Latest Updates

  • The University has announced that all university libraries and museums will be shut until further notice
  • Trinity Term teaching and assessment will be conducted online

This liveblog will be updated as we receive new information.
The University’s advice and information on Coronavirus can be found here.


1st April, 13:30 – St John’s College cancels commemoration ball.

St John’s College ball committee has announced the cancellation of their 2020 commemoration ball: Metropolis.

In a post on the Ball’s Facebook event page, the committee said: “We cannot begin to say how disappointed we all feel with the decision from the College to cancel the Ball.

“We were emailed last night with the reasons for cancellation and why postponement wasn’t a possibility. There were a number of concerns, such as the administrative burden of dealing with exam resits, unusual accommodation requests, and responding to unusually high levels of student hardship; the diary space restrictions, such as conferences organised for 9th week of Trinity 2021, whilst we learnt that the ‘Gaudy Dinner’, for alumni, had been postponed from April 2020 until Friday of 9th week, 2021; and fiscal difficulties, namely protecting staff salaries and providing academic hardship. We were also told that there was concern that event restrictions would still be in place in 14 months time, although we note that other events had been scheduled for a similar place in the calendar.

“At this stage, the College has not committed to underwriting refunds at this point, as has been done at all other colleges which have cancelled their ball. We were told that concerns over the financial pressures faced by the College made this not possible in our case, as things stand. Further, we were told that on the grounds of trusteeship, the matter had to be put to the Governing Body of the College; we were assured that this would happen in 0th week of Trinity Term at the earliest.

“In terms of next steps: We will be speaking to the College President to gain clarity on the following points: a solid explanation for why postponement is not a possibility for early Trinity/Hilary next year, and whether full refunds can be provided.

“We are writing an open letter alongside the JCR and MCR presidents which should be ready to present at the next Governing Body meeting.

“In the meantime, the Ball Committee will be working hard to liaise with vendors and reviewing contracts to see how much of money we have spent so far can be recovered.

“We will of course keep everyone updated in terms of progress. We can’t apologise enough. It’s heartbreaking to see all our hard work go down the drain; the Ball Committee has been working on this for almost a year, so we fully relate to everyone’s disappointment.

“We would love to see the Ball postponed to a workable date in 2021; failing that, we are aiming to persuade the College to help us give full refunds to every single person.”


1st April, 11:20 – University announces exam policy changes.

First Years
– All first-year exams, with the exception of medicine and law, have been cancelled.

Second and Third Years
– Most second and third-year exams will be deferred, although some will be cancelled.
– Some exams must go ahead since they are taken by a mixture of continuing and leaving students.

Finalists
– Exams will be replaced by “alternative forms of assessment” including open-book versions of standard papers, longer pieces of work completed over several days, or a mix of the two.
– Separate arrangements will be put in place for mustic and art performance paper.
– Open-book exams will be longer than standard papers, e.g. three hour papers will be extended to four hours.
– There will be a safety net policy, although the details are still being finalised.
– Students with concerns about access to technology or workspace will be supported.
– Those who are unable to complete the alternative assessment will be given the option to graduate with a “Declared to Deserve Honours status”, or they may sit exams in Trinity 2021.

More information here: https://cherwell.org/2020/04/01/university-releases-trinity-examination-arrangements/


31st March, 15:00 – Cambridge announces alternative assessment policy

Cambridge University has announced alternative exam arrangements for their ‘Easter’ term. Finalist undergraduate students and students on integrated Master’s programmes will receive a classed degree. However, a ‘safety net’ will be provided for final year undergraduates on three year degrees: “As long as a graduating undergraduate student passes their assessments, no graduating undergraduate student will receive a class lower than the class which they were awarded in their second year exams. The 2020 assessments will therefore only confirm the class awarded in their second year or improve it.” Postgraduate students will also be able to receive a classed degree through alternative assessments.

First and second year undergraduates will take “modified assessments” which will not be classed. Many will be “formative”, and therefore have no recorded marks on their University transcript. Some Faculties and Departments will make modified assessments “summative”, meaning work will receive a mark which will be recorded on their transcript, but no class will be awarded.

Finalists and postgraduate students who cannot take assessments, for reasons including illness, significant caring commitments, or technical difficulties, will be able to take the same method of assessment in a second assessment period when the University is back in full operation. First- or second- year undergraduates unable to take their modified assessments will be awarded an extension if it is formative or summative coursework, or will be able to take online assessments in a second assessment period.

Cambridge University states: “Whilst it has been agreed that the University should do all that it reasonably can to replicate the established examination processes for our students, we have acknowledged that the nature of the restrictions imposed by the national response to COVID-19 will inevitably mean significant changes being made to those processes. Consequently, Faculties and Departments have worked very swiftly to provide alternative means of assessment, which have been reviewed and are robust, fair, and inclusive.”

“There is an expectation that all students will be required to continue studying during Easter term, assuming good health and no significant caring commitments, either in preparation for the alternative summative assessments which replace examinations in Cambridge, or engaging in formative assessment where the Faculty or Department has chosen this as the alternative assessment method.”


31st March, 11:00 – University looks for Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteers

Oxford University researchers are looking for healthy volunteers aged 18 – 55 as part of their development of a vaccine to prevent Covid-19. They have started to screen volunteers to be the first humans to test the new vaccine, called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.

The vaccine trial, run by the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, will recruit up to 510 healthy adults, who will receive either a control injection or the new vaccine. The vaccine is already in production, but will not be ready for some weeks. It is currently being manufactured to clinical grade standard at the Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility at Oxford University.

Professor Adrian Hill, the director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, said: “Vaccines are being designed from scratch and progressed at an unprecedented rate. The upcoming trial will be critical for assessing the feasibility of vaccination against Covid-19 and could lead to early deployment.”

The full details of the vaccine trials can be found here.


30th March, 14:30 – Summary: changes to FHS exams released by some faculties

Some faculties have released information about second and third year FHS exams. 

  • Second year biology exams have been moved from early Trinity to early Michaelmas 2020. 
  • Second year Experimental Psychology and PPL Part 1 exams have been moved from early Trinity to ‘later’ in the year.
  • Third year English exams have had some format changes. Finalists were in informed in an email that ‘The exams will all be open book.” The format of questions, and the length of answers expected will not change. These changes are not fully confirmed, and are dependent on the final decision of the University. 

Further information on Trinity term examinations and teaching is expected early this week. 


26th March, 13:35 – Worcester, Trinity, and St. Hilda’s cancel balls this Trinity

Both Worcester and St. Hilda’s College have officially cancelled their balls to be held in Trinity 2020 in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Both are offering refunds to ticket-holders. Worcester hopes to hold a Commemoration Ball in Summer 2021, whilst St. Hilda’s will organize another of its annual balls for next year.

Trinity College has instead postponed its Commemoration Ball to the 25th of June 2021. Tickets will automatically be transferred to the 2021 ball. Those who wish may instead apply for either “a full refund” or “a resale policy at a later date”.


25th March, 14:55 – Trinity term psychology exams cancelled

Psychology exams scheduled for 0th week of Trinity Term will not take place. The department said in an email to second-year Experimental Psychology and PPL students that they are “looking to providing Part 1 assessment later in the year.”

The email continued: “Unfortunately decisions on the exact timing of exams and their format do not reside with us, but with the University/the Examination team.

“Our strong departmental recommendation is for exams to run after the summer vacation. Please, note that departmental recommendations, however strong, are not an assurance of approval by the University.” A decision on when exams will take place is expected next week.

The department has stressed that it is working to ensure that students are not disadvantaged by the arrangements and encouraged them to express their views through the Student Union survey.


24th March, 23:36 – New model from Oxford researchers proposes that half of the UK population has been infected with Covid-19

A team of Oxford researchers led by Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology, has proposed a new model for the spread of Covid-19, which appears to show that half of the UK’s population has already been infected.

The modelling, created by Oxford’s Evolutionary Ecology of Infectious Disease group, demonstrates that Covid-19 reached the UK in mid-January and spread invisibly for a month before the first transmissions were recorded. The new study is based on a ‘susceptibility-infected-recovered model’ with data from the UK and Italy, and brings back into view the ‘herd immunity’ model abandoned by the UK government.

The results of the Oxford model significantly differ from the highly influential Imperial College London model and suggest that current restrictions could be removed sooner than government indications, but Professor Gupta tells Financial Times that since the Oxford model has yet to be confirmed, social distancing will still reduce pressure on the NHS. However, she is confident that ‘humanity will build up herd immunity against Covid-19.’ Antibody testing on this new model will begin this week, in collaboration with Cambridge and Kent Universities.

The model can be viewed here.


24th March, 19:21 – Christ Church Ball postponed

The organisers of Christ Church’s commemoration ball have announced that the event, due to be held on Saturday of 8th Week, has been postponed.

An email to ticket holders said: “It is with enormous sadness we must announce that we have decided to postpone Christ Church Ball for the time being. We appreciate this is extremely disappointing, but it is the only responsible decision given the current set of circumstances. We will continue to monitor the situation closely to work out a suitable future date. However, due to the huge uncertainty of the present situation, it would be premature to do so at this time.”

Refunds have not been offered at the moment, but reassurances have been made that “ticket holders’ payments are safe.”


24th March, 19:10 – Petition to reimburse fees reaches 160,000 signatures

A petition calling for all university fees from this academic year to be reimbursed has reached 160,000 signatures on the UK Government’s website. The petition points to the UCU strikes and the COVID-19 outbreak being responsible for “poor” quality teaching this year.

The full text of the petition reads: “All students should be reimbursed of this years tuition fees as universities are now online only due to COVID-19, with only powerpoints online for learning materials which is not worthy of up to £9,250. Furthermore, all assessments are being reconsidered to ‘make do’ and build up credits.More details

“Field trips have also been cancelled which our tuition fee was to pay for. There is also no need for accommodation which students have paid between £4,000-£8,000 for in advance and adding to their student debt. Lastly, the extended strikes of this year have severely disrupted student-staff interaction and personalised help, with staff not replying to emails or available for meetings. Grading is also being delayed. Overall, university quality is poor this year and certainly not worth up to £9,250.”

The petition can be signed here.