A message to students from the Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor regarding assessment and support.

This message is sent to all students on behalf of Professor Graham Virgo, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)  

Dear students 

I am writing to you to provide information on two important issues that I know many of you are concerned about: for those of you who have exams this year, how Cambridge intends to conduct assessment; and the support services available to students while many of you are away from Cambridge. 

Our plans for assessment 

Methods of assessment this year have been specifically designed to ensure that they are robust in the light of the impact of the pandemic. Please be assured that your academic performance will be assessed fairly and disruption brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic will be taken into account. 

In line with all other Russell Group Universities, Cambridge will ensure that assessment is fair, while also maintaining academic rigour. We will not this year be adopting the ‘no detriment’ policy that was applied last year in assessing students’ work. This is because most of last year’s results relied on summative assessments (that is, assessments which contributed to a student’s overall class)  from the previous year and, since these are not available for 2020, it will not be possible to replicate this system in 2021. We are working instead on a package of mitigation measures which will operate as a safety net to safeguard student achievements from the impacts of the pandemic. I am consulting with faculties, departments and student representatives about this package of measures and I will write to you again once this is finalised; I anticipate this will be by mid-February. 

Support and services 

All teaching and learning for undergraduate and postgraduate taught students will be online for the entirety of the Lent term. Postgraduate research students who are in Cambridge in accordance with the restrictions set out by the Vice-Chancellor should work from home if at all possible. The University’s position is clear that in-person access to labs and University buildings must be limited to those who, for a compelling reason, absolutely cannot work from home. Access must be agreed by the Head of Institution. 

Wherever you are, University and College services remain available to you. The University libraries continue to support you: this page sets out how you can access the libraries online and seek support via remote services or, if the material you need is not available electronically, how you can use zero-contact services, which include click-and-collect and scan-and-deliver. Libraries have acquired a wealth of new ebooks, including etextbooks, and other electronic resources for students and continue to add to them daily. The libraries will respond quickly to requests for new titles where they are available electronically. Accessibility Services have been enhanced significantly. The Disability Resource Centre, University Counselling Service and Careers Service are all available online and for remote appointments. 

Lastly, I want to reiterate that both the Colleges and the University are committed to supporting you. If you are struggling, do tell someone. There are many people to help you. Even though you may not be living in Cambridge, you remain a member of your College, and if you have any concerns you should contact your Tutor, your Director of Studies or your college nurse. As Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education in the University, you might expect me to say that you must focus on your education above everything else despite the pandemic; but, whilst your studies continue to be really important, please remember that, although it may sometimes feel otherwise, there are more important things in life than your studies and your exams. This includes your own health and wellbeing, which I urge you to look after. A full range of support and contact details for University services is available on this page, which will continue to be updated throughout the term.  

Best wishes and keep safe,   


Professor Graham Virgo 

Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)