Colleges respond to new government guidance

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Image Description: A picture of the Radcliffe Camera.

Colleges have begun to respond to the letter sent by the Minister of State for Universities yesterday, in which a “pause” of the return of students until the 25th January was advised. The University today updated its Coronavirus Status and Response page and a full announcement is expected in the coming days.

The University earlier updated its Coronavirus Status and Response page after a letter from the Minister of State for Universities revealed that English universities were being asked to prohibit many students returning until the 25th January. The website reads:

“The Government has notified all English universities of changes to its guidance for the return of students in the New Year. The University and colleges are currently working through the detail of these changes.

Updated guidance for all staff and students will be provided as soon as possible; guidance for students will appear on the Christmas vacation page.”

St Peters College has told students to expect a ‘brief update’ from the University on the 1st January. The college also encouraged students who are not currently in Oxford or in transit to Oxford not to return in the coming days, unless they fall into one of the categories in the letter from the Universities Minister.

“We expect a brief update from the University on Friday 1 January 2021, and more detailed information will follow next week. We will provide more information as soon as we can.”

In an email seen by The Oxford Student, students at Somerville were told that University officials would be meeting next week and that further information would be provided as soon as possible. Jan Royall, the Somerville Principal, assured students that the University would be remaining open. Students were also told that a letter from the Minister for Universities will shortly be released.

“Following the Government’s announcements this week I know that many of you are concerned about possible delays to the return to College for the start of term. I wish that I could provide clarity but the situation is fluid and we don’t yet have all the answers. High level meetings of the University and Conferences of Colleges will take place next week and we will let you have further information as soon as possible. I understand that the Minister will be issuing a letter shortly to all students that will go on the University website and there will also be a communication from the University in the near future.”

“In the meantime, I want to reassure you that the University is not closing; PGR students will be unaffected by any changes; all teaching will start on line; students from abroad with committed flights will be permitted back – but may wish to change their tickets if possible; and I will do everything possible to ensure that students whose home circumstances make it difficult to study will be able to return as soon as possible. For those of you wishing to book rail tickets on a specific date for your return to Oxford, I would strongly advise you not to for the moment.”

Somerville is not the only college so far to reassure students that those who have made arrangements to return will have those arrangements honoured. Hertford College informed students that it will “honour any individual return arrangements already made”.

University College has also promised students that those who have permission to return to college accommodation before 10th January may still do so, but admit that it is possible that those who can delay their arrival will be asked to do so. The college has also pledged to students that they will not be charged rent for any days that they are not permitted to be in student accommodation.

However, in an email sent to students, the college also admitted that further detail was unlikely to be announced for several days.

“We have not yet had time to assess what those announcements mean for us, and will be in touch again when we are in a position to tell you more. This is unlikely to be much before Thursday 7th January.”

“We recognise that last-minute changes are disturbing and ask you to bear with us as [sic] try to take them into account. At this stage we know no more than you do.”


This article is being updated as more information becomes available.


Image Credit: Sara Price


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