An update on the university’s plans for Michaelmas term

The new academic year starts on 11 October. OIRA has received the below update on how the university plans to manage the current situation, from Laurence Garfield, Government and Community Relations Officer, University of Oxford:

The University has today launched a health communications campaign to raise awareness among our students and staff of the measures we are taking to protect them and the local community. Please find a summary and links to the relevant webpages below:

Student Responsibility Agreement

The University has published a Student Responsibility Agreement, as we committed to do in our previous letter to you, which all students will be asked to sign. The Agreement affirms their commitment to protecting the health of everyone within their college, the University and wider community in Oxford. It lists eight commitments each student is expected to make about their behaviour, including:

  • abide by public health regulations
  • practice good hygiene to limit contact transmission
  • request a test immediately and self-isolate if experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19
  • adhere to the rules for social distancing and maximum group sizes on-site and in public
  • follow guidelines on interacting with other households

We are also advising students to show consideration to the local community by only travelling in pairs when outside of University or college premises.

Accommodation

New guidance has been issued to students on the arrangements for accommodation. We aim to house the majority of our students and all first-year undergraduates in college accommodation. In colleges and University graduate accommodation, we will be grouping students into ‘households’, consisting of a group of people, typically between six and eight, living in close proximity. They must practice social distancing from other such households. If one member of a household has to self-isolate, the others will be required to do so. Students will be supported by their college welfare teams if they need to self-isolate.

University test and tracing service

The University’s in-house COVID-19 testing service is now operational and open to all staff of the University and colleges at two testing sites – one in the city centre and one in Headington. It will open to students on Wednesday 9th September. The service will ensure that any new cases are quickly identified and responded to, helping reduce the risk of a further outbreak and easing the burden on local NHS testing facilities.

Protective measures in our buildings and facilities

The following health and safety measures are now in place on University and college sites:

  • Enhanced cleaning regimes and additional facilities for increased hand washing
  • Spaces adapted to ensure social distancing and appropriate ventilation, with clear signage and markings
  • Perspex screens and barriers in areas where social distancing is more difficult, such as in laboratories
  • University libraries have enhanced hygiene and social distancing measures in place, with a ‘seat-finder’ app to find spaces in reading rooms
  • Face coverings will be required during in-person teaching and in indoor shared spaces with exceptions for those students and staff unable to due to health conditions

I hope that the measures outlined here reassure you about the seriousness with which we are planning for a safe and successful new term.

Finally, I am pleased to let you know that we are working with the City Council to organise a ‘virtual town hall’ meeting for residents to ask questions about the return of Oxford’s student population. The event will feature representatives from the local authorities and both universities. More information on the event will be available shortly.

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