Current students | University of Oxford
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Current students  

Things are different this year, and we understand that this may be challenging at times. However, we are committed to ensuring your time at Oxford is as rewarding and fulfilling as possible, within the constraints of the pandemic. 

These pages provide the latest information about COVID-19 for all students, from education and student life to travel, visas and accommodation. They will be updated on a regular basis, so please check back often. 

The information on this page is for current Oxford students.

If you are thinking of applying for study at Oxford, please go to the applicants section of this site. 

If you are an offer holder, please refer to our FAQs for undergraduate offer holders or graduate offer holders (2020/21 entry).

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Latest updates

Page last updated Friday 22 January 2021

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Academic support package announced (added 22 January) 

The University has outlined a comprehensive package of mitigation measures, designed to ensure all students receive fair grades, in light of this year’s exceptional circumstances. This ‘academic support package’ includes measures for whole cohorts, to ensure that this year’s students are not disadvantaged relative to pre-pandemic years; and also for individual students, including an enhanced Mitigating Circumstances notice to Examiners process. We are committed to providing full details of these processes by the middle of this term. Go to the teaching and learning page for more information.  

Keep protecting yourself and the community (updated 22 January)

COVID-19 is at its highest level in Oxfordshire since the start of the pandemic and it is essential that we continue to act to stop the spread. We can all share the positive news that increasing numbers of the population are receiving their first vaccination, however it will be some time yet before we start seeing significant changes to our lifestyles. Until then, it’s vital that we all continue following the health guidance, even if you have already had COVID-19 or a negative LFD test result. It's still possible to carry and transmit the virus, causing your household to be inconvenienced by having to self-isolate. Continuing to remain cautious and minimising interactions will ensure we don’t put each other at risk. Go to the keeping you safe and well page for more information.

Arrangements for Hilary term (updated 22 January) 

Returning to Oxford (updated 22 January)

Taught students (undergraduates and taught postgraduates)

In light of the high rates of COVID-19 infection, and the number of cases in Oxford being the highest since the start of the pandemic, the University has 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 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 in Hilary term. However, formal teaching is very likely to remain online for most students, unless there is a significant change in Government policy. 

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 Hilary term. 

If you are not contacted by your department, 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
  • You 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 are not in Oxford and believe you meet these criteria, you must discuss your plans with your college before returning.

In line with wider government guidance to limit travel, students should access online learning from home wherever possible. Colleges will be encouraged to bear this in mind when evaluating applications for exemptions.

If you are permitted to travel back to Oxford, you must follow national and international travel guidance. If you are returning to the UK after travel abroad, you must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to 3 days before departure, see the UK Government website

There is no restriction within England on students travelling to or from Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland for those who are allowed to return. 

This guidance applies to both full and part-time students.

If you are a taught student and your department does not contact you to invite you to come back, or you do not meet these criteria, you must not return to Oxford until indicated otherwise. 

Postgraduate research students

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. In line with University employees, you may access University facilities if necessary for your research, provided they are open, but should work remotely if you are able to do so.

International students

You must receive a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arriving in the UK, and you will need to self-isolate on arrival in the UK.

You should speak to your college to agree the timing of your return to Oxford so that you can complete your self-isolation before your course’s in-person start date wherever possible.

Your college will help you to self-isolate if you live in college accommodation.

You may be able to reduce your self-isolation times though the Government’s ‘Test to Release’ scheme.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or are self-isolating at home

You should not return to Oxford if you have COVID-19 symptoms or are self-isolating.

If you have symptoms, you should get tested at home, and you must complete any required self-isolation before returning, in line with requirements in your local area.

If you live in an area with a community testing programme in place, you may also be asked to take a lateral flow test in your local area before you travel back to Oxford even if you do not have symptoms.

Teaching and assessment (updated 22 January)

The University is currently at 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, other than those courses which have been given specific permission to resume in-person teaching. You can prepare for learning online by following our advice for getting the most out of remote learning at university.

There will be no in-person exams in Hilary term (with the exception of one medical exam needed to meet professional body requirements). 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.

An 'academic support package' is being developed to support students impacted by COVID-19. Go to the teaching and learning page for more information. 

Students who remained in Oxford during the vacation (added 8 January)

If ​you did not go home for the Christmas vacation, you should stay in Oxford this term, and will ​be supported in doing so.  

The Government has advised students against travelling. However, If you need to leave, the residency requirement has been suspended, which means that you can return home, so long as you comply with national and international travel guidance.  

Please note that if you do leave, you will not be allowed to return to Oxford again until the current Government restrictions are lifted. 

In line with Government guidance, ​if you stay in Oxford, we are unable to provide in-person teaching (including project work), with very few exceptions.  

However​, you can use University and college facilities such as libraries, study spaces and cafeterias where they are available. We also encourage you to take three Lateral Flow Device tests as soon as possible (see testing section below).  

Student life (added 6 January)

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 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 offer the highest level of support to students.

Go to the Student Life page for more information. 

COVID-19 testing for students returning to Oxford (updated 22 January)

If you are coming back to live in Oxford, you are 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.

This is incredibly important for stopping the spread of the virus.

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.

If you did not leave Oxford during the vacation, you should still take the tests at the same frequency, as soon as possible from the start of the year. 

If you do not take the tests, the Government advises that you should self-isolate for ten days on your return to university. 

Who should take the tests

All students are strongly advised to take the tests. This includes postgraduate research students.

You should take them even if you have recently received a negative COVID-19 test result.

You should not take the tests if:

  • You have returned from a country that is not on the travel corridor list: You should instead self-isolate for ten days. Lateral flow devices cannot be used as part of the Government’s ‘Test to Release’ scheme. Further information about the ‘Test to Release’ scheme can be found in the FAQs below.
  • You have symptoms of COVID-19: You should instead book a PCR test via the Early Alert Service and follow the advice you are given when you receive your result (if you develop symptoms between LFD tests, you must stop taking the LFDs and have a test PCR instead).
  • You have had a positive PCR test result in the last 90 days: In this case, you are likely to have developed some immunity, which means the LFDs are not necessary

Why you should take the tests

Lateral Flow Device tests are an important tool in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.

They help detect if you have COVID-19 before you develop symptoms. This

  • Reduces the risk that you will infect others
  • Ensures that those who need to self-isolate do so sooner
  • Reduces the number of people who will need to self-isolate

Large numbers of students taking the tests will ultimately reduce the spread of COVID-19 across the community, help protect vulnerable people.

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, cases that are likely to be transmitted to others.

About the tests

Your college will tell you how to obtain your lateral flow devices. They are the same tests that were used in the Christmas Travel Tests.

All students will take the tests themselves, and online training will be available to support you. 

You should complete this training if you didn’t do it in Michaelmas term. Even if you have already done it, we encourage you to review the materials again to refresh your knowledge.

The tests are delivered by colleges and are overseen by the Testing for COVID-19: Early Alert Service.

Your result will be visible within 30 minutes.

You do not need to book a slot for testing at the start of Hilary term. 

After you take the tests

All tests

If you test positive in any of your LFD tests, you must self-isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test through the Early Alert Service and continue self-isolating until you know the result.

It is crucial that you record the result, via the Early Alert Service form, of each test immediately after the result is visible. This will help the University and the NHS to understand how the virus spreads, helping to protect the community.

Test 1

You should take your first test as soon as possible after you arrive in Oxford.

You should limit your social contact and interaction with others until you receive the result, which will be within 30 minutes.

If you live in college accommodation and test positive, your college will arrange for you to self-isolate away from your household, to limit the spread of the virus. 

If the first test is negative, you should continue to be cautious until you have taken your second test.

This means limiting social interactions (but not self-isolating).  You should not take part in in-person teaching, but can visit the physical libraries when they are open (extensive online services and resources are available).

Test 2

If your second test is negative, you can take part in in-person teaching, and activities that are available to you under current lockdown rules.

You must continue to adhere to all health guidance and the Student Responsibility Agreement.

Test 3

Getting two negative results after taking your first two will mean the chances of you being infectious will be very low (although not zero).

The third test will help us to identify any infections that might have been acquired in the week after the first week's testing.  

If you continue to follow the behaviours outlined in the University’s health advice and Student Responsibility Agreement, the chances of you testing positive on your third test should be low. 

If a close contact or household member tests positive

If a member of your household or a close contact tests positive in an LFD test, they will need to take a confirmatory PCR test.

You should self-isolate as soon as you become aware that your close contact has received a positive LFD result.

You should continue to self-isolate until that person has received the result of their PCR test (but continue to take your LFD tests as planned). 

If your close contact’s PCR test result is negative, you can stop self-isolating at that point.  If It is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days.

Please note that this guidance will not apply if you live in college accommodation and the individual with who has tested positive has been asked to self-isolate away from your household and you have not been in contact with them.       

Testing before travelling back to Oxford

If you live in an area in the UK with a community testing programme in place that provides LFD tests, you are encouraged to take one of these tests in your local area, where it fits with locally defined priorities, before you travel back to Oxford - even if you do not have symptoms. 

If you test positive you must self-isolate at home and not travel back until you have completed your self-isolation.

If your test at home is negative, you can return to Oxford. You should still take the three LFDs when you arrive. This is because LFDs only detect infections at a certain point in time. 

Testing later in Hilary term

We are now developing plans for how we manage testing later in the term and information will follow in the near future.  

Lessons from the testing on students’ return will help to inform our plans as they develop.

Testing FAQs 

I don’t have a college (for example, because I am a visiting or recognised student). How do I get a test?
You should continue to use make of the University Testing for COVID-19 Early Alert Service if you have symptoms of COVID-19 instead of having a LFD test in colleges.

I have a disability which means I am unable to take the tests in the way they have been offered to me. What should I do?
You should speak to your college, and they will provide you with support as appropriate.

Can staff take Lateral Flow Device tests?
No, not at this stage.

I was offered training and support for the tests in-person before Christmas. Why is this not available in Hilary term?

The model that has been adopted in Hilary term is has been identified as the simplest method to roll out multiple tests to all students on their return to Oxford. Full online training is available to support you taking the tests.

How do I access the Government’s ‘Test to Release’ scheme?

The University cannot provide tests to allow you to leave self-isolation early after international travel under the Government’s ‘Test to Release’ scheme. You will need to contact and make arrangements with a private provider directly. You should follow the directions on the Government website which also includes a list of eligible private providers. Please note that we understand that demand for these services is high, and you may want to contact a provider ahead of time and book early if you wish to take advantage of this scheme.

Residency arrangements (updated 6 January)

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 restrictions ease. 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.

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For wider information for students, please refer to the following pages: 

If you still can’t find what you are looking for, please review the FAQs for current students.

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