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Vice-chancellor confirms how University of Cambridge will operate for Lent term amid lockdown

The University of Cambridge has moved teaching and learning online for the Lent term.

The new term is set to start on Tuesday, January 19 but vice-chancellor Prof Stephen J Toope has outlined plans in light of the new national lockdown.

Professor Stephen J Toope, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Professor Stephen J Toope, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

All undergraduate and postgraduate students will be taught remotely, with some notable exceptions.

They are for clinical medical, clinical veterinary and PGCE students, students without access to appropriate study spaces or facilities, and students who need to be in Cambridge for specific reasons, including health or safety.

“This decision follows government guidance, but goes further in time to avoid uncertainty and disruption in the middle of the term,” said Prof Toope.

“We are seeking advice on whether students on any other courses not mentioned above will be able to return. Until further notice, no other students should expect in-person teaching this term.

“Postgraduate research students who are able to work from their out-of-term address should do so. Postgraduate research students who consider Cambridge to be their primary place of residence can return to Cambridge if they have not already done so.

“Those postgraduate research students who need to be in Cambridge for their research projects can return provided this has been discussed and agreed with their college and department, and that appropriate risk assessments have been conducted.

“We ask that in any event they do not return before 11 January, when individual asymptomatic testing will be available.

“I realise that many students have remained in residence over the winter break. Those students who are currently in Cambridge are being asked to remain in Cambridge, where they can expect to be supported by the university and colleges.”

It has been agreed that rent will only be charged by colleges to students if they are living in their college accommodation during the national lockdown period instigated by the government.

Colleges will not charge students who are not able to return as a result of the current government legislation and guidance.

Prof Toope said: “Students are facing considerable anxiety and uncertainty as we begin Lent Term, and I wish to remind you of some of the resources available to support your health and wellbeing.

“It is also important for students to remember that colleges are always available to provide support and advice to those dealing with issues relating to their mental health and wellbeing.”

Most of the university’s research facilities will remain open, with Covid-secure protocols updated to take account of the heightened risk of transmission for the new variant of the virus.

But the university stressed that only people who cannot work from home should go into their normal places of work.

Prof Toope added: “The public health concerns behind the lockdown are very worrying, and I know that the restrictions it imposes on all of us will create new challenges and pressures.

“Colleagues across the collegiate university are working hard to ensure that staff and students are supported at all times. I thank you for all your efforts.”

He added: “I am enormously proud of the university’s efforts in tackling the global pandemic – one example is the contribution made by Dr Ben Underwood and his team last year to support the delivery of coronavirus vaccine trials in Cambridge.”

And he praised the work of the Cambridge Covid-19 Testing Centre, set up in April by the university with AstraZeneca and GSK on Cambridge Biomedical Campus, which reached the milestone of two million tests before Christmas.

“This very significant milestone is a testament to the tireless work of the many people who have done so much to keep our community safe,” he said.

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