Message from the Master

As we are reaching the end of a Hilary Term that has been very different from our hopes at the end of Michaelmas, I thought I would provide an update on how the term has gone and how we see the next few months developing.

The teaching this term has been almost entirely online; there have been exceptions for certain practical courses for part of the term. Most students are at home, but we have about 130 students in College, either because they have been here since before the lockdown came into place, or they have returned since for one of the permitted reasons.

It is nice to see a few students around the grounds of the College, and I think they enjoy being here, but almost all their interactions with others take place online. Even the Master’s Collections have had to be virtual. Still, I have enjoyed them as much as I always do, and though it has been a very trying time for our students, I think they have shown great resilience.

Thank you for supporting our students

We have increased the wellbeing provision available to students since it is inevitable that they will need more support in these times, whether they are at home or in College. Thanks to the generosity of our alumni and friends, we have also been able to offer greater financial assistance through the St Catz Student Support Fund to those of our students who need it.

I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all those amongst you who have made a donation to the College and helped us to support our students in this way.

Following the road map

The Government’s ‘road map’ for easing of restrictions has consequences for us; the University has issued guidance in the light of it, and this has allowed some students on practical courses to return to some face-to-face teaching and therefore also to College.

The guidance recognises the needs particularly of students who are approaching their final assessment — final year undergraduates and one-year taught postgraduates — to have the use of facilities offered in Oxford such as labs, libraries and archives, and hence students in this position can apply to return. In general, the planned stages of the lifting of restrictions will of course mean a lot to all our students.

It will be a relief to our Fellows and Tutors as well; they have also had a trying time. Preparing teaching and assessment for online delivery has taken up a lot of time, and of course for many it has had to be combined with home schooling children since schools have been closed.

Looking ahead

We still need to wait for guidance in relation to Trinity Term, this will be determined in light of what the consequences are of the other steps in the road out of Covid-19 restrictions. I am certainly very much looking forward to welcoming back all students who are allowed and able to return.

I have had my first dose of vaccine, and I have a date for my second one. I had them at Oxford United’s Kassam stadium and it was done in a reassuringly friendly and impressively efficient way. The vaccine and the fact that days are getting longer have contributed to my feeling that we are heading in the right direction, even though the road may be long and slightly winding.

The College ‘family’ remains

Laura Stoker
It has not been quite the first year as a Master that I had imagined, but I still feel incredibly fortunate to be Master of St Catherine’s College. Because of the difficulties, I have also found out just how well-supported I am by everyone in College, but particularly by the College Officers and support staff.

The team has been strengthened recently by the arrival of a new Home Bursar, Ian Wright, and a Development Director, Laura Stoker (pictured). Since I and my husband have spent all our locked-down or travel-restricted time in Oxford, at times accompanied by some of our children, the Lodgings have become much more of a proper home in this year than it would otherwise have been.

I am looking forward to welcoming back students, alumni and friends as soon as it is safe to do so, and to meeting many of you in person for the first time.