Councils, universities, police, students’ unions hold online event for residents to explain COVID safety arrangements as students return

Published: Friday, 18th September 2020

Oxford City Council is hosting a ‘Virtual Town Hall’ event on Monday 28 September from 6-7.30pm. 

The event is for residents to hear from the both of Oxford’s universities, students’ unions, the City and County Councils and the police about the COVID-safety plans and measures in place around the return of students in order to address the problems that have emerged in recent days.

The universities and students sit at the heart of Oxford’s life and economy. It is the UK city with the highest proportion of its population comprising students – around 44,000 in total, which is around 28 per cent of Oxford’s 160,000 residents. The return of students, therefore sees a significant increase in the city’s population, although unlike most permanent residents, many students study and live in contained university sites and accommodation. It is estimated that University of Oxford students contribute £58m towards Oxford’s economy and support 1600 jobs, and Oxford Brookes students contribute £100m towards Oxfordshire’s economy.

Managing the safe return of students is a co-ordinated effort that has involved not just the universities themselves, but the City Council which manages community safety and the interface with local business and public spaces; the County Council which has lead responsibility for public health; and the police as the enforcement organisation for coronavirus and wider legal issues. Further Education colleges have also been involved in the planning along with other bodies including the hospitals, and primary care trust.

The City Council has organised an online event for residents to hear from a speaking panel with representatives from the universities, councils and the police about their priority issues, the measures they are taking and their areas of responsibility in relation to students and coronavirus.

This will be followed by a Q&A session where pre-submitted questions from the public will be put to the panel, and some live questions will also be taken.


This online event will be chaired by Councillor Ed Turner, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council, with speakers:

  • Professor Karen O’Brien, Co-Chair of Michaelmas Coordination Group, University of Oxford
  • Professor Anne-Marie Kilday, Pro Vice-Chancellor Student and Staff Experience and John Kirk, Academic Registrar & Director of Academic and Student Administration, Oxford Brookes University
  • Daisy Hopkins, President Brookes University Students’ Union
  • Ben Farmer, Vice President, Charities and Communities, University of Oxford Students’ Union
  • Ian Wright, Head of Community Safety and Regulatory Services, Oxford City Council
  • Chief Inspector Jennifer Hogben, Thames Valley Police
  • Ansaf Azhar, Director of Public Health, Oxfordshire County Council

Each organisation will give a short outline on the key issues and measures in place for their organisation. Following the speakers there will be a 60 minute Q&A session. This will begin with a selection of the pre-submitted questions, and further questions will be invited from those logged in live.

Watch the event live

The event will be streamed live on the City Council’s YouTube channel at 6pm on Monday 28 September. 

Members of the public will be able to watch the event live, with no sign up required. 

Submit a question to the panel

Residents wanting to ask a question will be able to pre-submit their question via email to Residents are asked to provide their postcode when submitting their question.

By taking questions in advance the organisers aim to cover the most popular themes and issues, to make the best use of the Q&A session.

“We know that residents in Oxford are nervous about the return of students, and we want to reassure them that we are all working together to take as many measures as we can to minimise the risk from the virus. The universities and their students are very much part of the city of Oxford. Our businesses are starting to reopen, and many jobs rely on students being here in term time and we want to see the students safely in our midst. This event is an opportunity for residents to hear exactly what preparations are in place, and to ask all of us about the issues they see in their neighbourhoods and work so that we can reassure them. The universities, councils and police have been working with each other, residents’ organisations and businesses over the last few months so that we are all ready to manage the safe return of students.”

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council said

“As the University of Oxford prepares for the new term, we want to reassure residents that our plans put the health and wellbeing of our students, staff and the wider community first. We have been working closely with our partners at the councils and public health authorities on a range of measures designed to keep people safe, from a University test and tracing service to adapting the way we teach and learn to ensure social distancing. We know how important it is to keep the community informed and involved, and the University will do everything it can to be a good neighbour.”

Professor Karen O’Brien, Co-Chair of Oxford University's Michaelmas Coordination Group

“With the new academic year upon us, we understand that some residents may have concerns regarding the return of students to Oxford. We value the opportunity to engage with the local community at the event and explain the variety of safety measures we are putting in place. This includes some additional recent actions taken by the University to ensure responsible student behaviour both on and off campus.
“We are proud of the strong links we have built with local residents over the course of many years. The safety of all members of the community remains paramount in our preparations for the new semester.”

John Kirk, Academic Registrar and Director of Academic and Student Administration, Oxford Brookes University

“I understand that this is a difficult time for everyone especially with new regulations being introduced by the government last week. I would like to reassure you that Thames Valley Police has been working with both the universities in Oxford, public health and other partner agencies to plan the safe return of students to the city. As part of this support, officers will seek to engage with students and the wider public, explain the new regulations and encourage them to comply in order to do all that we can to limit the spread of coronavirus. I believe this Virtual Town Hall meeting provides a great opportunity for us to share updates and hear from you directly about your questions and concerns.”

Chief Inspector Jennifer Hogben, Thames Valley Police

“I'm pleased to be joining this event to represent the students at the University of Oxford who form a vital part of Oxford's community including through their volunteering and charity work. At Oxford SU we share many of residents' concerns about students returning. We've been actively lobbying and working closely with, the University, the City and County councils to put in place plans that prioritise not only the welfare of students, but of the whole community.”

Ben Farmer, VP Charities and Community at Oxford SU

“Oxfordshire County and Oxford City Councils, together with Thames Valley Police and Public Health England, have been working very closely with the two universities to ensure that arrangements are in place to welcome back students safely and protect Oxford residents. This event provides an opportunity to outline the measures that have been put in place, from onsite testing facilities for students and staff to additional local contact tracing systems at both universities to track attendance in key areas across campuses.”

Ansaf Azhar, Director of Public Health, Oxfordshire County Council