Breaking – University students can apply to return

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Oxford is encouraging students to apply to return to college accommodation if they believe they fall into one of the categories which is exempt, even if they have previously had an application rejected.

This morning’s email from Martin Williams says: “In light of the changes to guidance, you can contact your college (or your department if you don’t have a college) to request to return even if you have previously applied and were not given permission.”

The announcement follows the Government decision that in-person teaching on non-practical courses should resume no earlier than 17th May.

Teddy Hall has already removed the requirement for students to secure permission to return from the college management arguing that students can decide “in [their] own judgement” whether they need to return to college to use libraries or for mental health reasons.

Other colleges such as Univ, St John’s, Balliol, and Somerville have streamlined the application process, introducing an online form to make it easier for students on non-practical courses to apply to come back. 

The forms require students to tick boxes to certify that they meet one of the exempt criteria. This is a departure from the previous system which required students to explain their case by email to college officers.

However, some colleges such as Queens are requiring students to provide a note from their GP if they wish to apply to return under a mental health exemption.

In a statement welcoming the move, the SU sabbatical officers said: “The Government has once again abdicated its responsibility to students by making them their lowest priority. We recognise that students have made considerable sacrifices this year and we are extremely disappointed the Government have decided to leave students in these uncertain conditions when their final exams are rapidly approaching.”

They continued: “We are pleased that students will be able to request to return even if you have previously applied and were not given permission. We hope that in reviewing these applications, colleges will view students through a lens of compassion and empathy, as we believe that too many students fell through the cracks last term.”

They are continuing to call for all colleges to permit students to self-certify. 

The advice for international students remains unchanged with the university saying “you may wish to take advantage of the ongoing residency exemption, particularly if you are in a ‘red list’ country.  The University and colleges will not routinely meet the costs of COVID-19 PCR tests taken or booked before travelling back to the UK, or quarantine costs for students returning from red list countries (currently £1,750).”

Last week saw an open letter by JCR and MCR Presidents to the Minister for Universities urging her to allow students to return after the Easter vacation. The letter argued that since domestic students can visit “nail salons, gyms, pubs, and can travel for domestic stays” it is unfair “ they cannot resume their studies”.

An accompanying Government petition created by Trinity College JCR president Nadia Najah Hassan asking for all students to be allowed to return to campus by the beginning of term has received 10,579 signatures since its creation on Monday.

The Principle of Somerville, Baroness Royall, speaking yesterday in the House of Lords echoed the words of the open letter: “Students have been short-changed: they are anxious; they are angry; they feel let down; and they cannot understand why they cannot return to university when schools, shops, gyms and hairdressers are open. I do not understand that either. It is having a detrimental effect on their mental health, their well-being and their studies.”

She continued: “The appalling delay in the guidance has made the situation worse. How did the Government reach the decision to delay the return of students until 17 May? Have they assessed the current and long-term impact on the mental health and well-being of students? Have they considered the impact on universities, which play such a vital role in the economy of our country and which have made the most enormous efforts to put in place all of the requisite Covid-safe measures in respect of in-person teaching, libraries, accommodation and other facilities?”

Image Credit: Chen Chen


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