Hilary Term 2021: FAQs

Hilary Term learning will take place online for almost all students, at least until 15th February, to comply with the terms of the government’s lockdown.  Please see below for detailed information on a range of subjects.  If you cannot find the information you need please contact the relevant staff teams in College by email or send a message to the Communications Team who can forward it for you.

Background Information

On 31st December 2020, the UK Government and the devolved administrations announced further measures for Tier 4 restriction on gatherings and travel.  On 30th December the Minister for Universities announced a policy for the provision of higher education by online means, and on 6th January 2021, further regulations were approved by Parliament that confirmed the terms of the lockdown.  The University has responded to these changes by putting in place online education (save for narrow exempted categories of students in accordance with the Minister’s policy) and by waiving the residency requirement. 

The College must now follow the new regulations and guidance in any decisions that are made about teaching and residence in College during lockdown.  All teaching will now be online.  All students will require permission to reside in College from the Academic Director and permission will be considered by a panel constituted by senior members of the College.  These arrangements will continue until 15th February when they will be reviewed as a consequence of the promised Government and University reviews on that day.

The focus of the new arrangements is that gatherings of people and travel between locations are dangerous to the health and safety of the individual and the community so that online learning from home is the expected provision while lockdown remains in place.  The College is committed to maintaining a safe environment for those already in residence as a result of previous COVID-19 decision making, and also those who have to return into residence.  The health, safety and welfare of the individual student, and the academic and operational staff who continue to provide services in and for the College, is our primary concern. 

The criteria for making the decision about those students who may return are set out in the Minister’s letter of 30th December and the University guidance issued on 5th January.  The fewer students who have to be in residence, the safer it will be for everyone.  The College has already taken steps to minimise the number of academic and operational staff who are on site.  Our Library and catering provision is necessarily limited by safety conditions; for example, the Library is already working at capacity in the provision of study spaces and we have already stooped providing catering in Farthings Café and the Forte Room.  

The College understands the genuine concerns that many have about their academic performance and understands that arrangements for mitigation and consideration of deadlines for assignments are being considered by the University.  We are providing further answers to FAQs in the materials which follow and opportunities for online Q&As with College Officers during 0th Week.

Returning to Oxford

How do I know whether I should be returning to Oxford?

You should not return to Oxford unless you have individual permission to do so from the Academic Office, are a graduate research student who is unable to work from home, or are a research graduate for whom Oxford is your primary residence.  If you are contacted by the University, a department or faculty to indicate you are able to return to Oxford you must still confirm this with the College before travelling.

I wish to return to College because I am unable to study effectively in my home environment.  What should I do?

Contact the Academic Office to discuss your situation.  No-one should return to College without permission to do so.  The College is open for those in genuine need, including those for whom study is impossible in the home environment and those whose mental health is best served by returning to Oxford.  The Academic Office team will, in confidence, assess your situation and advise you accordingly.

Are international students allowed to return?

Contact the Academic Office to discuss your situation.  No-one should return to College without permission to do so. 

I have a train booked for next week and would like to return to use the library for my extended essay.  What should I do?

Contact the Academic Office to discuss your situation.  No-one should return to College without permission to do so.  Students may not return just to use dissertation material, but only if you fit the limited categories for exemption provided for under the government restrictions.  There will be remote services provided by libraries and your tutor can advise on any leniency for the submission of work (see below).

How are you making decisions about those who will be allowed to return?

We are assessing each individual case in detail.  The restrictions only allow very limited categories of exemption to be applied.  The College’s guiding principle in all decisions is the health, safety and welfare of all our students and staff.  We have a duty of care to our staff and to those students who have to be here to resume in-person learning.  The basis for each decision is set out at the beginning of these FAQs (see Background Information above).

I have contacted the Academic Office to request permission to return but not had a decision.  What should I do?

The Academic Office team are currently working through a significant number of requests. Please be patient and trust that they have received yours.  You should expect a response during 0th Week.

Academic Arrangements

Given the rapidly changing situation will upcoming Collections be optional or have leniency?

Collections will proceed online as planned.  Anyone experiencing difficulties that might affect their ability to take a Collection should talk to their subject tutor before the College take place.

Will the library be open for those who have to return to College for teaching?

Yes, the College library is currently open but restricted to much smaller numbers than usual.  A click-and-collect service will continue to operate this term for those in College.

If we cannot access the library as we are working from home, will be have longer deadlines for essays or other leniency in workload?

Talk to your tutor if you anticipate needing extensions to any work deadline.  The Bodleian is providing access to a vast array of online titles, and the Pembroke Library is able to help with book requests and tracking down resources.  Contact Laura Cracknell for advice.

I have left important books/equipment/medication in my room in College on the assumption that I would return for Hilary Term.  How can I retrieve this?

Contact the Accommodation Team who will help you by arranging to retrieve and send on any critical items.

When will in-person teaching resume? 

We can only say at the moment that term will take place online until a Government review, expected by 15th February.  The University and the College will continue to review the situation in light of changes to government restrictions.  We will tell all students as and when we know about any return to face-to-face teaching, and give as much notice as possible.  Tutors will continue to make online teaching available when students cannot attend in person. 

How can we be expected to complete our courses on schedule given all the disruption of working at home?

While this has been a disrupted year, evidence from public exams, collections, tutors’ reports and student self-assessments is that most Pembroke students are doing very well and performing to the highest academic standards.  For students particularly struggling there are resources in Pembroke, including our study skills tutors, and the opportunity to make an application for mitigating circumstances or deadline extensions.

Will exams take into account the disruption to learning and many people having insufficient learning spaces at home?

Students should keep records of the impact that any COVID-related (or other) disruption has had on their work.  There will be a mitigating circumstances system for impacted students. 

Are residency exemptions being granted for those unable to return?

The University has announced a blanket suspension of the residency requirement for all students for Hilary Term 2021.  There is no need to apply for this individually.

What arrangements will be made regarding exams in Trinity Term?

At present the expectation is that they will continue as planned, with most being done online and some in person.  There will be a process for considering mitigating circumstances, so students should keep records of the impact of any COVID-related (or other) disruption to their work.

Will the “safety net” offered to last year’s finalists again be applied by the University?

Details of how the University will manage the impact of the Hilary Term changes on academic work are currently under consideration by the University.  More information will follow in due course.

Will term be extended to allow workloads to be spread out and alleviate the burden on students studying at home?

There will not be a blanket extension, but students experiencing difficulties with their working arrangements or in any other way should contact their subject tutor and discuss the issue, including the possibility of deadline extensions.  The Academic Office can advise on extensions to University assessments.

Welfare and Hardship Support

I am scheduled to return to College early due to mental health problems.  Is this still permitted?

You must have individual permission to return from the Academic Office team, so please contact them to discuss your situation in confidence.

What changes will be made to cope with the increased demand on mental health provision this term?

The College welfare team will continue to provide support to students and staff using online platforms.  Our Welfare Coordinator is the first point of contact for advice and support.  All Pembroke students also have access to the full range of support services provided by Oxford University.

I am facing unexpected financial hardship as a result of the new lockdown and I am very worried about this.  Can the College help?

We understand that some people’s situations will have changed and be causing concern.  Pembroke has hardship funding available for any student in unexpected financial difficulty.  You should contact Kirstie Morris in the Academic Office for confidential advice and guidance.

I am an undergraduate struggling with access to a laptop for my work.  How can I get help?

The JCR has a number of laptops which the Access Rep, Archie Hayton, will be distributing to help you access remote learning. Please get in contact with Archie if the JCR can support you in this way. 

I am an international student who is concerned about a choice between organising very last-minute international travel or paying for an empty room for the remainder of term if teaching resumes at short notice.  What should I do?

We will give as much notice as possible when in-person teaching is able to resume.  However, we understand that students who need to travel back to Oxford from outside the UK may face financial difficulties at that point.  If this is the case, there will be an opportunity to access College hardship funding, including for reasonable travel costs, so please get in touch with us to raise your concerns when the time comes.  For clarity, hardship funding will only be awarded for travel costs if approved in advance.

Facilities in College

Will students already at Pembroke be allowed to remain in College accommodation for the duration of lockdown?

The College will be open for those who have had to stay throughout the Christmas vacation, for research graduates for whom it is home, and for those on taught courses who have individual permission from the Academic Office to return.  Those in the latter category must fall into the narrow list of exemptions provided for by government.

Will I be charged for accommodation and food if I don’t return?

For the period of the current arrangements, i.e. until 15th February, the College is adopting the principle of charging, regardless of the type of licence agreement, for accommodation, food and utilities charges on the basis of occupation, i.e. when students are living in College.

If you do not return to College for the beginning of term, accommodation, food and utilities charges for Hilary term which had been charged to battels accounts will show as being reversed out, i.e. nothing will be payable currently.   If you are in residence from the beginning of term, the charges showing on your battels account will be payable.

Can I visit College to collect items from my room?

You must not travel to College under the national lockdown restrictions.  If you urgently need access to critical items please contact the Accommodation Team who can help you by retrieving and sending them on.

Is the College library open?

Yes.  Access is limited to a small number of students at any one time but study and borrowing facilities are available to those in College.  For those working remotely there will be additional services.  The Librarian will send full details of these during 0th week.

How will catering be provided during Hilary Term?

For those in residence on catered contracts, meals will be provided in Hall.  

Is Farthings café open?

No, due to small numbers on site as well as pressures on our staff team the café will remain closed until further notice.

Will there be additional study space available for those in College, apart from the library and bedrooms?

We are doing what we can to provide additional space and will communicate details to those in residence in due course.  For residents of the GAB, once building works recommence on site, an alternative space will be provided.

How can I get help if I develop symptoms of coronavirus and need to isolate?

Our Isolation Coordinator will continue to support all those who need to take tests or isolate as a result of a household contact or a positive test result.  As before, if you develop symptoms of the virus while in residence (high temperature, new persistent cough or loss/change of taste/smell) you should immediately book a test with the University’s EAS service, inform the College via the lodge and self-isolate.  

What cleaning services will be provided in College this term?

Scouts will continue to clean communal areas and to empty bins which are left outside bedrooms.

What facilities will be open to graduate students who live in Oxford but not in College accommodation?

Access for non-resident students will be to Pidges for post, the Lodge for urgent enquiries, and to the Library to collect ‘click and collect’ study materials only.  Due to capacity we cannot allow non-resident students access to the study facilities at this time.  Unfortunately, catering services will also be unavailable to non-residents for safety reasons, and Farthings is closed until further notice due to staff shortage.

Testing on Return

I have permission to return to College from the Academic Office.  Will COVID-testing be provided?

Yes, test kits will be provided in your room (or for collection from the lodge if you live out).  The Testing Coordinator will contact you with further instructions.  If you choose not to take the tests you will be asked to isolate for 10 days on your return to protect others in the College community.

If I develop symptoms of COVID this term while in Oxford what should I do?

As before, if you develop symptoms of the virus while in residence (high temperature, new persistent cough or loss/change of taste/smell) you should immediately book a test with the University’s EAS service, inform the College via the lodge and self-isolate.  You will be contacted by our Isolation Coordinator and support will be provided by the College team.