The Oxford Student Union (SU) has launched a petition calling on the University to defer all payment of graduate continuation fees until its reopening. This follows Student Council passing a motion to defer continuation fees in its 5th week meeting.

The petition calls on the University’s leadership to: 

“1) defer all payment of continuation fees until the university reopens, 

2) publicise a clearer appeals process for those who feel that they are not sufficiently covered by current exemptions for coronavirus and 

3) state in all communications to students what hardship funds will be made available to those who are unable to pay fees now or in the future.”

Following completion of the standard length of their courses (for DPhil students, this is usually after their 10th term), graduate students are required to pay a termly continuation fee. For the academic year 2019/20, this fee is £488, and for the year 2020/21, it is £508. Most colleges also charge a continuation fee which is usually around £120 per term, with the exception of All Souls, Merton, New College, Nuffield, and Wadham, which do not charge college fees.

Neil Misra, Oxford SU Vice President Graduates told Cherwell he devised the petition with the MPLS [Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division] divisional representative after the University failed to explicitly commit to waiving the continuation fee in spite of Misra having confronted the University’s leadership multiple times. The petition currently has over 100 signatures from members of the student body.

Misra told Cherwell: “The pandemic and lockdown have hit our DPhil students hard. Labs are shut, archives are largely inaccessible, and fieldwork is virtually impossible to conduct. Many are facing serious financial distress. A great number of PGRs will require substantial extensions to finish their degree. In spite of these significant hardships, the university continues to charge its continuation fee. 

“It is absurd that the university would continue to levy the continuation fee while many PGR students face deep uncertainties regarding their funding and personal finances. If the university is serious about supporting its postgraduate researchers through these immensely difficult times, it will give serious consideration to the policy of instituting a temporary freeze on the continuation fee.”

A spokesperson for the University confirmed: “In line with University’s general policy on fees, students are liable for the continuation charge in Trinity term.”

Regarding arrangements beyond Trinity term, the spokesperson told Cherwell: “There is a complex set of issues to work through relating to funding and continuation charges, which requires agreement with colleges and external funders before further announcements can be made. We are investigating all options for those students most affected and will be in a position to make an announcement in the near future about the level of support the University will provide.”