Image Description: A picture of Prime Minister Boris Johnson giving a press conference.
Colleges and the University have begun to respond to the national lockdown, announced yesterday evening by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The Oxford Student Union have committed to continuing to lobby for students who are negatively affected by the latest restrictions.
The University said today in a statement to The Oxford Student that the central University and individual colleges were altering their guidance to reflect the new restrictions, and that the new advice would be issued as soon as possible. The Coronavirus Status and Response was updated earlier today to reflect these changes.
“A national lockdown was introduced across England from Tuesday 5 January. The University and colleges are now considering the implications of these new restrictions on the return of students, and on University and college services. Further guidance will be provided as soon as possible.”
Individual colleges have also been issuing advice to students. An email from Balliol College this morning told students to stay at home until further notice, including those who had already made arrangements to return under the previously allowed exemptions. Several other colleges have also instructed their students not to return.
Magdalen College has promised students that those who do not return will not be charged rent for the time that they are not in Oxford. Those who do return will not be charged until the 9th January.
Pre-clinical medical students, who had previously been permitted to return under the exemptions laid out by the government, have been advised in an email from the faculty that they no longer need to return. Students due to sit the first BM exam in the next few days have been advised that arrangements will be made for the exam to be sat online, and that they should put any arrangements to travel to Oxford “on hold”.
“The government has announced that medical students should return to face to face learning as planned and undergo Covid test according to the arrangements previously communicated.”
“As Pre-clinical students, you are at an early stage in your medical training, and our advice is that you do not need to return to Oxford for the time being unless you have strong reasons for doing so.”
The Oxford SU released a statement promising to advocate for students who will be negatively impacted, either financially or academically, by the new restrictions. The SU officials recognised that the changing restrictions has caused confusion and stress for many students, and emphasised that meetings will be held over the coming days to decide the best course of action.
“Following the government announcement on 4th January 2021 of a national lockdown, we understand the difficulty that all students are facing regarding many aspects of their University experience in the coming months.”
“Oxford SU is the recognised voice of students at the University of Oxford and we want to reassure all members that we are continually lobbying and representing you on the issues that matter. We are here to support you in any way we can.”
“We share your valid anger, frustration, and disappointment with this government which continues to fail to put students at the fore of its decision making. We stand in support and solidarity with students who are facing widespread uncertainty.”
“We know the current situation is incredibly difficult and that much of the academic year remains uncertain. We are working hard with the University and Colleges to clarify information surrounding accommodation, academic expectations and welfare provisions.”
We believe that the University must recognise the academic challenges by reassessing workloads and assessment practices. Whilst it may take some time for the University to finalise any changes to course assessment, it is paramount that the University acts as soon as possible to outline their planned steps and changes to assessment where possible. We will continue to lobby the University including at a divisional and departmental level on these issues over the coming days and will be updating students on progress next week.”
“We continue to lobby to ensure students unable to return to Oxford in Hilary Term 2021 are not be financially penalised. Students should not have to pay for accommodation that they are unable to live in. This should include reimbursing graduate students on long-term tenancies for the time period during which they are unable to use their rooms.”
“We will be providing a further update as soon as we can with information around our next steps for lobbying and resources for you. We will also be holding a briefing session for Common Room Presidents and Campaign chairs tomorrow at 5pm. This a fast-moving situation, we remain committed to actively lobbying and working closely with the collegiate University to ensure students are supported.”
JCRs have also been offering support to students who feel overwhelmed by the recent news. St John’s College JCR tweeted: “Tonight’s update from the PM brought news of further hardship for all of us. The JCR stands ready to offer the support & representation our community needs to make it through these uncertain days.”
Tonight's update from the PM brought news of further hardship for all of us. The JCR stands ready to offer the support & representation our community needs to make it through these uncertain days.🎓🌈 https://t.co/gGy78nKuuQ
— St John's Oxford JCR (@StJohnsOxJCR) January 4, 2021
For students struggling with mental health over the vacation period, a list of resources can be found here. Many college welfare services are also offering support.