Information for staff and students on mental health and wellbeing, accessing books from the University Library, and how you can help tackle COVID-19.

Dear colleagues,

Like all other communities around the world, our Collegiate University community is feeling the strain of these exceptional circumstances. Amid the daily pressures, I have been gladdened and encouraged by the leadership and the determination of our Student Union representatives. The University is working closely with them, and with the Colleges, to ensure that our students – both in Cambridge and elsewhere – are well supported.

Student Mental Health and Wellbeing:

We are together developing guidance for College Tutors on new ways of working over the Easter vacation and in the following term. This includes help for Tutors on the best way to use technology to facilitate their engagement with students, and new ways of referring students who need more help on to other services. 

Although the Student Service Centre building itself is closed, the University Counselling Service (UCS) and Disability Resource Centre remain open – our counsellors, mental health advisers, disability advisers, sexual assault and harassment adviser, and specialist mentors and study skills tutors are all working online.

The University Counselling Service (UCS) is adapting its delivery to work remotely, and this week students started receiving support over the phone. Any students needing to access the UCS can self-refer by completing an online form for one of its services. There are some restrictions on the type of counselling support that can be offered remotely, but continuity of care for students already registered with either service is paramount. 

The UCS is also working closely with others in and beyond Cambridge to develop and promote ways in which students can enhance their wellbeing in these challenging times. With direct feedback from students, it is looking into how students can continue to feel connected to the Collegiate University while they are away, or even in isolation in Cambridge. One particularly creative example that has come to my attention concerns Cambridge students constructing their Colleges in Minecraft.

More links to resources for student health and mental wellbeing are at the end of this message. Students are encouraged to keep the ideas coming through their College MCR and JCR representatives, or through CUSU and the GU.


Many students have contacted me expressing concern about the disruption to their examinations, and asking about (or indeed suggesting) alternative methods of assessment. Huge efforts are being undertaken by many teams across the Collegiate University to find the most practical arrangements for the months ahead. We will be in a position to share these arrangements with students by 31 March. I would like to thank all those involved in thinking about these alternative arrangements. And I ask all students to be patient. The University has never, in recent memory, had to engage in such an organisational effort on this scale.

University resources

The University Library has closed its doors, but remains open – and is expanding online. Already it offers access to 800,000 e-books from a wide variety of publishers. The Library is acquiring more e-books daily to support students. The UL has diverted funding specifically to purchase additional electronic versions of academic texts, creating a much more research-rich library content for all our staff and students to use in the days ahead.

Tackling COVID-19

The Cambridge University-Nanjing Centre of Technology and Innovation, one of the University’s strategic international ventures, has launched an appeal to collect personal protective equipment (PPE) to donate to Cambridge University Hospitals. We are hugely grateful to our partners and friends for their support. 

I must stress again the importance of coordination of all offers of support. It is crucial that anyone wishing to contribute to local and national efforts do so through the right channels. The University has set up a dedicated webpage to help triage, direct and coordinate efforts to tackle COVID-19 and support Cambridge University Hospitals – from establishing research collaborations with universities and industries, to coordinating donations, to supporting national government initiatives.

I finish today’s message by reflecting on the fact that, despite the lockdown, the University has a lot to offer. This virtual tour of the Jim and Helen Ede house, at the heart of Kettle’s Yard, is a wonderful reminder of the treasures to be found even behind closed doors.

Stay safe.

With best wishes,



Prof Stephen J Toope



University resources for mental health and wellbeing:

For staff

For students