The Committee of JCR Presidents have written to the Conference of Colleges to request that Colleges adopt a standardised approach which students to self-certify their eligibility to study in-person. The letter comes after the government confirmed that students on non-practical courses would not be able to return to campus until May 17th.

A parliamentary petition opened as part of the Our Turn To Return campaign has gained over 8,500 signatures, thus nearing the threshold at which the government will respond. The petition highlights that school students have been able to resume their studies in person, while university students would have to continue studying remotely.

Colleges have a degree of devolved power to shape their returns policy, which PresCom argued creates an “unfair application system across the whole University”. While some colleges, like St Edmund’s Hall, allow students to self-certify whether they meet the requirements to return, others require students to submit evidence to a Dean, Senior Tutor or panel to get permission.

“As adults from a variety of backgrounds who have all faced different experiences of the pandemic, students themselves are at best placed to decide if returning is the most appropriate option for them…As representatives of our JCRs, we know of circumstances where students have not wanted to disclose particularly sensitive information (despite the confidentiality of the process) which created a barrier preventing some students who nonetheless need to return for the sake of their wellbeing.”

The letters asks the Conference of Colleges whether they “considered the implications of returns policies with regard to Equality”. According to the Office for National Statistics, nationally 76% of students returned to term-time accommodation during the spring term. PresCom emphasised that students from lower-income backgrounds would “suffer the most from these inconsistencies as their affluent peers are able to enter into short-term leases in cases of rejections”.

PresCom continued: “We hope that all Heads of Houses share our opinion that a consistent approach across all colleges in processing student returns is the most equitable solution, and should be adopted as soon as possible. Given the importance of the upcoming term for Finalists and other students sitting exams, it is imperative that there is a consistency between colleges’ interpretations of the government guidance to ensure that degree outcomes are a product of one’s own efforts, and not which college you attend.”

PresCom had previously written to the Universities’ Minister, Michelle Donelan, urging her to provide guidance on when students would be able to return to university.

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