The Raised Faculty Building, including the MMLL Faculty, on Sidgwick SiteLouis Ashworth

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”.

Chesters also told students the Office will not be able to act as a source of information for medical advice or regional variations on measures to tackle the coronavirus, nor will they be able to give pastoral support, and suggested instead that students consult Public Health England, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and their Director of Studies or Tutor, respectively.

Regarding oral exams which are due to take place at the start of Michaelmas term for those who are currently on their year abroad, Chester wrote: “Regrettably, the introduction of individual ‘allowances’ for oral exam marks (based on amount of disruption, time spent abroad, etc.) would be impracticable.”

One student, who has already flown home from their year abroad, said “it was worrying that [the Faculty] wouldn’t introduce special allowances”, especially for students who would be taking the exam in the language of the country where they were spending the second half of the year, as many have had to cut this short.

The news comes as over the past few days, Germany, France, Italy, Spain among others have announced travel restrictions or full-scale shutdowns of their borders.

Although they have now been contacted by the MMLL Faculty, the student, who was on their year abroad in Lisbon, said that they “didn’t hear a word” from the Faculty over the course of the week when countries were starting to shut their borders and put their citizens on lockdown.

In addition, students on Erasmus+, an organisation which grants selected students on their year abroad up to €350 a month, may face losing their funding. Students receiving funding must meet the minimum duration requirements of three months if they are studying, or two months if they are working.


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Students were informed in the email that if they have not met the minimum duration, they will be able to request the British Council to retain the funds spent so far with an additional form –though it is not clear if this will apply to every student.

The Year Abroad Office has pledged to give guidance and support with student loan difficulties, which may require repayments in some instances, but which the Office and University will take charge of through a student hardship fund.

Those currently unable to return now, and who may need to use some of the Erasmus grant to travel, have been told to claim costs from their insurance provider, and if this is not possible that the British Council will “consider whether these costs can be covered from Erasmus funding”.

The British Council has told Varsity that it will provide them with more information over the coming days.

While the Year Abroad office has also told students it expects them to still complete their Year Abroad projects, it emphasises it will continue to be a point of contact for funding, academic and administrative queries.

Students in second year received information on planning for their Year Abroad earlier today, Chesters said “the Faculty Year Abroad office will continue to offer a best-efforts service to students for the remainder of this academic year, including for such things as visa applications and other administrative support.” Varsity understands that the office is trying to track students’ plans by collecting them together in a Google Document.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the following information and support is available:

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