Information for continuing students on preparations being made for the academic year 2020/21.

This is a statement made by the University and Colleges of Cambridge, sent to all students at the University by the Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education). It provides information for continuing students on preparations being made for the academic year 2020/21. A similar statement has been sent to all undergraduate and postgraduate offer-holders.

The University and Colleges of Cambridge are preparing to welcome students – undergraduate and postgraduate – to Cambridge for the academic year 2020/21. We remain committed to excellence in education, learning and research. We want to work with every member of our Collegiate University community to support them as they live and work in this beautiful city and to offer them the fullest possible experience of being here. 

Cambridge has welcomed and nurtured students for hundreds of years. The Collegiate University provides a deep-rooted sense of community and rich opportunities for learning. Small group teaching – supervisions, seminars or individual tuition – is at the heart of our educational provision and will continue in person as far as possible or via real-time face-to-face technology where not.  

Colleges are looking forward to welcoming students into residence and are making preparations for teaching, welfare, social and extra-curricular activities during the year ahead. Every College remains proud to be their students’ Cambridge home, and is working with student representatives to ensure that induction and welcome events in the autumn give new students the information and support they will need as they join their College community.   

The Collegiate University sets out below its principles for delivering education in the academic year 2020/21. In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic we will seek to mitigate risks to health by applying social distancing and other government guidelines and continuing to respond to the changing public health situation through appropriate changes to our courses, services and facilities. Where official guidance or concerns for the health of students and staff demand it, we will review our approach.  

  1. Cambridge will be open to students next academic year. We will do all we reasonably can to accommodate the needs of students whose individual circumstances mean that they cannot attend any in-person teaching. 
  2. The academic yearwill start as normal and term dates will not be changed. Michaelmas Term will start on Tuesday 6 October and end on Friday 4 December, although some postgraduate courses may start earlier as previously advertised. New and returning undergraduate and postgraduate students are advised to be flexible in their travel plans at this stage; more advice about arrangements for the start of term will follow in July.
  3. Teaching will be delivered by a blend of in-person and online teaching, and we will adapt our timetables, teaching methods, course content and locations for delivery of teaching to achieve this. The balance of the blend will depend on the stringency of social distancing and other regulations in force at the time. Where possible, teaching by seminars, practicals, and supervisions will be delivered in person, and it may even be possible for lectures to smaller groups to be given on this basis. In any case, all lectures will be recorded and made available online. If large-scale lecturing in person becomes permissible, the university will reintroduce it as soon as possible.
  4. Research and learning facilities: it is our aim that all students who require it for their studies will have sufficient and suitable access to research laboratories, libraries, museums and other facilities, subject to the restrictions of social distancing.
  5. Minimising risk: All University and College buildings will be risk assessed and managed on an ongoing basis, following government guidelines and advice. This may involve managing how we all enter and leave buildings to allow for social distancing, reducing numbers of people allowed into a building or area, appropriate cleaning regimes, altered timings of events and any other measures considered appropriate to mitigate risk of exposure to COVID-19. We will promote health and infection control measures across the entire University, and communicate and implement changes to any of these measures resulting from local-lockdown requirements as required.
  6. Accommodation: As many students as possible will be given accommodation in their own College. The Colleges and the University are working closely together to help all our students find accommodation within the University or in Cambridge.
  7. Support: As well as teaching, Colleges offer a home environment and pastoral support to their students; the University additionally provides centralised student support, including the Student Counselling Service, Disability Resource Centre, Careers Service, support for mature students, student parents and care leavers. These services will continue to be provided, either in person or via real time face-to-face technology. For more information on our welfare support, see and your own College’s website. 


By the end of July the University will issue a further statement for current and prospective students; this will confirm if any particular changes are intended to be made to any courses. Any such changes will be notified to current and prospective students through our established processes for making changes to our courses as set out in our Terms of Admission for undergraduate students and applicable contractual terms for postgraduate students. The Colleges will also provide more detailed guidance about returning to Cambridge and the practicalities of student life in the autumn. 

We look forward to welcoming our students, old and new, in the next academic year. 


With best wishes,


Professor Graham Virgo

Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)

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