The Pro-Vice Chancellor has confirmed that students can study remotely for the entirety of next term.
In an email sent to the student body by the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education), Martin Williams, today, the following guidelines have been outlined for students, with the waiving of residency requirements being the most significant:
“In light of the current COVID-19 restrictions, the decision has been taken to suspend all residency requirements for Hilary term. A blanket dispensation is now in place for all students for the whole term, and you do not need to make any applications if you are unable to return.”
“Unless you have agreed with your college that you meet the strict criteria already provided, or your department informs you that you can return for in-person teaching, you must not come back to Oxford until at least mid-February. We will be in touch when we are able to provide more information about return dates.”
Regarding teaching and assessment, the University has said:
“While University and college buildings will remain open for on-site working and research, teaching and learning will need to take place online for the time being, apart from the courses outlined above where in-person teaching is permitted.”
“Most Hilary term assessments up to at least mid-February will move online unless there is a strict regulatory requirement for them to take place in-person. We are now considering our plans for exams later in the term. Your department will inform you of any changes to exam arrangements as appropriate. Libraries will prioritise remote and zero-contact digital services, although a small number of ‘hub’ libraries will be open for bookable study spaces.”
Previously, several colleges had already started to encourage students to stay home. Mansfield College’s Principal sent an email to students yesterday saying “students should stay where they are for now”. This was also echoed in communications at Balliol, which said: “Do not return to college until further notice”. Similarly, Keble College’s Domestic Bursar had told one student to expect “all travel arrangements to be cancelled”.
The University recognises the ongoing nature of the situation and has therefore also addressed future concerns, saying:
“We remain hopeful that we will be able to provide in-person teaching and support when the current pandemic ‘spike’ subsides. Once we are permitted by Government guidance to restart in-person teaching we will look forward to welcoming you back. The policy for residency requirements in Trinity term will be considered later in Hilary term – in line with the evolving pandemic. “
Williams ended the email empathising with the difficult situation students are currently facing:
“We share your disappointment in not being able to provide more in-person teaching, and that we can’t have more students in Oxford, but are fully committed to helping every student to make the most out of their university experience within the constraints of the pandemic. Colleges and departments have been planning for scenarios such as this for several months, and are confident that based on our experiences last year, we will be able to provide effective online teaching and assessment, and to support students as much as possible whether you are at home or here in Oxford.”
This story is breaking and may be updated with more information.