Professor Sam Howison and Professor Roger Goodman, co-chairs of the Hilary and Trinity Coordination Group, share updates on the work of the Group ahead of the Christmas Vacation.
As the co-chairs of the Hilary and Trinity Coordination Group (HTCG), it is our role to build upon the excellent work of the Michaelmas Coordination Group (MCG), led by Karen O’Brien and Jan Royall earlier this year. Like the MCG before it, the HTCG is not a decision-making body, but one that seeks to bring together all of the strands of planning required as we move through the rest of the academic year, with input from members drawn from across the collegiate University. Any recommendations from the HTCG are then shared with the relevant governance body, usually the Bronze and Silver groups, for approval.
No sooner had we started working through the various potential scenarios and planning assumptions for the start of Hilary term onwards, than the landscape shifted once again; Oxford moved into Tier 2, swiftly followed by a new national lockdown. It was clear that the departure of students from Oxford for the winter vacation would be much more complex than usual. The HTCG assumed its role, coordinating the educational implications of most taught students leaving Oxford during the travel window, the facilitation of COVID-19 testing in advance of departures, and the support that would be provided by colleges. In particular, an extraordinary amount of work by the COVID-19 Asymptomatic Testing (CAT) project team and the colleges went into the planning and implementation of a COVID-19 testing system for students, which was up and running within two weeks. It is truly a testament to the deep commitment and ‘can-do’ attitude of University and college staff that this was achieved, and we are immensely grateful for their efforts.
With the implementation of activities to support the end of term departure and winter vacation provision well underway, the HTCG has turned its attention to the planning required to support the return of students for Hilary term, and the continued successful operations of the University into Hilary and Trinity terms. In line with government guidance, we are looking forward to welcoming students back to Oxford in January, and we will continue to work with colleagues across the collegiate University to coordinate planning, including for issues related to research capacity and productivity, teaching and assessment, and staff mental health and wellbeing.
As the busy streets of Oxford became implausibly quiet back in March, it would have been hard to imagine then that our lives and work would still be so different. Whether worrying about the impact on your studies or research, about elderly or vulnerable relatives and friends, or about having to balance childcare and work responsibilities, it has been a difficult nine months for everyone. But, it is starting to feel like we are turning a corner; COVID-19 testing is become faster and more widespread through the use of lateral flow devices, and vaccines are within touching distance. The University has made more than a small contribution to these developments.
And so it seems appropriate to conclude by wholeheartedly thanking all of the staff across the University and colleges, who have worked so incredibly hard in the furtherance of the University’s mission this year. We wish you all the very best for the festive period, and sincerely hope you are able to find some time to rest and relax (safely!) with family and friends.
Professor Sam Howison
Head of the Division of Mathematical, Physical & Life Sciences
Professor of Applied Mathematics
Professor Roger Goodman
Warden, St Antony’s College
Nissan Professor of Modern Japanese Studies