Important Updates Hilary Term 2021

At Oxford SU we welcome today’s University email which provides an update on some next steps and recognises the incredibly challenging circumstances all of us continue to face. 

Whilst of course this is not the outcome that any of us wanted, at Oxford SU we understand why the decision has been made to not resume most in-person teaching in Hilary Term. We understand and share the disappointment many students will be feeling about this announcement but recognise why the decision needed to be made. 

We know this will create significant concern for all students and will be working with the University to ensure students, especially those with key in-person teaching or lab work, are able to return as soon as possible. We understand students may have concerns about returning to Oxford and the services available and remain committed to working with the collegiate University to prioritise consistency, transparency and the safety of all. 

Of course, many students remain in Oxford and we’d like to thank staff across the collegiate University for their commitment to supporting students and delivering essential services.  

Many students currently remote or in Oxford will remain concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their experience, both now and over the coming terms and years. Whilst the vibrant student life we know and love is still on hold, we remain dedicated to ensuring all aspects of the student experience including sport, student life, clubs and activities can return, stronger than ever, as soon as possible. 

Exams and Assessment 

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working hard on lobbying the University to recognise the academic challenges of this year by adopting the asks in our Fair Outcomes for Students Campaign

Today we’re pleased to see the University have announced they will be adopting some of these principles, a major win for Oxford SU and for students. 

Following lobbying from your SU Sabbatical Officers and student leaders: 

Win: The University will rescale exam marks for all cohorts to pre-pandemic years ‘by comparing the overall class distribution as well as the mean and spread of marks and adjusting by scaling where necessary.’ The university has committed to this policy to prevent cohorts from being disadvantaged by the pandemic.   

Win: The University will make the mitigating circumstances process easier and remove the need to provide independent medical evidence. 

Win: The University will allow “explanatory statements” to be used in the marking phase of certain coursework submissions affected by access to resources. This allows students to highlight any barrier or disruptions they have faced during their course. 

While we are happy to see the University commit to these policies, we believe still more can be implemented to ensure fair outcomes for students and recognition of the incredibly tough year students have endured. That’s why we’ll be continuing our work to ensure that students get the best deal for their exams and assessment this year. All students, including postgraduate taught and research students deserve the recognition of their hard work and should not be disadvantaged by the pandemic. 

We will continue to lobby for a more robust, transparent, and expanded mitigating circumstances process, including pushing for mitigating circumstances to affect outcome marks, not just classifications. Additionally, we welcome the University's announcement of allowing for the inclusion of “explanatory statements” for submissions affected by access to resources, which will be utilised during the marking phase. We will lobby to ensure that this is implemented as broadly as possible, not just as a mitigation for coursework submissions, but also for exams. We believe exams are similarly affected by the ongoing difficulties of resource access for students. 

We will be representing students at key University meetings over the next few weeks including at Education Steering Group, Education Committee, and Taught Degrees Panel, to make the case for an expansion of the fair outcomes policies already put in place. We continue to meet frequently with student representatives at all levels including common room presidents and officers, divisional reps, course reps, and other student groups. We believe there are more policies which can be implemented on a course-by-course basis, so we encourage you to get in touch with SU representatives and staff if you are lobbying your department on fair outcomes for your course. 

As indicated by the University, assessment decisions are complex and continue to be finalised; we are expecting more updates in mid Hilary term. We remain committed to actively lobbying and working closely with the collegiate University to deliver the best possible experience for students.  

Thank you to everyone who has already signed up to support our campaign and have been lobbying at their course and departmental level. To learn more about what we are asking for across the university and how we can support your lobbying efforts:

As always, we extend our solidarity and support to students in this time of great difficulty and uncertainty. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss any concerns you may have, pertaining to any aspect of your experience at Oxford. We are here to support and fight for you.   

Nikita Ma – President

Tucker Drew – VP Access and Academic Affairs   

Ben Farmer – VP Charities and Community  

Lauren Bolz – VP Graduates  

Amelia Holt – VP Welfare and Equal Opportunities    

Alex Foley – VP Women  



The latest University and Wellbeing information is here.  

Information about Oxford SU’s free, independent and impartial advice service is here.  

Information about the University’s covid hardship fund, which you can apply for if your finances have been affected due to the ongoing pandemic, is available here


Who are the Sabbatical Officers? We’re a team of 6 students elected annually and in post for a year from July-July. We work full-time at Oxford SU (yes, we’re paid too!) to represent students and campaign on a range of issues. You can see what we do on our website and if you think it sounds fun, head over to our leadership elections you can run to be a Sabbatical officer for 2021-22: