Oxford’s two universities are preparing for the return of more students back to their campuses from March and April onwards.
Students on practical courses who need to access specialist facilities and equipment will be returning to Oxford Brookes University and the University of Oxford in March and April, in line with the Government’s latest guidance for higher education.
Students on other courses that have not yet returned have been advised to stay where they are and continue with online learning. The Government has committed to reviewing the options for the timing of their return by the end of the Easter holidays (mid-April).
Those returning to Oxford will be asked to take two Covid-19 tests on arrival, to wear face coverings where appropriate and abide by safety measures. Both universities have COVID-secure arrangements to ensure in-person teaching can take place safely. These measures have been in place since the start of the academic year to help contain the virus, and prevent further transmission. They are kept under constant review to ensure they meet the latest government guidance and advice from Public Health England.
Both universities are also planning to offer twice-weekly rapid Covid-19 tests at their on-site test centres for students due to return from next month.
From 08 March Oxford Brookes will continue with a blended learning approach for specific returning students, with some practical sessions and limited classroom teaching alongside online teaching. All formal exams scheduled for later in the semester will take place online.
The University of Oxford will operate some practical teaching for postgraduate students from 8 March, with undergraduate students likely to be offered in-person teaching from mid-April after the Easter vacation.
Students are permitted by the Government to return to Oxford if they do not have suitable study space or accommodation where they currently live, or for health and safety reasons, including mental health and wellbeing. Students can also return to collect any medical equipment or items needed for online learning.
Professor Anne-Marie Kilday, Pro Vice-Chancellor Student and Staff Experience at Oxford Brookes University said: “We have been planning and modelling a range of scenarios throughout the pandemic, to ensure we are well prepared for the gradual easing of lockdown. Protecting everyone’s health is our number one priority, and we’re confident that we have robust Covid-secure measures in place to minimise risks and support students with their studies. We are continuing to work closely with the Brookes students’ union to reiterate the importance of following Covid rules as students return.”
Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education, at the University of Oxford, said: “Students are the lifeblood of our academic community, and we are looking forward to their return to Oxford in line with Government guidance. We are working hard to support students who are in the city, with an ongoing commitment to keeping the community safe through our safety measures. We continue to provide online support for those who are unable to return, and hope we will be able to welcome more students back later in the year.”
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, the Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “The cooperation and partnership working during the pandemic between all councils and public sector bodies in Oxfordshire with our two universities and the further education sector has been of a very high calibre. It has meant that students and residents alike have received uniform advice, guidance and information over the course of the last year. With further change on the horizon as lockdown is gradually eased I have every confidence that this partnership will once again rise to the challenge.”
Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “We look forward to welcoming back more students to the city as lockdown begins to lift for all of us. Students are an essential part of this city, and their return is another step towards ending lockdown. Since September the measures to manage infections among students have been well tested and improved, and we continue to work with the universities to support these. The universities’ regular testing, household bubbles and the well enforced codes of behaviour have been proven to keep infections down. As we begin to unlock it is vital that all of us, university and residents, stick to the guidelines and play our part in keeping Oxford safe.”
In January, students studying specific courses relating to medicine, health, education and social work, returned to Oxford. In-person teaching for these students was critical to supporting the pipeline of future key workers.