6. Student life and support information

6.1 Colleges

You will have chosen or been chosen by a college, as no one can take a degree in the University without college membership. Most departmental and University academic staff are also members of colleges. At the graduate level especially, colleges typically provide accommodation, ancillary learning facilities like libraries and computers, and some entertainment facilities (sports and other interest-based societies, for example), as well as forming academic communities of staff and students from a variety of disciplines. A lot of undergraduate teaching is also done by and in colleges, including the Archaeology and Anthropology and the Human Sciences degrees (the latter also covering social anthropology), but for graduate anthropology, as for other graduate subjects, the bulk of the teaching and supervision is done not in colleges, but by the relevant department in its own buildings.

6.2 Fees

Fees information is available on the main University website. In general a maximum of four years of fees is payable, depending on how long a student is studying at Oxford; beyond this, lower ‘continuation charges’ may apply. For exact information concerning your own fee status and liabilities, prospective or actual, consult your college, the body responsible for collecting fees across the University, not your supervisor or other departmental official.

A University officer called the Fees Clerk is responsible for determining the fee status of individual students, especially in unusual, unclear or disputed cases. There is also a Fees Panel, which hears appeals on fee-related matters, hardship cases etc. Here too your college should be able to give advice and possibly extend help directly. Some colleges have their own hardship funds, but the School does not.

6.3 Student-Staff Interaction

During term-time the School of Anthropology holds a coffee morning, every Wednesday 11-11.30am at 64 Banbury Road. This is a great opportunity to meet members of staff, postdoctoral researchers, other graduate students and visiting scholars.

Every Friday in term (normally only up to fourth week of Trinity Term) the Departmental Seminar hosts a variety of visiting speakers from university departments across the country and overseas. After the seminar it is customary to take the speaker to a nearby pub for a drink. You are very much encouraged to join the speaker and others on these occasions. The individual degrees also run seminar series of their own with similar arrangements; details are to be found in the individual course handbooks.

The Oxford University Anthropological Society

The Oxford University Anthropological Society was founded in 1909, and works to promote an interest in anthropology and to support students and researchers in anthropology at Oxford University. Unlike most student societies, it is run by and for both students and staff of the School. Membership is not automatic, and you have to opt to join.

The Society organizes a range of events throughout the academic year including seminars with invited speakers, social events and parties, and the School itself holds a post-exams Garden Party in June.

Details of all its activities are normally displayed in the department, on the anthropology website, via email direct to all graduate anthropology students, etc.

Journal of the Anthropology Society of Oxford

Oxford also has its own anthropology journal, the Journal of the Anthropology Society of Oxford (JASO), strictly an independent organization, though accommodated in the School and drawing on its staff and students both administratively and for contributions. JASO was re-launched as a freely downloadable online journal in 2009. It accepts articles of interest to anthropologists from academics and graduate students from anywhere in the world. Its current editors are Dr Robert Parkin and Prof. David Zeitlyn. Depending on the level of contributions, it appears from two to four times a year.

Apart from the numerous opportunities for informal staff-student contact, there is also the staff-student graduate Joint Consultative Committee (JCC). See Section 5.

6.4 Welfare

Your college will normally be your first port of call for any health and welfare issues. Your college advisor, college secretary, registrar or Senior Tutor are usually the best people to approach. At your college induction you will receive information on how to register with a doctor and other health and welfare related issues. However, should the need arise to discuss welfare issues in the department, you should feel free to raise these with your supervisor or if that is not appropriate, with the Course Director or with the Director of Graduate Studies.

The School seeks to maintain a culture of mutual respect and takes issues of harassment very seriously. Harassment Advisors are Mark Gunther, Susana Carvalho and Alexandra Alvergne (emails: firstname.surname@anthro.ox.ac.uk). They are available for confidential advice and can point you in the direction of further support if necessary.

The University also offers a range of Welfare Services, details of which are on their website, including counselling.

6.5 Disability

The School assesses and accepts disabled students on the same basis as non-disabled students. The University has an extensive range of support facilities for disabled students (including dyslexia, dyspraxia, etc.). Special arrangements may be made for disabled students for examinations as well as teaching. Information can be obtained through your college or the University’s Disability Office. The School’s Director of Graduate Studies (Prof. Marcus Banks) has a specific departmental responsibility for ensuring that disabled students receive whatever specialised provision they require. He may be contacted at any time in case of problems.

Induction loops have been placed in some lecture rooms used by the School. The Institute of Human Sciences at 58a Banbury Road has full disabled access, including to the upper floor via a wheelchair lift. There is also disabled access to the ground floors of 43 and 64 Banbury

Road.

Disability Advisory Service (DAS) website. See also links and information at https://www.anthro.ox.ac.uk/prospective-students/supporting-students-with-disabilities

The School statement on supporting students with disabilities can be found here.

6.6 Students with caring responsibilities

The School is mindful of the fact that students may have wider caring responsibilities and that such responsibilities may affect study. Students are encouraged to discuss their specific needs with their supervisors. Where possible, the School is committed to trying to make arrangements that help students to make good progress with their studies. For example, common room in 43 Banbury Road includes a baby nursing chair and screen, and there is a baby-changing facility in the accessible toilet on the ground floor of 43 Banbury Road. A small box of books and toys is available in the common room at 43 to entertain young children for a short period of time, for example while a parent uses the printer. If you are a student parent and have any additional needs you would like to discuss please feel encouraged to talk to either your supervisor, your college advisor or our Graduate Studies Administrator, Vicky Dean. See also Appendix 7: School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography Family Support Policy.

For further details on University provision in relation to student parents please see information on University support.

6.7 Terms

The academic year is divided into three terms of eight weeks each (‘Full Term’): Michaelmas Term (October to December), Hilary Term (January to March) and Trinity Term (April to June). Exact dates vary from year to year and dates for the current and future years are available at http://www.ox.ac.uk/about_the_university/university_year/dates_of_term.html . The eight-week ‘Full Terms’ are lecturing terms, but supervision sessions, examinations and the odd tutorial (e.g. postponed because of sickness) may also take place in the further weeks of ‘Term’ either side of these, or occasionally in vacations. Sat exams are held during or immediately after Trinity term. In numbering weeks, 0th week is the week before Full Term, 9th week that following it, etc. The Christmas and Easter vacations extend over about six weeks, the so-called ‘long vacation’ or summer vacation over about fourteen weeks.

6.8 University authorities outside the department

There are a number of these, but note particularly:

  1. The Proctors, the University’s chief disciplinary officers, with powers to interpret and enforce the University’s regulations, to hear certain classes of appeals and complaints, and to govern the conduct of examinations. There are two Proctors, ‘senior’ and ‘junior’, who change every year in the Easter vacation. Their responsibilities are divided, but their powers are equal. Any applications by taught-course students to extend deadlines, suspend their studies for a significant period or otherwise vary the terms of their degree should be made to the Proctors through their (the student’s) college, not to the School (which nonetheless may be asked to support such applications). Different arrangements apply to research students in these cases, detailed in the Handbook for Research Degrees.

  1. The Education Committee, which is concerned with educational policy within the University, but is also the relevant body for petitions to have the regulations set aside for particular students in particular cases. Again, the college should be involved in the making of any such petition, but the School may also have a role in initiating or supporting it.

  1. The Graduate Studies Officers, who administer the degree system. They come below 1) and 2) in the University hierarchy, meaning that in general their powers are administrative rather than judicial and restricted by the regulations as they exist.

6.9 Policies and regulations

The University has a wide range of policies and regulations that apply to students. These are easily accessible through the A-Z of University regulations, codes of conduct and policies available on the Oxford Students website: www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/regulations/a-z.

6.10 Problems and difficulties

We very much hope that your time at the School is trouble-free; however, problems do sometimes arise. Most problems arise out of misunderstandings and failures of communication; the sooner you talk to someone about them, the sooner they can be resolved.

Academic problems: Ideally, the first person you should turn to is your supervisor. Don’t be afraid to let him or her know if you are finding your work difficult to manage, or that you do not really understand what is expected of you. If for some reason you do not want to approach your supervisor, or have done so but felt that you did not get a satisfactory answer, you are always welcome to discuss academic or administrative problems with the Director of Graduate Studies for the School or the Head of School. Another possible source of advice is your college adviser or college senior tutor, who should be separate from your tutor or academic supervisor. Occasionally a change of supervisor is indicated as the only effective solution to a problem. Although this depends on the availability of an alternative supervisor, in such cases the student should not fear being placed at a disadvantage in any way for the future: it is accepted that supervisor-student relationships are not always satisfactory and may sometimes become unworkable.

Personal problems: Again, you may wish to talk first of all to your supervisor, especially if the problem is affecting your work, or else to the Director of Graduate Studies or the Head of School (as above). Your college should have given you details of the various college officers who have responsibility for pastoral care. Finally, the University runs a free and completely confidential Counselling Service.

6.11 Complaints and appeals

The University, the Social Sciences Division and the School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography all hope that provision made for students at all stages of their course of study will make the need for complaints (about that provision) or appeals (against the outcomes of any form of assessment) infrequent.

Nothing in the University’s complaints procedure precludes an informal discussion with the person immediately responsible for the issue that you wish to complain about (and who may not be one of the individuals identified below). This is often the simplest way to achieve a satisfactory resolution.

Many sources of advice are available within colleges, within the department and from bodies like Student Advice Service provided by OUSU or the Counselling Service, which have extensive experience in advising students. You may wish to take advice from one of these sources before pursuing your complaint.

General areas of concern about provision affecting students as a whole should be raised through Joint Consultative Committee or via student representation on the department’s committees.

6.12 Complaints

If your concern or complaint relates to teaching or other provision made by the department, then you should raise it with the Course Director of your course or with the Director of Graduate Studies (Professor Marcus Banks) as appropriate. Within the department the officer concerned will attempt to resolve your complaint informally.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome, then you may take your concern further by making a formal complaint to the University Proctors. The procedures adopted by the Proctors for the consideration of complaints and appeals are described on the Proctors’ webpage (www.admin.ox.ac.uk/proctors/complaints/proceduresforhandlingcomplaints), the Student Handbook (www.admin.ox.ac.uk/proctors/info/pam) and the relevant Council regulations (www.admin.ox.ac.uk/statutes/regulations/247-062.shtml).

If your concern or complaint relates to provision made by your college, you should raise it either with your tutor or with one of the college officers, Senior Tutor, Tutor for Graduates (as appropriate). Your college will also be able to explain how to take your complaint further if you are dissatisfied with the outcome of its consideration.

6.13 Academic appeals

An academic appeal is defined as a formal questioning of a decision on an academic matter made by the responsible academic body.

For taught graduate courses, a concern which might lead to an appeal should be raised with your college authorities and the individual responsible for overseeing your work. It must not be raised directly with examiners or assessors. If it is not possible to clear up your concern in this way, you may put your concern in writing and submit it to the Proctors via the Senior Tutor of your college.

As noted above, the procedures adopted by the Proctors in relation to complaints and appeals are described on the Proctors’ webpage

(www.admin.ox.ac.uk/proctors/complaints/proceduresforhandlingcomplaints), the Student Handbook

(www.admin.ox.ac.uk/proctors/info/pam) and the relevant Council regulations

(www.admin.ox.ac.uk/statutes/regulations/247-062.shtml).

Please remember in connection with all the academic appeals that:

  • The Proctors are not empowered to challenge the academic judgement of examiners or academic bodies.
  • The Proctors can consider whether the procedures for reaching an academic decision were properly followed; i.e. whether there was a significant procedural administrative error; whether there is evidence of bias or inadequate assessment; whether the examiners failed to take into account special factors affecting a candidate’s performance.
  • On no account should you contact your examiners or assessors directly.

6.14 Working While Studying

The School, like the University as a whole, takes the view that full-time courses require full-time study and that studying at Oxford does not allow sufficient time to earn one’s living from paid employment simultaneously. However, the teaching mentioned in Section 2.8 is a partial exception, and other considerations may also be important, especially for doctoral students in the later stages of writing up, by which time one’s funding may well have dried up. The School’s Teaching Committee has therefore drawn up guidelines for students wishing to take paid employment during term time, appended below. Note that it is not possible to study for any postgraduate taught degree (MSc, MPhil) within the School on a part-time basis in order to facilitate working while studying.

Guidelines on students taking paid employment during term time

The School is concerned that all students recognize that registration for master’s or doctoral degrees entails full-time commitment, at least to match the period of full fee payments. After that period is ended, it is recognized that in practice students may need to seek at least part-time employment while finishing the writing up of their theses. However, it is expected that work will also continue on the thesis unless this has become impossible, when they should apply for suspension of status or withdraw.

In practice, it is accepted that employment may have to be sought for financial reasons outside term times, but in all cases it is hoped that this employment where possible will be related to the student’s academic interests or career development. It is also understood that a few hours’ casual paid work at weekends during term time may be essential for some students.

However, the School wishes to make it clear that students taking a master’s course, or during the PRS period, are expected to commit themselves on a full-time basis to their academic work during term time weekdays. Students who have completed their field research for the DPhil and are writing up may, with the permission of their supervisors, undertake a limited number of hours’ paid employment per week if this is connected with their academic interests or career development (for example, undergraduate tutorial teaching, assistance with relevant research projects, etc.) In no case should this exceed four hours per week during the full fee-paying period, and beyond that, this should not exceed six hours per week. The latter figure is the norm for post-doctoral junior research fellows in the colleges.

Please note that overseas students who are on student visas may be given advice that they can work for up to twenty hours per week. This is a Home Office provision relating to eligibility for student visas (some follow part-time courses, for example) and is nothing to do with academic obligations to a University. [Text approved by School’s Graduate Teaching Committee, 14.3.05.]

6.15 Census points and student monitoring

The University has introduced a system of so-called ‘census points’ to increase its monitoring of students and ensure that they are working on their degrees in accordance with the UK’s immigration regulations for non-EEA students. There are now ten monthly census points covering the academic year from October to July. Supervisors are asked to report contacts with all their students in accordance with each census point, such contacts preferably being in person, or if not by e-mail (especially for research students). The only exception is initial (re-)registration at the start of each academic year for the first census point. As the immigration authorities also require a mixture of ‘attendance events’ to be recorded, attendance at seminars, lectures and tutorials is in effect now made compulsory.

Universities are subject to audit, meaning that the census information collected may from time to time have to be released to the immigration authorities. However, audits are primarily designed to ensure that the University is properly monitoring students rather than to action specific cases. In any case, only if a student cannot be recorded as attending a course for ten census points in a row is the University obliged to inform the immigration authorities. Clearly periods of sickness will be taken into account in recording census points: the main thing is that the student can be accounted for in some sense at each census point.

The University has decided to apply this policy to all students, not just non-EEA ones, in the interests of equity. Its main aim is to satisfy immigration reporting requirements for non-EEA students to ensure that student visas are not being abused for other purposes. These requirements also apply to non-EEA students who are conducting fieldwork or writing up outside the UK while they are in possession of such a visa, as the latter gives them leave to enter the UK at any time.

In practice, to prevent action being taken under this heading, all students should make sure they contact their supervisors at least once a month, and at least by e-mail if face-to-face contact is impossible, to give an account of their recent and current activities and to assure their supervisors that they are continuing to work on their projects. If such work is not possible for any reason, they should inform their supervisors promptly so the situation can be properly discussed. It is accepted that some students in the field will be in remote areas without the possibility of such communication, at least for certain periods, and account will be taken of such circumstances. The key point to remember is to keep your supervisor informed of what you are doing and where you are doing it on a regular basis. This is obviously almost automatic for taught-course students who are following a structured course with regular meetings with their supervisors, though the monitoring requirement applies with equal force to research students.

6.16 Visas and immigration

The UK immigration and visa system is complex and requires professional advice. The main source of such advice within the University is the Student Immigration Office, though the School’s administrative staff may be able to give some advice by virtue of their administering the system for the School. However, do not expect your supervisor or other academic staff to be able to give you advice on these complex matters.