAS pages of the Oxford Students website. UK students may also be eligible for the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) and the Disability Advisory Service can assist you with making an application. If you are eligible for the DSA, it is important that you make an application as soon as possible. 

Podcasts and other resources

If you need some well-being advice while at Oxford, you can listen to one of our University podcasts. Topics include how to get past perfectionism, exam preparation, revision, self-compassion, and more. The supportive resources page of the Oxford Students website also includes links to other resources that could help you now and during your time with us.

Student Peer Supporters

We realise that students play a major role in supporting and encouraging one another on a day-to-day basis at university. This is why we offer Student Peer Supporters. Peer Supporters are available in colleges and departments to talk with students informally about anything that is bothering them. Find out more about Peer Supporters.

Student Advice

Student Advice is an independent advice and information service exclusively available to Oxford University Students, through the Student Union. The service is independent from the colleges and the University, and advisors are available to give information and support to students facing difficult situations. You can access helpful FAQs and further information on the Oxford SU website

6 August 2020 to undergraduate offer holders

Good luck on results day

We know that some of you may have already received your results, but if you're getting your exam results next week, we just want to say good luck. We know that this year has been an unusual and difficult time for many of you and we really hope that you get the results you are hoping for. If after receiving your results, you have questions about what to do next, we recommend you read this advice.

Important information about changes in the next academic year 

Accepting a place at university is an important decision in any year, but perhaps especially so this year, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. While we’re confident of offering you an excellent education, the arrangements we’re making to deal with the pandemic mean that the student experience won’t be identical to that you were expecting when you applied. That’s why we wrote to you last week to direct you to a new set of webpages outlining the University and colleges’ arrangements for the next academic year– including plans for teaching and learningkeeping you safe and wellstudent lifecolleges & accommodation and travel & visas

The information included on these pages outlines important University-wide changes that will be made in the 2020/21 academic year due to coronavirus. You must read this information as it notifies you of changes to your contract with the University, along with any details of changes sent by your college or department. If you secure your place, you will be asked to register with the University ahead of the start of term, to confirm that you have read this information and that you have consented to the changes. Further information about the changes, and your options should you have any concerns (such as the option of declining your University place), can now be found on the teaching and learning page of the website. 

The information on the pages will be regularly updated in the run-up to the start of the academic year, so we encourage you to keep checking back to find out about the latest arrangements.

Generous financial support for UK/EU students

Do make sure you are aware of Oxford's generous financial support. If you are coming to Oxford this autumn for your first undergraduate degree and are a UK or EU student with a household income of £42,875 or less, you’ll receive a non-repayable, annual bursary from Oxford of up to £3,200 towards your study and living costs. If you are a UK resident with a household income of £27,500 or less, you’ll be offered a Crankstart Scholarship which provides an enhanced support package including annual bursaries of up to £5,000 per year, exclusive funded internships, internship bursaries, careers mentoring, volunteering opportunities, and social and community building events. There is no separate application process for the Oxford Bursary or Crankstart Scholarship as these are based on the household income assessment carried out by your regional funding agency. We’ll write to you before your course begins with full details of any support you are eligible to receive.

Visit the Oxford bursaries and scholarships page of our website for more information on financial support offered by Oxford, which also includes a travel supplement for UK bursary holders who live more than 80 miles from Oxford, additional support for UK care leavers and estranged students, and our Student Support Fund.

Keeping you updated

Confirmed students will receive regular communications from the University in the run-up to the next academic year. The next Preparing for Oxford newsletter is planned for Monday 24 August, and your college will also be in touch with you with more information after results day.

#GoingtoOxford

If you do secure your place, don't forget to share your success on Twitter via the official  #GoingtoOxford hashtag so that we can celebrate with you. We’ll be reposting posts and images from the University social media channels on and around A-level results day. Wishing you all the best for results day, and we hope very much to see you in Oxford in October. 

30 July 2020 from Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) to returning students

I am writing to provide an update on our preparations for welcoming all students back to Oxford for the start of Michaelmas term.  

Before I update you about our planning, I want to thank you again for your support and understanding during what I know was a very long and challenging Trinity term for many students. I truly hope that you are able to get some rest during the Long Vacation.  

Planning for the next academic year 
The pandemic will still be with us in the autumn, and will continue to affect university activities. However, we are working hard to give you the best experience possible and to keep you updated with the latest developments. In this context, I am pleased to be able to tell you that we have now published a new set of webpages, providing an overview of the arrangements for the 2020/21 academic year. This includes:  

Teaching and learning 
How we’re working to maintain the highest possible standards of education, with a focus on personalised teaching and supervision. There is also information about the extensive steps we are taking to enhance our digital support, and our contingency planning in the event of increased government restrictions.  

Keeping you safe and well 
The steps we are taking to protect the health and wellbeing of all students and staff, including confirmation that a dedicated testing service will be available from September, as well as measures we are putting in place to protect you and university staff in University and college buildings.  

Student life 
What we’re doing to maintain the supportive and enriching environment that contributes to the Oxford experience, as well as the exceptional system of welfare and personal support for students. 

Colleges and accommodation 
An outline of our plans to accommodate and support students in our colleges, which are at the heart of Oxford’s student life. This includes plans to group students into ‘households’, and the support we will provide for students who need to self-isolate.  

Travel and visas 
Information about getting to and residing in Oxford during the pandemic – including a wide range of guidance about visas and immigration for international students.   

Your arrival in Michaelmas term   
We are very much looking forward to welcoming you back at the start of term. Residence requirements will be back in place from the start of Michaelmas, which means that you will be expected to be in Oxford. We recognise that returning may be more difficult for some students, and information is available on the website if you are in this situation. Specific information is also included on the site for students taking part in a year abroad next year. 

Keeping you updated  

The information included on the new webpages is important. Please take the time to read it. And as ever, colleges (for undergraduates) or departments (for graduate students) are the best first point of contact for any queries you may have.  

We will provide regular updates in the weeks ahead as University committees make key decisions in line with government guidance and health advice. This will be both through the new webpages, and through the regular Long Vacation Updates. Please continue to check the website, and your emails, for the latest information.  If there are any material changes to your course, your department will get in touch in the coming weeks. 

We remain committed to ensuring that every student is able to enjoy Oxford’s academic and social opportunities as fully as possible, within the constraints imposed by the pandemic. I believe the arrangements we are putting place will support a positive and safe student experience at Oxford as this unprecedented situation continues to unfold, and I look forward to telling you more as we move through the vacation.  

Best wishes,

Martin Williams
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)

30 July 2020 from Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) to postgraduate offer holders

I am writing to provide an update on our preparations for welcoming all students to Oxford for the start of Michaelmas (autumn) term.  

I recognise that the pandemic has impacted communities around the world, and this has made preparing to start a new course more challenging – but I hope to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to support your arrival and your time in Oxford.  

Planning for the next academic year 
I am pleased to be able to tell you that a new set of webpages have now been published, providing an overview of the arrangements for the 2020/21 academic year. This includes:  

Teaching and learning 
How we’re working to maintain the highest possible standards of education, with a focus on personalised teaching and supervision. There is also information about the extensive steps we are taking to enhance our digital support, access to laboratories and other facilities including libraries, and our contingency planning in the event of increased government restrictions.  

Keeping you safe and well 
The steps we are taking to protect the health and wellbeing of all students and staff, including confirmation that a dedicated testing service will be available from September, as well as measures we are putting in place to protect you and university staff in University and college buildings.

Student life 
What we’re doing to maintain the supportive and enriching environment that contributes to the Oxford experience as well as the exceptional system of welfare and personal support for students. 

Colleges and accommodation 
An outline of our plans to accommodate and support students in our colleges, which are at the heart of Oxford’s student life. This includes plans to group students into ‘households’, and the support we will provide for students who need to self-isolate.  

Travel and visas 

Information about getting to and residing in Oxford during the pandemic – including a wide range of guidance about visas and immigration for international students.

Your arrival in Oxford   
I am very much looking forward to welcoming you to Oxford at the start of term. Students are expected to be in Oxford, although we recognise that getting here may be more difficult for some – particularly those travelling from overseas. Information is available on the website if you are in this situation. 

Keeping you updated  
The information included on the new webpages is important. Please take the time to read it. We will provide regular updates in the weeks ahead – both through the new webpages, and through the regular Preparing for Oxford newsletters. Your college and department will also be in touch, and if there are any material changes to your course, your department will contact you in the coming weeks.  Please continue to check the website, and your emails, for the latest information. As ever, your department will be the best first point of contact for any queries you may have. 

We'll also be hosting online graduate offer-holder Q&A sessions in the first two weeks of August. In these sessions, you will have the opportunity to ask any questions you have about taking up your place. You can sign up online to find out about academic life, visas and immigration, fees and funding, admissions processes and more.  

We remain committed to ensuring that every student is able to enjoy Oxford’s academic and social opportunities as fully as possible, within the constraints imposed by the pandemic. I believe the arrangements we are putting place will support a positive and safe student experience at Oxford as this unprecedented situation continues to unfold, and I look forward to telling you more as we move towards the start of term.   

Best wishes,

Martin Williams 
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)

30 July 2020 from Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach to undergraduate offer holders

I am writing to wish you all the best for results day and to give you an update about our preparations for welcoming you to Oxford in October once your place is confirmed. I know that the pandemic has made this year very challenging for many students applying for Oxford and I want to reassure you that we have you in our thoughts at this time. 

Planning for the next academic year I am pleased to be able to tell you that a new set of webpages has now been published, explaining how we’re preparing for the academic year ahead. This includes:  

Teaching and learning How we’re working to maintain the highest  possible standards of education, with a focus on personalised teaching. There is also information about how we are enhancing our digital support and about our scenario planning.    

Keeping you safe and well What we’re doing to protect the health and wellbeing of all our students and staff, including information about a new University testing service, and the steps we’re taking to protect you whilst in University and college buildings.  

Student life What we’re doing to maintain the opportunities that contribute to the Oxford experience, as well as information on welfare support. 

Colleges and accommodation Our plans to accommodate and support students in their colleges, which are at the heart of Oxford’s student life. This includes plans to group students into ‘households’ and the support we will provide for students who need to self-isolate.  

Travel and visas Information about getting to, and residing in Oxford during the pandemic – including a wide range of guidance about visas and immigration for international students.  

Your arrival in October We are very much looking forward to welcoming you to Oxford at the start of term. All confirmed students are expected to be in Oxford, although we recognise that getting here may be more difficult for some – particularly those travelling from overseas. Information is available on the website if you are in this situation.

Keeping you updated  

The information included on the new webpages is important. Please take the time to read it. We will continue to provide regular updates in the weeks ahead – both through the new webpages and through the regular Preparing for Oxford newsletters.  Your college will also be in touch, and if there are any material changes to your course, your department will also contact you. To stay well-informed, please continue to check the website and your emails. As ever, your college will be the best first point of contact for any queries you may have. 

We want everyone to enjoy Oxford’s academic and social opportunities as much as possible this year - despite the pandemic - and are taking all the steps we can to make this happen.  

If you do secure your place, don’t forget to share your success on Twitter via #GoingtoOxford so that we can celebrate with you! 

Wishing you all the best for results day, and we hope very much to see you in Oxford in October. 

Samina Khan 
Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach 

24 July 2020 from Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) and Dr Mark Wormald, Chair of Senior Tutors’ Committee to all staff

Dear Colleagues,

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.

Best wishes,

Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)
Dr Mark Wormald, Chair of Senior Tutors’ Committee

14 July 2020 from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff

Dear Colleagues,

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.

Yours sincerely,

Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor

17 June 2020 from Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), to returning postgraduates

Arrangements for the 2020/21 academic year

I am writing to provide an update about the University's planning for the next academic year. 
 
We recognise that the current situation regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing uncertainty and difficulties, but please rest assured that wherever you are in the world we are committed to supporting you so that you are able to take up your place at the University of Oxford.

As we communicated last month, the University and its colleges plans to be open for all students from the start of the next academic year, and I am now in a position to provide more information about the arrangements.

Teaching and learning

Our education will be built around Oxford’s distinctive focus on face-to-face, small-group teaching and supervision, with access to world-class facilities, laboratories and resources, supplemented by high quality digital materials. We will work flexibly to maintain contact time.  The details are as follows:

Focus on face-to-face, small-group teaching 
We are committed to maintaining our focus on personalised teaching and supervision, with a strong focus on tutorials and other types of small-group learning such as masters’ seminar groups.  We plan to increase our emphasis on personalised support. Larger group teaching, lectures and most exams will be offered online at least for the first term.  

Research students
As far as possible, face-to-face 1:1 meetings with your supervisor will help you to devise a programme of study and develop your research project. Your supervisor will meet with you regularly to discuss your ideas, and provide guidance on how to approach your research and make the most of the training opportunities, support, facilities and resources available.

Digital support 
Face-to-face activities will be supplemented by engaging online activities that draw on the rich resources available through our colleges, libraries and collections. The University’s virtual learning environment Canvas@Oxford will be universally available – acting as a single-entry point for most students.  
 
Facilities and resources 
Laboratories and research facilities will be available to students - although they will operate at reduced capacity, both for your own safety, and for the safety of our staff. We expect libraries and collections to be open, supplemented by digital resources.  
 
Flexibility
We will work flexibly to ensure students get suitable levels of face-to-face contact time. For example, start and finish times may be staggered to optimise the use of space, and term dates may be slightly extended in some cases. Should government restrictions change, the University and colleges will adapt be prepared to switch to remote teaching if necessary.

Colleges and accommodation

Colleges are at the heart of the Oxford experience. We are pleased to be able to confirm that all our colleges will be open. We are working hard to maintain different aspects of college life, such as bars, dining halls and common rooms, and to ensure a rich social experience for our student.  Services will be reopened in line with government guidance and health advice. 

Your college will be able to explain their process for applying for accommodation. If they are not able to provide accommodation, the University's Graduate Accommodation Office may be able to help, or you may need to seek accommodation in the private sector. More information is available in the Oxford SU living out guide.

Keeping our students safe and well

We are now working on detailed plans for measures we will put in place to minimise risks to staff and students. This will include:  

  • A University testing service that will be open to all staff and students 
  • Support for students who need to self isolate 
  • Effective and consistent use of face coverings and other hygiene measures
  • Arrangements to maintain social distancing in teaching and research spaces 

We are committed to setting out clear guidance about what is expected of you to protect yourselves and others – and what you can expect from the University.  

We will also put measures in place to support vulnerable students and staff, with online teaching and learning available for those who feel they are unable to take part in face-to-face teaching.

Our approach will be informed by an expert advisory group made of Oxford clinical academics, as well as government guidance.  We will follow UK government advice, and make detailed contingency plans in case additional measures are required.

Travel
We understand that many of our international offer holders will have questions especially as you start to think about applying for a visa, date of arrival and booking your flights.

We hope you will be able to come to Oxford from the start of next academic year. We recognise that arriving for the start of your programme of study may not be possible for some students - for example if you are unable to travel, or are in self-isolation at the start of term. In these cases you will have access to online resources and support. If international students are required to self-isolate on arrival in the UK, we will support them doing so. We expect that all students will be in residence by January 2021.  

Support for all students
We recognise that these are unsettling times, and are committed to supporting all students regardless of your background, or any disadvantage or disruption you may have faced as a result of Covid-19. We will maintain Oxford’s exceptional system of personal support for students, whether face to face or online. We will take active steps to ensure all students can access Oxford’s enriching opportunities regardless of their home life or personal backgrounds.

We are also striving to preserve Oxford’s student life despite the pandemic and will be working with student representative groups to maintain the supportive and enriching environment that contributes to the Oxford experience.  For example, Oxford’s students’ union, Oxford SU, is planning a virtual version of its Freshers’ Fair, giving new and returning students the chance to engage in their wider student community, and find out about the wide range of clubs and societies and local organisations that support students.

Further details

Due to the nature of the ongoing pandemic, it is not possible to provide all the details of the arrangements for the new academic year at this stage. However, we are committed to providing more detailed information as soon as it is possible to do so. 
 
We will provide regular updates in the weeks ahead, in line with UK government guidance and health advice, and your academic department will be in touch to provide further details on your specific course arrangements once they are available.

Please visit our coronavirus advice page for offer holders which has been updated with new information and answers with further updates to follow.  

If you are an offer holder and you have a question on your course or meeting your academic conditions, please contact your academic department via the contact details in your Certificate of Offer.

If you have a question about meeting your financial conditions or accommodation, please contact your college via the contact details in your college offer letter.

For any other questions, please contact graduate.admissions@admin.ox.ac.uk

We look forward to welcoming you as a new student in the autumn.

Best wishes,
Martin

Martin Williams
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Education

17 June 2020 from Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), to returning undergraduates

Arrangements for the 2020/21 academic year

I am writing to provide an update about the University's planning for the next academic year. 
 
Before I do that I would like to thank you once again for your support as we have worked through what has been a turbulent period for everyone at the University, and for the positive way that you have adapted to remote University life. I am continually impressed by the flexibility and resourcefulness of all Oxford students, and am hugely grateful for the way you have responded.

As we communicated last month, the University and its colleges plans to be open for all students from the start of the next academic year, and I am now in a position to provide more information about the arrangements.

Teaching and learning

Our education will be built around Oxford’s distinct focus on face-to-face, small-group teaching, laboratory practical work and supervision; with access to laboratories, and other resources, supplemented by high quality digital materials. We will work flexibly to maintain suitable levels of contact time.  The details are as follows:

Focus on face-to-face, small-group teaching 
We are committed to maintaining our focus on personalised teaching and supervision, with a strong focus on tutorials and other types of small-group learning such as masters’ seminar groups.  We plan to increase our emphasis on personalised support. Larger group teaching, lectures and most exams will be offered online at least for the first term.  

Digital support 
Face-to-face activities will be supplemented by engaging online activities that draw on the rich resources available through our colleges, libraries and collections. The University’s virtual learning environment Canvas@Oxford will be universally available – acting as a single-entry point for most students.  
 
Facilities and resources 
Laboratories and research facilities will be available to students, although they will operate at reduced capacity, both for your own safety, and for the safety of our staff. We expect libraries and collections to be open supplemented by digital resources.
 
Flexibility
We will work flexibly to ensure students get suitable levels of contact time. For example, start and finish times may be staggered to optimise the use of space, and term dates may be slightly extended in some cases. Should government restrictions change, the University and colleges will adapt be prepared to switch to remote teaching if necessary.

Colleges

Colleges are at the heart of the Oxford experience. We are pleased to be able to confirm that all our colleges will be open, with accommodation available for students.  

We are working hard to maintain different aspects of college life, such as bars, dining halls and common rooms, and to ensure a rich social experience for our students.  Services will be reopened in line with government guidance and health advice. 

Keeping our students and staff safe and well
The health and safety of our students and staff is our number one priority.  We are now working on detailed plans for measures we will put in place to minimise the risks to staff and students. This will include:  

  • A University testing service that will be open to all staff and students 
  • Support for students who need to self isolate 
  • Effective and consistent use of face coverings and other hygiene measures
  • Arrangements to maintain social distancing in teaching and research spaces 

We are committed to setting out clear guidance about what is expected of you to protect yourselves and others – and what you can expect from the University.  

We will also put measures in place to support vulnerable students and staff, with online teaching and learning available for those who feel they are unable to take part in face-to-face teaching.

Our approach will be informed by an expert advisory group made of Oxford clinical academics, as well as government guidance.  We will follow UK government advice, and make detailed contingency plans in case additional measures are required.

Travel 
We hope you will be able to return to live and study in Oxford from the start of the next academic year. However, we recognise that arriving for the start of Michaelmas term may not be possible for some students - for example if you are unable to travel, or are in self-isolation at the start of term. In these cases you will have access to online resources and support. If international students are required to self-isolate on returning the UK, we will support them doing so. We expect that all students will be in residence by January 2021.  

Support for all students
We recognise that these are unsettling times, and are committed to supporting the wellbeing of all students, regardless of their backgrounds, or any disadvantage or disruption they may have faced as a result of Covid-19. We will maintain Oxford’s exceptional system of personal support for students, whether face to face or online – and will take active steps to ensure all students can access Oxford’s enriching opportunities regardless of their personal backgrounds or circumstances...

We are also striving to preserve Oxford’s student life despite the pandemic, and will be working with student representative groups to maintain the supportive and enriching environment that contributes to the Oxford experience.  For example, Oxford SU is planning a virtual version of its Freshers’ Fair giving new and returning students the chance to engage in their wider student community, and find out about the wide range of clubs and societies and local organisations that support students.

Further details

Due to the nature of the ongoing pandemic, it is not possible to provide all the details of the arrangements for the new academic year at this stage. However, we are committed to providing more detailed information as soon as it is possible to do so. 

I realise there are also particular groups of students who will have specific questions – for example if you have a year abroad planned for the next academic year, or if you are a part time learner who is not based in Oxford. Your department will provide more information in the near future about specific arrangements for your course as soon as possible.
 
We will provide regular updates in the weeks ahead – in line with government guidance and health advice.  In the meantime, a new Michaelmas term tab has been added to the student coronavirus advice page. A small number of FAQs have been added at this stage, and will be expanded over time, so please do keep checking back.
 
As usual, colleges (for undergraduates) or departments (for graduate students) are the best first point of contact for any queries you may have. 

Information for finalists

Finally, for those of you who are leaving at the end of this academic year, I would like to wish you the very best for life after Oxford. We will be contacting you separately in the coming weeks to provide information about leaving the University, as well as the support available from our Alumni Office team at this turbulent time. I would also like to remind you that applications are still open for a number of graduate courses, should you wish to continue your studies at Oxford.

Thank you once again for your ongoing commitment to Oxford, and I look forward to telling you more over the summer.

Best wishes,

Martin

Martin Williams
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Education

17 June 2020 from Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), to postgraduate offer holders

Arrangements for the 2020/21 academic year

I am writing to provide an update about the University's planning for the next academic year. 
 
Before I do that I would like to thank you once again for your support as we have worked through what has been a turbulent period for everyone at the University, and for the positive way that you have adapted to remote University life. I am continually impressed by the flexibility and resourcefulness of all Oxford students, and am hugely grateful for the way you have responded.
 
I would also like to acknowledge that postgraduate research students have a number of outstanding questions about the remainder of this academic year, particularly in relation to return to onsite working, and about funding and extensions. I would like to reassure you that I fully understand and appreciate your concerns. I am confident we will be in a position to confirm the funding arrangements within the next week. I will write to you once again as soon as we have an update, and I would like to thank you once again for your patience.

As we communicated last month, the University and its colleges plans to be open for all students from the start of the next academic year, and I am now in a position to provide more information about the arrangements.

Teaching and learning

Our education will be built around Oxford’s distinct focus on face-to-face, small-group teaching, laboratory practical work and supervision; with access to laboratories, and other resources, supplemented by high quality digital materials. We will work flexibly to maintain suitable levels of contact time.  The details are as follows:

Focus on face-to-face, small-group teaching 
We are committed to maintaining our focus on personalised teaching and supervision, with a strong focus on tutorials and other types of small-group learning such as masters’ seminar groups. We plan to increase our emphasis on personalised support. Larger group teaching, lectures and most exams will be offered online at least for the first term.  

Digital support 
Face-to-face activities will be supplemented by engaging online activities that draw on the rich resources available through our colleges, libraries and collections. The University’s virtual learning environment Canvas@Oxford will be universally available – acting as a single-entry point for most students.  
 
Facilities and resources 
Laboratories and research facilities will be available to students, although they will operate at reduced capacity, both for your own safety, and for the safety of our staff. We expect libraries and collections to be open supplemented by digital resources.
 
Flexibility
We will work flexibly to ensure students get suitable levels of contact time. For example, start and finish times may be staggered to optimise the use of space, and term dates may be slightly extended in some cases. Should government restrictions change, the University and colleges will adapt be prepared to switch to remote teaching if necessary.

Colleges 

Colleges are at the heart of the Oxford experience. We are pleased to be able to confirm that all our colleges will be open, with accommodation available for students.  

We are working hard to maintain different aspects of college life, such as bars, dining halls and common rooms, and to ensure a rich social experience for our students.  Services will be reopened in line with government guidance and health advice. 

Keeping our students and staff safe and well
The health and safety of our students and staff is our number one priority.  We are now working on detailed plans for measures we will put in place to minimise the risks to staff and students. This will include:  

  • A University testing service that will be open to all staff and students 
  • Support for students who need to self isolate 
  • Effective and consistent use of face coverings and other hygiene measures
  • Arrangements to maintain social distancing in teaching and research spaces 

We are committed to setting out clear guidance about what is expected of you to protect yourselves and others – and what you can expect from the University.  

We will also put measures in place to support vulnerable students and staff, with online teaching and learning available for those who feel they are unable to take part in face-to-face teaching.

Our approach will be informed by an expert advisory group made of Oxford clinical academics, as well as government guidance. We will follow UK government advice, and make detailed contingency plans in case additional measures are required.

Travel 
We hope you will be able to return to live and study in Oxford from the start of the next academic year. However, we recognise that arriving for the start of Michaelmas term may not be possible for some students - for example if you are unable to travel, or are in self-isolation at the start of term. In these cases you will have access to online resources and support. If international students are required to self-isolate on returning the UK, we will support them doing so. We expect that all students will be in residence by January 2021.  

Support for all students
We recognise that these are unsettling times, and are committed to supporting the wellbeing of all students, regardless of their backgrounds, or any disadvantage or disruption they may have faced as a result of Covid-19. We will maintain Oxford’s exceptional system of personal support for students, whether face to face or online – and will take active steps to ensure all students can access Oxford’s enriching opportunities regardless of their personal backgrounds or circumstances...

We are also striving to preserve Oxford’s student life despite the pandemic, and will be working with student representative groups to maintain the supportive and enriching environment that contributes to the Oxford experience.  For example, Oxford SU is planning a virtual version of its Freshers’ Fair giving new and returning students the chance to engage in their wider student community, and find out about the wide range of clubs and societies and local organisations that support students.

Further details

Due to the nature of the ongoing pandemic, it is not possible to provide all the details of the arrangements for the new academic year at this stage. However, we are committed to providing more detailed information as soon as it is possible to do so. 

I realise there are also particular groups of students who will have specific questions – for example if you have a year abroad planned for the next academic year, or if you are a part time learner who is not based in Oxford. Your department will provide more information in the near future about specific arrangements for your course as soon as possible.
 
We will provide regular updates in the weeks ahead – in line with government guidance and health advice.  In the meantime, a new Michaelmas term tab has been added to the student coronavirus advice page. A small number of FAQs have been added at this stage, and will be expanded over time, so please do keep checking back.

As usual, colleges (for undergraduates) or departments (for graduate students) are the best first point of contact for any queries you may have. 

Information for finalists

Finally, for those of you who are leaving at the end of this academic year, I would like to wish you the very best for life after Oxford. We will be contacting you separately in the coming weeks to provide information about leaving the University, as well as the support available from our Alumni Office team at this turbulent time. I would also like to remind you that applications are still open for a number of graduate courses, should you wish to continue your studies at Oxford.

Thank you once again for your ongoing commitment to Oxford, and I look forward to telling you more over the summer.

Best wishes,
Martin

Martin Williams
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Education

17 June 2020 from Samina Khan, Director, Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach, to undergraduate offer holders

Arrangements for the 2020/21 academic year

We hope this message finds you, your family and friends well, as coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to affect all our lives.

I wanted to let you, one of our offer holders, know how the University plans to operate from the start of your first term, in autumn 2020. I can confirm that the University and its colleges intend to be open for all students from the start of the next academic year and expect the following arrangements to be in place for you.

Teaching and learning

As you know, our education is built around Oxford’s distinctive focus on personalised, face-to-face, small-group teaching with access to world-class libraries, laboratories and other facilities and resources. These will be available to you when you start your degree with us this autumn. Where necessary, we will supplement these with access to high quality digital materials and the University’s virtual learning environment. Laboratories and research facilities will be available to students, although they will operate at reduced capacity, both for your own safety, and for the safety of our staff. Please note that we will offer larger group teaching, lectures and exams online at least for the first term. University staff will work flexibly to maintain suitable levels of contact time and there will be an increased emphasis on personalised support. It is possible that in order to optimise the use of space, start and finish times for teaching may be staggered and term dates may be slightly extended in some cases.  You will be informed in advance if this is the case for you.

Colleges

At the heart of the Oxford experience are our colleges and we are delighted to confirm that all our colleges will be open, with accommodation available for students.  Despite the pandemic, we are working hard to maintain college life, and to preserve your access to the enriching environment that is part of Oxford student life. Services will be reopened in line with government guidance and health advice. 

Keeping our students and staff safe and well

The health and safety of our students and staff is our highest priority.  We are now working on detailed plans for measures we will put in place to reduce the risks to staff and students. These will include:  

  • A University testing service that will be open to all staff and students 
  • Support for students who need to self isolate 
  • Effective and consistent use of face coverings and other hygiene measures
  • Arrangements to enable social distancing in teaching and research spaces 

We will also put measures in place to support vulnerable students and staff, with online teaching and learning available for those who feel they are unable to take part in face-to-face teaching.

We will follow government advice, and respond to the evolving situation as it develops.

Travel 

We hope you will be able to live and study in Oxford from the start of next academic year. However, we recognise this may not be possible for some students, for example if you are unable to travel, or need to self-isolate. In those cases you will have access to online resources and support. However, we expect all students will be in residence by the start of Hilary term (January 2021).  If you are an international student and you are required to self-isolate on returning to the UK, we will support you doing so.

Support for students

We recognise that these are unsettling times, and are committed to supporting you and all students, regardless of any disruption or disadvantage you may have faced as a result of Covid-19. We will maintain Oxford’s exceptional system of personal support, whether face to face or online – and will take active steps to ensure all students can access Oxford’s enriching opportunities, regardless of your personal background or circumstances. For example, Oxford’s students’ union, Oxford SU, is planning a virtual version of its Freshers’ Fair, giving new and returning students the chance to engage in their wider student community, and find out about the wide range of clubs and societies and local organisations that support students. 

We, or the college who made your offer, will be in touch again soon and as further information becomes available. You can also refer to our dedicated webpage for offer holders where you will find the latest FAQs.

With very best wishes to you, your family and your community,

Dr Samina Khan
Director, Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach

10 June 2020 from Professor Patrick Grant to all staff

Dear Colleagues,

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.

Yours sincerely,

Patrick Grant
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research)

8 June 2020 from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff

Dear Colleagues,

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.

Yours sincerely

Louise Richardson

Vice-Chancellor

27 May 2020 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.

Yours sincerely,
Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor

15 May 2020 from Professor Patrick Grant to all staff

Dear colleagues,

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.

Yours sincerely,

Patrick Grant
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research)

6 May 2020 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.

Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor

21 April 2020 from Professor Anne Trefethen to all staff

Dear Colleagues,

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.

Yours sincerely,

Anne

Professor Anne Trefethen
Pro Vice-Chancellor of People and Gardens, Libraries and Museums

21 April 2020 from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff

Dear Colleagues,

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.

Yours sincerely,

Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor

1 April 2020 from Martin Williams to all students

27 March 2020 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 research 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,
Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor

20 March 2020 from the Vice-Chancellor to all staff

Dear Colleagues,

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.

Yours sincerely,

Louise Richardson

Vice-Chancellor

20 March 2020 from Martin Williams to all students

17 March 2020 from Martin Williams to all students

17 March 2020 from Anne Trefethen to staff

Dear Colleagues,

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 hr-support@admin.ox.ac.uk and we will try to update the site to reflect them.

Look after yourselves,

Anne

Anne Trefethen
Pro Vice-Chancellor of People, Gardens, Libraries and Museums

16 March 2020 from Martin Williams to all students

13 March 2020 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.

Yours sincerely,
Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor

13 March 2020 from Martin Williams to all students

7 March 2020 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.

Yours sincerely,
Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor

3 March 2020 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.

Yours sincerely
Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor

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