The Oxford student contract was born several years ago from a laudable wish to ensure that students know the terms of the contract that exists between a student and a university. In the case of Oxford and Cambridge, there are two contractual relationships, one with the university and the other with the college. Each institution promises to provide certain elements in the total student experience. Students should understand which is responsible for what.
The Oxford students were consulted at the time the contract was being framed. It is unfortunate that this project is being presented in the media as a device to protect the university from litigation. It is primarily a way of ensuring that students have a clear understanding of what they are entitled to by way of adequate provision and course delivery to an appropriate standard.
The notion that students may have reciprocal obligations is not new. This is not a bid to "require" attendance at lectures. Tutorials have always been "compulsory" because that is where essays are discussed one to one or in twos or threes. The contract merely means that a failing student cannot reasonably complain that he or she was not properly taught if he or she never went to get the teaching on offer.
G. R. Evans