Michaelmas 2020 | University of Oxford

Michaelmas Coordination Group

Information about our preparations for Michaelmas term and the new academic year.

The University and colleges intend to be open and operational in the 2020/21 academic year, albeit with significant changes to the way teaching is delivered, research is undertaken, and activities take place.

We are fully committed to delivering an outstanding academic experience to our students, to maintaining our focus on personalised teaching, and to the support and well-being of our entire community.

Given the need for careful and coordinated planning for Michaelmas term and beyond, we have established a joint high-level working group, known as the Michaelmas Coordination Group (MCG). This group brings together the colleges and University to create an operational framework that is informed by the University’s different policy areas, through the education, research, finance and personnel committees.


What will the MCG do?

The purpose of the MCG is to enable the University and its colleges to resume in Michaelmas Term “with as full a cohort as possible, the optimum combination of face-to-face teaching and online learning, and a fully operational research programme.”

The MCG will identify and coordinate specific strands of work that need to be undertaken for the development of new operational guidelines that may be required for the University’s teaching, research and administration in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Through its membership and through active consultation, the MCG will seek input from divisions, colleges, administrative services and from OUSU, alongside professional health advice. The MCG will produce a framework and a set of recommendations that will allow the University and its constituent Colleges to open in Michaelmas Term and successfully continue its operations for the rest of the academic year, even in a fast-changing landscape.

Why is the MCG needed?

The University has a robust crisis management framework, which was triggered at the start of the coronavirus outbreak. It has since been extended to include additional contingency planning groups at collegial, divisional and departmental levels to manage the wide range of issues and impacts that have evolved from the pandemic.

It will require a great deal of coordination and collaboration successfully to open the University in Michaelmas Term 2020, provide a consistent high-quality student experience, continue our world-leading research, and support the diverse needs of our staff. All plans will be made in light of the need to be prepared to adapt our operations at short notice to changes in the national pandemic alert level.

The MCG will provide the detailed level of coordination that will ensure cross-cutting issues are addressed, progress is tracked, and decisions are managed in a timely, effective and appropriately governed way.

What are the governance arrangements for the MCG?

The MCG is an advisory group that works within the University’s contingency planning framework to deal with the impacts and repercussions of the global coronavirus outbreak. It reports to the University’s Bronze and Silver Groups for strategic-level decisions, and commissions, coordinates or delegates work to the steering and sub-groups that have been formed to cover education, research, finance, planning and personnel issues.

The group is co-chaired by Karen O’Brien, Head of Humanities Division, and Baroness Jan Royall, Principal of Somerville College and Deputy Chair of Conference of Colleges. Its membership includes senior representatives from colleges, departments, divisions and administrative units of the University.

The Teaching Space Coordination Group (TSCG) is a sub-group of the MCG that has been set up to to review and advise on how the collegiate university will use and allocate its teaching spaces in the new academic year. The TSCG is co-chaired by the Director of Estates and a Senior Tutor, with representatives from each division and appropriate central services.

Michaelmas Coordination Group - List of members

  • Chairs: Karen O’Brien, Head of Humanities Division and Baroness Jan Royall, Principal of Somerville College and Deputy Chair of Conference of Colleges
  • Professor Tim Coulson, Head of Zoology Department, Chair of IT Committee and elected member of Council
  • Professor Dan Grimley, Deputy Head of Humanities and Associate Head for Research
  • Professor Graham Taylor, Deputy Head of MPLS and Associate Head for Estates
  • Professor Mark Pollard, Associate Head of Research for Social Sciences Division
  • Professor Helen McShane, Deputy Head of Division (Translation and Personnel) for MSD
  • Nick French, Domestic Bursar of Keble College
  • Dr Mark Wormald, Chair of the Senior Tutors’ Committee
  • Sir Tim Hitchens, President of Wolfson College
  • Professor Simon Horobin, Senior Proctor
  • Professor Chris Conlon, Head of NDM Experimental Medicine
  • Roisin McCallion, VP Welfare and Equal Opportunities, Oxford SU
  • Dr Tracy Gale, MPLS Divisional Registrar
  • Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian
  • Dr Saira Shaikh, Academic Registrar
  • Dr Stephen Conway, Director of Research Services
  • Julian Duxfield, Director of HR
  • Paul Goffin, Director of Estates
  • Lukasz Bohdan, Director of Assurance
  • Sara Beck, Chief Operating Officer, Said Business School
  • Judith Finch, Director of Conference of Colleges

What are your starting assumptions for how the University will operate in Michaelmas 2020?

General principles:

  • The University and colleges will be open to welcome new and returning students; prepared to adapt operations at short notice; and able to respond nimbly to increased/loosened restrictions during course of academic year, including a return to full lock-down conditions with students on-site.
  • All arrangements for working, teaching and/or research will be subject to conditions prevailing at the time, and always with the health and safety of students and staff as the priority.
  • Social distancing restrictions may remain in place, potentially to varying degrees, for most or all the academic year, and all University operations will need to be set up to function under those conditions.


  • The University remains committed to delivering an outstanding academic experience to all students through an optimal blend of online and in-person teaching, combined with clear guidance and personalised support.
  • For undergraduate and taught graduate courses, the emphasis on small-group teaching by leading academics (for example, in undergraduate tutorials, small seminars and laboratory work) is fundamental to an Oxford education and will continue to be a central part of our offering in the 2020/21 academic year. Similarly, research degrees will continue to be based on close personal supervision by renowned researchers.
  • Face-to-face teaching and research supervision will be complemented by high quality online activities where necessary, delivered by Oxford’s world-leading academic staff and drawing on the exceptionally rich resources available through our colleges, laboratories, libraries and collections.
  • Colleges (for undergraduates) or departments (for graduate students) will be in contact with current and returning students over the coming months, giving more details of academic, residential and extracurricular arrangements next year as they become known.


  • Research will be underway to the extent possible under social distancing conditions, both here and in overseas labs.
  • Research fieldwork, including overseas, and research involving human participants will proceed, except in locations/settings where restrictions continue to exist.

Please see our University Status and Response page for latest updates on where we are within our current planning framework.

What have students been told about the plans for the next academic year?

Information that has been shared with returning students and offer holders is available at: www.ox.ac.uk/coronavirus/students.
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 minimise 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 maintain social distancing in teaching and research spaces

We are committed to setting out clear guidance for students about what is expected of them to protect themselves and others, and what they 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.

The University’s measures are 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.

Teaching and learning

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.

World-class facilities and resources

Laboratories and research facilities will be available to students - although they will operate at reduced capacity, for the safety of our students and staff. We expect libraries and collections to be open – supplemented by digital resources. 


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 and be prepared to switch to remote teaching if necessary.

College life

Colleges are at the heart of the Oxford experience. We are pleased to be able to confirm that all our colleges will be open from the start of the academic year, and that they will have 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. Our primary concern is the safety of our students and staff – and services will be reopened in line with government guidance and health advice.


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

Support for 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.

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 information 

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 government guidance and health advice. 

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

Will academic and professional staff be required to teach or interact with students on a face-to-face basis if they have concerns about the risks?

The University and colleges are working to ensure that we provide appropriate environments within which carefully planned, and socially distanced interactions can take place, in line with government guidance.  Any member of staff who has concerns about the risks will have the option of a discussion with their head of department, manager or relevant College senior staff member about their particular circumstances and concerns.  Detailed guidance will be developed by the PVC People and GLAM, in consultation with HR, and the Unions.

How will staff prepare for Michaelmas term 2020?

A range of activities are taking place across the collegiate University under the auspices of the Michaelmas Coordination Group. Detailed information about planning assumptions for education has been shared with colleagues across the University, and is being used as a basis for education planning in the coming weeks.  We are fully aware of the pressures that colleagues are already under and the implications for staff workloads. This will be addressed as a priority, and we will explore ways of supporting staff further in the weeks ahead as we work through the detail.  More detailed FAQs about education planning are now available on the Academic Support website (staff SSO required) and will be added to in the weeks ahead.

Where can I find further information?

This page will be updated and added to, as planning develops and decisions are made.

Related website pages are linked below for:

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