AN Oxford University college wants to put up a marquee to ensure students are socially distanced at meal times.

Merton College has applied for the structure to be built on Chestnut Lawn, off the High Street, for an initial 42 weeks.

About 600 students are expected to return to Merton next month, but the existing dining room will be limited to a capacity of 50.

In a letter to Oxford City Council's planning department, warden Irene Tracey suggested other colleges would be submitting similar plans.

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She wrote: "Our number one priority during these challenging times is to ensure that we provide a safe environment for the students, our staff, fellows and tutors as well as the citizens of Oxford.

"In order to provide adequate food provision at a safe social distance as well as provide some social space we have calculated that erection of a marquee is necessary.

"We believe other colleges are making a similar request to you."

The university term begins on October 11, meaning the 42-week period would end at the start of August 2021.

Merton was the institution's first self-governing college and was founded in 1264.