The University of Oxford has issued new COVID-19 guidance ahead of the return of students for the Michaelmas Term 2021 and the start of the next academic year.
An email sent to staff confirmed that the university would be moving to Stage 1 of its Business Continuity Plan from 06 September. And the announcement from the Vice-Chancellor will bring the university in line with Stage 4 of the UK government’s roadmap.
It will mean a return to in-person teaching, a return to offices and labs for staff members and researchers, and an increase in public access to the university facilities.
Face coverings will no longer be mandatory in university buildings, and social distancing will no longer be required, although there may be some mitigations in place for crowded, poorly ventilated areas.
The Vice-Chancellor also encouraged all staff members to get a COVID-19 vaccine, if they haven’t already, and praised the work of the Oxford academics who developed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Students are also encouraged to have their vaccine as soon as possible before returning for Michaelmas.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, said: “It is only because of the extraordinary work of our academics who have developed a lifesaving vaccine and those who have discovered effective treatments for Covid that we can contemplate returning to on-site working.
“While the virus will persist, the odds of serious illness are now very low. Regular testing will continue to be available, and I would plead with any members of our community who have not been vaccinated, please get a vaccine.”
The university also communicated the updated advice in a series of emails to students. In an email sent to returning students, the university outlined its new COVID-19 guidelines, the approaches to be taken to in-person teaching, and travel information for international students.
From 06 September, Oxford University will ask students to take the following actions concerning COVID-19:
- Get vaccinated as soon as possible if you have not already done so
- Wear face coverings when asked (unless you are exempt)
- Test regularly
- Follow self-isolation guidance
Students will not have to socially distance themselves unless notified by specific departments or colleges.
The university has also confirmed the return of majority in-person teaching, saying:
“In line with the latest UK Government guidance, we are planning to provide most teaching in-person this academic year, as normal. This will be enhanced by high quality online resources and, in some instances, online teaching.”
While wearing face coverings will be required in larger group teaching, it is not expected to be necessary for smaller groups such as seminars or classes.
Assessment over the next academic year will vary from in-person, closed booked to online and open book. This is being left to individual departments to decide, and students should look out for emails from their individual faculties.
An email was also sent to both undergraduate and graduate offer holders to explain what the changes will mean for those joining the university in the autumn.
The email encouraged those who are not yet vaccinated to have their vaccination as soon as possible, including those from outside of the UK. International students were also reassured that they would be able to access vaccination upon reaching the UK if they are unable to access vaccination at home.
The University in-house testing centre will remain operational. The Early Alert Service provides PCR testing for those with symptoms or a positive LFD result.