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Graduate supervision during the pandemic

Graduate supervision during the pandemicGraduate matters are very much a collegial affair at Univ. This has been even more true since the beginning of the pandemic, as students seek advice and support on all fronts, having to make decisions about where to spend the next few months while struggling with completing academic work and worrying about finances – not to mention, of course, fears about the pandemic itself.

Following the national lockdown imperative and for the safety of the staff, Univ’s main site has had to be closed. Students who were living there, and either wished or had to stay in Oxford were, however, promptly offered accommodation at “Stavs”, Univ’s site on Staverton Road. This is an ideal place for students during lockdown, with all the needed facilities, a very nice garden, and proximity to supermarkets.

Although academic matters are mainly dealt with within departments, many college advisors have been contacted by their advisees. Students are seeking advice about items such as modifying fieldwork plans, delaying master thesis submission, etc. The role of college advisors in such a time of uncertainty has been very important. In practice, College is often the first port of call for students seeking welfare support. The current crisis obviously generates a great deal of stress for graduate students, for whom academic deadlines and time-sensitive financial support are a major concern, even in the best circumstances. The welfare team at Univ has been readily available to help students manage this stress, providing support to those who contact them – either on a one-off basis or maintaining close contact with students involved with ongoing counselling, for example.

As the crisis unfolds, it is becoming clear that the disruptions will require a significant number of graduate students in the final year of their DPhil to apply for extensions. The government has already announced that UK Research and Innovation-funded students will be provided with additional support. Univ awards a very large number of graduate scholarships, some of them in partnership with departments. Therefore, College will certainly contribute to these extensions as well. In the next few weeks, we shall be reviewing availability of funds.

Under normal circumstances, graduate reviews are conducted in term time, during which students meet briefly with a small panel, including the Master. The Academic Office is currently developing an online survey, which will enable students to provide feedback and ask for a remote meeting if they wish to. Although graduate students are not actually taught in College, for many of them the environment provided by College is a very important part of their life. As a result, they often reach out to Univ in difficult times, and Univ keeps a very close eye on them.

Finally, the Academic Office has also been very busy during the lockdown with graduate admissions, a process which is being conducted as usual and involves reviewing a very large number of applications. Univ is always a very attractive College for graduate students!

Professor Caroline Terquem, Tutorial Fellow in Physics and Dean of Graduates.

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If you are involved in research or frontline work relating to COVID-19 that you would like to bring to the attention of the Univ community worldwide, please email communications@univ.ox.ac.uk.

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