Teaching and learning | University of Oxford
Students in a library
Students in a library

Teaching and learning

Maintaining Oxford’s outstanding education

We expect the University to be open for the start of the 2020/21 academic year, with in-person teaching in place. We are committed to maintaining the highest possible standards of education, with a focus on personalised teaching and supervision from leading academics, including tutorials and other types of small group learning such as masters’ seminar groups.

For the majority of students, the core content of your course and the educational opportunities open to you will not change, although it may be that some of your learning and teaching need to be conducted online. Unless notified by your department or faculty, your course syllabus will be unaffected. 

World-class facilities

We have taken steps to ensure our facilities are open and will be available to students – and ensuring they are safe environments for students and staff.

In particular, we are putting in additional measures to make sure you can take part in practical teaching and research, for example in laboratories. Your times may be staggered, and capacities will be reduced, but we are committed to ensuring you get suitable levels of access, in line with government guidance.

We can confirm that our libraries and collections are now reopening, and we expect them to be available from the start of the next academic year. There will be some reduced capacity, to allow for social distancing. The Bodleian Libraries will offer a ‘seat-finder’ app to help you locate a place to study.

Digital support

Teaching and research will be conducted in-person when it is safe for both students and staff, and we expect to offer a significant amount of in-person teaching over the academic year. In-person education – particularly in the earlier part of the year - will be combined with engaging online lectures and activities that draw on the rich resources available through our colleges, libraries and collections.

We have learned a huge amount from our remote-only Trinity (summer) term at Oxford, and will be building on our experiences and feedback from students to enhance our digital support in 2020.

We have improved the tools and technologies we use to support digital learning in recent months. We have increased access to the University’s virtual learning environment Canvas@Oxford and it is now universally available – acting as a single-entry point for most students.

Engaging alternatives to larger group teaching and lectures will be offered online at least for the first term. Most exams in Michaelmas (autumn) term will be online – building on our students’ positive experience of open-book exams in Trinity (summer) term. A number of exams in Michaelmas will be held in-person with social distancing measures in place. We are currently exploring the format of exams and assessments for the remainder of the year, and it is likely that there will be a mixture of online and in-person exams.

Fieldwork and years abroad

We expect that students will be able to take part in fieldwork so long as a specific risk assessment is conducted, and the coronavirus pandemic is taken into account. This includes fieldwork overseas where travel is permitted. We also expect fieldtrips to go ahead whenever it is safe to do so.

If you have a year abroad planned, we are taking steps to support you taking up this opportunity in a safe way. There will be an enhanced risk assessment process in place, and some flexibility is likely to be needed. Alternative learning arrangements may be arranged in the small number of cases if in-country placements are not viable.   Please see the FAQs for year abroad students for further information.

Supporting your education in all scenarios

We are committed to maintaining the highest standards of education regardless of the impact of the ongoing pandemic.

We realise that some students may not be able to access in-person teaching at all times (for example if they are self-isolating), and in these cases, digital resources and support will be available to you.

We are planning for a range of scenarios – including increased government restrictions – and will be working in a co-ordinated way across the University and the colleges to switch from in-person to remote teaching if necessary. We are also working with our academics to make education accessible to all students – whether you are learning in-person or online.

For more information about the University’s scenario planning, please refer to University status and response page.

Teaching and learning FAQs

A selection of FAQs for all students and offer holders about teaching and learning.

For more detailed information, please see the FAQs section of this site.

What are the changes that are being made to the arrangements for students, and what do I do if I have concerns about them?

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the University is having to make important changes to how it delivers teaching, assessments and other services - to maintain our world-class learning experience for all students, and to minimise risks of infection for students, staff and the wider community, The information on these webpages outlines the changes that will be made. You must read this information, along with any details of changes sent by your College or Department.

Under the terms of your student contract this is a notification of material changes under the ‘Changes to Courses’ provisions. When you register with the University before the start of term, you will be asked to confirm that you have read this information and that you have consented to the changes.

If you are an offer holder, and do not wish to accept your place at the University of Oxford because of these changes, you have the right to decline your University place. Returning students also have an opportunity to withdraw. This can be done by contacting your Department (for postgraduates) or your College (for undergraduates) as soon as possible. Applications for deferral can only be considered for students who have exceptional individual circumstances (go to the FAQ pages for undergraduate or graduate offer holders for more information)

When will I find out the details of how my course will be delivered?

Departments and faculties are now carrying out detailed planning in preparation for the start of term. They will provide more information direct to you in the coming weeks – in line with the latest government advice.

Will teaching take place within usual term dates?

For undergraduate students, teaching at Oxford usually takes place in Weeks 1-8 of term. It is possible that some teaching may take place during weeks 9-10 to allow us to maintain levels of contact time. The exact teaching dates for each course will be confirmed as soon as possible by your department. Undergraduates should assume that teaching will take place in Weeks 1-8 until informed otherwise or unless your course starts earlier. You will be informed in advance if there is any change. Graduate students will also be advised of any changes to your term dates.

How will the University support remote learning?

There may be times next year when staff or students need to teach or learn remotely, such as during periods of self-isolation or if government guidance or local health and safety advice changes. Our flexible approach to teaching next year means that we will be prepared to switch back to remote teaching if necessary. Our specialist study tutors are working over the summer to prepare resources to help you get the most from online lectures, tutorials and assessments. Some initial information is available on the adapting to remote learning webpage, as well as some advice about technology that can be used when studying from home. Further details will be made available in the coming weeks.

I plan to take part in research fieldwork. What should I do?

All research fieldwork and overseas travel will be subject to a suitable and sufficient risk assessment which must include consideration of the COVID-19 risk – and in line with your department’s policies. Further information, including COVID-19 specific fieldwork risk assessment templates, can be found on the Safety Office website.  Risk assessments for travel to countries or regions where the FCO advises against all but essential travel or all travel, must be reviewed by the Safety Office and approved by the Head of Department. All other travel can be signed off by departments without referral to the Safety Office, but in accordance with their own departmental approval procedures.  If you are taking part in research fieldwork, you should speak to your supervisor in the first instance.

Will there be any changes to course fees?

No. Our aim is to ensure that students are able to take advantage of our world class academic teaching and meet the educational objectives of each programme. As such, all course fees and funding arrangements will remain unchanged.

We are focusing on supporting students and delivering our programmes of study within the constraints of current circumstances. Whilst we appreciate that this will mean that they are not delivered in the same manner as previous years, the provision and resources that we are working to make available should mean our educational objectives for our programmes are met. . For these reasons it is not appropriate for course fees to be waived. 

The current circumstances are exceptional and well beyond our control, yet University staff are working strenuously to ensure our high-quality teaching, assessments and examinations, go ahead while minimising impacts for students. Other University services (e.g. student welfare, careers support) will continue to be provided even though staff are working remotely. 

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