Teaching and learning | University of Oxford
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student in a library

Teaching and learning

Last updated: Friday 13 November 2020 

This page provides a broad overview of arrangements for the 2020/21 academic year.  Please refer to the National Restrictions and Christmas vacation pages for the latest information on these topics.


We are committed to maintaining the highest possible standards of education this year, 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 will not change, although the mode of delivery will be different. 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. Unless notified by your department or faculty, your course syllabus will be unaffected. 

We will keep the situation under constant review, and the balance between in-person and remote teaching may vary in response to the prevailing situation. We ask for your understanding as we adapt flexibly to the circumstances.



Our facilities are open and available to students as COVID ready environments.

We have put 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.

The Bodleian Libraries are open. However, there are some changes to how you will use the libraries, services and resources. You will still be able to access the material you need, and all our support services, including your Subject Librarian who will offer a virtual or in-person service when possible.

Make sure you take some time to read the latest information on the Bodleian’s latest news page, as reading room opening times have changed, and you must book a seat before visiting. You will notice additional changes to entry procedures and services have been adapted to make your study time at the Bodleian Libraries as easy and safe as possible.

For the most up-to-date information, check the Bodleian Michaelmas term page, and the other pages in this guide.

Digital support

Teaching and research is being conducted in-person when it is safe for both students and staff. In-person education is being combined with engaging online lectures and activities that draw on the rich resources available through our colleges, libraries and collections.

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 and it is now universally available – acting as a single-entry point for most students.

We have produced a new series of talks to help you take part in remote study. You can access the materials via the Canvas virtual learning environment (no SSO required) – and you can also read some quick tips on getting started with remote study on the Oxford Students website.

Exams and assessments

There will be a mixture of in-person exams and alternative forms of assessment this year, and there is support available for students taking all types of exams – whether in-person or online.

While some exams will take place in Hilary and Michaelmas terms, most will be held in Trinity term. To enable Trinity term in-person exams to take place safely, with social-distancing in place, exams will take place over the whole of the term (weeks 0-11) using several venues. While we are working hard to minimise disruption, many in-person exams will have to take place at different times to a normal year, with some moved earlier in the term. Your department will confirm full details of the arrangements that apply to you. 

Non-exam assessments such as dissertations and essays will be submitted online. Research students will also submit their thesis online.

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. An enhanced risk assessment process is in place, and some flexibility is likely to be needed. Alternative learning arrangements are being made 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 and staff 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 different government restrictions at a local or national level – 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.

To find out more about what you can expect in Michaelmas term, download the Expectations of Teaching and Assessment in Michaelmas Term 2020 document. 

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

Please refer to the FAQ page if you have any further questions about teaching and learning. 

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