A message to staff and students from the Vice-Chancellor about COVID-19 cases in the student population, plans for University staff returning to the workplace, and symptomatic testing.

Dear all,

The government announced on Monday that it is postponing the easing of lockdown restrictions by four weeks. The University will continue to operate as it has been since 17 May, when England entered Stage 3 of the national lockdown roadmap.


After a long run with no cases at all, we have in the last few days identified 6 students with COVID-19, mostly by asymptomatic screening. The more infectious “delta” variant of the virus has already been associated with outbreaks at other universities. Any increase in numbers – no matter how small – is therefore a serious cause for concern.

Because of this, I urge all students to continue participating in the Asymptomatic COVID-19 Screening Programme, or to sign-up if they have not already done so. By finding cases early, we can avoid outbreaks, and further disruption to University life as the academic year draws to a close.

In this changing context, it is especially important to note that restrictions on large social gatherings will remain in place for as long as we continue to be in Stage 3 of the roadmap. Though “COVID-secure” events such as General Admissions will continue as planned, the University and the Colleges are working closely with local authorities to discourage unauthorised events and mass gatherings. I ask that we are all responsible and respectful of our wider community.

University staff

We have been discussing plans to welcome more people back to the workplace. The process will present operational challenges, and we have been consulting University institutions on how best to support working arrangements once restrictions do ease. We are using the additional time offered by the government’s extension of lockdown restrictions to consult further on these plans. 

Symptomatic testing

Please remember that anybody experiencing even minor symptoms (such as a sore throat, runny nose or muscle aches) is now able to access a test for COVID-19 via the University’s symptomatic testing programme. We know that in some people, these can be an early warning of infection – whether or not they have been vaccinated.

With best wishes,


Prof Stephen J Toope