The University has instructed most students to remain at home from the start of term, with all other students asked not to return until at least mid-February, following the announcement of a national lockdown. However, students studying medicine, dentistry, subjects allied to medicine or health, veterinary science, education and social work were defined to be exempt from these rules. Oxford has now released specific guidance explaining which courses will be allowed to return early.

Government guidance notes that there should be “no presumption that all courses within these categorisations should return to in person teaching” and that “HE Providers should seek to limit the courses that return to face to face teaching as far as possible” with “clinical courses” being the main cause for the exemption. As a result, the University has specified year groups within courses. Those allowed to return are:

  • Biochemistry (Year 4)
  • Biomedical Sciences (Year 3)
  • Pre-clinical Medicine (Year 3 of the 6-year undergraduate Medical Course) 
  • Clinical Medicine (Years 4-6 of the 6-year undergraduate Medical Course) 
  • Graduate Entry Medicine (All years) 
  • Chemistry (Year 1) from the start of Week 5 to enable laboratory classes
  • Chemistry (Year 4)
  • Materials Science (Year 4)
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Education

One email to students very strongly advised students “to get tested for COVID-19. Your college will provide you with three Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests when you return to Oxford” and noted that “this is extremely important for stopping the spread of the virus”. However, students were also urged to check with their colleges regarding their ability to return – “please ensure that you contact your college before you make any plans to travel to Oxford”.

Some colleges also suggested that students on these courses could still study at home if they so desired. One email from Merton, sent on 6 January, told students: “Let me stress that it is not compulsory for students on these courses to return, and so if you are able to continue to work from home satisfactorily then you should do so”.

Others who are specified to be exempt from include international students who have remained in the UK and those who have arrived without alternative accommodation, those who remained in their university accommodation over the winter break, those without access to study space in their vacation accommodation, those requiring additional support (including those with mental health issues) and commuter students in some cases.


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