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Hilary term 2021: how has your college responded to staggered returns?

After the Department for Education advised students to return in a staggered manner, with some not arriving until February, colleges are now releasing their individual guidance. The latest suggested arrival date so far for students at the University is the 24th January, while some colleges are advising that all students arrive in Noughth week.

Balliol – In an email to students prior to the Department for Education’s announcement, students were assigned return dates in January which would stagger arrivals, particularly within households. An email after the new guidance was released stated that “happily, this [arrangement for arrivals] seems to meet the Government requirements” and “almost all the undergraduates should be back in residence by the Thursday of 0th Week (14 January)”. Ultimately, Balliol advised students in both tranches not to alter their plans for returning based upon the plans for some to learn remotely: “We suggest that students stick to their allotted dates for return, whether or not they will be having any face-to-face teaching in 1st Week”.

Brasenose – Brasenose informed students that they should “arrive in Oxford to complete the first two Covid- 19 tests before your advertised teaching start date” with two slots available. Those in the first group – students who will receive face-to-face learning in the first week of term – “can arrive from 10th – 14th January” while those who will initially be learning remotely “can arrive from 17th – 21st January”. In both cases, “exceptions to the above arrival dates will be considered on a case by case basis by the DB”.

Christ Church – An email from Christ Church to its students told them: “we have made the decision that the safest way to manage student returns is to designate arrival slots for UK-based undergraduate students according to household, as we did at the start of Michaelmas Term. These arrival slots will be between 8th January and 14th January. We expect to have notified all students of their arrival slots by early next week.” All students then, will arrive by the point they would have done if it were a typical term.

Corpus Christi – Corpus Christi reassured students that “College will be open as planned from 4th January, and our facilities (catering, the library) will be operating as this term from that date. Therefore, if you would like and need to return as you had originally planned, you may do so notwithstanding the date your formal in-person teaching now starts”.

Hertford – Arranging two main arrival “windows” for students to use, Hertford advised that those within the first tranche arrive from the 14th January to 16th January while those in the second tranche return from the 21st January to 23rd January.  However, they highlighted the need for flexibility, writing that “in some cases there may be reasons why a delayed return is not desirable, and the option to return in the first window (0th week) will also be available. Students may determine this for themselves, based upon individual circumstances”. The email continued: “For each window, you should arrive where possible on the Thursday, as this leaves four days for taking the first two arrival COVID tests ahead of the start of in-person teaching weeks”.

Keble – In a different approach to other colleges, Keble has altered their Licence Agreement so every student can spend a full term in their accommodation: “In order to facilitate the more flexible arrangements called for by the Government, for Hilary Term 2021 only the period covered by the termly rent will be extended by two weeks to the Saturday of Tenth Week (27th March).  This should allow every student, even those returning on 21st January (the latest date indicated in the University guidance) to spend a full term at the College at no additional cost”.

Lincoln – Lincoln sent a holding email to its students, advising them to check the College website over the next week for more details of how they would manage the beginning of Hilary term but, like most colleges, specifically referenced the difficulties for international students: “We are aware that many international students will have already booked their travel; if you have pre-existing travel plans, you do not need to change your bookings”.

Magdalen – Magdalen advised students not to change their original plans, urging them to “return when you had planned to return”. If students had not already arranged plans, though, they were urged to “please consider returning between Monday 4 and Saturday 9 January if your course is in the first group of subjects referred to in the University’s email, and between Sunday 10 and Thursday 14 January if your course is in the second group of subjects referred to in the University’s email”.

Mansfield – In one email, Mansfield urged students to contact them regarding their plans for returning to College in Hilary. They explained: “Once we have an overview of when students would like to arrive back in College, we will be in a position to confirm arrival dates. If the arrival dates are not sufficiently staggered, we may have to ask some students to arrive earlier or later than their preference. We do not expect this to be necessary for large numbers. If we do not contact you about this by Friday 8th January, you can assume that your preferred arrival date is confirmed.”

Merton –  For students who have face-to-face teaching initially, Merton instructed that they should “return in accordance with normal expectations”. For those who begin term with remote learning, an email to students outlined that they “may return within the window 9th January to Sunday 24th January, taking into account academic commitments that have a bearing on your need to be in Oxford”, continuing that these students “should let their tutors and Director of Studies know what their plans are for returning to Oxford so that these can be taken into account.”

New – New stated that they will be open from 10th January and “students may choose their return dates”, emphasising that “students may return as normal if they have reasons to do so such as lack of suitable accommodation, facilities or study space at home”.

Pembroke – In response to the staggered start, Pembroke told students that “we now expect latest return dates to be Thursday 14th or Thursday 21st January, depending on when your course returns to face-to-face teaching. You may have already elected to return sooner, or need to be back in residence earlier for academic reasons, to access library or IT facilities in College, for health and wellbeing reasons, because of travel challenges or otherwise. Given that (for those affected) term-time contracts begin on 13th January, there will be no problem with facilitating this”.

Queen’s – In a letter to students, staff at Queen’s College expressed concerns for student welfare: “As your health and well-being are vital to your intellectual growth, we are concerned not only for your physical health when your travel back to Oxford, but also for your well-being before and after you arrive here. The recommendation that some students arrive later in term presupposes that all students have, outside of term time, sufficient working conditions. From our experience last Trinity Term, we know this not to be the case. Additionally, in comparing this year’s two lockdowns, we saw — and many of us felt — the difference between isolation far from Oxford and isolation in College households. As we have all benefited from working with one another (albeit at a distance of more than 2m) I won’t belabour the point; suffice it to say that we remain concerned for the well-being of students who, by staying away from College, do not benefit from the level of support for their education that our collective efforts provide. For this reason, and consistent with our overall approach to do as much as we can safely and appropriately, we expect all students to be in residence by the end of 0th week. In order to facilitate staggered arrivals, we are relaxing the normal regulation (10.3) that requires you to come into residence on Wednesday of 0th week”.

Regent’s Park – For students who begin remotely, an email advised that they should “be back in College/private accommodation by the evening of Wednesday 20th January 2021 (Wednesday of 1st week). Those coming to College accommodation will be able to arrive from Saturday 16th January 2021”. Arrival slots will be released at a later date.

Somerville – In an email to students, Somerville provided a return window from the 10th January to the 21st January for all undergraduates, with variable accommodation charges: “Accommodation charges for HT21 will begin on the Wednesday of 0th week (Wednesday 13th January), with flexible calculations based on your arrival date until 24th January, after which all students will be charged for their rooms as per normal”.

St Catherine’s – St Catherine’s College provided a link to an external booking system so students can stagger their arrivals, as well as announcing a later final return date for the term: “exceptionally for Hilary Term, in light of the Government guidance and the University approach to staggered student returns, and for those who do not need to quarantine, the latest dates at which you can take up College residence and from which accommodation charges will apply, will be 14 January for Group 1 students and 21 January for Group 2 students. You may arrive earlier than these dates, if you have reason to, with charges being applied from the date on which you arrive”.

St Hilda’s – In an email to students, St Hilda’s announced: “we will be following the University guidance about return dates, but we understand, of course, that some of you will have reasons for returning more than four days before the start of in-person teaching, including pre-booked travel arrangements”. They continued that by “next week we will send you details of how to notify us if you wish to request to return to college accommodation before the advised return date for your course” and asked students to wait for further information.

St Hugh’s – St Hugh’s split their students into two groups, mimicking the tranches – “arrival Tranche 1 – For Practical or Placement Courses to arrive in readiness to commence face-to-face teaching from Monday 18th January 2021” and “arrival Tranche 2 – For all other Courses to arrive in readiness to commence face-to-face teaching from Monday 25th January 2021” and continued that “you should arrange to arrive in Oxford no later than four days before the advertised in-person start date to allow time for the Lateral Flow Tests to be self-administered”.

St John’s – In an email, students were told to wait for more information but reassured that they could retain their original return dates: “If your arrival date has already been agreed because you need to quarantine on your return, because you have extended terms, or because you have already booked tickets for your journey back to College which you cannot conveniently change, please don’t worry about how these new arrangements might impact on your arrangements; we are expecting that you will still be able to return as originally planned.”

St Peter’s –  St Peter’s was clear that “the dates of next term have not changed”, continuing with “you are asked to return to Oxford no later than four days before your course might start in-person teaching. So students on group 1 courses should arrive no later than Wednesday 13th January, in order to be ready to do your Collections on Thursday and Friday of week 0. Students on group 2 courses should aim to arrive in Oxford no later than Thursday 21st January”.

Trinity – Trinity has outlined two return slots for students: “Students in Group 1 courses are invited to return between Sunday 10 January and Wednesday 13 January (in 0th Week); students in Group 2 courses are invited to return from Thursday 14 January to Sunday 17 January inclusive”. Expanding on their choice of weekend arrival slots, the email continued that “both groups will therefore have an opportunity to travel at a weekend which may assist parents to provide private transport”.

University – In their email to students, University made it clear that arrangements for return in Hilary would be made on an individual basis – “the College will contact you to make arrangements about the date on which you return. We expect that all undergraduates will be asked to come back on (or no later than) the Thursday of the week before face-to-face teaching for their subject is scheduled to resume. This will allow you to take two voluntary lateral flow tests before your teaching is due to start, should you wish to do so.  You will not be charged rent for any days on which we do not permit you to be in your college accommodation.”

Wadham – Wadham advised that all students would be able to arrive in Noughth week with no changes to their previous arrival plans after the Department for Education’s announcement: “There is no change to the previous details about the arrival process for students who are leaving and not returning early on vacation residence. Arrivals will be staggered over the 11th, 12th and 13th January in order that everyone can arrive safely and that students can participate in the lateral flow testing before the start of term”.

Worcester – In an email to students, Worcester created a table of suggested dates of arrival, with those beginning with face-to-face teaching arriving by the 14th January and those who will initially learn remotely arriving by the 21st January. Those wishing to arrive outside of their tranche need to make a request by the 15th December; they were urged to “ensure you have provided enough detail as these requests will then be considered by a panel”.

Don’t see your college on the list? Have some more information regarding how your college is handling the pandemic, staggered starts or coronavirus rules? Get in touch and send us your college’s policy at [email protected].

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