Sabbatical Officer Statement – Students returning to University for Trinity Term – 19th April 2021
Latest Release Updated - 16th April 2021
Oxford SU Sabbatical Officers respond to University update: We’re continuing to call on all colleges to allow students to ‘self-certify’ and return to Oxford if exemptions apply to them.
We welcome the University's update on Trinity term and we encourage you to read it. 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.
We believe the collegiate University needs to act to fill this vacuum of leadership. We’d like to thank student leaders, especially Common Room Presidents, for their continued dedication to supporting students. You can find out more about the campaign for students to return here.
Returning to Oxford
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.
We remain concerned that not all colleges have yet committed to allowing students to ‘self-certify' and return to their college accommodation if students feel the exemptions apply to them. We will continue to lobby on this issue until it is policy in all colleges.
We understand colleges will be updating students on their approach over the next few days if they haven’t already done so and remember to confirm your return with your college before making any plans. We would like to thank the vast majority of colleges that are taking a positive approach to this issue and to thank all college staff for working with students in what continues to be a difficult time.
If you have concerns about returning, applying to return, or any other issue, you can contact our SU Advice Service for free, independent and impartial advice.
Get tested before you travel to Oxford and when you arrive. Then get tested twice a week. Every week.
The government and university have reiterated the importance of regular covid testing, which is essential to help us get back to doing the things we love.
If you are returning to Oxford, we’d strongly encourage to take advantage of the LFD testing both before travelling back, on return to Oxford, and regularly throughout the term to help stop the spread of the virus. We remain committed to representing students at all levels and we encourage you to continue reaching out to us, to help us represent you and to enable us to work in partnership across Oxford to improve your experience.
Update: 14th April 2021
The recent government announcement is disappointing for many students as once again the government has failed to prioritise students and recognise the significant challenges so many students are facing. We are working with the University of Oxford and its colleges to understand the implications of the announcement and are calling on the University to update students as soon as possible. We remain concerned about the inconsistency about how the government guidance, particularly around exemptions to return, is being applied by colleges and we continue to lobby for colleges to allow students to make their own decisions about whether they fall under the exemptions and to facilitate student's return as requested.
Update: 12th April 2021
We are disappointed that the government hasn’t yet told all students when they can return to University. We understand guidance from the government will finally be published before the end of this week with an update from the University following shortly after.
This government has continued to ignore students and have failed to include Universities in the government roadmap. This is unacceptable. The government has broken their promises to provide more guidance on student return and has instead cancelled announcements leading to incredible amounts of stress and uncertainty for students that could have been avoided had university students not been repeatedly ignored.
We share your anger and disappointment that, as pubs, shops, and other attractions open their doors, university students that do not fall under current exemptions are still not able to return to their respective higher education institutions. We are continuing to raise this issue and we would encourage you to contact us to share your concerns.
Exemptions to return to Oxford remain in place under the current guidance.
Under the current government guidance, the exemptions for some students to return are still in place and we’d encourage you to read these carefully. We believe that students alone should be able to make their own decision about whether or not an exemption applies to them. We urge colleges to look favourably on requests to return made by students as we believe all students should be permitted to return to their accommodation if they feel they fall under the existing exemptions. We would like to thank the many colleges who have taken a considerate approach to students’ requests to return and for their continued support for students living on-site.
We are in conversation with leaders across the colleges to encourage a consistent approach to students who wish to return to college accommodation, and we seek to ensure all decisions made are in students’ best interests.
The government should allow students to return to their University accommodation.
We believe, in line with calls from the National Union of Students and Universities UK’s , that the government guidance must change and that all students should be allowed back to their term time accommodation. Students have been disproportionally affected throughout the pandemic such as through declines in mental health, increases in isolation and loneliness, and financial hardship. As students, we deserve the certainty to know when we can return to our University.
In Oxford especially, the lack of update in the government guidance has led to continued uneven implementation (across colleges) which has resulted in a disparity in the access of resources creating inequality of education for students at Oxford, particularly for some of the most vulnerable and already disadvantaged students.
We are also supporting the calls from students for the government to set a date for when students’ return will be permitted.
We want to extend our thanks to student leaders across the collegiate University who have been working tirelessly on this issue.
If you are returning to Oxford, we’d strongly encourage to take advantage of the LFD testing both on return to Oxford and regularly throughout the term.
What are we doing?
We’re joining with NUS, Student Minds and student unions across the country and calling on the government to recognise the challenges students are facing and for clearer guidance including a date for students to return.
We have written to Michelle Donelan, the Minister for Universities to share our concerns, including those specifically related to students and Oxford and called for her to communicate with students as soon as possible.
We are in contact and regularly meeting with University and College leaders at Oxford to amplify student concerns and ensure all decisions are taken in the best interests of students.
What have we done already over the past few months?
Working with student leaders and staff from across the collegiate University we’ve been pleased to work on the following areas:
Ensured students who can’t return to Oxford aren’t charged for accommodation they cannot use.
Led our ‘Fair outcomes for students campaign’ to ensure students get the best deal for exam and assessment in 2021. Among the wins, we secured commitments to rescale paper averages to bring them in line with the pre-pandemic average and to improve the mitigating circumstances process.
Secured continuation fee grace periods for postgraduate research students for Hilary and Trinity Terms 2021 saving students up to £508 each. We’ll continuing to call for the grace period to be continued into next academic year.
Worked with the collegiate University to improve mental health and wellbeing support including ensuring additional support over the Christmas and Vacation periods.
None of these changes, comments and collaborations could've been made without the collective voice of student leaders across the university and colleges. We receive countless emails from our members who have helped us shape our approach in university meetings.
We encourage you to continue reaching out to us, to help us represent you and to enable us to work in partnership across Oxford to improve your experience. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss any concerns you may have, on any aspect of your experience at Oxford. We are here to support and represent 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 updates are here.
If you have issues or concerns about your current circumstances or plans, Oxford SU’s free, independent and impartial advice service are available to help and can be contacted here.
A set of resources created by Oxford students on contacting the government and other bodies can be found here.
The latest University and Wellbeing information 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.
Join NUS’ Students Deserve Better Campaign 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, look out for our leadership elections in February 2022.