A message for students about the start of term and the health measures we are asking students and staff to take.

This email is for all students.

Dear students

We are delighted to welcome you all to Cambridge at the start of a new academic year. Some of you are new to Cambridge, some are returning and some have been here over the summer. It is uplifting to see students arriving in their College, looking forward to getting on with their studies and wanting to make the most of the opportunities that Cambridge offers. We are all returning from different parts of the world, and have had different experiences over the past year. It is important that we support and show consideration for one another as we work and live together.

Our priorities

The health and safety of our students and staff are of paramount importance. We are also deeply committed to providing our students with an outstanding education and with the best possible student experience. The University has put in place robust safety measures that aim to balance health risks to our staff and students with the need to deliver those dual imperatives. The information below sets out the measures we are asking all students and staff to take. You can read more about this on our Stay Safe Cambridge Uni pages. More information is available from your College about particular arrangements which apply there.


We are planning to provide as much in-person teaching as we possibly can, meaning we expect to offer as normal the small-group teaching that is at the heart of the Cambridge experience. To allow this to happen, the University has followed all relevant government advice to minimise the risks of transmission. Where there is a strong reason (such as an improved educational experience, or the safety of staff or students), we will use online delivery. To find out if there will be online delivery in your subject, please refer to the web page of your Faculty or Department. Our plans may need to respond to any changes to the health situation or government guidance, and we will keep you fully informed if this needs to happen. You can find more information on our plans for this academic year on our webpages.


We strongly encourage all our students to be fully vaccinated. While not preventing all coronavirus infections, there is overwhelming evidence that two doses of vaccine dramatically reduce the risk of severe infection or hospitalisation.

Walk-in vaccination clinics are being offered for students at the start of term. You can find them at the Guildhall, on Market Square, on Sunday 3 October, Saturday 9 October and Sunday 10 October 2021, as well as on Parker’s Piece, during Freshers’ Fair, on Tuesday 5 October. Appointments are not necessary. In addition, the NHS has walk-in vaccination clinics across the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area. There is detailed information on our website.

If you have not already done so, please make sure you respond to College requests about your vaccination status.

Symptomatic testing

The University continues to offer symptomatic testing at “pods” on the Fen Causeway and Addenbrooke’s Hospital sites. If you are experiencing symptoms of possible COVID-19, please do book a test – even if your symptoms are relatively minor. Further information is available here.

Asymptomatic screening

The University’s weekly Asymptomatic COVD-19 Screening Programme for students restarted on Monday September 27. You will have received an email on Tuesday 28 September reminding you about arrangements for the coming term: if you haven’t already done so, you are strongly encouraged to sign-up using the online consent form.

Lateral flow testing

Most students are eligible for the asymptomatic screening programme, but a small number of students are not (for example, students in private accommodation who are unable to form a ‘testing pool’). If you are one of those students, we recommend that you instead take part in twice-weekly testing using lateral flow tests (LFTs). In the event of a positive LFT, you will be able to obtain a confirmatory PCR test from your College that same day.

Use of testing ahead of some events 

In addition to regular asymptomatic screening, the University is strongly recommending a recent negative COVID-19 test as a basis for inclusion in some meetings or events (such as large or prolonged meetings, one-off celebration dinners, and large, organised social gatherings). In most of these cases, an LFT taken in the 24 hours before the event will be the best way to provide reassurance. It is important to reiterate that LFTs are less sensitive than PCR tests, and that a single negative test does not eliminate the risk of asymptomatic infection.


The use of face-coverings has not been mandatory in the UK since July 19. However, we strongly encourage all our staff and students to continue using face-coverings indoors, particularly in places where mitigations – such as social distancing and ventilation – are not possible. Exceptions to this recommendation may arise when Colleges have undertaken local risk assessments and deemed some spaces to be safe enough to make the wearing of face-coverings unnecessary. The use of face-coverings is not only a basic courtesy, but essential for the protection of your colleagues and friends. It should be one of the many tools we use to minimise risk for us all.

As is traditional, the Vice-Chancellor will be addressing the University community at 12:00 on 1 October.  

With best wishes to you all for a rewarding and fulfilling year, and for our new students, a warm welcome to Cambridge,

Professor Stephen J Toope


Professor Graham Virgo

Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)