The University of Oxford has confirmed its plans to cancel interviews for prospective applicants due to take place in person in December this year.

Instead, interviews will be moved online – and questions remain about the timing of the interview process itself, which usually takes place in the first half of December.

The decision has been made due to the Covid-19 outbreak in Britain and the potential ramifications of students travelling from abroad for face-to-face interviews in Oxford.

The Oxford Student reported on the development which was leaked when the Admissions Coordinator for Biochemistry, Dr Mark Wormald, revealed in a pre-recorded lecture for the upcoming virtual open days, that “we’re not going to have students stay in Oxford overnight then go back again”.

The news will likely come as a disappointing shock to many prospective students hoping to sample Oxford life during their interviews.

Elsewhere, the university has announced “that all our colleges will be open” and that it is “working hard to maintain different aspects of college life, such as bars, dining halls and common rooms, and to ensure a rich social experience for our students.”

The Oxford interview is world famous for its perceived mystery, and it is an accomplishment that many cherish. A true Oxford interview experience consists of more than simply talking with future tutors; it also involves meeting other applicants, visiting colleges, sampling college life, and living in the city itself – albeit briefly.

There is also the question of whether an online interview will be able to effectively assess a student’s abilities. In the past, students who have been unable to travel have been interviewed online. 

However, the university has been historically reluctant to hold online interviews and clearly states on their website: “we would recommend that students do try to attend an interview in Oxford in December if shortlisted. However, we understand that these students may not be able to travel at short notice. In this case the college considering your application may choose to interview you via video call or telephone, but such an interview cannot be guaranteed.”

Previously, all medicine applicants have been required to travel to the university for interview, regardless of circumstance. 

The university’s announcement reveals precautions necessary under the continuing threat of coronavirus – but the impact on hopeful Oxford applicants is unknown.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

This article was amended at 10:42am on 30/06/2020 to note that the leak took place in a pre-recorded lecture, not an interview, and was initially reported on by The Oxford Student.