Cambridge's streets empty, as students prepare for online revision and exams next termKan-chane Gunawardena

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Read our coronavirus live blog for April here

So far, in Cambridge:

  • Graduations for the rest of the academic year have been postponed
  • As the Covid-19 crisis continues, many families and individuals are more likely to need emergency support. You can donate to the Cambridge City Foodbank, and to Jimmy's Cambridge. You can also join the Cambridgeshire coronavirus mutual aid group to offer and request practical support in the area.
  • Students unable to sit their exams this Easter Term will be able to sit them at a later date. They will not be permitted to defer sitting their exams until next year’s examination period, but a second round of exams will take place when the University is “fully operational” once more.
  • The University has implemented a safety net policy for all third year undergraduates, while most first and second year students will not be classed but will instead complete formative assessments.
  • All May Balls and June Events taking place this year are to be cancelled or postponed.
  • The University’s response has advanced to its ‘red’ level. No examinations will take place in the city next term, and University buildings are closed to students. University staff, aside from those “needed for business-critical activity” or lab research related to Covid-19 are working from home.
  • Multiple colleges have now asked to a more or less forceful degree that all undergraduate students leave over Easter vacation, barring those with ‘exceptional’ circumstances or for whom college is ‘truly’ their home.
  • The University has announced it will be adopting a 'safety net' policy for third-year students, meaning those finalists will not achieve lower than their second-year class in their overall result. Meanwhile, Faculties and Departments have been announcing subject-specific exam arrangements. 

If you have been affected or have any information about COVID-19 in Cambridge, we’d like to hear from you. Get in touch with our news team at

9.00am Wednesday 1st April

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Please keep up to date with all the developments at our new live blog.

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Finalist historians have been told that they will have to sit fewer papers this year “in order to reflect the disruption to learning and exam preparation”.

Students must still sit Historical Argument and Practice (HAP), which will instead become an open-book online exam (which is meant to take as long as ‘the usual length of a Cambridge examination’), although candidates will have a 24 hour window in order to complete it. Candidates will also still have to write their Special Subject Long Essay, although the ‘gobbets’ exam for this paper has been cancelled.

Candidates have been made to choose between being assessed on either their dissertation (if they are writing one) or continuing with a Specified Subject – with either option meaning students will have to give up one paper this year that they have already studied for an extended period of time. The dissertation deadline has been extended to 30 April, however. Specified Subjects “will be assessed by a portfolio of supervision essays, which they will be permitted to revise lightly”, with a maximum word count of 3,000.


English finalists will be examined on four papers, instead of the usual five. For those papers, which are not the compulsory, or additional optional, dissertation, exams have been replaced in each case by a Supervision Dossier of essays, made up of three essays between 1250 and 1750 words, and of which footnotes and bibliographies are not necessary. For the Tragedy paper, the Dossier will be due on the 22nd May, and all other Dossiers will be due on the 29th May. 

Second-year students will be examined on two out of their six papers, which for most students means a portfolio of essays, which was submitted at the end of Lent term, and a dissertation, which is due at the beginning of Easter term. This deadline remains the same. Any students who did not complete one or both of the coursework options are required to submit a Supervision Dossier of three essays in a paper of their choice, excluding the Practical Criticism paper. All first-year preliminary examinations are cancelled.


For History of Art finalists and second years, all exams will be conducted online in an open-book format. For special subjects papers, the exam format remains the same in one essay paper and one visual paper. Both will become online open-book exams with 24 hours given to complete each paper. 

The same time limit also applies to the Display paper, in which students are required to answer two questions rather than three, each chosen from a different section, within a limit of 2000 words including footnotes for each essay.

The Approaches paper will be completed online within a one-week time frame. Students will need to answer three gobbet quotes and one essay question, with a 700-word limit for the former and 2000-word limit for the essay including footnotes.

The dissertation deadline will be extended to 28th April 2020.

Part I students will be taking one consolidated paper in a take-home format on Moodle, with one week to complete the assignments. Students will be writing two essays of maximum 1500 words and analysing two sets of images with answers of 750-word maximum. The short dissertation deadline will be extended to 15th May 2020.


Theology students will take their examinations online, but will have a three-week window to pick when they sit them, expected to start from the final week of May.

They are expected to spend the usual time expected on each exam, and will be obliged to submit answers to one exam before 1.5 weeks into this time period. All answers must be uploaded by Moodle, and will be subject to a word limit.

First and second years (as well as first years taking the Bachelor of Theology for Ministry) will take examinations, but not be classed. Their progression will now be conditional only on passing these assessments.


Final year Philosophy students have been informed that examinations are being replaced by submitted essays. Students are expected to submit three essays per subject paper they would have taken, which meaning for a total of 12 "polished supervision essays from previous terms" of 1000-2000 words - or fewer, if they have opted for Long Essays or a Dissertation. The 'General Paper' has also been removed from the syllabus, and a class list will be produced. Students will also receive help with their essays via re-purposed supervisions next term.

Second years will be subject to the same approach, apart from a class list will not be created, and they will be given feedback instead on their work. 

All examinations are being set aside for first years, who will next term instead work on new supervision essays or a Dissertation with supervisors, for which they will receive feedback.


Part I students in Veterinary Medicine and Medicine have been informed that they will not have examinations in Easter term, but will instead “take the 2nd MB/2nd Vet MB components of their examinations in September on University premises at the time usually reserved for resit examinations, if this is possible.”

Students were told that all “will progress to their following years automatically for Tripos purposes.” However “it may be necessary to delay these examinations further, or to move them to an online assessment format depending on circumstances nearer the time.”

The email acknowledged that many students would find this decision “disappointing” but said that “the School of Biological Sciences, the School of Clinical Medicine and The Veterinary School believe that these adjustments to the examination process represent the best balance between student welfare, staff resources and the requirement for maintenance of rigorous testing of its medical and veterinary students at a uniquely challenging time.”


The MMLL Faculty also announced exam arrangements for the Linguistics Tripos, with papers to be undertaken as take-home assessments over several days, with staggered deadlines. Exams for first and second years will all be by formative assessment, with students receiving marks and feedback, but will not be classed, save for those who can graduate from Part IIA. 

Like MML, exam requirements have been relaxed, with second and third years only expected to complete two 1,500 word essays (as opposed to three under normal conditions) or one 3,000 essay for their papers. First year students will be examined with one data question (as opposed with the two they would normally do) and one essay question, in all their papers. 

The Faculty also confirmed that third-year dissertations will be marked normally, and that Paper 5 for third years will be undertaken as a take-home assessment but with the standard rubric of two answers of up to 2,000 each. 


Amongst announcements about exam arrangements, the King's Affair have announced that they will be offering a full refund to all ticket holders. This is an increase from its initial, and provisional, offer of a 75% reimbursement. 


The MMLL Faculty has announced that exams for MML students will be released in two tranches of take-home online assessments, with language exams released “a few days” before literature papers.

Language exams have also been made open-book, but with no use of machine translators, such as Google Translate, being permitted. Literature papers will be released later, with students given “several days” to complete them, with staggered deadlines designed to let students complete their papers in whatever order they choose. These exams have also been made open-book, with students allowed to use whatever materials they have available. 

Meanwhile, all language exams for first years have been cancelled, and Audio-Visual language exams for second years have also been cancelled.

The MMLL Faculty has also set up a dedicated email address to deal with exam queries, but directs students first and foremost to their Director of Studies, who have received “detailed information” from the Faculty.


For third-year Economics students, the dissertation deadline has been extended to the 28th May, and the Board of Examiners will put a 65% weight on the dissertation – an increase by 45%, from its original 20% weighting. 

Finalists will take two open book exams on the 2nd and 4th of June covering the syllabus of the two compulsory papers. Students will have 24 hours to complete each exam.

Students who are taking optional papers from other faculties and departments can sit those exams if they are offered, in which case, the mark will be recorded but will not be used for determining overall marks.

There will be no exams for students in first or second year, and students will instead be required to undertake project work.


The Classics Faculty has told second and third years that a large portion of their papers will be replaced by a portfolio of essays. Students will submit two essays with a word limit of 3,000 words for each paper. Essays must have been already written for supervisions; they are able to be revised, but students may not have further supervisions on them. Essays must be submitted by 25th May via Moodle.

The theses/dissertation deadline for Part II students has been extended from 27th April to 11th May.

First year exams scheduled for the first week of term will not take place and everyone will be deemed to have passed and be in standing to proceed to Part IB next year.


Faculties and departments have been emailing students with subject-specific information about exams throughout the afternoon. Some departments are yet to contact students with information, including History, Law, English, and History of Art.

Tuesday 31st - 4:22pm 

The University's 'safety net' policy does not include fourth-year students of an integrated Master's programme. Stella Swain, the CUSU and GU Welfare and Rights officer, posted on Facebook that CUSU is contacting the University to get clarification as to why this is the case.

Breaking: Cambridge adopts safety net policy for third year undergraduate exams
Victor Jack

All final year undergraduate students set to take their exams next term will not receive a class mark lower than what they achieved last year, according to new guidelines issued today by the University.

The University announced via its Coronavirus FAQ page that it will be adopting a “safety-net policy” for final year undergraduate students, and as long as they pass their assessments, their result will “only confirm the class awarded in their second year or improve it”. This will not apply for students taking a fourth year integrated Master’s.

First and second year students will not receive a class for their exam results, but will receive feedback instead. The University explained that much of the assessment proposed by Faculties and Departments are “formative”, hence not warranting any scores. Scores will be given for departments which deem their exams to be “summative”, but no class will be awarded in either case.

Read in full.


In Toope's daily email update, he assured that students who have left their residence because of Covid-19, and who will need to break or suspend their rental agreement for Easter Term (April-June), “will of course not have to pay rent for any of that period”.

Toope also said that the ADC theatre had launched ADC Online, which will be “a season of virtual student-led theatrical content”.

Fri - 2:32pm 

In Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope’s latest daily email update, a short video named ‘A Thank You Message to all Staff’, has been shared, showing a number of staff members, including Toope and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education Graham Virgo, discussing what they have been up to over the past week. Staff members shared activities they had been doing, including virtual meetings, developing online and teaching opportunities, and childcare.

Dr Anne-Laura van Harmelen of the Department of Psychiatry, who leads the risk and resilience group at the University, sat in her kitchen at a virtual meeting, with her two children (one who was dressed in a very cute dragon costume!), gave some comforting advice to watchers. She said her tip for “staying research active as well as having a life” is to “lower your expectations and to just go with the flow.

“You are not expected to do as much or to be as productive as you can possibly be in a normal situation, and that’s okay.”


Students at Magdalene have received an email telling them that guidance from the Government has changed regarding students who remain in College accommodation or private rented accommodation.

The college now advises students to "stay where you are and not attempt to travel".

Thursday - 3:07pm

An open letter has been signed by around 300 finalists calling for a "safety net" to be put into place "wherein no one should receive a final grade or degree that is lower than their previous year, or years."

The letter, addressed to the heads the School of Arts and Humanities and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, argues this "would prevent any situation where students who underperform due to COVID-19 are punished for doing so."

A similar "safety net" policy was announced for undergraduates and post-graduates at Exeter University yesterday. 

In an email to all Exeter students, the University said, "completing the summer assessments can only help not hinder you because we will not let the extraordinary circumstances in which you are completing these assessments leave you with a mark below your current overall mark. Transcripts will be annotated to explain the reported results."

Edinburgh University also announced a "help not hinder" approach this afternoon.

The University said their plan "is designed squarely to ensure that you can fully participate in the exam process, but also recognises that many things may be uncertain, and you might not be at your best.”

Warwick have also announced the same policy.

Meanwhile Cambridge University have said they will announce plans for alternative assessment measures by the 31st March. 


Undergraduate students at King’s, who were meant to graduate on 24th June, had it confirmed today that the University is postponing all graduations that were meant to take place this academic year.

Finalists at Newnham were told a few days ago that their graduation would also be moved, and that students may be able to take their degrees in absence.

Colleges are still waiting to hear from the central University about what alternative graduation arrangements may look like.


St John's May Ball is the latest to announce its refund policy. Rather than cancelling the event outright, the Ball has been ‘postponed’ to June 2021, with tickets that have already been paid for being transferred to next year's event and frozen at their current price.

Students can also opt for a full refund before the 24th April, although this would mean next year they would have to re-apply for tickets if they wished to attend.

“Student finalists” who wish to attend the Ball next year will also be allowed “a ticket allocation for the 2021 Ball at the (internal) Johnian price,” which is a break from current ticketing rules.

Weds - 6:53pm 

Cambridge Graduate Union and Cambridge UCU have spearheaded an open letter to the UK Research and Innovation, requesting that postgraduates who are funded by a research council have their funding extended as a result of coronavirus.

The letter requests that research councils ‘guarantee an automatic funding extension for all postgraduate students’ and encourages ‘all funding agencies to take a similar approach’.

Alessandro Ceccarelli, Graduate Union President, said that “the slow response on funding for postgraduate students during the coronavirus outbreak leaves many facing an uncertain future.”

He added: “without serious offers from the UKRI and Research Councils of financial support to cover non-medical breaks from study and extensions, students are left unable to make informed decisions about how to continue their research and whether they will be put into financial hardship.”

Stella Swain, Graduate Union Welfare & Rights Officer, said: “Postgraduate students are consistently left out of the narrative of student hardship resulting from this crisis.”

She added: “This can't be a case-by-case system; we need to have a centralised and equal approach for all students and make it as easy as possible for them to get the money they need, because those that lose out most will be the lower income students who are already disadvantaged by this system.”

The letter has since been signed by postgraduates and academic staff at Universities across the UK.

Tues - 8:30pm 

A group called 'The Big MAC' (The Big May Ball Appeal Coronavirus) has been set up to encourage students to donate a portion of their refunded May Ball tickets to two charities working to tackle Covid-19: John Hopkins Centre for Health Security and Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust. The group's Facebook page says: "So far most May Balls and June Events have agreed to get involved in The Big MAC, which is also endorsed by RAG and there are three routes to donate. May Ball Committees are working around the clock to finalise refund policies right now, but will advertise how to donate once they have done so."

"With the Coronavirus pandemic taking away our beloved May Week, let’s turn this into something positive and come together as a university to raise as much as we can to tackle Coronavirus, so next year we can party again in a safer world!"


Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced stricter distancing measures in an address to the nation this evening.

People will only be able to leave home for one form of exercise a day, “any medical need”, travelling to work if necessary and “shopping for basic necessities”.

Businesses that sell “non-essential goods” are set to close, while gatherings of more than two people who do not live together are no longer allowed.

These measures will be kept under review and in place for at least three weeks.


The Office for Students has told universities to pause unconditional offers for two weeks.

Chief executive Nicola Dandridge said that universities and colleges must stop making offers that are not in the best interests of students, explaining that exams regulator Ofqual is developing a fair way of issuing A-level grades.

Giving advice to students, Dandridge said: "The risk is that an unconditional offer may appear superficially attractive, but may not represent the right decision."


Here's some fun news to begin your Monday evening: A Cambridge student-only dating website has been set up!

A Camfess referencing the website told students to "Flirt your way through self-isolation."


Cambridge’s second annual Pride celebration, scheduled to be held in mid-June, has been postponed indefinitely, organisers announced today. 


Cambridge City Council have said they are introducing "a number of special measures" to support local businesses, including Cambridge Market traders and council commercial tenants, to help them "manage their cashflow until the full range of government coronavirus-related support becomes available."

The council have also announced that while its parks will remain open until further notice, its play areas are to close with immediate effect.


The Cambridge Lush store has said they have soap to give away and are asking whether any charities or NHS groups are available to collect today. Those who are interested can phone the store directly or drop them a message on Facebook. 


The King's Affair is the latest May Week event to have shared more details of its refund policy. They told ticket-holders today that they expect “at least 75% to be reimbursed”.

The Committee said that they were unable to offer a full refund as they need “to pay existing charges”, and that this is “the largest refund we can possibly offer within existing financial constraints.”

Mon - 9:30am 

Cambridge University libraries are open online. Librarians are offering various resources, including 800,000 ebooks and 120,000 ejournal titles. Where books are not available online, librarians can help with obtaining ebooks if they are available from the publisher.


The Student Loans Company have announced "that students will receive their scheduled or next instalment of their maintenance loan at the planned start of their summer term, regardless of whether their university or provider has made alternative arrangements for teaching."

For students planning to continue or start studying full-time undergraduate courses next academic year, they have said "you can apply online for student finance as normal."

Meanwhile "postgraduate and part-time, undergraduate student finance applications for academic year 2020 to 2021 are scheduled to launch in June." If this changes SLC say they will announce it through their social media.


Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner has jointly signed and sent off a letter to the Chancellor today pressing him to consider "urgent support" for the self-employed of Cambridge.

Although the the government has pledged to cover wages of employees up to £2,500 a month, there are currently no similar guarantees for the self-employed.

Though in the letter Zeichner argues he "welcome[s]" plans to support the income of workers, he also states he "do[esn't] buy the argument [paying the self-employed] is hard to implement as there is a ready-made list because everyone self employed is registered for class 2 or 4 National Insurance contributions."

"It seems each step of the way we have to shame the government into taking action a few days late. Let's hope they step up and do the right thing."

Sun - 11:09am

Cambridge Botanical Gardens have announced that they will be closing with immediate effect.

They had previously said on Saturday that they would be opening free of charge everyday, but have now decided to close following "further advice from the Government, & taking into account the number of visitors we anticipate on Mother’s Day & beyond".


King's College have released a statement in response to our article yesterday, which highlighted how some students at the college feel they are being pressured to leave and put family members at risk.

The College told Varsity: "Over the recent, rapidly changing weeks, the College has sought to provide what we believe to be the most appropriate guidance to students based on the latest advice of both the University and of Public Health England."

"It is apparent that in communicating this recommendation we have at times used language that has been unduly forceful or upsetting in advising students to depart the College.

"This has naturally been a stressful time for students and staff alike and as a community we must make a renewed effort to convey the humane reasoning behind our decisions and uphold our sensitivity and empathy as this difficult period develops. Future communications from the College will reflect this."

Senior college staff are now holding meetings with some students to discuss their situations and the College said they "encourage any student who feels like they have been put under undue pressure to leave the College to contact the Senior Tutor to discuss their circumstances as soon as practicable."

The statement can be read in full at the bottom of the article.

3:27pm Saturday

Cambridge punting companies are shuttering up due to the virus.


As the COVID-19 crisis continues, many families and individuals are more likely to need emergency support from foodbanks. You can donate to the Trussell Trust, as well as to the Cambridge City Foodbank.


The Guardian is reporting that Cambridge, along with several other UK universities, has plans to graduate final-year clinical medicine students early, to help fight the coronavirus outbreak. Graduands won’t be permitted to practice until they are registered by the General Medical Council, generally in August, but they would still be able to help out in hospitals which anticipate being immensely over-stretched in the coming months. 


The UK government has announced an unprecedented economic stimulus package, which promises grants to cover 80% of the salaries of retained workers, deferring VAT payments for businesses until mid-June, and increasing the Universal Credit standard allowance by £1,000 a year. 

King’s students say college is pressuring them to leave and put vulnerable family members at risk
Joe Cook

Students at King’s College, Cambridge say they are being forced out of their accommodation due to the coronavirus, despite repeatedly telling the College that they risk their own health, or the health of vulnerable family members, if they return home.

On Tuesday, King’s told students that in light of the University closing they strongly advised students to travel home “if it is safe for you to do so, and to take your belongings with you if you can.”

Read our full report here


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in his daily coronavirus press briefing today that all bars, pubs, restaurants, and cafes should close as soon as they reasonably are able to, by the end of the day today at the latest. 

Nightclubs, theatres, gyms, cinemas and leisure centres must also close by tonight in all cities across the country, as the government moves to further limit non-essential social interactions and social density. 

Johnson added, “You may be tempted to go out tonight and I say to you please don’t, you may think that you are invincible – but there is no guarantee that you will get it. But you can still be a carrier of the disease and pass it on.”

Experts stress the importance of ‘social distancing’ – limiting non-essential contact, not crowding in groups of over ten people, and maintaining a distance of six feet with others – in curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Second round of exams available for those unable to take them next term
Victor Jack

While replacements for traditional exams have yet to be announced for most subjects, the University has announced that students who are unable to complete these alternatives will be able to take them at a later period, when the University is “fully operational again”.

Legitimate reasons to delay assessments will include illness (Covid-19 or others), caregiving responsibilities, poor internet connection, other technical difficulties or a lack of a suitable study environment. Those with Exam Access Arrangements or with religious observations may also qualify for the second exam period.

The news follows multiple open letters by students to the University and faculties asking them to consider multiple alternative options for examinations. It also comes as most schools shut their doors in the UK today due to the coronavirus outbreak, while GCSE and A-level exams have been cancelled and will be replaced with predicted grades.

Read our full report here.


Selwyn College's Bursar, Martin Pierce, has assured students they will not be made to pay rent for next term, if they are still required to stay away from the University. Those staying at the College over the Easter vacation will also not pay rent over the holidays.

In an email sent to Selwynites this afternoon, he urged that though "this will have a significant financial impact on the College, [the college] believe[s] it is the only fair approach to take at this difficult time".


According to the Vice Chancellor's email, an FAQ page will also be uploaded today on the University's website answers student's most common queries, including those about exams.


The Vice Chancellor has sent out an email this afternoon addressing all students, and stating that from tonight, the University's normal operations would have ceased.

However, he also emphasises that the UL will still be kept open online, and will be making more electronic resources available on the internet with each passing day. The University's Botanical Gardens will stay open - and are now free for everyone - with the intention that they "continue to be a place of outdoors solace and comfort for the wider community".

Professor Toope also thanks staff in the email, some of whom are now working remotely which he recognises "is not straightforward", and so thanks all staff for their "patience and preparedness to adjust".

Finally, Toope highlights a few positive developments relating to the outbreak:

  • Our Postdoctoral and Entrepreneurial Societies have rallied to create digital well-being and support channels for the wider community.
  • The Schools of Biological Sciences and of Clinical Medicine have been busy collecting spare personal protective equipment that will help key workers in hospitals carry out their critical work safely.
  • Clinical School staff have been asked to prioritise supporting our local and national health services.
  • An alumnus in China has sourced and donated facemasks to Addenbrookes Hospital.


All Cambridge offer holders are encouraged to keep a log of any disruption to their studies and assessment. Disturbances might include "periods of self-isolation, disruptive teacher absences, dates of school closures and what alternatives (if any) are provided". 

In a notice posted to the University's website today, offer holders were asked to begin systematically recording such absences, and to be prepared to submit the record to the University later in the summer.

Arrangements for STEP, an examination mainly Mathematics offer holders must pass to gain admission, are currently under consideration, according to the notice.

In an email from Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope circulated on Tuesday, prospective students were told: "It is impossible to say what will be happening in six months. I wish to reassure anyone who has applied to Cambridge that we are thinking about our future students, too, and that we will keep you informed as and when we can."


The Careers Service is now operating remotely. Students are encouraged to contact the Service by Facebook should they wish to book a Skype or telephone appointment with a career adviser.

It is open 9am-5pm on weekdays.


The English Faculty encourages students to continue working on their dissertations and coursework "with, for now, the expectation that you will be submitting them in due course."

In an email to undergraduates and MPhil students, the Faculty also shared that it has submitted its proposals for alternative forms of assessment, and is expecting the University's response some time next week. It did not provide any details of the proposals.

"Please be assured that we know that you are all studying in variously compromised or difficult circumstances."

Friday 20th March, 11:42am 

Good morning! 

A quick note from King's College today: those who are usually used to passing through the college to get somewhere else will no longer be able to from 6pm tonight, as it is shutting its doors.

Only King's members will be able to enter the college from there on out.


Librarians from the Philosophy Faculty have published a blog-post today, in which they have compiled resources, and provide further advice to students during the outbreak.

In an email sent to students about the post this afternoon, they emphasised that "people often think we work in libraries because we love books.  The real reason is because we love helping our users and although our physical library space is now closed we are still working remotely to do just that."


The Students' Unions' Advice Service (SUAS), which offers advice on issues such as college communication, accommodation, exams, and welfare concerns, are now running daily drop-in sessions over phone, from 12pm to 2pm. This is in addition to their regular service, where students can schedule phone, Skype, or Zoom appointments. 

The number to call for SUAS drop-in sessions is 01223 746 999. 


Varying opinions to College responses to Covid-19 have been expressed in a series of open letters created in recent days. One such letter has criticised the decision by colleges to tell students to leave Cambridge unless they are in ‘exceptional’ circumstances. 

The letter, signed mostly by graduate students but also academic staff and postdoctoral researchers, emphasises that travelling students risk spreading the virus to previously unaffected regions; that home circumstances may be inappropriate due to inadequate study resources or the potential of putting immunocompromised family members at risk.
The letter claims that “telling students to go home is a deeply inadequate and inhumane approach. For many, it is not possible, or no longer possible. For others, it not only imperils public health strategies of mitigation and containment here and abroad, but their communities and their families. The actions taken by the university and its bodies endanger lives”
The letter also adds to the criticism that the response has varied between the University and individual Colleges. It requests that “the intercollegiate system be suspended in these extreme circumstances, to allow a concerted and efficacious response”.

In response to the letter, a University spokesperson told Varsity that "if students need to be here, they should be here - accommodation will be made available to them by their College. To be clear, no student who cannot go home are being evicted by their College."

They added "all students who are able to leave for home should do so without delay, to allow Colleges, working together and with the University, to help those who need to be in Cambridge at this time. Each day brings further restrictions on public transport, so students should check their means of travel first, and tell their College if they cannot leave."

Despite much criticism of college approaches to Covid-19, some signatories of this letter did add comments expressing satisfaction with the response from their individual colleges.


The Law Faculty has informed students in an email today that it intends to run examinations for all parts of the Law Tripos, the LLM and the MCL.

The exams themselves will take the form of a conventional paper with the usual amount of questions and answers required - but will be on a "take-home basis" meaning they will be open-book. Examiners will then be marking accordingly, but will also review their papers to ensure they are appropriate given the circumstances.

To ensure that the "integrity of the examination process is upheld" in ways which satisfy the requirements of the Qualifying Law Degree for Tripos students, the Faculty is considering multiple possibilities. Options include the use of the anti-plagiarism Turnitin software, an honour code, or possibly using vivas by conducting video conferences after submission to verify the integrity of students' answers.

The Department urges, however, that it is still actively considering how to deal with extenuating circumstances caused by the coronavirus - such as inadequate internet connection - and will update students with more information. It stresses that it is also waiting for University approval for its plans, which it hopes to receive by March.


A new email from Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope outlines some of the ways in which University and College staff are aiding in efforts to “combat” the COVID-19 pandemic.

He wrote: “Some colleges have offered to accommodate key workers such as NHS staff who are essential to our public services.”

“University departments are loaning equipment to help national testing efforts. Cambridge epidemiologists, pathologists, immunologists, mathematicians and veterinary scientists are offering valuable expertise and helping public understanding of the disease.”

The email added that the University is “offering access, both nationally and locally, to the University’s expertise in road-mapping of supply chains, support for operational improvement and re-purposing of existing manufacturing chains.”


Some students are still being permitted to remain in their colleges in particular circumstances (such as already being in self-isolation, having the college as their permanent home, or being unable to return to their home countries because of travel restrictions).

Students still in residence at several colleges – at least at Pembroke, Wolfson and Lucy Cavendish –are being asked to submit a form to their colleges everyday updating them on their location, and physical and mental health.


News about May Week refunds is gradually beginning to come out. Following the Pembroke Committee's announcement this morning, Emmanuel June Event has told ticket-holders that they will all get a full refund. Students will be refunded or contacted about their refund method by 31st March.


Undergraduate students in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics (MMLL) have organised their own response, which has 255 signatures at the time of publishing.

The letter told senior members in the Faculty that “we recognise that any of the decisions you choose to make... will have good intentions behind them, and will have the interests of the student body at heart.”

Broad concerns were raised about the implications of exams being sat at home, from students potentially not having adequate study space or resources, as well as the added difficulties of students having caring responsibilities or having been impacted by the virus themselves.

The results of the survey showed varying responses among students. Among 158 final-year MML students (who were not given the explicit option of cancelling exams), 33.5% indicated that when it comes to language exams, they “would prefer the examination papers to be emailed to students and given to complete independently.”

For the “scheduled paper exams”, 54.2% said they “would prefer to submit a long or supervision-style essay for their examinations”.

The letter also included responses from Linguistics students, and MML students in their first and second years.


The Cambridge Homeless Outreach Programme (CHOP) has provided a list of a number of "charities and other organisations associated with the homeless and vulnerably-housed people in Cambridge" that students can support. 


Responses to a number of feedback questions sent to Cambridge History undergraduates by their Faculty representatives were released early this morning.

The form received 306 responses, although the names and identities of respondents were not collected. 46.7% respondents said they were “seriously concerned” about “possible disruption or uncertainty surrounding Easter term”, while 83.9% said they were worried they might not be able to access “a reliable internet connection/a library/normal academic resources with which to revise or complete coursework while social distancing”.

79.5% said they worried that their “physical or emotional health, or that of my loved ones, may impede my ability to devote time to or concentrate on revision and exams”, and 63.7% said they “may not have access to a safe, private and quiet working environment” to study or sit their exams in. The most popular assessment option for the 96 finalists who responded was the cancellation of exams (34.4% in favour), followed by 30.2% who preferred “long essays based on course content”. Only 6.3% opted for “online, open-book timed examinations.”


May Week event ticket-holders will now be waiting in anticipation of the refund policies of individual events.

Pembroke May Ball, which has been cancelled, was quick off the mark and has already told ticket-holders that they will get a refund "of at least 90% of the ticket price". The email added that they will still "pass on... donations to our chosen charities despite this cancellation", and asked students to get in touch if they "have any strong feelings as to why we should not be doing this."

The Pembroke May Ball website includes a refund policy, which says they are "unable to offer a full 100% refund" as they are not a Committee that receives financial support from the College.

The Committee hopes to give students the partial refunds within three months, with more information to come "once we have calculated the final refund level and formulated an effective refund system".

Those who hold tickets for this year will also have the right to buy a ticket to the May Ball in 2021, which will be "re-run" with "the same theme and plans."

All May Balls and June Events to be cancelled or postponed this summer


Students were told this morning in a statement from the May Ball Presidents’ Committee that all major May Week events, the May Balls and June Events, due to take place this summer will be cancelled or postponed, with individual events’ refund policies to follow shortly.

This will come as a blow to the event committees, many of whom will already have been planning them for months, and to ticket-holders and students looking forward to saying goodbye to Cambridge in their final weeks.

Read the full report here.

Thu - 12:53am 

WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told reporters yesterday that the health agency recommends using paracetamol as self-medication, rather than ibuprofen. 


Many students have paid close attention to the question of what form assessments will take next term.

MPhil students in the Land Economy department have been told that their Easter exams that were meant to take place in Cambridge buildings will instead become online assessments, with candidates having 48 hours to complete each one. The exam period, due to begin on 6th April, will also go on for longer.

Throughout this week, students across the University have signed a number of open letters within faculties calling for more flexibility and student input as assessments are arranged, and another open letter asks for students to be able to choose their preferred exam format. Some have also asked for exams to be cancelled altogether.


Cambridge University Press has made 700 textbooks free to access to aid in remote learning.


Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has just announced in parliament that all schools will be closing on Friday, aside for key workers and those with students in care and who have social workers.

He has confirmed that no examinations or assessments, including GCSEs and A-Levels, will take place in schools for this academic year, and that there will be no be academic performance tables. The government will be working to ensure students will get the qualifications they deserve.

Regarding universities, Williamson said that he is confident Vice-Chancellors are making the right decisions in making provisions for education to continue in the higher education sector.


Peterhouse Chapel will be live streaming their Evening Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer on Facebook at 5pm tonight. 

This comes as the BBC have said they aim to broadcast a weekly Sunday morning church service on BBC One, although this will be subject to broadcast capacity.

The broadcaster said they are also exploring how to support “other religions and denominations, including in the run-up to Ramadan.”


Rosie Bradbury

University’s slow reaction times means unnecessary exposure to risk

A photo making its way around Twitter shows the entrance hall of Cambridge’s University Library, just before it would close its doors indefinitely today. The caption reads, “Incredible scenes at the UL before full Covid-19 closure at 5pm. Staff from across the library helping hundreds of readers find books, check them out, and provide help. All the emotions in my second home right now”. 

You can count over 20 people just in the photo of the entrance hall — the adjacent locker storage room was almost certainly more crowded, as readers scrambled to get last minute books. The librarians are admirably and selflessly doing their jobs, and the photo has well-meaning intentions. But for days, experts have warned of the elevated danger of any social gatherings in the UK and the US with more than ten people, and encouraged working from home as much as possible. 

Cambridge’s libraries should have been closed days ago, when UK experts started emphasising the cruciality of social distancing for ‘flattening the curve’ of infection. Or at the very least, the announcement that they would close at 5pm today should’ve come earlier in the week, to avoid the mad rush and social density witnessed this afternoon. 

Cambridge only moving to a ‘red’ phase today meant that all this week, support and service staff were commuting to work, including on potentially crowded buses, and interacting all day with students and other staff. 

Not to mention that many students were placed in a dilemma of deciding whether to stay in Cambridge so they had access to libraries, or travel home — while they still could — to be with their families or loved ones during a harrowing pandemic. In essence, caught between choosing whether to revise in Cambridge and put themselves at greater risk, or to leave, and be without access to those academic resources. This is not a choice any student should have had to make.


With all the University’s libraries due to close at 5pm this afternoon, students and other library-users are taking the opportunity to gather the resources they might need.


The Engineering Department have extended today's 4pm Part II coursework deadline by a week, just an hour and a half before the original deadline.

In a message sent via Moodle, Engineering Lecturer Michael Crisp said, "Given the exceptional times and the likely recent disruption you will have faced, it has been recommended that all coursework deadlines in March be extended by one week. This will be applied to 4B24 give a new deadline of 25th March."


Following the announcement of indefinite closures of University libraries from 5pm today, the MMLL Library has informed students in an email that it has doubled their borrowable book allowance from 10 to 20.

They confirm that they will be closing today at 5 "for the foreseeable future", but they will be maintaining their "core service", including scanning material for students within limits of a copyright licence.

Cambridge moves to ‘red’ phase: All students told to leave unless impossible, libraries shut, Easter term to be online

The University has moved into the “red” phase of its Coronavirus response, meaning students are now required to return home where possible.

All face-to-face teaching in Easter term will be conducted online, Toope confirmed today, and come May, Cambridge will see no examinations take place in the city.

“We are all facing an unprecedented crisis. It may be months before we resume normal activity”, Toope said.

Read the full report here


The University has entered its "red" response to the coronavirus outbreak, with all libraries set to close at 5pm today and all other University buildings to follow from 5pm on Friday.

All students are asked to return home if it is possible. No examinations will take place in Cambridge next term.

"We are all facing an unprecedented crisis. It may be months before we resume normal activity."

Read the Vice-Chancellor's full message here.


Cambridge Literary Festival has been cancelled.

The event was set to be held on 16-19th April, and was to feature events with Caroline Lucas, Jacqueline Wilson, David Lammy and more. 


The May Ball President's Committee is meeting this evening, with the results of its discussion to be announced later in the week. 

Today it was announced that Glastonbury festival, set to be held at the end of June, has been cancelled. 


Good morning!

Part III Mathematicians have been informed that their exams, and revision classes may be moved online.

One form the examinations may take, according to the Department, is as follows: the exam papers become available at the allotted time (which will not change) for download on Moodle, then students hand-write these exams, and take photos at the end of their answers to submit to the Department online.

However, Chair of the Mathematics Faculty Andrew Thomason says he "must stress that the above proposals are, at present, only proposals", and are subject to change.


An open letter calling upon the University to permit students to individually select their preferred examination mode garnered over 250 signatures this evening.

The letter outlines three core options from which students would be permitted to choose:

  1. Going ahead with the scheduled examination period by undertaking remote forms of assessment. Students would be allowed to select one or a combination of: Open-book online exams, video-conference vivas, submitting a portfolio of essays, or submitting coursework. These options would be flexibly subject to exam allowances and mitigation procedures, which students would not need evidence to secure.
  2. Postponing examinations and coursework and dissertation deadlines until a later date, or allowing finalists to restart their final year in Michaelmas 2020.
  3. Receiving a grade based on a combination of factors such as reports, supervision work, previous grades, and previously submitted coursework. Alternatively they could choose to graduate Declared to have Deserved Honours (DDH), whereby students graduate with an unclassified degree.

The open letter argues that while young people who contract the coronavirus generally face less severe health risks, they are "best placed to fill any gaps in care provision, as well as other forms of labour, which may be created by illness, social distancing and self-isolation." 

"It is impossible for these roles to be taken up without great anxiety by students also preparing for examinations and coursework deadlines, nor without detriment to both objectives. We do not want to feel compelled to make the impossible choice between our health or the health of our loved ones and communities on the one hand, or our future careers on the other."

It highlights the difficulty of ensuring remote assessment remains fair due to disability, and to "asymmetric" home environments, access to work tools, and demands placed upon students by the pandemic. 

"Such disparity between students’ ability to complete assessments becomes so significant that a one-size-fits-all approach cannot be feasible."

"Optionality is critical given the nature of the current crisis. Imposing any one formula on the entire student body will unfairly disadvantage a significant number of its members. If we prioritise simplicity then we may unintentionally neglect the nuance of the situation which we face.

"Decentralising choice to students means that assessment will be in consideration of principles of fairness and equity, and ensures that each student may face the challenges we all find ourselves facing today on their own terms, in a way that is right for them."

Wednesday 18th March, 12:17am 

Cambridge University Press has made its online higher education textbooks free to access in light of the coronavirus outbreak. This means over 700 textbooks available in HTML format will be freely available on Cambridge Core until the end of May 2020.


The Downing JCR President has informed the College's students in an email today that after students submitted response to a poll and a discussion with the College, it is confirmed the college will not charge rent if next term is cancelled.

Further, the "only reason anyone's possessions will be disturbed is if the rooms are needed in an emergency requisitioning, to help manage the population of resident self-isolators".

For students who are remaining in Downing for the foreseeable future, the College has also stressed it would not force any student to leave.


On a more positive note, Selwyn students were informed this evening that for those still currently in college, quotas for internet usage have been lifted effective immediately. This will allow students not only to work, but keep in contact with family and friends "without the added worry of staying within [their] internet limits".

This is especially useful for international students who may not be able to return home but who now may rely on services such as FaceTime or Skype to keep in contact with their close ones.


Students at Peterhouse were told that undergraduates must leave their accommodation by midnight on Thursday 19th March, although postgraduates must remain living in their rooms until the University enters a ‘Red’ period (where all students will be required to return home), upon which they will have seven days to leave. Postgraduates were told that they “should prepare for a departure at short notice.”

The only exemptions for undergraduate students needing to leave are for those “already in self-isolation within the College”, those who cannot travel because of restrictions, and “for students who are care-leavers and for students for whom a return home raises significant pastoral issues.”

Other facilities in Peterhouse are closing, such as the JCR, College Bar and Hall (among others), while the Ward Library will only be kept open until the University Library closes. Cleaning staff will be restricted to working only in communal areas within the College. The Peterhouse kitchens will only serve food to be taken away, before being closed on the 19th.


King’s College Library has emailed students at the college offering to post requested books to those who are no longer in Cambridge. Library staff have also offered to scan book chapters for students if required. The library remains fully open for now, although change is expected in the coming days and weeks.


Magdalene College has now followed suit in encouraging its students to leave the college, where possible. The college has asked students to leave by Saturday 21st March, however maintained that "No student will be forced to leave College accommodation."

The college currently have four students in self-isolation, as well as four members of staff self-isolating at home. 


Students received an email from Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope this afternoon following an urgent University leadership meeting which took place this morning to determine Cambridge's response to updated government measures concerning the coronavirus.

The message clarified some details of the University's "red" response to the outbreak, which would likely be triggered "by government advice to close educational establishments; or large numbers of staff being unable to work; or by large numbers of students being away, and unable to return."

"This phase will impose major operational restrictions on the University, such that all students will be required to return to their homes, if possible, or, on an exceptional basis, will be accommodated in colleges where not."

Toope said that the University is "ready to move swiftly into this phase if necessary". 

"The University-wide roll-out of Microsoft Teams has been brought forward to help us all operate remotely". He encouraged colleagues across the University to use this week to "test any arrangements that would allow them to work from home." 

Regarding examinations, it was noted that should we move into the red phase, the University would "look at allowing examinations to be taken online." This arguably strikes a more tentative tone regarding the possibility of remote examination than communication from some faculties and departments.

Toope noted that a special fund is being established to support staff who find themselves in "short-term financial hardship related to the COVID-19 outbreak." 

He also sought to reassure prospective students that Cambridge is thinking about its "future students, too", while noting that "it is impossible to say what will be happening in six months."

The full message, with further details regarding the University's contingency planning, can be found here, alongside previous University statements.


The English Faculty has created a 2020 Tripos Survey for Part II students to fill out, in which they can voice their preferred option for scheduled paper exams. Part II English students can access the form by signing into Google using their Hermes Webmail address. These options include: 

  1. Complete a version of each exam paper online as a three-essay paper (with one long answer an option in Tragedy), answering within a time-limited frame close to that of the exam you would have sat.
  2. Complete a version of the exam paper as a take-away three-essay paper, i.e. open book, longer time-frame, submitting online 2
  3. Offer a 'Supervision Dossier' of three essays for each paper (with one long answer an option in Tragedy), based on weekly essays already written for these papers, which you then polish/worked up between early April and late May as exam-style answers (ie minimal/no footnoting; not requiring the scholarly paraphernalia of Portfolio essays).
  4. Scrap paper exams completely and ask for predicted marks for these papers from supervisors, based on supervision reports and term-work to date, combined for purposes of classing with an examined mark for the compulsory dissertation element

Students are also invited to leave other comments. For example, but not only, concerning difficulties they might anticipate around issues of access, time-zone or disability that they would like their Faculty to be aware of.

This the first reported instance of a Faculty seeking the opinions and views of students in making contingency plans for examinations.

Aside from this, there have also been calls from students to cancel examinations completely.


The government have announced £3.2 million of emergency support for rough sleepers, or those at risk of rough sleeping if they need to self-isolate to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

This funding will be available to all local authorities in England and will reimburse them for the cost of providing accommodation and services to those sleeping on the streets to help them successfully self-isolate. 

This will be of particular importance in Cambridge where there are relatively high levels of homelessness.

Last night Jimmys Cambridge, who provide accommodation for the homeless and vulnerably housed of Cambridge, posted a picture of their smiling staff who were still serving guests.

MMLL students told they will get no pastoral, medical, or return advice by Year Abroad Office
Sophie Huskisson

Undergraduate language students on their year abroad have been informed that though coronavirus-related disruption will have no impact on their progression to final year, some may face their Erasmus+ Grants being recalled while all are being told to handle returning to the UK on their own.

In an email sent to Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics (MMLL) students on Friday, Cambridge’s Faculty Year Abroad Director Tim Chesters informed students that “regrettably”, the Faculty’s Year Abroad Office cannot serve as a “source of advice” for students’ return to the UK, which he argues “will depend on a variety of factors, all of which will need to be considered by any adult UK citizen currently abroad”.

Read our full report.


Cambridge African Caribbean Society (ACS) has postponed its Offer Holder Day, it announced in a tweet this afternoon. The event was set to take place on 14th April. 

The society nonetheless aims to provide offer holders with resources to support them academically and personally during this time. 


Local business Bould Brothers have launched a crowdfunder to save the cafe business "from extinction".

The business opened at the end of 2016 and recently opened a second location "having done so with no external investment (thus just savings and bank loans)!"

However due to recent government advice to implement social distancing they say they "envisage only being able to survive for about 4 weeks at the current rate."

The crowdfunder offers "coffee vouchers" which they say they will honor "once we are back up and running", as well as the opportunity to donate money. 

With small businesses likely to be hit hard by the response to the coronavirus, British Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to announce further economic measures later today.


MML finalist Daniel Wittenberg has written an opinion piece for the Guardian, arguing that universities should cancel all examinations. 

“Online exams rely on a false assumption that we all have a stable home with a place to study and the same access to technology. If the libraries and coffee shops all closed, many of us wouldn’t have the resources or the peace and quiet we needed.”

"In any case, students deserve the chance to focus on looking after ourselves and our loved ones. Young people may be less susceptible to the symptoms of this virus, but we are not immune to the effects of the pandemic on our lives and our learning."


In some more uplifting news, the Netflix Party chrome extension is becoming increasingly popular. The extension allows groups to watch the same Netflix film or show simultaneously and adds a chat side panel to talk with friends.

In their daily email, Homerton JCR have announced a vote on which film they will be watching tonight, with college members asked via email to vote on a film by 4.30pm GMT.

At the time of writing Legally Blonde and Spirited Away were tied, with the King's Speech on just one vote.


While concerns have been circulating that ibuprofen can aggravate underlying health issues, with health experts criticising NHS advice that people with Covid-19 should take ibuprofen, scientific evidence is inconclusive.

NHS guidance no longer advises that those with coronavirus should take ibuprofen, as it previously did. However, the NHS still recommends that those already taking ibuprofen on the advice of a doctor should not stop taking it without seeking medical advice.

More information can be found here:

  • Updated, 4:39pm: This entry was updated to reflect the inconclusive nature of expert findings concerning the link between ibuprofen and symptoms of coronavirus


A spokesperson from Selwyn College has confirmed to Varsity that they have also suspended their telephone campaign.


A number of open letters are circulating in response to the University's plans for Easter Term.

A group of 72 Politics and International Relations finalists have written to the department to express a number of concerns.

This includes calling for greater flexibility around assessments, recognising the impact the pandemic is going to have on people's lives; a supportive and clear system to document disruptions and a clear outline of how exam allowances will work; a recognition of how the pandemic may affect students ability to submit course work on time; and calling for a formal channel to be created so students can input their views into the decision-making process around how assessments should proceed.

The letter finishes by recognising the hard work that the department is putting in, but also asking for support and recognition that "due to these exceptional circumstances it may no longer be practical for us to prioritise academic rigour above all else, despite having spent three years working very hard."


Kettle’s Yard House and Gallery is closing temporarily, starting today “in order to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers and visitors”, while their announcement added that they “will seek to provide digital alternatives to our planned programme.”


Magdalene College have told students that their college library will be closing as a study space from 12pm today. Access will be available for borrowing or returning books.

Tue - 12:26pm 

Those who are unable to travel home from King's and require college accomodation over the Easter break were emailed today at midday, being told to email the college within two hours "giving your reason why you need to stay in College." 

The email from the accommodation officer follows the the one received last night 'strongly advising' that students travel home taking all their belongings. 

King's has also cancelled their telephone campaign, following governmental advice to avoid all social contact. Students will be paid their income until the end of the week and their rent will be covered until at least the 22nd March, in accordance with original planning.

Other options to access hardship funds will be available to students who relied on the further income they would have received, if this is necessary.

Students pull together in the face of coronavirus uncertainty
Chloe Bayliss

As uncertainty surrounds whether students should go home or stay in Cambridge over the Easter break, student-led initiatives are cropping up aimed at providing practical and emotional support over the next few months.

With loneliness likely to be an issue in light of an increased likelihood of more students having to self-isolate, a ‘Self-Care Share Pod’ has emerged. Providing entertainment inspiration, students are encouraged to share their favourite songs, books, films, TV series, recipes, free online games and more with each other in a bid to tackle boredom.

Read the full report here.


Selwyn students have also been encouraged to go home if it is safe to do so, and to continue to work from home. Students must receive permission from their Tutor if they wish to remain in college.

Students were encouraged in an email from College Master Roger Mosey and Senior Tutor Mike Sewell, as well as the College's JCR President, to take as much home with them as they can, prioritising "belongings related to study".

The JCR President addressed the "significant frustration" that students have felt concerning the College's prior communication with the student body, noting that they had raised the matter with the Senior Tutor.

The JCR has set up an emergency fund for international students who require financial support to travel home.


King's students have been told to return home if they are able to do so safely. Should they be unable to leave, the College will still support them but it "will only be able to provide minimal services."

In an email sent to students this evening, the College noted that it is "almost certain" that the University will receive instructions to close, and that "the University is expecting this to occur shortly, leading to the closure of departments, libraries and laboratories" which would likely last for the entire Easter term.


The UK government have released new coronavirus guidelines following today's COBRA meeting. They are stepping up action, especially in relation to those aged 70 and over, pregnant women, or anyone with underlying health conditions.

The latest advice can be found in the thread below, or at

Extra guidance on what social distancing means, why it is important and who is at highest risk can be found here.


Cambridge University Students' Union (CUSU) has been "working hard to demand a more coordinated response from the University and Colleges" regarding the coronavirus, according to CUSU President Edward Parker Humphreys.

In a Facebook post this evening, Parker Humphreys noted that CUSU has been "lobbying the University and College officials" today and over the weekend "to ensure that all students are provided with clear and consistent information, irrespective of college."

He directed students to CUSU's coronavirus information page, which highlights key information and points toward sources of support. 

Parker Humphreys will himself attend tomorrow morning's meeting in which the University will discuss what the Prime Minister's latest guidance regarding the virus means for Cambridge. He and Stella Swain, CUSU's Welfare Officer, sit on the University's COVID-19 Management Group. 


The Faculty of English is "trying to ensure as much continuity as possible" in the event of remote teaching and examination, and is prioritising both undergraduates and postgraduates set to graduate in the Summer, according to an email sent to students this evening.

Nicolette Zeeman, chair of the Faculty Board of English, said that the Faculty will submit its plans for student assessment on Friday 20th March, in order that the University approve and circulate them by 31st March. 

"I realise that two weeks is a long time to wait for news about our plans," wrote Zeeman, "but at the same time [the University] need to ensure that there is some kind of parity across different faculties' solutions to this dilemma".

"We also recognise that some of you will be facing particular problems, either due to health-related issues, or to other particular circumstances, or to the particular nature of your study. We will certainly try to deal with these situations on a case-by-case basis, and encourage you in due course to be in touch with college directors of studies, tutors, supervisors and Faculty postgraduate officers, where necessary."

For students who have left Cambridge and as such face "complications in terms of access to resources", Zeeman noted that the Cambridge libraries are "currently giving much thought" to the support they can provide.


The Department of Politics & International Studies (POLIS) today informed students that it is “committed to doing all it can to maintain teaching in Easter term”, and is planning for remote teaching and altered assessment methods. It stressed that its “main message” is that students continue working for their papers, and that its “key principle” concerning examination is that “assessment should remain rigorous, and that no students should be unduly disadvantaged by whether or not they can come to Cambridge at the time of exams.”

The email from the Director of Undergraduate Education Glen Rangwala encouraged students to “have the facilities needed for benefitting from online supervisions” if they do not already have them, such as a webcam, and noted that remote learning could involve the Department “providing access to texts electronically that are currently in print form only.”

Rangwala also encouraged students to “keep a record” of any disruptions – including their duration and evidence for them – which occur during exams and the preparation period. “Examples of things you should record include an inability to access relevant reading, periods of illness or enforced isolation, and caring responsibilities. Please communicate this to your College tutor electronically around the start of term (so that there is a record) and again before the exams begin. I can assure you that any pertinent information will be treated sympathetically in the event that you are unable to take the exams or your exam marks do not represent the level of your work over the course of the year so far.”


Less than two hours since students received an email detailing the University’s Covid-19 contingency plans, a follow-up email from Pro-vice-chancellor for Education Graham Virgo has been circulated informing students that the University’s senior leadership team will meet “first thing tomorrow morning” following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s press briefing earlier this evening, in which he urged that people stop non-essential social contact and non-essential travel. 

Just prior to Johnson’s announcement, Professor Virgo had informed students that at present the University intends to continue with “small group teaching and supervision” next term, and that the University and all its facilities are set to remain open.

The University will “provide further direction” on what Johnson’s briefing means for Cambridge following tomorrow morning’s meeting.

Oxford-Cambridge boat race will not go ahead, for the first time since end of WWII

The annual Oxford-Cambridge boat race has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Boat Race Company announced today. This makes 2020 the first time in 75 years that the men’s rowing competition will not take place, and the first year since its inception that the women’s race will not occur.

The boat race, which is broadcasted by the BBC and attended each year by thousands of spectators, would violate new COVID-19 guidance by the UK government which will no longer support large public gatherings with over 50 people.

Read the full report here


Senior Pro-vice-chancellor for Education Graham Virgo has said that Cambridge envisions that “at the moment”, university “business will continue as usual as far as reasonable possible, save for large group meetings” and “mechanisms” to reduce social interactions. 

“The University and all its facilities, including libraries, learning spaces, and laboratories, will remain open for students to remain here and to enable core University to continue”, and that unless it enters the 'red' stage of contingency planning, that they will remain open unless forced shut by PHE. 

This policy outlined by Virgo goes against the decisions by universities across Europe, the United States, and several elsewhere in the UK, including LSE, UCL, and KCL.

Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the country that it appears that the UK is approaching the ‘fast growth’ phase of the curve for infection rates of coronavirus, where cases are expected to double every five days.

Virgo said that if the situation does not worsen enough to escalate contingency planning from ‘Amber’ to ‘Red’ status, that they would continue small-group and supervision teaching into Easter term. Virgo gave no details on how the University has assessed the situation to be at an ‘Amber’ rather than ‘Red’ level. 

In the case of the latter, “much of the university will need to close’, a prospect Virgo says that Cambridge should prepare for. In that case, all teaching would be remote, and colleges would be operating “at a reduced capacity”. 


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is delivering a daily press briefing on coronavirus on BBC1. Johnson says that "everyone" should now avoid social contact with others and stop all travel, unless essential. Johnson has increased action, saying that if you or anyone in your house is showing symptoms, then you should stay inside your house for 14 days.

By the weekend, those with serious health conditions will be encouraged to stay inside, and/or shielded from social contact, for 12 weeks.


Despite a number of colleges telling their students to leave Cambridge, King’s College are still running their two week “call campaign”, with 12 students in a single room calling donors and alumni to ask for money.

One student, who wished to remain anonymous, told Varsity that it was “not the best atmosphere on the calls” and that “people don’t seem to be giving money or reacting positively”.

Homerton College postponed their campaign over concerns about the coronavirus, however Selwyn are also continuing their's.

On Friday evening the College told Varsity: “As things stand the telephone campaign at King’s is proceeding as planned. We are continuing to monitor the situation carefully and to follow the advice of both the University and Public Health England.”

“The wellbeing of our student callers is our first priority and we are in dialogue with participating students should they have any concerns. Should the telephone campaign be cancelled, those students will still be offered accommodation in College for the duration of the campaign.”

According to their website, in 2018 King’s made £196,627 through their two week call campaign.


With students currently unsure of whether they will be expected to be in Cambridge or not for Easter term, Cherwell reports that Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor has told the student body that they “anticipate that most or all teaching and assessment next term will take place remotely."

Similarly, LSE told their students that everything would move online last week, whereas students in Cambridge have been told that they will hear more information on contingency plans by 31st March.


The Cambridge Central Mosque has announced it will be closed from Tuesday 17th March until further notice, in order to "protect the public from the risk of Coronavirus infection."


In a detailed message on HR and wellbeing during the Covid-19 outbreak, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor has reassured staff that they will continue to be paid whether they are working from home, at home but unable to work, or a worker paid via TES or UPS, in which case they will continue to be paid for the assignment they are engaged in. The letter explains travel, accommodation, and financial provisions and plans for staff, as well as a "Coronavirus Homeworking Protocol".

Regarding international travel, the letter tells staff: “If you are currently (16 March 2020) abroad on University business and your return is disrupted by travel restrictions, we will reimburse your reasonable additional expenses where these cannot be claimed against insurance.”

As well as this, for staff who are in financial hardship: “A special fund is in the process of being established to support staff who find themselves in short-term financial hardship related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Details will be provided on the coronavirus webpage shortly.” 


With students currently unsure of whether they will be expected to be in Cambridge or not for Easter term, Cherwell reports that Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor has told the student body that they “anticipate that most or all teaching and assessment next term will take place remotely.”

Cambridge students are expecting to hear about alternative exam arrangements by March 31st.


Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope has published a letter addressed to colleagues saying that all academic institutions and Senior Tutors will receive further advice on how the University intends to manage teaching, learning and assessment later today and therefore, all students can expect to receive specific advice from their Senior Tutors later today. 


The ADC Theatre has announced it will be cancelling all performances between Wednesday 18th March and Saturday 4th April. This will include the cancellation of the final performances of Guys and Dolls, this year's Lent term musical. The ADC wrote on Facebook that the decision had come following the newly issued advice from the University to restrict large gatherings of 50 people or above.


CUSU Education Officer Ali Hyde announced on Facebook that an online note-sharing drive that was "initially set up as a strike support mechanism" will be able to be used "in light of the Covid-19 situation as well."

"If you have notes from previous years that you’re willing to share with other students, whether that’s from lectures cancelled due to strikes or on texts that may become difficult to obtain if the University closes, please add them to the drive," they said.

To be added to the drive, whether to add notes or to access them, send your gmail address to Ali on Facebook or via email to


The Chair of the Cambridge History Faculty has told students in an email that they are planning alternative modes of assessment, and that “at the present time, University facilities and buildings remain open”.  

The Chair’s email reveals that it was not until Friday that the University told the Faculty to develop plans for alternative modes of teaching for revision classes, supervisions, and lectures that were planned for Easter Term. 


The Cambridge taxi companies have announced ways they will be helping during the outbreak. 

Camcab TAXI said they will be delivering groceries from the supermarket to the doorsteps of anyone 70 and over, for free. 

"HERE TO HELP - In light of the current crisis, we are dedicated to supporting our local community and valued customers", the company posted on Facebook.

"Give us a call and find out how we can help 01223 704704".

Meanwhile, Panther Taxis said they will be offering delivery from Tesco Milton and Tesco Newmarket Road to those self isolating. 

While not free, they did say users "will only be charged the standard metered rate from the collection point to your home (including any waiting time at the collection point)."


All Part II HSPS students have been emailed to inform them about the roll out of Microsoft Teams, a "collaboration app that helps your team stay organised and have conversations — all in one place."

Amongst other features, the app will provide functionality to "Schedule and initiate group and one-to-one online meetings using either voice or video calling; you can record meetings, screen share, work on files simultaneously and make meeting notes during online meetings".

The roll out will begin on March 18th, a month earlier than schedule.

The University Information Services said they would provide more information "early next week".

Mon - 1:04pm


Newnham students were today asked to vacate College by Thursday 19th March "at the very latest" and to empty their rooms as far as possible.

In an email circulated this afternoon, Principal Alison Rose and Senior Tutor Liba Taub asked that students only remain in College if they "truly" cannot make plans to go elsewhere, in order to better ensure that those who stay can be adequately supported by the College.

They noted that the likelihood of implementing contingency plans for distance learning and remote assessment is "becoming greater day by day."


The Geography Department has posted an update on its website about plans for next term's work, examinations and teaching.

At the moment, there seems to be minimal disruption to its teaching - as there is little to none planned for next term anyway - and all its exams take place in May, so it states that there is ample time to see how the situation develops and make contingency plans.

Field trips, however, especially those abroad, face cancellation and may be moved more locally.


People across Cambridgeshire are coming together to help in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Cambridgeshire Coronavirus mutual aid Facebook group now has over 2000 members, with people discussing tips, offering help and sharing petitions. 

One such petition is to aid the Cambridge City Foodbank, which has already raised £500 today.

The City Foodbank have said they will continue to help people in Cambridge during the outbreak.  They also called on people to keep donating at supermarkets to ensure those that cannot afford to stockpile still have food. 


Downing College's official public Instagram account this morning uploaded a post intended to be humorous, which featured cultural references to Blitz, the Spanish Armada and France’s WWII surrender during the Second World War.

One Downing student told The Tab this post is "highly problematic", especially "in light of the recent xenophobic and racist incidents relating to coronavirus at [the college]".

The news comes as racist attacks towards East Asian student at Cambridge have been on the rise, suspected to be inflamed by coronavirus fears.

The post has since been taken down from the college's account.


In the email sent to Churchill students today, asking Undergraduates to make arrangements to "return home imminently", the College's Senior Tutor Richard Partington also emphasised Churchill is now "having to work on the assumption that students will not learn, be taught or examined in Cambridge during Easter Term".

He further argues that "all teaching and learning facilities may have to close, including all laboratories and libraries" and that "it looks increasingly likely that this situation will pertain soon and is likely to last for weeks or even several months".


The University and Colleges Union (UCU) have announced that they will be postponing their reballot of members which was due to begin on Tuesday, with a target to resume the reballots by the end of June.

The reballot was to give the union the ability to continue strike action in Easter Term.

While pickets have also been suspended, a statement from UCU General Secretary Jo Grady asked members to continue to "take action short of a strike (ASOS) in institutions that have a mandate to do so."

"Continuing your action sends an important signal that we are not going away and maintains pressure on employers to resolve the disputes now," Grady said.


In an email to all students at Clare, the College's Senior Tutor, Dr Jacqueline Tasioulas, has said "all undergraduate students should make arrangements to leave College and vacate their rooms by no later than Sunday (22nd March)."

Importantly for international students, she continued, "Those on Tier 4 visas should also be reassured that we have now entered the period designated as 'exceptional circumstances'."


Cambridge’s Law Faculty has sent an email to all undergraduates “is now planning on the basis that any assessment that occurs next term will be capable of being delivered online and thus remotely”, and that students facing self-isolation or travel restrictions would not be prevented from being assessed. 

Varsity’s view: Cambridge’s response to Covid-19 is slow, inconsistent, and ambiguous. Students bear the burden.
Varsity Editorial

On Friday evening, a message from Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope hit students’ inboxes. It was the first time in over a week that all students had received any information from the central university on the coronavirus. A couple of hours earlier, Europe had been labelled the “centre of the pandemic” by the World Health Organisation.

Toope’s hollow appeals to solidarity in the university community, to be “flexible, pragmatic, generous of spirit and kind”, are a slap in the face to the thousands of students who don’t have a home in the UK aside from Cambridge, and for whom it would be unwise or impossible to return to their families. The email — sent on Friday afternoon, implying all students would likely not get any new information for at least another two days, while nations start to close their borders — was vacuous and irresponsible.

Read Varsity’s editorial here.

Sun - 3:50pm 

Several more colleges, including Hughes Hall, Pembroke, Newnham, Murray Edwards and St. John’s, have told all students to plan to leave their college accommodation unless that is truly not possible, or the college is “truly your home”. 

Newnham’s senior tutor also told students today that “the Government has already announced that it will at some point move to isolating entire households if one person is sick. This would affect our graduate houses and our corridors as well as further reducing our staff.”


The United States government will extend its travel ban on travellers from Europe to include those from the UK and Ireland, from midnight on Monday EST. The ban excludes US legal residents and American citizens.

Yesterday, the Christ’s Senior Tutor had warned students: “If you are a non-UK student then it might still be possible for you to travel to your home country at the moment, but that option may not remain available to you in the near future.”


Homerton Senior Tutor Dr Penny Barton has advised that any students “who are able to leave to plan to leave Cambridge as soon as possible”.

Barton’s advice, in more explicitly telling students to go home if they have the option to, aligns with communication from Senior Tutors at Christ’s and Churchill, but as university-wide guidance remains decidedly vague.

Barton’s message to students continued: “We anticipate staff shortages due to illness and may have to run a significantly reduced service; therefore we want everyone who is able to leave to do so, so that we can focus our resources on students whose main home this is.

“If you are going to stay here you will need to obtain your own thermometer as we can no longer get them in bulk.”


CUSU President Edward Parker Humphreys has called Trinity’s planned approach, of requiring students to go home except for exceptional cases, “extremely disappointing”. 

According to Humphreys, “Students should rest assured that this is not an approach being taken by other colleges.”


The May Ball President’s Committee has not yet said whether they expect May Week to be cancelled, and said that balls with publish their refund policies within the coming weeks. 

“May Balls are closely monitoring the situation and will follow the advice given by the central Government, Cambridge City Council, University of Cambridge, and College officials with regard to large social functions”, the statement reads, but that “all Committees are proceeding with preparations for their events”.


Christ’s is still planning to accommodate B&B guests and visitors in college rooms over Easter vacation, according to communication sent by the accommodation manager. 


The 136th Blues Football Varsity match, due to take place on Sunday, has been postponed indefinitely. 

Sat - 10:57am 

Good morning! We’re now entering Day 3 of live Varsity coverage of the novel coronavirus. Here’s what happened yesterday:

  • Vice-chancellor Stephen Toope said there was no university-wide ban on large public gatherings, in line with government regulations at the time. Girton Spring Ball, which has around 1,000 guests, took place last night.
  • The Guardian is reporting that Whitehall is now reversing course on large gatherings, and there will be a ban on large public events from next weekend to reduce rates of transmission of COVID-19. The details of the ban, and how long it will last, are not yet known.
  • Students have been told they will be informed of “contingency plans” for exams on or around the end of March.
  • Trinity will tell all students that they must leave college over Easter, except for students in “exceptional” circumstances.
  • Local and mayoral elections, due to take place in Cambridge in May, have been postponed until 2021.
  • The University Counselling Service has halted face-to-face appointments. All appointments will now take place over telephone.


May Week may be affected after the UK government has announced a ban of mass gatherings across the country.

The Guardian reports that the size of events to be banned and timing of the policy have yet to be confirmed, but the measure is expected to be implemented next week.


Clare College has announced that they are supporting one student in self-isolation.


Fitzwilliam College has just notified its student body that one student is currently in self-isolation. 

The College stated that they have plans in place for the situation "as we do for all sorts of situations", and emphasised that "these have been tried and tested with other diseases in the past. We're therefore putting our plans into action."


Salford, Nottingham, Imperial College London, and Edinburgh universities have joined Durham, LSE, Manchester Metropolitan, and Loughborough in announcing moves to online teaching to reduce future risk of transmission of COVID-19.

Edinburgh has also cancelled exams for first and second-year students, while KCL, Imperial, and LSE have said that exams and assessments will take place remotely after the Easter holidays. 

Cambridge students have been told that they will receive information on examination arrangements by the end of March, for which “contingency plans exist”, as uncertainty abounds. 

Trinity planning to require all students to leave college over Easter, except for ‘exceptional’ cases
Sophie Huskisson

Varsity understands that Trinity plans to tell all undergraduate students that they must leave College for the Easter vacation, unless under ‘exceptional’ circumstances.

According to internal communication within the college, any student who is self-isolating “will be expected to make their own arrangements” because, the college says, they have “very limited capacity (which will be further reduced given staff illness) to provide additional facilities in the event of large-scale self-isolation”.

Only students currently self-isolating, who are unable to go to their home countries because of travel restrictions, and students who are care leavers or estranged, will be permitted to stay in college.

Read the full report here


Following the email sent by Vice-chancellor Toope, students at a number of colleges have received communication regarding some provisions for next term. This directed students towards updated Public Health England guidance, and notably, told students to "over the coming week… consider how and when you may wish to go home and what you can take home with you."

"If it turns out for any reason that you cannot travel soon, if Cambridge is where you consider home, or if parents or family are self-isolating, then we are committed as a College to offering you support in College."

Additionally, students were told that "contingency plans exist for examinations", and that faculties and departments are currently "working on the detail" of them, for students to be informed "of these details by 31 March."

The letter appears to have been drafted by the Senior Tutor's Committee, and has been received at least by students at Magdalene, Pembroke, Selwyn, King's, Newnham and Corpus.

In addition, Churchill’s Senior Tutor advised students that “given the likely progression of coronavirus, there is no compelling reason why you should not go home, and we suggest that you actively consider doing so; those going home should probably take everything with them”.


As of yet, Cambridge has “no University-wide policy of event cancellation [...] in place at this stage”, according to an email sent by Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope this afternoon. This policy, in line with current PHE guidance on large gatherings, lies in notable contrast with the decisions by many schools and universities in Ireland, continental Europe, and elsewhere to cancel events to encourage ‘social distancing’.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus today called for a global effort to reduce transmission: “Not testing alone,” he said. “Not contact tracing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all. Find, isolate, test and treat every case, to break the chains of transmission … Do not just let this fire burn.”

Toope noted that “it may be a sensible precaution to avoid planning any new events in the near future”. A number of events in Cambridge, including organised by individual colleges have been cancelled. 

Cambridge has yet to provide any information regarding contingency planning for examinations or graduation ceremonies planned for Easter term. More detailed information is expected to be sent out by college Senior Tutors later today. 

For international and EU students, the pandemic — the epicentre of which is now in Europe, the WHO has declared — causes particular uncertainty.


Local and mayoral elections in May have been postponed for a year – in Cambridge this will affect Cambridge City Council elections and an election for the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner, which were both scheduled for 7 May.


The University Counselling Service has informed those using its service that it will stop offering face-to-face appointments and group sessions from Monday in order to limit the spread of coronavirus, and will instead offer telephone appointments. People who would find calling inconvenient were encouraged to get in contact with the UCS to organise contact by email.


Mental health charities are warning about the effect of coronavirus on mental health.

An email sent to Emmanuel students today noted that the University Counselling Service has directed students to “positive online resources for those who are anxious about risks associated with the Covid-19 virus, particularly in relation to mental health,” and offered the following links for further support: one from Mind, and two from the World Health Organisation.

The University's page for advice concerning coronavirus says that "the University staff and student counselling services are available, if you feel that you need some additional support during this period. Please find out more at University Counselling Service or the University Staff Counselling Service."


An email from Emmanuel’s Senior Tutor to students has confirmed that there are “a couple of students” self-isolating at Emmanuel, though reiterates that there are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 at the college. The email added that students with specific health conditions that make them vulnerable should inform the college’s Bursar and Senior Tutor.


The King's Lay Dean has emailed all students in the college to remind them that "any gathering of more than 10 people" requires her permission. This rule was in place long before concerns around the virus, however the Lay Dean says she is "not prepared to sanction any party at this current moment in time."

"If you are found to have held a party without my express permission, I will be forced to take disciplinary action immediately," she continued. 

The end of term King's Mingle was due to be held tonight but was cancelled by the organising committee yesterday to minimise the risk of potential infection.


Oxford University has released guidance today advising all students who live in the UK and who are able to travel home to do so “as soon as possible”. International and EU students who reside in countries which the FCO advises against travel are welcomed to stay in Oxford over the vacation.

There are currently six confirmed cases of coronavirus among Oxford students — for Cambridge University, there are zero confirmed cases.


The Cambridge City Foodbank have said they are still supporting people with emergency food as usual and called on people to donate "vital food supplies."


Cambridge United's League Two match tomorrow against Cheltenham will no longer go ahead after all professional football in England was suspended until April 4.

The club have said they will follow up with a statement to supporters soon.


Cambridge’s Graduate Union President, Alessandro Ceccarelli, has released an open letter with nearly 200 signatures at the time of writing. While it calls for more widely available testing, it also asks that universities provide international students with accommodation if they close down, and that they support staff on casual contracts who may need to self-isolate.

In response to the open letter, Cambridge’s MP Daniel Zeichner praised the work of the NHS in addressing the outbreak, and added that he will “continue to press the Health Secretary to take urgent action.”


The Cambridge Science Festival has just announced cancellation of its remaining scheduled programme to avoid "inadvertently to expose [visitors and staff] to the risk of coronavirus."

The Festival holds over 300 events, including talks, exhibitions, and hands-on events, which have already been cancelled earlier.


While many events have been cancelled so far due to fears over spreading the new coronavirus, there are some that are still going ahead.

The Cambridge University Hindu Cultural Society have announced they will be going ahead with their Holi 2020 event on Queens' Backs this afternoon. They recommend not attending if showing any mild flu-like symptoms and "avoiding facial contact during the event".

Girton Spring Ball have also announced their decision to go ahead with their event tonight "on the basis of prevailing PHE guidance on large public events, and in the light of the updated UK Government advice following [yesterday]’s meeting of the COBRA committee."

"The College authorities have also consulted widely on the scientific, medical and other implications, within and beyond the University," Ball President Hannah Taylor said.

However they have said all guests must adhere to a visitor policy, including not attending "if they are displaying any flu-like symptoms and/or having travelled from any high-risk territories in the last fourteen days."

After the Government announced yesterday that anyone with a persistent cough or high temperature should self-isolate for seven days, the Ball Committee said "procedures are being put in place to ensure anyone who arrives with these symptoms is not permitted to enter the Ball."

Any ball ticket holders who no longer wish to attend the event in light of the virus risk can cancel their tickets by midday today by emailing and will be refunded the cost of their tickets.

This policy also applies to workers and contractors for the ball, who "will receive their deposit back if they have made one".

Fri - 10:29am 

As we move into the second day of our live coverage of the Coronavirus outbreak, here is the latest advice from the Department of Health and Social Care. 


St John's College has informed students it is currently supporting two students under self-isolation.

The email, from the College's Senior Tutor and Director of Education, also asks students from the UK who are able to travel back to their home to take their laptops and work with them so they can continue to work remotely "if required" in the future.

It further argues that if Johnians "do decide to go ahead with [their] travel plans (outside the UK)" to inform their tutor and complete a travel form, which [they] will be circulating in the next few days".


UCU has asked strikers not to picket tomorrow, on the last day of the staff industrial action planned for this term, due to concerns about the coronavirus.

The group were also meant to join the Cambridge School Climate Strikers tomorrow for an event, which has been called off due to the outbreak. In an email disseminated to the group, UCU has asked picketers participate in a "Pillow Picket", calling for members "to stay in bed and take some time off" tomorrow instead.

But the group emphasised that "we'll still be on strike: but we'll be protesting the fact that, in higher education, it's only by striking that we get any respite from our work". They argued that staying at home would also be a symbolic protest of the very large workload staff are rallying against in these strikes.

The news also comes as the Old Schools occupation ends tomorrow, as the University has taken legal action to evict the student protestors.


A Ceilidh planned for this Saturday evening, which was scheduled to take place in Pembroke College, has been cancelled.

The College's Graduate Secretary argued the decisions was taken as "it seems unwise to hold a dance at the moment" but that it "hope[s] to arrange another one once the coronavirus situation has settled".


Clare College has cancelled its 'Commemoration of Benefactors Dinner', which was set to take place tomorrow based on University guidance on the coronavirus.

The College said they are "very sorry" that they have taken this step but that they "look forward to re-scheduling the dinner in due course".


Queens' College have requested that all non-essential public gatherings of 50 people be cancelled or postponed to reduce the risk of undiagnosed spread of COVID19.

The announcement has led the Cambridge University Yaught Club to cancel its planned launch event which was scheduled to take place this evening.


King’s Mingle, a DJ night held in the King’s College Bunker, has been cancelled due to COVID-19. According to communication seen by Varsity, the decision was taken by the Bunker Committee on the advice of the college. 

They have informed all ticketholders that they will get a full refund.


The Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics Faculty has cancelled an Open Day which was scheduled to take place on Friday "due to the developing situation with coronavirus and significant concerns amongst participants, students and staff.”

In the email sent out this afternoon, the Faculty apologised to those involved and stated its plans to potentially run a series of webinars for prospective students in the Easter term including much of the information that would have been covered in the open day," which would then be uploaded to the Faculty's website and social media.


LSE has just informed students that all teaching activity for the remainder of the academic year will be delivered remotely, and that all exams will be done online or via other means of assessment. Graduation ceremonies planned for July 2020 will be rescheduled.

Staff at Durham University have been told via email that “it is not expected that the students will return to Durham next term”. 

It remains to be seen what steps Cambridge University will take as the response to the virus becomes more disruptive.


CUSU has released a statement on the new coronavirus. They pointed students towards University guidance and encouraged students to follow NHS advice.

The statement also called on the University to account for student concerns in their plans (particularly for students who do not live in the UK permanently) and provide free accommodation "for students who are unable to return home over the vacation due to travel restrictions".

CUSU also said they condemned "the racist abuse and harassment that some East Asian students have experienced since the outbreak of coronavirus."


Medical students in their fourth, fifth and sixth years (in clinical school) have been informed this afternoon that many of their exams, placements and teaching are being cancelled. Two Cambridge clinical school students are also currently in self-isolation.

Sixth year Medical students have been told their two Final (Part III) clinical exams will no longer take place, and results will instead be based on written exams done so far as well as the "great deal of information about [students'] past clinical performance". Finalists have also been told they should "aim to finish their last final year placement", though these may be cut short, while their graduate ceremonies are currently under review.

Fifth year clinical school students will have no more clinical placements nor teaching after tomorrow, 13th March, and have been told to "take laptops and learning materials" with them as they leave Cambridge at term's end "as there may be travel restrictions in place by the time [they] are due to return". Students' written papers scheduled for May are under review, while many of their Elective summer placements will likely be cancelled by their host countries.

Medical students in their fourth year will no longer participate in the face-to-face teaching planned for their next 'Review and Development' week, which will be conducted via webinars online instead. Clinical placements scheduled for next term are also likely not to take place, and their West Suffolk Hospital visit has been cancelled.

The email, sent on behalf of Dean of the School of Clinical Medicine Dr Diana Wood, emphasises how the School is "extremely sorry" about these developments, which were determined after close coordination with the UK Medical Schools' Council, and came after "a very long planning meeting Wednesday afternoon".


In addition to our earlier update that teaching at Durham will go online-only from next week, staff at Durham have been told "it is not expected that the students will return to Durham next term". 

It remains to be seen what steps Cambridge University will take as the response to the virus becomes more disruptive.


The Architecture department have emailed all students instructing them to "take anything you might need to work away with you" if leaving Cambridge at the end of term, in case "for any reason you cannot come back at the beginning of term". 

They warned students staying in Cambridge that they "may need to close the building at short notice" and so should "take home anything you need with you each evening" and "plan accordingly". 

The department also noted that "if the Government closes the University, libraries will also close, so you may wish to borrow all the books you think you need now." 


After discussions with the College and concerns from students, Pembroke have announced they will be cancelling their end of term bop "to make sure that we don't put anyone's health at risk."

In a post on Facebook PemEnts apologised to those who had spent money on costumes and said to "feel free to dress up today anyway!".

Varsity understands other colleges are also considering cancelling their bops over risks of spreading the new coronavirus.


The TEDx Cambridge University 2020 Conference has been cancelled “in light of the COVID-19 outbreak”, organisers announced today on social media. The conference was due to take place on Saturday.


A statement today from Cambridge University Hospitals announced that a "likely positive case of COVID-19" was identified at Addenbrooke's in an isolation ward. 

The statement added that a "‘contact tracing’ exercise is now under way to trace other staff who might have had close (face to face) contact with the patient," to minimise "any risk" to the public and to "close contacts to the patients concerned", who will also be given advice.


Looking back in history to see what might happen if Cambridge closes?


Universities across the UK are addressing mounting concerns surrounding new coronavirus situation with different measures.

While it is not yet publicly known what Cambridge plans to do next term, The Tab King’s reported that King’s College London has announced that “conventional unseen exams” will not take place over the traditional exam period, and are to be replaced by “alternative assessments”. Palatinate, meanwhile, has reported that classroom teaching at Durham will go online-only from next week, while students are allowed to return home after their final classes this week.


The University Information Service have announced they will be rolling out the “Microsoft Teams suite of collaboration tools” next Wednesday in response to the virus. While this had been “in the pipeline for a while” the rollout has been brought forward “to support remote working and business continuity across the University”.

Although Cambridge University has not yet announced any intention to cancel lectures or enforce working from home for staff, this indicates potential contingency planning as universities around the world close.

Colleges seek self-isolation support volunteers over new coronavirus concerns
Beatriz Valero de Urquia

At least five Cambridge colleges have sought support volunteers to help look after students who may have to undergo a self-isolation period due to the new coronavirus.

Newnham offered to train and pay ‘Student Supporters’ £9.80 per hour to assist any students who may be required to enter self-isolation. Wolfson College has said supporters will receive up to three free meals per day from the College Cafeteria, or £20 on days when the College kitchens are closed.

Tasks for ‘Student Supporters’ include delivering meals from the cafeteria or buttery to self-isolating students and checking on them over the phone. Students would not be expected to be in contact with those who are self-isolating.

Read the full report here.


The Girton Spring Ball is due to take place tomorrow night. Amid rising concerns over large gatherings of people, the Ball Committee has asked people with tickets showing 'flu-like' symptoms not to go to the Ball, while it has sent out additional hand-washing warnings to guests. 


The University is also providing 'latest guidance' on a dedicated webpage.  

An email from Vice-Chancellor Toope last week said that: "Over the past few weeks, colleagues across the Collegiate University have been working tirelessly to make sure that we are prepared for any escalation, while also making sure that action taken is proportionate and in line with government advice."

Thu - 9:20am 

On Tuesday, the University issued a statement calling on Cambridge Defend Education to leave Old Schools, which they have been occupying since 3rd March, "immediately".

The statement said that "the extended occupation of The Old Schools at a time of heightened anxiety about public health is irresponsible". The occupation expanding to cover more rooms, the University said, has "forced all staff to operate in temporary locations" and there has been disruption to "the teams directly charged with crucial contingency planning for a Coronavirus outbreak."