The University Student Handbook provides general information and guidance you may need to help you to make the most of the opportunities on offer at the University of Oxford. It also gives you formal notification and explanation of the University’s codes, regulations, policies and procedures.
This is your University Student Handbook. It gives you formal notification and explanation of the University’s codes, regulations, policies and procedures, and signposts relevant contact details and web links where you can find out more information. It is essential, and your responsibility, to read it.
This handbook sits alongside the departmental and college handbooks relevant to your course and college (or department for non-matriculated students), with which you should also familiarise yourself. This handbook applies to the 2020-21 academic year and will be revised annually.
As Proctors and Assessor we are senior officers of the University but we are not professional administrators: we are academics elected for a year by our colleges. We oversee student matters and ensure that the University’s statutes and policies are followed, with particular interest in examinations, conduct and welfare, and other aspects of the student experience. If you have any concerns or suggestions for improvement, they can be channelled through the Oxford University Student Union (Oxford SU) officers, through Junior Common Room (JCR) and Middle Common Room (MCR) presidents, with whom we have regular meetings. The Proctors’ Office may also be contacted for assistance and advice and you can find further information on the Proctors’ Office website.
We hope that your time as a student at the University is successful and enjoyable.
2. About the University
As the oldest university in the Englishspeaking world, the University of Oxford can lay claim to nine centuries of continuous existence. It is an independent and selfgoverning institution, consisting of the University, including divisions, departments and faculties, and the colleges.
The 36 colleges, though independent and self-governing, are a core element of the University, to which they are related in a federal system. There are also six permanent private halls, which were founded by Christian denominations, and three societies.
The colleges (including the halls and societies):
- select and admit undergraduate students, and select graduate students after they are admitted by the University
- are responsible for undergraduate students' tutorial teaching
- provide accommodation, meals, common rooms, libraries, sports and social facilities, and pastoral care for their students.
- determines the content of courses within which college teaching takes place
- organises lectures and seminars and other forms of teaching/instruction
- provides a wide range of resources for teaching and learning, including libraries, laboratories, museums and computing facilities
- admits and supervises graduate students
- examines theses, and sets and marks examinations
- awards degrees.
2.1 Student membership
As a student of the University, you will usually be part of an individual college, which has admitted you as a member, and the University, into which you are matriculated. Membership is usually for life but if your college membership is formally terminated (e.g. by expulsion), you automatically also lose your University membership and vice versa.
Some students do not matriculate but nevertheless study at the University, e.g. students reading for certain certificates or diplomas and certain Department for Continuing Education courses, and visiting students not registered for a particular course or qualification. In this handbook, we describe students who do not matriculate as “non-matriculated students” throughout. Although not formally University members, non-matriculated students are expected to observe the same rules and regulations as matriculated students.
All students therefore need to be familiar with the rules, regulations and requirements that apply to their course of study.
As a resident of the City of Oxford, you are also part of, and have responsibilities towards, the wider local community.
2.2 Student unions (matriculated students / associate membership only)
As well as becoming a member of your own college’s student union (often known as the Junior Common Room (JCR) and Middle Common Room (MCR)), a matriculated student of the University automatically becomes a member of the Oxford University Student Union (Oxford SU). Other students may have associate membership of Oxford SU.
Oxford SU is an independent charity that promotes the academic, social and welfare interests of its members throughout the University.
You have the right to opt out of membership of your college student union and of Oxford SU. Information about the right to opt out of Oxford SU membership, and arrangements to supply student union services to student members who have exercised that right, is available from the Oxford Students website.
The University of Oxford’s code of practice explaining how the requirements of the Education Act 1994 relating to student unions are being carried out, is published alongside the University’s formal statutes, policies and regulations.
Note: the Oxford Union Society (known as ‘the Union’) is not a student union; it is an independent private members’ club with no student representative function.
2.3 Student Information
Student Information is a service for students of the University. The service can help with general administrative advice and support on all aspects of your student career, including queries about University registration and Student Self Service, as well as information for international students on matters like visas, immigration and studentships.
2.4 Response to the Covid-19 pandemic
The University and colleges will be open to students for the 2020–21 academic year, and we look forward to welcoming new and returning students from the start of Michaelmas Term. The Covid-19 pandemic, and resulting Government rules and guidance, will still be with us and will continue to affect university activities, which will inevitably mean that some arrangements for this coming year must differ from those of previous years.
The University is committed to delivering an outstanding academic experience to students and maintaining Oxford University’s focus on personalised teaching while also ensuring the safety and wellbeing of students and staff. For undergraduate and taught graduate courses the emphasis on small-group teaching by leading academics remains a fundamental part of the University’s provision for the 2020–21 academic year. Research degrees will continue to be based on close personal supervision by leading researchers. This teaching will be complemented by highquality online activities where necessary, delivered by Oxford’s world-leading academic staff and drawing on the exceptional resources available through our colleges, laboratories, libraries and collections. The situation is developing. Arrangements for teaching and research will be contingent on conditions at the time, with health and safety for students and staff as the top priority. Your college (or department if you do not have a college) will keep you updated, providing details of arrangements once they become available. The University has also published a new set of webpages, providing an overview of arrangements for the 2020–21 academic year. This includes a summary of steps the University is taking in regard to teaching and learning; keeping students safe and well; student life; colleges and accommodation and travel and visas. The pages will be updated over time with the latest information.
3.1 Welfare & support services
A range of services are available to support you during your studies at Oxford. You can get advice and details from your college, department, central University services, fellow students and Oxford SU. There are a number of specialist services available to students which are available year round. Depending on public health advice these services may be delivered remotely.
The Counselling Service provides free, confidential therapeutic support to students through workshops, groups and individual therapy.
Disability Advisory Service (DAS)
The DAS work with students and staff across the collegiate University to advise on support and adjustments to remove or reduce barriers to learning. The team also advises on any examination adjustments which might be needed.
If you have a disability and have not already been in touch with DAS we strongly encourage you to contact them to discuss what support and/or adjustments may be appropriate for you. Agreeing a Student Support Plan (SSP) with DAS is an essential step to ensuring that you get whatever reasonable adjustments, advice and assistance you may need to give you the best experience and benefit from your time at University.
Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service
The Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service offers confidential and independent advice to all students. The team of specialist advisors are available to help students decide on next steps and provide ongoing support and signposting to other services.
Oxford SU Student Advice Service
The Student Advice Service is a free, confidential and independent advice, information and advocacy service. The team of friendly and experienced advisors is there to help you find answers to the questions, and solutions to the problems, you may face as a student.
Student Resolution Service
The Student Resolution Service is a free mediation service for students finding themselves in conflict with another student.
Colleges provide health care via college doctors and sometimes nurses; these are NHS professionals with links to particular colleges. They also have arrangements to help with a whole range of welfare issues. Students also have access to wider local medical, dental, optician and sexual health services provided through the National Health Service (NHS).
Suspending study on health or personal grounds
There are procedures for seeking to suspend your studies for medical or personal reasons. You should contact your department (graduate students) or college (undergraduate students).
3.3 Equality and diversity
The University is committed to fostering an inclusive culture which promotes equality, values diversity and maintains a working, learning and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its staff and students are respected. The University’s overarching equality policy applies to all members of the University community.
3.4 Financial hardship
If you face unforeseen financial difficulties you must ensure that you are in receipt of any government and other external support available to you before applying for hardship funding.
Most colleges have limited hardship funds. Consult your college for assistance, especially if your difficulties could involve non-payment of fees which could lead to suspension of studies if not appropriately managed. Application forms for the University Hardship Fund can be obtained from your college hardship officer.
The Access to Learning Fund is based on national guidelines and aims to assist UK undergraduate and graduate students experiencing financial difficulty. For more information about the central hardship provision that you may be eligible to apply for, you should contact your college hardship officer in the first instance to discuss your situation. University support is administered by the Student Fees and Funding team and further details about the funding available and eligibility criteria can be found on the Fees and Funding Hardship page.
3.5 Safety and Security
Oxford is generally a safe place to study and socialise in; nevertheless, it is sensible to take precautions to minimise any risks by staying safe and protecting yourself and your personal possessions.
Police and University Security Services
All incidents of crime should be reported to Thames Valley Police by calling 101 for non-emergencies or 999 for emergency police, fire or ambulance services. The University Security Services 24-hour Control Room should be informed if the incident occurred on University premises.
3.6 Staff-student relationships
The University regards the professional relationship between members of staff and students as central to the student’s educational development and wellbeing. Professional relationships are any in which the staff member through their employment with the University has any educational, administrative, pastoral or supervisory involvement with a student. Implicit in the professional role of members of staff is an obligation to ensure that conflicts of interest do not arise, and that relationships with students for whom the staff member has any responsibility remain strictly professional, respecting the trust inherent in them. That is why members of University staff and are strongly advised not to enter into a close personal or intimate relationship with a student for whom they have any responsibility and students are strongly advised not to enter into any relationship with a member of University staff with any responsibility for them. To embark on such a close personal or intimate relationship often involves difficulties rooted in inequalities of power as well as problems in maintaining the boundaries of professional and personal life.
If such a relationship develops, the member of staff concerned has a responsibility to disclose it to the department as soon as such a relationship commences or as soon as the staff member perceives the commencement of such a relationship to be likely (whichever is earlier). Anyone who is unsure whether this has been done or who has concerns about a staff-student relationship is encouraged to speak in confidence to their Head of Department or Chair of the Faculty Board in the first instance.
4. Fitness to study
The University has a common framework across departments, faculties and colleges to support students and take action where questions arise as to whether a student is fit to study or to return to study after a period of leave on medical or personal grounds. Cases will normally be dealt with under local (college, faculty or department) procedures, but there is also a University-level Fitness to Study Panel, to which serious and difficult fitness to study cases can be referred if all other normal procedures at local level have been exhausted or are inappropriate.
‘Fitness to Study’ means an undergraduate or graduate student’s fitness:
- to commence a distinct course of academic study, or
- to continue with their current course of academic study, or
- to return to their current or another course of academic study
and their ability to meet:
- the reasonable academic requirements of the course or programme, and
- the reasonable social and behavioural requirements of a student member (whether resident in college or elsewhere) without his or her physical, mental, emotional or psychological health or state having an unacceptably deleterious impact upon the health, safety and/or welfare of the student and/or other students and/or University or college staff (not withstanding adjustments required by law).
A student may be referred to the Fitness to Study Panel by a college, a department or faculty, the Proctors, the Student Disciplinary Panel or the Student Appeal Panel. The Panel has the power to consider medical and any other appropriate evidence, to take expert advice (the student may be asked to attend a consultation with a medical or other expert), and to consider submissions made by or on behalf of the student concerned.
At the end of the process, the Panel will make determinations or recommendations (depending on the referring body) as to the student’s fitness to study. The Panel can also make decisions and recommendations about matters such as the student’s continued access to University and college facilities and premises, with or without conditions, or withdrawal from their course or programme of study.
If concerns about a student’s fitness to study have arisen and have led to a referral in the context of disciplinary proceedings, those proceedings will be suspended while the fitness to study issues are determined. In cases where a student’s condition or conduct gives rise to a need for immediate action, the Proctors are empowered to suspend that student from the University (for periods of up to 21 days at a time) pending consideration by the Fitness to Study Panel.
Part-time and non-matriculated students are exempt from residence requirements. For most degrees and other qualifications students are required to reside in or around Oxford for a proportion of each term to meet requirements set out in regulations. If there are any changes to residency requirements, for example the suspension of them, these will be communicated to students.
5.1 Number of terms of residence
You must be resident for at least six weeks in each term of your course (the number of terms being dependent on the degree, the subject and the candidate’s status). The Proctors may excuse you from part of the statutory residence requirements because of illness or other reasonable cause. Applications must be made through your college office.
Research students may be granted dispensation from the requirements to keep residence if it is necessary for them to carry out academic work elsewhere. To seek permission, contact your department.
5.2 Place of residence
Full-time matriculated students must reside within a specified distance of the University (defined by reference to Carfax Tower). The distances apply only during the period for which student members have to maintain statutory residence in order to meet degree or diploma requirements:
- Undergraduate students must reside within six miles of Carfax, or within 25 miles of Carfax provided that you either: (i) hold the status of Senior Student
(ii) already have an undergraduate degree from Oxford; and/or
(iii) reside with your parent/guardian
- Graduate students must reside within 25 miles of Carfax unless given special permission to work away from Oxford for a period (see 5.1).
You may apply for dispensation from the residence limits through your college. The college will apply to the Proctors’ Office on your behalf with a statement of support. A statement of support is also required from your department. Dispensation is granted only in exceptional circumstances. You should obtain dispensation before making any commitments. If you live outside the residence limits without permission you will not fulfil the statutory requirements and may not be allowed to enter for examinations.
Colleges provide accommodation for undergraduate students during their first year of study and for at least one other year of their course. You can choose to move out of college and live in student accommodation for some of your time studying at Oxford.
Many colleges provide accommodation to graduate students. In addition, the University's Graduate Accommodation Office can help if college accommodation is unavailable or not of the type needed. Private accommodation can be found using the Student Pad search and Oxford SU Living-Out Guide.
6. Academic Dress
Students are required to wear academic dress for matriculation, degree ceremonies and in-person examinations. This requirement is waived for online, open-book examinations and online vivas.
You should consult your college as to the appropriate gown to wear, though for music recitals, oral examinations, presentations and any other form of viva voce examination, undergraduates must always wear their commoners’ gowns. You should also wear a mortar board (or soft cap) and sub fusc:
- One of:
(i) a dark suit with dark socks
(ii) a dark skirt with black stockings
(iii) dark trousers with dark socks or dark hosiery
- A dark coat (optional)
- Black shoes
- Plain white collared shirt or blouse
- A white bow tie, black bow tie, black full-length tie, or black ribbon.
Please note that ‘dark’ in this context means dark grey, dark blue or black and that when wearing sub fusc, your clothing must not leave any part of your legs, ankles, or feet uncovered.
Ministers of religion may wear a gown over their clerical dress, and members of the armed forces may wear a gown over their service dress; service caps are removed when indoors. If you wear a head dress/scarf for religious reasons, a black scarf should be worn.
In addition, students traditionally wear carnations for in-person examinations: a white carnation for first examination, a red carnation for last examination and a pink carnation for all examinations in between.
You will need to provide your own sub fusc and academic dress. There are specialist clothing shops in Oxford.
7. Examinations and course requirements
The Proctors’ responsibilities include ensuring that the University’s statutes and regulations are upheld, by overseeing the conduct of University (as distinct from college) examinations, including:
- appointment of examiners
- establishing procedures for the staging of examinations
- approving alternative arrangements
- resolving queries, complaints and academic appeals.
The Examination Regulations cover a wide variety of important topics related to how you will be assessed. The following section highlights some key points, but it is not a substitute for the Examination Regulations to which you should refer.
Additionally, the University’s policy and guidance documents contain sections setting out your responsibilities in relation to your course. Some of the processes described have a role for your college (which will be performed by your department if you do not have a college).
7.1 Course content
Whether you are a taught course or a research student, it is your responsibility to be familiar with the general regulations and the specific regulations for your course, as set out in the relevant Examination Regulations. These provide a summary of the requirements of your course. Further information on your course is provided in your course handbook and in examination conventions available from your department. Regulations may be different depending on the year you started your course, and may be revised during your course of study. Explanations of the University’s approach to the limited situations in which course changes may be made are available for undergraduate and graduate study.
In order to engage with any online teaching or assessments students must ensure they have compatible IT equipment before they commence their programmes of study, and throughout their studies. If students face difficulties in funding the necessary IT equipment then hardship funding may be available depending on circumstances (please see section 3.4 of the handbook for more details). In addition, if you have particular accessibility needs in relation to online teaching or assessment which relate to a disability then please contact both your College and the Disability Advice Service to ensure the right support is put in place (please see section 3.1 of the handbook for more details). Details of the system requirements for laptops or other computers are available on the IT help and IT Services webpages.
7.2 Entering your examinations
It is likely that most examinations in 2020– 21 will take place online, as open-book exams which can be sat using your own computer. A small number of invigilated, hand-written examinations may be held at the Examination Schools, or within your department, with social distancing in place as appropriate. Departments will provide details of location and format at the start of your course and this information will be confirmed in your examination timetable.
There is comprehensive information available on open-book exams and how you can prepare for these. This information will be updated for 2020–21 and shared with you directly, closer to the start of your examinations.
In an open-book exam, you must submit your own work, without any help from others. When you take an exam, you will be required to sign the University’s honour code. This confirms that you have understood and abided by the University’s rules on plagiarism and collusion.
If you will be taking in-person examinations, you can find full guidance online about how to prepare for these, what to take into your
examination room, and what to expect on the day.
Entering for examinations
It is your responsibility to ensure that your examination entry details are correct using Student Self Service. You should inform your college or department if there are any errors
Fees may be payable for late entry to examinations, late change of options etc. If you need to re-sit examinations, including re-submission of written work for assessment, you may need to pay a re-examination fee.
Late alteration of options
If you want to change your chosen examination options, a request has to be made in writing through your college office. It cannot be assumed that permission will be given; requests involving re-scheduling examinations will generally not be granted. Where permission is given, an extra fee will be charged.
Your individual timetable is available on Student Self Service (except for examinations run locally by departments, which will publish the relevant timetables). The examination timetable for every subject is published online.
Regulations for some subjects allow candidates to use certain types of calculators in examinations. Details should be confirmed by the Chair of Examiners in each case. It is your responsibility to bring the permitted type of calculator permitted unless explicitly told that they will be provided.
Alternative examination arrangements and major adjustments
It is crucial that support needs and examination arrangements are dealt with as early as possible in your University career. If you have a specific learning difficulty (SpLD) (such as dyslexia or dyspraxia) or suspect that you may have one, please consult the Disability Advisory Service (see section 3), or your college office, your department for non-matriculated students or, for research students, your Director of Graduate Studies, as soon as possible to discuss your needs.
Reqests for alternative examination arrangements for disability-related reasons (e.g. use of a word-processor) must be submitted via your college (or department for non-matriculated students) to the Proctors by Friday of Week 4 of:
- Michaelmas term, except for Trinity term and Long Vacation examinations
- Hilary term for Trinity term and Long Vacation examinations.
Disability-related requests must be accompanied by the confirmation of the diagnostic assessment and recommendations for alternative arrangements for examinations.
Applications made after these deadlines can only be considered where unforeseen circumstances arise that justify a late application. Alternative arrangements may enable candidates to take written papers at different times, in separate venues (if they are in-person examinations), with extra time or with alternative facilities. In each case, applications need to be forwarded through your college office, or your department if you are a non-matriculated student. Where appropriate, once approval has been given for alternative arrangements it will be valid for all University examinations taken during your course of study.
Alternative arrangements for faith-based reasons (e.g. adjusting an examination schedule) must be submitted via your college (or department for nonmatriculated students) as soon as you matriculate or by the exam entry deadline at the latest.
If you have applied for alternative examination arrangements and are dissatisfied with the outcome, you have the right to appeal to the Chair of the Education Committee. Your appeal must be submitted in writing within 14 days of receipt of the original decision.
In some cases if you have a disability, your college (or department, for non-matriculated students) can apply to the University's Education Committee for your course to be structured differently (e.g. taken over a longer period) and for the mode or timing of assessments to be modified. This is described as a major adjustment to your examinations/assessments and will require dispensation from the Examination Regulations. Such needs must be discussed with your college office (or department, for non-matriculated students) once your place at Oxford has been confirmed.
If you have applied for major adjustment to examinations and assessments and are dissatisfied with the outcome, you have the right to submit an appeal . Your appeal must be submitted within 14 days of receipt of the original decision.
Comprehensive guidance is available on the Disability Advisory Service website.
Sports, other non-academic activities and academic commitments at other institutions will not normally be accepted as valid reasons for approving changes to your examination arrangements in Oxford.
7.3 Issues with sitting your examinations
Notifying examiners of mitigating circumstances
If, whilst preparing for or during your examinations (or in preparing other assessed work), you have a problem that you think will have seriously affected your performance, you can submit a notice to the examiners to make them aware of your mitigating circumstances. Notices should only be submitted when you have suffered a significant problem. There should be independent evidence, such as a medical certificate, to support your notice.
Examples of the kinds of problems you might mention are acute illness just before or during the examinations that severely affected your performance, or unforeseen circumstances such as bereavement or a traffic accident. Students with more long-standing conditions that place them at a particular disadvantage are encouraged to explore other available procedures, such as applying for alternative examination arrangements or major adjustments to examinations and assessments (see 7.2 above). However, such candidates are still able to notify examiners of mitigating circumstances whether or not they also receive alternative examination arrangements or major adjustments to examinations and assessments, if they believe that they remain disadvantaged despite the adjustment made.
You should apply through your college office (or, if a non-matriculated student, your department), which will provide you with the relevant forms and submit them on your behalf to the Examinations and Assessment team who will pass them to the relevant Chair of Examiners. It is your responsibility to ensure that the forms are submitted.
You must make sure that your notice is submitted as soon as possible either before or after sitting the affected papers, and in any event by noon the day before the final meeting at which the examiners will decide the results. Notices received after this point will not normally be considered but, if there are exceptional circumstances, the Proctors will decide whether to send the notice to the examiners. They will only do so if the notice is received within three months of the results being published, and if:
- you were prevented from making an earlier application due to your condition or personal circumstances, or
- your condition was only diagnosed after the results were known, or
- a serious procedural error delayed the application.
If you disagree with the Proctors’ decision, you can appeal to the Chair of Education Committee (see section 7.4 below). You, or anyone acting on your behalf, must follow the process set out and not communicate directly with the examiners.
The examiners will decide at their final examination board meeting how to take the information into account when determining the examination results. It is important to be aware that most notices do not result in any changes to award outcomes and that the examiners have limited options when considering a notice. After results are released, you will be provided with a short statement on the outcome, via Student Self Service.
Withdrawal from and suspension of the examination process
In some circumstances it may be appropriate to withdraw from or suspend the examination process, either before attempting any papers or (subject to your college’s permission) before the examination is complete, and apply to restart the examination process at a later date. In certain circumstances you will be required to repeat papers.
You cannot withdraw from examinations after you have completed the last paper.
Such withdrawals or suspensions from the examination process must be notified through your college office (for undergraduates) or through your department (for graduate taught students and non-matriculated students).
Time limits on examination entry
Candidates entering examinations later than the examinations that they were originally due to enter are entitled, within certain time limits, to have papers set in accordance with the original syllabus (for example, the time limits are within six terms of the examination they were originally due to enter for Final Honour Schools examinations and within three terms for the First Public Examination). Candidates should ensure that their college office is aware that they wish to take up this entitlement; otherwise, papers will be set according to the current syllabus.
All courses have a time limit within which you must have completed your examinations. You will need permission from Education Committee if you need to take your examinations after the maximum permitted period of time. For Final Honour Schools this is normally two further years; for graduate students the maximum time varies: seek advice from your college or department.
Non-completion of an examination
If you do not complete the written papers for a Final Honour School (e.g. by not turning up at an examination or submitting a piece of work), you will be deemed to have failed the whole examination. If you do not complete the written papers for the First Public Examination or for a graduate taught programme, you will be deemed to have failed the individual paper. A resit will be capped at a pass, and you will not be eligible for a distinction. If the Proctors are satisfied that there was an illness or other urgent cause for the non-completion, the examiners may be asked to consider if it is possible to make an assessment on the basis of the work completed or, exceptionally, to examine the part missed on another occasion. In the case of illness, a medical certificate must be submitted to the Proctors’ Office through your college office (or department, for nonmatriculated students). All applications to be excused from an examination must be made within 14 days of the examination and no earlier than 4 weeks before.
Open-book examinations, like invigilated timed written examinations, must be completed at and within a specified time. If you experience technical difficulties during the exam, you must notify the support team as soon as possible. If you do not upload your exam response, the consequences are the same as for non-completion of an invigilated timed written examination (see above). If you have not accessed or downloaded the exam paper, you may apply to be excused from the exam in the same way as for invigilated timed written examinations.
Late submission of an open-book examination
Penalties will be applied if you submit your exam response to an online, open-book examination after the end of your stated examination duration:
|First 15 minutes||No penalty|
|16 - 20 minutes||5 marks or 5% of the marks available (if not marked on 100 scale)|
|21 - 40 minutes||10 marks or 10% of the marks available (if not marked on 100 scale)|
|Up to an hour||15 marks or 15% of the marks available (if not marked on 100 scale)|
|After one hour||Fail mark (0)|
Dispensation from the regulations
Education Committee can, on the grounds of disability or exceptional circumstances, dispense individual examination candidates from the provisions of the regulations (e.g. to take examinations in different formats, to defer taking written papers, or to have additional resit opportunities). Applications are made via your college office (or your department for non-matriculated students).
You cannot claim exemption from Jury service. However, if you are summoned to serve during term-time, and particularly when sitting examinations, you should apply to the Jury Central Summoning Bureau for deferral or excusal, as set out in the summons. You should also seek the advice of your college office.
Many taught courses provide for candidates to be examined viva voce (ie orally), either as a standing requirement or one that may be applied at the examiners’ discretion. Where vivas are a mandatory part of the assessment, non-attendance without permission will result in you being failed in the examination as a whole. The dates when you may be called for a viva are normally announced by the examiners at the same time as the final examination timetable. All candidates who may be called for a viva must ensure that they are available in Oxford on those dates. In the case of research students, the viva is usually mandatory: the date will be arranged with you by the examiners and will be published within the University.
Submitting work for assessment
Essays, dissertations, theses and other submissions that are assessed as part of public examinations have deadlines by which the work must be submitted. Make sure you know when and where you should submit your work. Deadlines are published either in the Examination Regulations or in your course handbook. The majority of work for assesment will be submitted online during 2020-1, with work which can only be submitted in hard copy (e.g. fine art portfolios) handed in to departments.
Give yourself enough time to submit your work by the deadline and understand the platform for submission.
The Proctors will not accept as reasons for lateness problems such as: delays in postage, reliance on third parties to deliver your work, travel problems, printing problems, or, for submission of work electronically, problems such as failure of your private email, computer (including virus infection), internet connection, connection to the submission portal (unless a system-wide error), or lost or stolen files.
Ensure that you keep adequate physical and online backups and store them separately and securely.
If you do submit your work late, you will receive an email notification of the consequences and instructions on what to do next. You will also be charged a late submission fee and may receive an academic penalty. Academic penalties vary from course to course but are normally on a sliding scale and are published by the department. Applications to waive any academic penalty must be made to the Proctors’ Office as soon as possible by your college (or department, for non-matriculated students) explaining your lateness. In some circumstances (such as illness or other emergencies) the Proctors may waive the late submission fee.
You may become aware before a deadline that you will need to submit your work late, because of illness or another urgent cause. If you do, you should ask your college (or, if a non-matriculated student, your department) to apply to the Proctors for the late submission to be excused in advance. You will need to provide evidence, such as a letter from your doctor. An extended deadline will be set if your application is granted. Extension requests should be for relatively short periods of time and no more than 12 weeks for a single assessment. If you think you will be unable to work for a very long time, you should speak to your college about making other arrangements to postpone your studies.
If you fail to submit work by the deadline, the Examinations and Assessments team or your department will write to remind you that a deadline has passed, the consequences of not submitting, and what you need to do next. When a candidate fails to submit work, it is very serious: for Final Honour Schools, you will fail not only that paper, but the whole Final Honour School or Part; for First Public Examinations and for graduate taught programmes, you will fail that paper, any resit will be capped at a pass, and you will not be eligible for a distinction. If you discover that you have missed a deadline, you should do one of the following:
- if you have a good reason for both missing the deadline and for needing more time to complete the work before submitting it, then you should apply for an extension as described above immediately and no later than 14 days after the submission deadline.
- If you do not have a good reason for missing the deadline or for needing more time to complete the work before submitting it, you should submit the work straight away, and ask your college (or, if a non-matriculated student, your department) to write to the Proctors with your reasons for late submission.
- If the work is submitted late, without prior permission, and more than 14 days after the missing work notification was sent, the work will not be marked and it will be considered a non-submission with the consequences as outlined above.
Making changes after submission
It is not possible to make changes to work after it has been submitted without the Proctors’ permission, which they will only give in very exceptional circumstances. Failure to proofread and ensure the work is ready to submit would not be considered as an adequate reason for permission to be granted to be allowed to withdraw and resubmit work. When submitting work online candidates are advised to make sure they submit the correct file/version of the work.
Appeals against Proctors’ decision
You can appeal against the Proctors’ decisions on exam excusals, extension requests, late submissions, making changes to work after it has been submitted, and on forwarding information to the examiners about mitigating circumstances, via your college, to the Chair of Education Committee. Any appeal must be submitted in writing within 14 days of receipt of the Proctors’ decision.
7.4 Receiving your results
Once examiners have released the results, you are automatically notified by email and can then access your assessment results, and the result for the year if applicable, in Student Self Service.
If you fail a University examination, it is important to obtain advice from your subject tutor or supervisor as soon as possible (for example, to find out whether your college, if you have one, is willing to allow you to come back into residence). The detailed provisions for any resit arrangements for each qualification are explained in the appropriate Examination Regulations.
In general, the regulations permit undergraduate students failing the First Public Examination at the first attempt to re-enter some form of the examination on one further occasion, normally within a year.
The regulations permit students failing the Second Public Examination (‘Finals’) to re-enter at one of the next two opportunities.
If you have been classified in the Second Public Examination, you may not re-take your Finals in order to try to improve your results.
Graduate students on taught courses are normally allowed to make a second attempt at a failed examination, in accordance with the regulations for the particular qualification, usually at one of the next two opportunities. You may not re-take an assessment to improve your results.
7.5 Research students
Research students are responsible for finding out the deadlines for the submission of work throughout their study, including those for transfer and confirmation of status, as well as the final examination. You should consult your supervisors and college advisors to ensure that the necessary administrative processes are complete well in advance of these deadlines. The forms needed for academic progression (including suspension of studies and withdrawal) are available online.
An overview of the final submission and examination process is also available online.
Research students are notified in writing of the outcome of the examination of their theses, after the examiners’ report has been considered by or on behalf of the responsible academic body. Students who are unsuccessful when their theses are examined will be advised individually via the Divisional Graduate Studies Office about any conditions under which they may revise and resubmit their work.
Extenuating circumstances and viva adjustments
If you have a disability that may affect your thesis, this needs to be considered at the time that you are writing your thesis. There are a number of measures that can be put in place to support you whilst writing your thesis and these can be discussed with the Disability Advisory Service and your department / college disability advisors. These measures could include extensions of time for milestones, assistive technology, use of a proof reader etc.
If you wish to make the examiners aware of any illness, disability, or personal circumstance which may affect your performance in the viva, you can make an application for Adjustments to Assessment Arrangements using form GSO.19, outlining the requested adjustments and reasons. Adjustments can be requested at any point from offer of a place to submission, at the point of applying for Transfer of Status, at the point of applying for Confirmation of Status or at the point of applying for final viva/appointment of examiners. Please contact your graduate studies administrator or departmental graduate administrator if you require more information.
7.6 Academic appeals
If you have any concerns about your assessment process or outcome, discuss these first informally with your subject or college tutor, Senior Tutor, course director, director of studies, supervisor, or college or departmental administrator as appropriate. They will be able to explain the assessment process that was undertaken and may be able to address your concerns.
Queries must not be raised directly with the examiners.
If you still have concerns you can make a formal appeal to the Proctors. An academic appeal is an appeal against the decision of an academic body (e.g. boards of examiners, assessors at Transfer and Confirmation decisions decisions etc). Academic appeals should be made within 20 working days of the date when you were notified of the relevant academic decision via Student Self Service.
There is no right of appeal over matters of academic judgement. Academic judgment is exercised when a decision is made about a matter where only the opinion of an academic expert is sufficient.
The only grounds for appeal are if you believe a procedure has not been followed properly, or that an error has been made, or there was bias in the decision-making process. The Proctors will consider appeals under the University Academic Appeals Procedure.
You must read the Proctors’ Disciplinary Regulations for University Examinations, which make clear that:
- you must indicate to the examiners when you have drawn on the work of others, using quotation marks and references in accordance with the conventions of your subject area
- other people’s original ideas and methods should be clearly distinguished from your own
- the use of other people’s words, illustrations, diagrams etc. should be clearly indicated regardless of whether they are copied exactly, paraphrased or adapted
- material you have previously submitted for examination, at this University or elsewhere, or published, cannot be re-used – including by drawing on it without referencing it, which constitutes ‘autoplagiarism’ – unless specifically permitted in the special Subject Regulations.
Failure to acknowledge your sources by clear citation and referencing constitutes plagiarism. The University’s description of plagiarism should be read carefully. That description includes a link to the University’s online course about understanding what plagiarism is, and how to avoid it. You are strongly advised to complete the course.
The University has the right to use software, and routinely does so, in order to screen submitted work for matches either to published sources or to other submitted work.
Work submitted for assessment and openbook exam responses may be screened for matches either to published sources or to other submitted work. Any matches might indicate plagiarism or collusion.
Although you are encouraged to use electronic resources in academic work, remember that the plagiarism regulations apply to online material and other digital material just as much as they do to printed material.
Guidance about the use of source materials and the preparation of written work is given in departments’ literature and is explained by tutors and supervisors. If you are unclear about how to take notes, use web-sourced material or acceptable practice when writing your work, please ask for advice.
If examiners believe that submitted material may be plagiarised they will refer the matter to the Proctors. The Proctors will suspend a student’s examination while they fully investigate such cases (this can include interviewing the student).
If they consider that a breach of the disciplinary regulations has occurred, the Proctors can refer the matter to the Academic Conduct Panel or to the Student Disciplinary Panel (see section 10). Where plagiarism is proven, it will be dealt with severely: in the most extreme cases, this can result in the student being expelled.
8. Intellectual Property
The University in its statutes claims ownership of certain forms of intellectual property that students create in the course of, or incidentally to, their studies but generally does not claim ownership of copyright created by students.
There are arrangements in the University’s regulations for protecting and exploiting intellectual property, and sharing the commercial exploitation revenues with the student originators.
The main statute governing intellectual property is Statute XVI, Part B, which you should refer to for full details. In summary, this states:
- that the University claims ownership of student-created intellectual property that is created with the aid of University computer hardware, software or other facilities or commissioned by the University or comprises inventions, designs, databases, software, firmware and courseware and related know-how and information
- that the University will not assert any claim to the ownership of copyright in artistic works including (where not commissioned by the University) books, articles, plays, scores, lyrics and lectures, student theses and answers to tests and examinations (except insofar as any intellectual property is claimed as above), and computer-related works (except where claimed as above).
The related regulations for the administration of the policy explain the approved arrangements for revenue-sharing.
9.1 The University’s conduct regulations
University conduct regulations are additional to individual colleges’ rules and by-laws. Students who have a college must therefore observe two separate sets of disciplinary regulations. Students studying for awards that are also professional qualifications may also be expected to observe codes of conduct drawn up by the University in consultation with the external bodies concerned; your department will provide details where appropriate. The University regulations covering student conduct come from three main sources:
- University statutes, particularly Statute XI on University discipline
- regulations, issued by:
- (i) Council
- (ii) the Proctors, as the University’s disciplinary officers, including regulations relating to conduct in examinations and emergency regulations for student conduct, published in the University Gazette, notified to you by your college or department and remaining in force for a set period
- (iii) the Rules Committee (six Congregation members and six student members who meet annually to review and issue conduct regulations)
- (iv) the Curators of the University Libraries; and
- (v) the IT Committee
- rules on access and use, made and published by people or bodies responsible for managing University land and buildings, or operating University services and facilities.
You should consult the statutes and regulations, including the Examination Regulations and subsequent formal amendments published in the Gazette, for comprehensive detail.
The University also publishes separate codes of practice, policies and guidance in relation to particular conduct issues which you are expected to comply with. The most relevant of these are listed below.
Students who intentionally or recklessly breach regulations, or incite or conspire with others to do so, are liable to disciplinary action. Section 10 of this handbook describes the Proctors’ powers and procedures for enforcement, and students’ rights under those procedures.
9.2 General conduct
Statute XI on University discipline contains a Code of Discipline applying to all University members and students, including those who are not formally University members. It sets out the actions and forms of behaviour that are unacceptable in the University context (i.e. on University or college premises and/or in the course of University activity in any location, whether academic, sporting, social, cultural or other).
Student community responsibility during COVID-19 pandemic
The University and colleges have committed to putting measures in place to minimise health risks to students, staff and the wider Oxford community. Each student also has a responsibility for both their own health and that of others, especially those with vulnerabilities. In order to protect our community’s health and support our collective wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic, each student is expected to abide by all national public health regulations and legislation, and follow www.ox.ac. uk/coronavirus University and/or college guidance, and local public health guidance. Where a student has not followed reasonable instructions related to the health and safety of staff, students and others they may be subject to disciplinary action under Statute XI.
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Anyone holding or intending to keep personal data of any kind (whether on a computer or in paper records) on behalf of a club, society or publication, or for any other purpose, is individually responsible for complying with the provisions of the relevant data protection legislation. Registration with the Proctors does not provide any sort of blanket cover under the University. This legislation imposes strict conditions on the collection, storage and use of personal data (e.g. about club members, sponsors) and confers rights of access on the people who are the subjects of such data. Data controllers are required to notify their activities: there is a self-assessment guide to notification on the Information Commissioner’s website.
In accordance with the Code of Discipline, no University member is allowed to contribute to essay-writing services (whether directly with the recipient or through commercial companies) in circumstances where the work provided could be submitted by someone else in any examination worldwide. Students buying or otherwise obtaining material to pass off as their own in University examinations would be in breach of the Proctors’ Disciplinary Regulations for University Examinations and can expect to be the subject of disciplinary procedures.
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech and academic freedom are central tenets of university life. The University of Oxford seeks to protect robustly civic and academic freedoms and to foster an academic culture of openness and inclusivity, in which members of our community engage with each other, and the public, in debate and discussion, and remain open to both intellectual challenge and change. The legal duty of UK universities to protect free speech is enshrined in legislation, including the Education (No 2) Act 1986 and the Human Rights Act 1998 and academic freedom is protected by the Education Reform Act 1988.You should familiarise yourself with the University’s policy.
Meetings and events
If you organise an event on University or Oxford SU premises, or anywhere if it is University funded, affiliated or branded, you must do so in the context of the University’s responsibility to safeguard freedom of speech within the law and therefore in accordance with the relevant code of practice. In particular, you have a responsibility to decide whether to notify the Proctors of the event in certain circumstances. Details, including when and how to make a notification, are available on the Proctors’ Office website.
If you are considering organising an event such as a march or procession, you will need to consider whether it passes through University premises and, if it does, the University’s code of practice will apply. Additionally, if it crosses public land or thoroughfares, the Public Order Act 1986, Section 11, requires the organiser to give at least six days’ notice in advance of the date of the event to the police. In practice, it is advisable to give the police as much notice as possible: at least four weeks’, in the interests of avoiding clashes between your event and another event in Oxford on the same day.
Library and IT facilities
No student shall intentionally or recklessly commit a breach of any of the regulations relating to the use of the libraries or the information and communications technology facilities of the University. Infringement of copyright through the University IT network, including using peer-to-peer software and file-sharing to download and distribute copyrighted material, can result in a fine or exclusion from the network. IT security is taken very seriously. Advice about keeping your devices and your University IT account secure is available online.
Social media can bring enormous benefits and opportunities to an academic community including by enabling global communication and promoting lively academic debate. The University encourages students to use social media responsibly and to be aware of the sometimes unexpected and long-term consequences of irresponsible use.
Posting offensive comments or other content on social media may be a breach of the Code of Discipline and could result in disciplinary action by the Proctors. Students taking courses which result in professional qualifications should use social media in accordance with the standards of behaviour set by the relevant national professional body.
If you use social media you should familiarise yourself with the University’s social media guidance.
9.3 Non-sports clubs and publications
The University welcomes clubs, societies and student publications’ contributions to student life. With more than 200 officially recognised clubs and societies to choose from, there is something for everybody at Oxford.
Clubs that open their membership to students of more than one college can register with the Proctors. Registration assists the smooth running and continuity of clubs, gives access to University email, webpage facilities, and insurance, enables clubs to use the minibus hire and driver assessment scheme, entitles application for University grants and permission to use ‘Oxford University’ in their names (‘Oxford’ in the case of publications), and generally helps to protect the clubs’ best interests as well as the University’s reputation.
If you help to edit publications intended mainly for other students, or write for such publications, you need to be aware that your activities are covered by the University’s disciplinary regulations and by further regulations as referenced in 9.4 below.
9.4 Regulations of the Rules Committee
Rules Committee regulations concern the activities and conduct of student members. The regulations set out rules covering: clubs, societies and publications; defacement of property and unauthorised advertisements; behaviour after examinations; overseas activities; rowing on the river.
9.5 Local rules
Those responsible for managing University land and buildings, or operating University services and facilities, are empowered to draw up and publish local rules governing access and use. You are advised to familiarise yourself with any published rules, for example as displayed on noticeboards in or at the entrance to buildings or property or on the service’s website.
Action threatening or causing damage to property or inconvenience to other users may lead to exclusion. An allegation of misuse of University property contrary to local rules may be referred to the Proctors for investigation as a possible disciplinary offence under Statute XI.
10. Disciplinary procedures and rights
10.1 Proctors’ powers
Students at Oxford may be subject to two sets of disciplinary regulations: the University’s conduct regulations (which apply to all students), and, for students who have a college, to the college rules and by-laws provided in your college handbook or equivalent document.
- enforce, and prevent any breach of, Statute XI
- deal with any complaint that a University member has committed a breach of Statute XI
- identify the person responsible for any such breach.
The Proctors’ investigations are carried out under procedures defined in regulations. Less serious matters may be decided on, with the student’s agreement, by the Proctors. More serious matters will be decided on by the University's Student Disciplinary Panel (SPD).
An alleged breach of the Code of Discipline may, if it is appropriate to do so, be investigated by the Proctors. Complaints of breaches of the Code of Discipline should usually be made within six months of when the matters complained about occurred.
For alleged breaches involving clubs or publications, the Proctors may hold all or some of the relevant officers responsible.
The Proctors have the power to summon any University member to appear before them to assist with their enquiries. The process of investigation and evidence-gathering may involve interviewing those thought to be involved and possible witnesses. A student under investigation has the right to be informed what breach they are suspected of having committed and to be accompanied by another student or of Oxford University SU, college or University staff during any interview. They have the right not to answer any question (however, such silence may be taken into account in any subsequent disciplinary hearing if it is appropriate to do so).
If, after investigating, the Proctors decide that there is no case to answer, or it is not appropriate to proceed, the student(s) will be informed in writing and the matter will be closed. If, however, the Proctors consider that there is a case to answer that breach has occurred and that the student(s) responsible have been identified, and that it is fair, just and reasonable to do so, the Proctors will then confirm with each students whether they or the SDP will deal with the matter.
The body responsible for adjudicating disciplinary cases differs according to the nature and seriousness of the alleged breach.
The student always has the following rights:
- to know in advance of any hearings or interview when, where and in relation to what Statute or regulation they are accused of committing a breach
- to know the evidence against them in advance of any disciplinary hearing
- to be accompanied at interviews or accompanied or represented at hearings by another student or member of Oxford University SU, college or University staff
- to call witnesses in defence
- to ask for an adjournment
- to appeal or seek leave to appeal against the outcome of proceedings.
10.3 Summary determination by Proctors
Unless the alleged breach is very serious, the Proctors can offer the student concerned the option of having the matter dealt with by them rather than by the SDP, which limits the possible outcomes a fine (or compensation) of up to £300, or a written warning about future conduct, or requiring the student to attend a programme of education, or requiring the student to enter a temporary or permanent restriction on contact with a named individual or individuals, or banning a student from specified University premises or facilities for a defined period. It is normally a much shorter process, and resolved much more quickly. There are now additional outcomes in updated Statute XI e.g. education, noncontact orders and banning student from premises including college etc.
- The student will be formally notified what regulations are thought to have been breached, and will be sent a notice confirming how the matter will be considered
- The Proctors will present the evidence and the student has the right to make a response to the allegations or may admit the breach(es) and present evidence to explain the behaviour
- Either the Proctors or the student may provide witness evidence.
If a fine or compensation order is not paid, the amount will automatically be increased according to a scale set out in the Regulations for Fines and Compensation Imposed Under Statute XI. Continued nonpayment will result in the case being referred to the SDP. There is a right to appeal to the SDP against the Proctors’ decision and/or penalty.
10.4 Proctors’ role in plagiarism
The Proctors’ can themselves determine the penalty in certain cases of alleged plagiarism, ie where, if the allegation is upheld, the outcome will not be failure of the entire degree/award, or likely expulsion. All other cases are handled by the SDP.
If the Proctors consider that a case referred to them by examiners is a breach that is suitable for their determination, they will communicate the outcome to the student which will be one (or more) of the following actions:
- the student receive support and training relating to good academic practice
- reduce a mark awarded to a piece of work
- award no mark to a piece of work, and direct that it be resubmitted and that the mark for the resubmitted work be capped
- award no mark to a piece of work, and direct that it be resubmitted with no cap on the mark for the resubmitted work.
Students may appeal against a Proctors’ decision within 10 working days of receiving the written decision. The appeal will be considered by a member of the Academic Conduct Appeal Panel (ACAP). They will consider the written appeal, the Proctors’ decision and the documents that were available to the Proctors. They will not normally meet with the student.
10.5 Student Disciplinary Panel (SDP)
The SDP handles:
- cases of a more serious nature, referred to it by the Proctors
- appeals against summary determination by the Proctor's decisions
- certain other business (e.g. applications and appeals in connection with students’ suspension from access to University premises and facilities).
The chair and vice-chairs of the SDP are appointed by the University’s High Steward from among Congregation members who are legally qualified. Other SDP members, also Congregation members, are appointed by Council. The SDP holds hearings in term-time or vacation as necessary. At each hearing, the chair or one of the vice-chairs will sit, together with two other SDP members (selected to ensure their independence of the colleges and academic departments of the students appearing before them).
The Proctors must normally bring a case within six months of first interviewing the student concerned. A student referred to the SDP is sent a formal notice of the breaches of regulations alleged and of the hearing to deal with the case. Before the hearing, the student receives a copy of the evidence being presented to the SDP by the Proctors (although in exceptional circumstances highly sensitive personal data may be redacted) and has the opportunity also to submit evidence. The student may be accompanied or represented by another student or member of Oxford University SU, college or University staff at the hearing. Witnesses may be called.
If the SDP finds that the student has committed the breaches of regulations alleged, it may issue a written warning about future conduct or take one or more of the following actions:
- require the student to attend a programme of education
- require the student to enter a temporary or permanent restriction on contact with a named person or persons
- impose a fine of an amount it thinks fit
- suspend the student’s access to or exclude the student from University accommodation or require the student to move to other University accommodation (subject to the terms of the student’s lease)
- order the student to pay compensation to any person or body suffering injury, damage or loss as a result of his or her conduct
- issue directions relating to the future provision of references for the student
- ban the student from specified University premises or facilities for a fixed period of time or on whatever terms it thinks fit
- subject to endorsement by the relevant college, ban the student from specified college premises or facilities for a fixed period of time or on whatever terms it thinks fit
- suspend the student for such period as it thinks fit
- expel the student from membership of the University.
In relation to breaches of examination regulations, the SDP may in addition to the penalties above, or alternatively, instruct the examiners to take one or more of the following actions:
- if practicable, exclude from assessment any part of the work submitted that the examiners are satisfied is not the student member’s own work
- reduce a mark awarded to any piece of work
- award no mark to, or disregard, any piece of work
- substitute an alternative mark for any piece of work
- reduce by one or more classes any degree classification
- permit the student to resit an examination or re-submit a piece of work on such conditions as it thinks fit
- award a pass degree instead of an honours degree
- fail the student in the examination or part of the examination concerned
10.6 Student Appeal Panel (SAP)
A student who wishes to contest the finding or penalty imposed by the SDP has the right to ask for permission to appeal to the SAP.
This body consists of three people with legal experience appointed from outside the University by the High Steward. SAP members take it in turns to consider applications for permission to appeal, and subsequently to conduct appeal hearings if necessary. The SAP may be assisted in individual cases by no more than two ‘assessors’ (members of Congregation appointed by the High Steward, who have knowledge and experience of the practice and procedures of this University relevant to the issues raised in the appeal).
The SAP’s presiding member decides whether to grant the student’s request for permission to appeal. In reaching a decision, the SAP will consider the information submitted, including the evidence on which the SDP based its decisions and any new evidence that the SAP agrees to consider. A reasoned decision will be given.
If permission to appeal is not granted, that is the end of the internal University process.
If permission to appeal is granted, a SAP hearing will be arranged. At the end of this process, the SAP will decide whether to set aside or confirm the decisions of the SDP (or it may decide to substitute a different penalty of the kind that the SDP itself could have imposed).
Statute XI sets out the definitions of terms used in the Code of Discipline and in the associated rules and regulations. You should take careful note of the meaning of those terms in the University, as in some cases they differ from other uses of the same or similar terms, for example in criminal law.
10.8 Criminal proceedings
If a student member is alleged to have committed an act that constitutes a breach of section 2 or 3 of the Code of Discipline and for which the student will be or is likely to be prosecuted in a court of law, the Proctors shall not proceed unless they are satisfied either:
- that any criminal proceedings in respect of the alleged act have been completed, whether by conviction or acquittal or discontinuance of the proceedings, or
- that the student is unlikely to be prosecuted in a court of law in respect of the alleged act.
There are additional considerations where the conduct complained of would constitute a serious criminal offence if prosecuted in the criminal courts, because of the seriousness of the allegations.
If a student member acquires a criminal conviction for an act of such seriousness that an immediate term of imprisonment may be or has been imposed on conviction, the Proctors may refer the student to the SDP (which has powers to expel the student from University membership or impose a lesser penalty or other conditions on the student).
As an interim step, the Proctors may suspend the student while criminal proceedings are taking place or ban the student from access to specified University land, buildings, facilities or services. There is a right of appeal against such interim action.
11. Complaints procedures
11.1 College matters
If you have a complaint about a college matter you should take it up with the relevant college officers. Help and advice is available from your college Dean, tutor, Senior Tutor, academic administrator, JCR, MCR or Oxford SU representative. Your college will have a complaints procedure, which is usually found in your college handbook.
The Proctors have no jurisdiction over college complaints and appeals, including the quality of teaching provided in college, collections (internal college examinations), or the behaviour of a member of college staff. If you are unsure whether the issue is a college or a University matter, you can consult the Proctors’ Office caseworkers informally.
11.2 University matters
The Proctors will consider complaints raised by students under the University Student Complaints Procedure in relation to the following:
- University administrative and support services (including departmental facilities and central facilities such as libraries, counselling etc).
- University academic services and support (departmental teaching, supervision etc).
The process allows you to pursue a complaint as an individual or as a group of students.
The University Student Complaints Procedure does not cover academic appeals (which have a separate procedure, see Chapter 8) or matters which are covered by other existing procedures (such as admissions, behaviour of members of staff, behaviour of other students, academic integrity, bribery and fraud).
Before you make a formal complaint you should try and resolve the matter locally with the person or body responsible, for example:
- Bodleian Libraries
- Central University services - write to the head of the respective section
- Department facilities – contact the departmental administrator (contact details generally found on the department’s website and/or its handbook)
- Teaching and supervision – if you feel able to do so, raise any concern with the member of staff directly. If not, take it up with your Director of Undergraduate Studies or your Director of Graduate Studies as appropriate. If it involves one of these individuals, you can speak to your head of department or faculty. Advice and support are available from Oxford SU or from your student common room.
We hope that the initial raising of a complaint will be successful in resolving the problem. If, however, you feel that it hasn’t been, or that there’s a serious problem that needs to be looked into, then you can make a formal complaint to the Proctors. Please note that complaints to the Proctors should usually be made within three months of when the matters you are complaining about occurred.
11.3 Staff or student conduct
A complaint about the behaviour of a member of staff or of another student may be raised with the Director of Student Welfare and Support Services in accordance with the University policy and procedure on harassment.
Complaints about other breaches of the Code of Discipline should be reported directly to the Proctors.
Complaints of breaches of the Code of Discipline should usually be made within six months of when the matters complained about occurred.
11.4 Public interest disclosure (whistle-blowing)
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1999 provides employees with legal protection against being dismissed or penalised as a result of disclosing certain serious concerns (‘whistle-blowing’); such concerns might include criminal activity, danger to health and safety, or professional malpractice.
The University’s code of practice and procedure under the Act also provides protection for student members wishing to report serious concerns.
11.5 Research integrity
All University members are expected to observe the highest standards in the conduct of research. The procedures for reporting suspected research misconduct are detailed in the Code of Practice and Procedure for Academic Integrity in Research.
Prior to making any formal allegation, sources of advice and support include other researchers and colleagues, supervisors, mentors, Senior Tutors, Proctors, Directors of Graduate Studies, heads of department, faculty or division, Research Ethics Committees, Research Services, or Oxford Students Union (Oxford SU).
11.6 Conflicts of Interest
All University members are required to recognise and disclose activities that might give rise to – or be perceived to give rise to – conflicts of interest, and to ensure they are properly managed or avoided. Such conflicts could arise from personal financial interests, duties to other organisations, or personal relationships.
Research students should be particularly aware of the risk of conflicts arising when engaging in external activity such as international projects and collaborations with the commercial world, research and development, intellectual property licensing and involvement in ‘spinout’ companies.
11.7 Complaints about Oxford SU
Oxford SU operates a full complaints procedure.
11.8 Student protection plan
Student protection plans set out what students can expect to happen in the event that a risk to continuation of studies should arise (such as a course, campus or institution closure). The purpose of a plan is to ensure that students can continue and complete their studies, or can be compensated if this is not possible. All higher education providers who apply to register with the UK Office for Students (OfS) must produce a plan as a condition of registration.
11.9 Office of the Independent Adjudicator
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) is an independent body whose role is to review student complaints. The OIA can review complaints about:
- academic appeals
- mitigating circumstnaces notice to examiners (MCE)
- teaching, supervision and facilities
- student accommodation
- bullying, harassment or discrimination
- maladministration, procedural irregularities, and unfair practices
- disciplinary matters, including plagiarism
- fitness to practise
but cannot look at complaints about:
- academic judgement
- matters where there are current legal proceedings.
In order to access the OIA process, you must be a current or former registered student of the University and must have first exhausted all the available internal procedures.
To confirm that your case has been dealt with internally, you need to obtain a Completion of Procedures letter from the office that informed you of the outcome of your case. This should be provided to you shortly after the internal procedures are completed if your complaint or appeal is not upheld. If your complaint is upheld but you still wish to complain to the OIA (e.g. about the remedy offered) you can request a Completion of Procedures letter from the relevant office. You have a maximum of 12 months from the date of that letter to apply to the OIA.
Where the OIA finds in favour of a student, it may recommend that the University should do something (e.g. look again at a complaint or pay compensation) or refrain from doing something.