University status and response to COVID-19
University status and response to COVID-19

University status and response to COVID-19

 Last updated 21 January 2022

The University is acting on advice from sources including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, World Health Organization, the NHS and Public Health England. Our own academic experts in infectious diseases and other relevant subjects are involved in our response to coronavirus.

Update following the UK Government’s plan to remove ‘Plan B’ restrictions (added Thursday 20 January)
On Wednesday 19 January, the UK Government confirmed its plans to remove the current ‘Plan B’ COVID-19 restrictions by Thursday 27 January. The University and colleges are urgently reviewing the Government’s updated guidance, and are taking advice from Oxford’s clinical health experts.

Face coverings are no longer mandated in all University teaching settings, apart from in libraries. However, the University remains at Business Continuity Planning stage 2, and all other existing University health guidance remains in place. This includes the expectation that staff and students will get tested twice a week while working and studying on site.

The University is expected to move to BCP Level 1 on Thursday 27 January, and staff are being encouraged to return to on-site working, in anticipation of this change.

A further update is expected at the end of next week. 

Current status 

The University is currently at Level 2 of the University’s Business Continuity Planning (BCP) framework.

Under BCP Stage 2, the University remains open, with as full a cohort of students as possible on-site, and a fully operational research programme underway.

Emergency response stages and contingency planning

The University remains committed to furthering its mission of teaching and research throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We have worked to identify a number of ways the University and colleges can operate as fully as possible while keeping our staff and students safe. 

Below is a summary of the Business Continuity Planning (BCP) framework (staff can find the full framework on SharePoint (SSO required). The University operates at a stage that reflects the broader public health environment. 

The University will consider any further change to Government guidance and the impact on the University’s Business Continuity Plan when necessary. If Government restrictions increase once again the University has contingency plans in place which align with Government guidance on contingency frameworks in education and childcare settings to ensure it can continue to deliver its mission of teaching and research, drawing on the lessons of the last academic year.

Current status: Stage 2

Planning stageDescription
4Physical closure of the majority of University and College buildings. Parks and open spaces open to the public. Departments physically closed. Staff work remotely where possible. Only core support functions continue
3No public access to the University (including museums), except the Botanic Gardens and Arboretum. On-site activity permitted where it cannot be undertaken remotely. On-site research is allowed and encouraged where it cannot be carried out remotely – and enabled by the availability of COVID-secure environment. Teaching and assessment should take place remotely for the majority of taught students. In-person teaching will be permitted from the start of term for those courses/subjects explicitly exempted by Government and in cases where the requirements of Professional, Statutory or Regulatory body accreditation demand it. Libraries will prioritise remote and zero-contact digital services.
2University operates with as full a student cohort as possible on site; teaching and assessment taking place with the optimum combination of in-person teaching and online learning that optimises learning and supports staff and students who cannot attend; and a fully operational research programme underway. Some areas of the University open to public.
1Emphasis on in-person learning and assessment, and on-site working.  Increased public access including to public spaces, colleges (including conference facilities), and non-teaching and education related events.
0The University operates as usual

For information about the status of individual buildings, colleges and departments, please refer to local websites. Information on college and department COVID-19 case protocols can be found on our Testing for COVID-19: Early Alert Service webpages.

University PCR testing data

The University’s testing service data for the week ending 17 December is contained below. For information about the overall number of COVID-19 cases in Oxfordshire visit the county’s COVID-19 Dashboard.

Data from Oxford University's testing service for the week ending 17 December
Total tests in the weekPositive tests in the weekPositivity rate (% of positive results)
Total tests since start
(4 September)
Positive tests since startPositivity rate since start

EAS PCR test data up to end of Friday 17 December

Above: positive COVID-19 tests reported by the University's testing service up to 17 December 2021.

Test results will be updated each Monday to reflect the previous week’s numbers. Please note that the figures on this page include only those tests for which we have received a result, and do not include positive test results received outside of the University testing service. Due to the time interval between a test being done and the result becoming available, it is expected that there will be a mismatch between actual results and those confirmed to us on any given day.

The University takes the privacy of its staff and students very seriously. Detailed privacy policies are available through the University's testing site.

**NEW 15 November 2021** Student Vaccination Survey results announced 

The results of the University’s COVID-19 Student Vaccination Survey have now been published, indicating that the vast majority of students are now vaccinated. Nearly 50% of students responded to the survey, which closed on Friday 5 November, with 98% reporting that they were vaccinated (95% fully and 3% partially). There were virtually no differences in vaccination rates between different colleges and departments. Visit the Student Vaccination Survey webpage for more information.

BCP frequently asked questions

What happens if there is a move by the Government to reimpose additional restrictions in future?

We are committed to maintaining the highest standards of education and research regardless of the impact of the ongoing pandemic in line with Government guidance. The University is remaining in close touch with public health authorities and is prepared to adapt to moves between local COVID alert levels as necessary. If there are more restrictive local or national measures put in place, it is likely that the University as a whole will consider whether to change its emergency response phase in consultation with local authorities, directors of public health (DsPH) and PHE health protection teams (HPTs). In these instances, physical access to buildings may be restricted – while education and research activities will continue wherever possible in remote form, drawing on the experiences of the last academic year. 

How will decisions be taken about moving between different stages of the University’s business continuity framework?

Decisions about changes in the University’s overall business continuity status are taken by the University Silver emergency planning group. Decisions about particular departments moving between different stages of the business continuity framework are taken by the relevant division, on a recommendation by the department. Colleges will make decisions about their own business continuity statuses. These decisions will likely be in consultation with Public Health England or local authorities in light of conditions at the time.

Will local lockdowns be considered in individual colleges and departments?

We will work with Public Health England to put safeguards in place that will help to prevent lockdowns being required within individual departments and colleges in line with the Government’s Contingency framework: education and childcare settings. Any decisions about more specific local restrictions would be taken in close consultation with local public health authorities.

How is the University working with local authorities and public health groups to manage its response to COVID-19 cases?

We have been working closely with local authorities, both direct, as well as through partnerships such as the Local Resilience Forum’s Children's Services & Education Working Group. We are also part of the Multi-Agency Operational Cell (MOAC) which is chaired by a local public health consultant, and which is developing the Oxfordshire Coronavirus Incident Management Plan for higher education settings. We have run preparation exercises with local agencies, and our contingency plans have been sent to the Oxfordshire Director of Public Health.

What are the governance arrangements for the University’s response to COVID-19?

The University’s Crisis Management Framework was activated in response to the pandemic, Within this framework, Silver and Bronze Groups are, respectively, the strategic and tactical groups that coordinate the collegiate University’s response to the pandemic. Silver Group is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, while Bronze is chaired by the Registrar. The University’s regular governance arrangements (e.g. Committees) continue to operate as normal.

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