Information for staff and students about changes to the University's operations, home working and how the Cambridge community is tackling COVID-19.

Dear all,

As I announced on Wednesday, by the end of today we will be ceasing the University’s normal operations.

I am deeply grateful to all of you for your calm and effective response to this unprecedented situation. We are not alone in trying to adapt to these extraordinary circumstances. It is no overstatement to say that the entire world is adjusting to a prolonged period of uncertainty. Rest assured that, throughout this period, the University’s leadership will continue to work in the best interests of all of our Collegiate University’s people.

Although we are closing down the majority of our University buildings, I am very pleased to report that the University Library is open online and making more electronic resources available every day to students and staff.

At a time of the year when many people in the United Kingdom celebrate the beginning of Spring by launching themselves outdoors, I wish to let you know that, until further notice, the University’s Botanic Garden remains open to visitors. We hope it will continue to be a place of outdoors solace and comfort for the wider community.


All our Colleges are committed to remaining supportive academic and social communities for all their members whatever the circumstances. Colleges recognise that, for some students, leaving is not an option. For those who need to be in Cambridge in the short or longer term, your College is proud to remain your home.

The question of assessment is naturally on many students’ minds. By the end of today, the University will publish on its website an FAQ webpage addressing some of the most common queries about changes to the methods of assessment. Professor Graham Virgo will send students a message once the FAQ page has been published. This resource will be updated regularly. As I have previously said, students on undergraduate and postgraduate taught courses can expect to have more definitive information about their method of assessment by the end of this month.


We have asked staff to transition to home-working, and my deepest thanks go to all of those who have started to make the transition, and have helped others do so too.

Not everyone can easily work from home. Some colleagues are facing considerable challenges as they adapt to remote-working. Working from home while caring for others is not straightforward. And of course, some colleagues in key roles must continue to come in to support business-critical functions across the University – to them, I express my sincere gratitude.

We are at the beginning of a long process, and it is crucial that we are all mindful of others’ needs and respectful of others’ varying roles. I thank you all for your patience and preparedness to adjust.

Tackling COVID-19:

I am heartened by the generosity of spirit on display as a result of this crisis.

Our Postdoctoral and Entrepreneurial Societies have rallied to create digital well-being and support channels for the wider community.

The Schools of Biological Sciences and of Clinical Medicine have been busy collecting spare personal protective equipment that will help key workers in hospitals carry out their critical work safely.

Clinical School staff have been asked to prioritise supporting our local and national health services.

An alumnus in China has sourced and donated facemasks to Addenbrookes Hospital.

There are many other similar examples that I will continue to share in the days ahead.

Unless there are any urgent developments over the weekend, you can expect my next message on Monday. By then we will have moved fully into a phase of new realities and working practices.

Over the days ahead, we will concentrate on what matters most. Arrangements are in place to see us through the next few weeks. Now we must bring our best attention to what functioning with respect and tolerance as a University community actually means in these new circumstances.

If the last few weeks have taught us anything, it is that we are all intricately and powerfully connected. So even as many of us prepare to work remotely, we are all part of a tightly knit global community of students, staff and alumni. We will get through this together.

The French expression captures the moment perfectly: bon courage!

Sincerely yours,


Prof Stephen J Toope


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