Students may need to apply for extensions, suspensions, or deferrals of Transfer or Confirmation of Status, if their studies continue to be significantly affected by Coronavirus.
Extensions, suspensions and deferrals granted due to Coronavirus will continue to be counted as additional, outside of standard limits, but only if the Coronavirus-related disruption took place between Hilary term 2020 and Trinity term 2022 inclusive. Departments or divisional Graduate Studies Assistants will process these applications as normal, but will ensure that coronavirus is recorded as the reason for the suspension/extension/deferral.
Some students may of course still be experiencing disruption to their research during 2022-23 related to coronavirus, for example difficulties with international fieldwork, changes to planned research, or the impact of long Covid. For applications for extensions/suspensions/deferrals on the grounds of Coronavirus-related disruption affecting Michaelmas term 2022 onwards, these can still be granted, but will count towards the usual number of terms of extension/suspension/deferral permitted.
If the student has not been granted all the terms permitted in regulations, the normal departmental/divisional body will grant these. If the student has already been granted all the permitted terms, then application will need to be made to Education Committee to grant dispensation (as was the case pre-pandemic, and continued to be the case for non-Coronavirus related requests beyond the terms permitted during the pandemic). Education Committee will consider requests on a case-by-case basis, but evidenced Coronavirus-related disruption would be a reason to grant dispensation. Guidance and a form for making dispensation requests to Education Committee is available at https://academic.admin.ox.ac.uk/dispensations.
Applications relating to disruption between Hilary term 2020 and Trinity term 2022 inclusive should be considered as being due to Coronavirus (and therefore count as additional, outside of standard limits) if it is clear that the impact of Coronavirus is one of the major reasons for extension, deferral or suspension being requested.
There may often be several reasons for such requests, and the impact of Coronavirus may have exacerbated existing health or personal issues, for which extensions, deferrals or suspensions may previously have been granted. However, if Coronavirus is a significant element of the reasons for a request, such that it appears from the information and evidence provided that extension, deferral or suspension would not be necessary if it were not for the impact of Coronavirus, then the extension, deferral or suspension granted should be counted as additional, outside of standard limits, if the disruption took place between Hilary term 2020 and Trinity term 2022 inclusive.
If Coronavirus is mentioned in an application, but it appears from the information and evidence provided that it is a minor element of the reasons for a request, and that extension, deferral or suspension would still be necessary without the impact of Coronavirus, then the extension, deferral or suspension granted should be included within the number of terms permitted by regulation, even if the application relates to disruption between Hilary term 2020 and Trinity term 2022 inclusive. Such requests can be granted by the normal departmental/divisional body in the usual way, if students have not reached their limit for deferrals, extensions or suspensions permitted by regulation. If students have already reached this limit, such applications need to be referred to Education Committee as an application for dispensation from the regulations.
When considering whether an application is due to Coronavirus (for disruption between Hilary term 2020 and Trinity term 2022 inclusive), the following are examples of what can be taken into account:
- Student illness
- Illness of family members
- Increased caring responsibilities (whether due to illness or due to e.g. the impact of Coronavirus on the student’s or family members’ employment, or the impact of school/nursery closures)
- Impact on student mental health
- Impact of Coronavirus on students with disabilities/long-term health conditions, e.g. being at higher risk of Coronavirus, or difficulties with accessing support which would normally have been available
- Financial impacts
- Inability to pursue planned studies due to lack of access to facilities such as laboratories or libraries; inability to travel to undertake fieldwork; or inability to meet with research subjects, where alternatives were not available and the impact on research could be mitigated
- Difficulties with environment for remote study, e.g. poor quality internet connection, lack of IT facilities, lack of study space
- Impact on availability of supervisors which affected student progress (e.g. due to supervisor illness or caring responsibilities)
- Redeployment to clinical work or Coronavirus-related research
Extensions and deferrals
Students should only apply for extensions or deferrals if they have already reached the maximum number of terms permitted – they should not apply in advance. If in future they reach their maximum number of terms permitted and require an extension or deferral as a result of disruption during the pandemic, they should apply at that point.
If students are still experiencing disruption relating to Coronavirus during 2022-23, we advise that they continue to keep a log of how Coronavirus has impacted on their research, so that this can be submitted as evidence for any future applications. Keeping such a log is intended to act as a reminder for the future for students/supervisors, and is not intended to be a major additional burden, or to require very extensive or frequent recording of details. The purpose of the log is to be helpful to students when submitting applications in future. Logs completed between Hilary term 2020 and Trinity term 2022 inclusive can be used as evidence for extensions and deferrals granted at a later date.
It is suggested that logs should include brief details of disruption experienced and dates (e.g. fieldwork took 9 months instead of the planned 6 months in 2022 due to delays caused by travel restrictions), and should be detailed enough that it will be possible for the purpose of future applications for students to look back at them to write an account of how their study was disrupted.
It is advised that extensions and deferrals should normally be granted for one term at a time, so that the student’s situation and the ongoing impact of Coronavirus on their research can be monitored.
Student A, a full-time DPhil student, experienced severe disruption to their research during Hilary term 2021 due to coronavirus-related school closures and associated childcare responsibilities. Their 12th term was Trinity term 2022, but they were unable to submit by the end of that term due to the earlier disruption. They are granted a term’s extension for Michaelmas term 2022 due to the earlier coronavirus-related disruption, which is counted as additional, outside of standard limits on the number of terms of extension.
Student B, another full-time DPhil student, continues to study at a slower pace during Michaelmas term 2022 due to the impact of long Covid. They are granted an extension for that term which counts towards the usual number of terms of extension permitted. However, since they have not reached the limit of the number of terms the normal departmental/divisional body can grant, there is no requirement for an application to Education Committee.
Student C has already been granted the maximum three terms of deferral of Confirmation of Status which the normal departmental/divisional body can grant, for reasons unrelated to coronavirus. They request a further deferral, for Michaelmas term 2022, due to international travel restrictions affecting their fieldwork during Michaelmas term 2022. An application to Education Committee needs to be made for the further term of deferral.
If a student is unable to study at all due to continuing coronavirus-related disruption, they can apply to suspend study. If their research is being affected, e.g. by issues with international fieldwork, they should first discuss with their supervisor how their research project might be adjusted.
Suspensions should be granted for not less than one and not more than three terms at a time.
Student D is unable to study at all during Michaelmas term 2022 due to the impact of long Covid. They are granted a suspension for that term, which counts towards the usual number of terms of suspension permitted. However, since they have not reached the limit of the number of terms the normal departmental/divisional body can grant, there is no requirement for an application to Education Committee.
Student E has already been granted the maximum number of terms of suspension earlier in their programme, for reasons unrelated to coronavirus. They request a further term of suspension for Michaelmas term 2022, as they are unable to undertake any of their planned fieldwork due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions in the relevant country, and need time to make arrangements to undertake alternative fieldwork during Hilary term 2023. An application to Education Committee needs to be made for the further term of suspension.