'NERVOUS' residents will have the chance to grill universities, public health officials, and police on how they plan to stop the return of students leading to a surge in coronavirus cases.

It comes after Oxford Brookes University confirmed last week students had tested positive and a video emerged of more than 100 young people partying outside one of its Headington halls of residence.

Oxford City Council has announced it will be holding a virtual town hall to 'address the problems that have emerged in recent days', while protecting the benefits students bring to the city.

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Accounting for approximately a third of Oxford’s 160,000 population, Oxford University students are estimated to contribute £58m towards the city's economy and support 1,600 jobs, while Oxford Brookes students adding £100m towards Oxfordshire’s economy.

The local authority said managing the safe return of students is a 'co-ordinated effort' involving not just the universities, but the city council, county council, which has lead responsibility for public health, as well as police.

City council leader Susan Brown said: “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.

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Oxford City Council leader Susan Brown

"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."

She added: "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.”

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Oxford Brookes welcomed students back last week, while Oxford University's freshers week will start on October 4.

The online meeting, set to take place on Monday, will also include a Q&A session.

Professor Karen O’Brien, co-chair of Oxford University's Michaelmas Coordination Group who will be speaking, said the institution was keen to reassure people its plans 'put the health and wellbeing of our students, staff and the wider community first'.

She added: "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.”

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Oxford University

This was echoed by John Kirk, from Oxford Brookes, who said: “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."

As well as university and council officials Thames Valley Police Chief Inspector Jennifer Hogben will also be there to explain how officers will seek to 'engage' with students and the wider public, explaining new regulations and 'encouraging them to comply'.

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There will also be student representatives, including Ben Farmer, from Oxford SU, who said they share many of residents' concerns about students returning.

He added: "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."

Universities minister Michelle Donelan has maintained she has 'faith in students' but understands people's fears, adding: “This is a challenging time for us all, and I recognise that some residents in university towns and cities such as Oxford may feel nervous ahead of the start of the academic term.

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Oxford Brookes University

“But I want to reassure the people of Oxford that every effort is being made by the Government and universities to ensure that students return to campus as safely and sensibly as possible."

The meeting will be streamed live on the city council’s Youtube channel from 6pm on September 28.

Submit a question via studentsreturn@oxford.gov.uk, residents are asked to provide their postcode.