This update informs staff and students how different COVID-19 response levels will affect teaching and assessment at Cambridge.

How teaching and assessment will be provided at various COVID response levels

The University COVID-19 outbreak response plan has been updated to provide more detail on how the collegiate University will respond to outbreaks of COVID-19. Please see Appendix 5, ‘Response Framework for Managing COVID-19 Outbreaks’ in the plan. 

This note summarises the effect that each of Cambridge’s response phases (green, yellow, amber, red and red+) would have on teaching, learning and assessment across the collegiate University. Students should note that individual Colleges will have different systems for assessing their ability to supply local services and for the safe operation of college activities.  

The table below shows the Government (HMG) and Department for Education (DfE) tiers likely to be in force for each of the University’s phases. 

Collegiate University’s response phase 

HMG tier 

 DfE tier 





1, with operational readiness for 2 



2, with operational readiness for 3 


Very High 

3, with operational readiness for 4 

Red + 



In green and yellow, most lectures will be online and made available to students. Where practicable, small group teaching, including supervisions, seminars and classes will be in-person. Practicals will be delivered in COVID-secure settings. Where it has been agreed, in-person assessments will take place. PhD research will continue in University buildings. 

In amber, small group teaching, including supervisions, seminars and classes may move online. Practical classes will be in-person and PhD research will continue in University buildings. Most in-person assessments will be replaced with other agreed modes of assessment, unless they are required by relevant professional, statutory or regulatory bodies. 

In red, in addition to adjustments made in amber, practical classes will move online where possible, or deferred to later in the academic year. Essential practical teaching – for example, core skills required by a professional body – will remain in-person , although attempts will be made to reduce class sizes if possible and shorten the length of classes if elements can be delivered online. PhD research should be done remotely where possible.  

In red+, in addition to adjustments made in red, essential practicals are deferred to later in the year if possible and only essential in-person activity for PhD research. 

Escalation and communication 

The University’s COVID Gold Team, with input from Public Health England and local authority public health teams, will decide whether the collegiate University moves into a different response phase. All institutions, Colleges, staff and students will given as much advance warning as possible by email, and the status published at all times on the coronavirus section of the University website.