University confirms Hilary term ‘staggered start’

The University has now confirmed that Hilary term will have a ‘staggered start’, with formal in-person teaching to begin from Monday of 2nd week for most taught courses. A ‘small number’ of taught courses will be led in person from the existing start date. Individual departments are expected to confirm teaching arrangements as soon as possible, with postgraduate research students able to continue with their research as normal.

Taught students who remained in the UK over the Christmas vacation, or who will be travelling from a country on the Government’s travel corridor list, should aim to arrive in Oxford no later than the in-person start date given by their department. Colleges are expected to stagger arrival dates, and students are advised to contact their colleges if they have concerns about studying from home. All students are expected to return for Hilary term, even if they have no in-person teaching from 2nd week, unless they have already arranged a residency exemption.

International students returning from outside the travel corridor will need to self-isolate before their in-person start date, but will not be expected to change any travel plans they have already made. International students may also be able to reduce their self-isolation time through the Government’s ‘Test to Release’ scheme, meaning they may not have to self-isolate for a full 14 days.

Those returning to residence in Oxford will also be able to take lateral flow tests on arrival, as part of the University’s new Covid-19 Asymptomatic Testing (CAT) program, which was set up in Michaelmas term to provide Christmas testing. Students are ‘strongly advised’ to take three tests on coming back to university: on the day they arrive, three days later, and finally ten days after moving in.

The first test is to be taken ‘as soon as possible’ on arrival in Oxford, with students asked to ‘limit your social contact and interaction’ with others until their result comes back. Students are also advised that they should ‘continue to be cautious’ until taking their second test, even if their first test comes back negative. As with Christmas Travel Tests, a positive result means that students should self-isolate and get a confirmatory PCR test through the University’s Early Alert Service.

Tests will be distributed via colleges, and available to students who live in college-owned accommodation and who live out. Postgraduate research students who have travelled during the vacation will also be offered tests.

The University website asserts the importance of getting tested, stating that “some students with the virus are asymptomatic, which means that if you have the virus, you could unwittingly pass it on to vulnerable people.”

“By taking part in the testing, you will help us detect asymptomatic cases. This will help us to stop the spread of the virus and protect the wider community as we did effectively in Michaelmas term.”

Ben Farmer, VP Charities and Community at Oxford SU, said:

“We welcome the publication of the University’s plan for Hilary term and would encourage all students to read the guidance carefully. We are pleased to see the University have recognised our concerns and ensured that testing will be available for students on their return and that there is flexibility to allow students to return at the time best for them.”

“We will continue to actively lobby and work closely with the collegiate University to deliver the best possible Hilary Term for students. This includes calling for colleges and the Uni to facilitate face to face socialising opportunities for students where possible and ensure that students who do not want to physically return to Oxford are not disadvantaged in any way. Of course many students are remaining in Oxford over the vacation and we’re pleased to support them via our between-term card of events and the well-being support we have secured from the University.”

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