Common Room

Worcester College allows students to return early free of charge

Image: South east side of the main quad of Worcester College, Oxford, on a sunny day.

Worcester College will allow all of its students, regardless of whether they have to quarantine, to return to college early free of charge.

I spoke with Vihan Jain, Worcester JCR’s International Students’ Rep, who has explained the college’s decision. 

Vihan explained that students resident in many countries will have to undergo government-mandated quarantine on arrival. Those currently exempt would like to arrive early in case regulations change at the last minute, and avoid the need to quarantine during the first two weeks of term, a policy that would be most detrimental to Freshers.

On being informed that Worcester was planning to charge for government-mandated quarantine in line with most other Oxford colleges, Vihan reached out to Worcester and explained why this policy was likely to be “shocking and hurtful” to students, putting profit over their well-being and the needs of the community. He said that he was delighted that Worcester not only decided to reverse its decision, but expanded this policy to include all students, allowing them to return as early as the 6th of September and benefit from not having to pay until the beginning of MT20.

Staggering student arrival over a month prevents large numbers of students from many different parts of the world arriving around the same date, and removes a large amount of the risk in returning to Oxford, not only to their own students, but Oxford’s wider student population as a whole. 

The arrangement has been put in place for this term only, under the circumstances of the pandemic. Other colleges each have their own policies on vac res – for example, Christ Church offers its members one month for free each year, regardless of the pandemic. Vihan described Worcester’s Interim Provost as “very progressive,” explaining that her concerns “focus more on student wellbeing than profit.” He also noted that self-quarantine is undertaken to protect the community rather than oneself, and asking students to personally bear the expense “seems unreasonable – especially when there aren’t any conferences taking place and accommodation buildings are empty.” Staggering student arrival over a month prevents large numbers of students from many different parts of the world arriving around the same date, and removes a large amount of the risk in returning to Oxford, not only to their own students, but Oxford’s wider student population as a whole. 

Connie Claxon, Worcester’s JCR President, was particularly keen to urge the college to waive these fees, given that both she and Vihan felt it was the right thing to do and that some other colleges had also announced plans to waive two weeks’ rent for those who would have to undergo quarantine. This includes Magdalen College, which was the first to fund accommodation fees exclusively for international students quarantining before term time. Vihan credits this victory for Worcester’s student body to the fact that he has a well-established link to the college’s governance, and maintains regular communication with them.

He also gave particular thanks to Rhea Arora, Wadham Student Union’s International Officer, who researched the policies of other top universities in the UK, including Durham and St. Andrews, and found that most were not charging for quarantine accommodation, setting precedent for the request. 

This decision is a huge win for Worcester’s students, as many students across the country and the world are having to seriously reconsider their finances for the coming year.

The college announced today that all students will be allowed to return as of September 6th, 2020. A booking system is in place to prevent too many students from arriving at the same time. This decision is a significant win for Worcester’s students, as many students across the country and the world are having to seriously reconsider their finances for the coming year.

The colleges not only have different policies on charging students for early return this year, but also for allowing family members to help students move in. The reduced number of students arriving each day will make it safer for the families and friends of those students – which will, in turn, reduce the risk of infection as those families and friends return to their homes across the country. 

Image: Mike Legend

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