In an email to students on 12th January 2021, the University confirmed that there would be no safety net policy for examinations taken in Hilary and Trinity 2021: “we will not be introducing a blanket ‘safety net’ for all students… this is because teaching and assessment is being structured and delivered in a more established way this year and with more support available”. In Trinity 2020 examinations, this was put in place, aiming “to reduce the risk that students may be disadvantaged by the conditions in which they revise for and sit their exams in the exceptional circumstances of the CV-19 pandemic”. The Russell Group have previously written an open letter opposing the introduction of safety net policies, deeming them not “necessary or appropriate”.
However, they also announced that other “additional measures” may be put in place and that “a further announcement will be made by the middle of Hilary term”. These measures will be introduced “in consultation with Oxford SU representatives”.
Declared to Deserved Honours or ‘DDH’ Awards will also still be available. However, the University noted that “like last year, the declared outcome is intended only for those students who cannot complete their assessments and who are unable to suspend and return the following year”. The mitigating circumstances notices to examiners process will also remain in place.
For Hilary term, there will be no-in person examinations – except for one medical examination which is needed to meet professional body requirements. Students have been told to await specific instructions from their departments if they were due to take an in-person exam in Hilary. The Classics Faculty have already confirmed that Classics Moderations have been cancelled and replaced with a Prelims-style examination which can be conducted remotely. The email to students noted that “these decisions are final, and arrangements for Hilary term exams are not expected to change again”.
For Trinity examinations, “a number of examinations are planned to take place in-person, but contingency plans are in place should the pandemic restrictions prevent in-person exams taking place” while “all coursework will continue to be submitted online”. The University confirmed that examinations would not be cancelled: “We plan for a full suite of Trinity term exams to take place around their usual time”. They also described a new assessment platform for examinations conducted online. While the platform used was not confirmed, it was described as providing “the benefits of a modern service, but with ease of use, and a smooth transition for students as a priority”.
Martin Williams, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), concluded the email: “The pandemic continues to provide us with significant challenges, but please rest assured that supporting your academic success is a key priority for everyone at the University, and we are committed to keeping you updated with the latest information as soon as it becomes available. With your continued flexibility, I am confident that we can have another successful exam season regardless of the ongoing disruption we are all facing.”