Toope has warned that students who travel to Cambridge will have to remain there “for the duration of the national lockdown” Lucas Maddalena

Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of a national lockdown on Monday night (04/01), which took effect from midnight last night (05/01), the colleges and the University have issued further warnings to students regarding returns and teaching in Lent term.

Johnson’s announcement stated that schools and universities should provide teaching for students online until the end of the February half term, and that only university students studying practical or health-centred courses should receive in-person teaching. The restrictions on social contact, travel and public services are broadly the same as the first lockdown in March 2020. 

Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope, in an email sent to all students yesterday (05/01), told students that those “who travel to Cambridge will have to stay here for the duration of the national lockdown.”

Alongside this, Toope reiterated that students “should not return to Cambridge unless they fall within one of the categories specified in earlier communications,” meaning that medicine, veterinary medicine, PGCE and postgraduate research students are still permitted to return as planned.

This also extends to those with an “exceptional” reason, which may relate to one’s physical or mental health, or an inability to work from home. He added that “international students who are able to change their return travel plans should do so.” 

The announcement comes after a significant spike in Covid-19 cases being reported across the country, with a record of over 60,000 cases reported for the first time in the UK yesterday (05/01), alongside 830 deaths, more than doubling from 407 the day before (04/01).

Fitzwilliam College, in an email seen by Varsity, told students that “teaching is likely to be online for much, if not all, of Lent term.”

In further emails seen by Varsity, Corpus Christi has reassured students that “if you have prior permission to return, we will honour it.” 

Fitzwilliam College is continuing to invite students to contact the college if they believe they “should come back to College this month,” and has offered them the chance to fill out a webform if they believe they should be able to return to Cambridge on personal welfare grounds, with the college then reviewing each case individually. 

The college also pleaded students to “consider carefully their personal circumstances and the relative merit of returning to College.” 

Clare College, meanwhile, has emailed students who had been given permission to return prior to January 25th, informing them that the College was “unable to provide clear answers about if your early return on the agreed upon date will still be possible.” 

One anonymous student, in response to Clare’s emails, stated that the “response seems sparse and delayed” at a time “when students need urgent guidance and support on all issues.”

Another anonymous student told Varsity that they were hopeful “that the University as a whole deals more sensitively with students’ extenuating circumstances this term, which should allow them to live in College without having to disclose extraneous and sensitive information to college staff.” 

Varsity has contacted Clare College for comment.

The Cambridge Student Union, in a Facebook post yesterday afternoon (05/01), told students that they “share [their] frustration over the Government’s callous disregard for the wellbeing of University students.” 


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The post also adds that the SU will promote “consistency and clarity from colleges on their plans,” “adjustments to student workloads and exam arrangements,” and “increased financial hardship and mental health support for students.” 

Trinity Hall has also told students in an email that for “students normally resident in College accommodation, while these Government restrictions on student attendance at University remain in place, the College will not charge rent unless you are in residence.” 

Jesus College has also reassured students that they “will not have to pay rent...for the period you are not in residence.”

Toope’s email yesterday afternoon stated that further correspondence today will provide “more clarity on how Lent term will unfold,” and the Vice Chancellor acknowledged the added “pressure on our staff” during a “distressing time.”