A message to students from the Vice-Chancellor about General Admissions, asymptomatic screening, arrangements for COVID-19 testing over the summer vacation, vaccinations, financial support for postgraduate research students, and a recent Cambridge study on face-masks for healthcare workers.

Dear students,

Today is the beginning of General Admissions. I warmly congratulate those finalists who have successfully completed their course of studies. Your achievement is even more remarkable considering the unusual and challenging circumstances of the last few months. You and your loved ones have every reason to be proud.

The ceremonies will not resemble the large-scale celebrations that we traditionally look forward to. This year’s streamlined and socially distanced events have been carefully planned, in close consultation with local health authorities, to ensure the greatest possible safety for all graduating students and for University and College officers. I hope the modifications to the graduation ceremonies do not diminish in any way your sense of accomplishment – or your enjoyment of the special occasion.

I am aware that some of you have found yourselves needing to self-isolate, and will not be able to join your peers for General Admissions this time. I am very sorry to hear that, and to hear about the disruption it has caused for you, your families and supporters. We hope to welcome you back in Senate House at a future date to celebrate your achievements.

Asymptomatic screening

In response to the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 across the University, the Asymptomatic Screening Programme will be extended for a further week. The last date for pooled screening will now be Wednesday 7 July.

Finding cases early – before the development of symptoms – means that we can prevent new outbreaks, and minimise disruption to end-of-term events. For those travelling home at the end of term, getting tested will help you reduce the risk of unwittingly passing on an infection to your family or friends.

I ask those of you who are still in Cambridge to continue to participate in the screening programme next week, or sign-up if you have not already done so (if you are resident in College accommodation, you can complete the online consent form right up until 10:00 a.m. the day before you take your swab).

Confirmatory PCR tests for students with positive Lateral Flow Tests, ‘Pre-departure’ tests and tests for enhanced contact tracing will also be available Monday-Friday this week, instead of the usual Monday-Thursday.

Arrangements for testing over the summer vacation

The pooled screening programme will not operate over the summer vacation. If you expect to remain in Cambridge, we recommend that you sign up for lateral flow testing. In the event of a positive result, you will be able to obtain a confirmatory test from your College. These confirmatory tests will be available Monday-Thursday throughout the summer vacation, together with 'Return to Cambridge' tests, 'Pre-departure' tests, and tests for enhanced contact tracing.

We will also be continuing to offer testing at the University or Addenbrooke’s Hospital pods for any student or staff member with symptoms of possible COVID-19 over the summer vacation. Further information about arrangements for testing during the summer vacation is available on our website.

Vaccinations

There is clear evidence that vaccinations significantly reduce levels of infection, hospitalisation and death from COVID-19. Earlier this week, the Government announced that anyone 18 and over is eligible for vaccination. I urge students who have not already done so to book their vaccination online, or by calling 119.  

Returning students who receive a first dose now are more likely to have received their second dose before the beginning of Michaelmas term, which will ensure better protection at the start of the new academic year.

On Sunday 4 July, a drop-in vaccination centre will be set up at King’s College. Other pop-up vaccination facilities will be set up across the city centre over the next few weeks. We strongly encourage those of you who remain in Cambridge to go and get your jabs.

Continuing caution

The current significant rise in cases suggests that, even with testing and vaccination in place, stopping the spread of the virus will be challenging without additional measures. Our behaviour can make all the difference. Please continue to act responsibly to protect your health, and that of others.

Financial support for postgraduate research students

The pandemic has put severe pressure on post-graduate research students whose research has been interrupted, but whose funding has not been extended by their sponsor. The Collegiate University has now launched the Postgraduate Research Student Covid-19 Assistance Scheme, a new fund that aims to support students affected by the pandemic by allowing them to complete their research. The fund will prioritise self-funded students facing financial hardship in their final year. Applications open in July and will continue into Michaelmas Term.

And finally…

Since the start of the pandemic, Cambridge researchers have contributed to tackling COVID-19 in concrete and decisive ways. The latest example is a study, published yesterday, showing how the seemingly simple measure of upgrading the type of face-mask used by healthcare workers has helped to cut hospital-acquired infections. This is the kind of evidence-based finding that will, I am sure, improve the safety of many of the key workers who have been on the front line of the pandemic.

One more reason for all of us to be incredibly proud of our University.

I am so grateful for the resilience, solidarity and dedication our student community has shown over the past year. I wish all students a safe and enjoyable summer.

With best wishes,

Stephen

Prof Stephen J Toope
Vice-Chancellor