Oxford University has announced that Iffley Road Sports Centre will not be used for teaching in Michaelmas 2020, after students and the Oxford Student Union (SU) campaigned against proposals to use the sports halls for academic purposes.

The SU describes this as a “major win for students” after “significant lobbying efforts” from elected officers. Sabbatical officers opposed using the sports hall for teaching in consultations with the University, including at Michaelmas Co-ordination Group, Education Strategy Group, and the Estates Department and the Academic Registrar.

Students at the Oxford University Sports Federation Executive Committee, led by Isabel Creed, Christy Sadler, and Aisha Cooper, campaigned to keep use of the Iffley Road Centre for sports. The Save Iffley Road campaign open letter secured over 1500 student signatures, with representatives from 95% of registered Oxford University sports clubs.

The University states that sports halls may be needed for exams in Trinity term, which SU officers have acknowledged.

Ben Farmer, Oxford SU VP Charities and Community, said: “We’re delighted to have helped secure this major win for students which shows the vital importance of sports at all levels at Oxford. The inspiring student campaign from the Oxford University Sports Federation Executive Committee and the large numbers of students who supported this issue has been great to see and we’re pleased the University has recognised this in their decision.

“There are still some uncertainties which remain around the planned opening of the sports centre and other facilities as well as the procedures for both college and University sport. We will continue to work for students in lobbying the collegiate University on these issues.”

Isabel Creed and Christy Sadler, Welfare Officers on the Oxford University Sports Federation Executive Committee, said: “We’re really pleased to see that the University has made this decision which shows the importance of sport of Oxford. We’d like to thank all the sports clubs, students and alumni who got involved and share the campaign to help get this win and we look forward to working with the University on the return to sport at Iffley Road and beyond.”

The University states: “The health and well-being of our staff, students and local community is our top priority, and we are committed to helping students to get active as much as possible, whilst also ensuring activity is undertaken within Covid-safe arrangements. 

“Following ongoing assessment of space requirements, and in consultation with Oxford SU sabbatical officers, the indoor sports halls are no longer under consideration for potential teaching and academic purposes in Michaelmas term.

“During discussions, it was acknowledged and agreed by SU officers that there may be a need to use the sports halls for some examinations in Trinity Term – when sports hall use is reduced. However, no decisions have yet been taken, and further information will follow as we develop our plans for assessments in the next academic year.  

“We have well-developed plans for the safe re-opening of the swimming pool and outdoor pitches; and are undertaking detailed planning work on the safe provision of indoor sport when suitable processes and safeguards are in place. A new Oxford Sports app is now available, incorporating online streaming classes. 

“We aim to support student sport as much as possible, and the Sports Department is preparing contingency plans to support sports clubs in adopting safe practices in University and College settings.”

Image credit to Cyblocker/ Wikimedia Commons.