Guidance for resident students, for new academic year


We want you to enjoy living and studying here and we're committed to providing a supportive and inclusive environment.

The guidance on these pages is for students resident in Cambridge and applies both to those already resident and to those coming into residence for the new academic year 2020-2021.

It’s also important to say that the University and the Colleges understand that you need to be able to relax and have fun while you’re in Cambridge. Colleges have been working with student representatives to ensure that induction and welcome events in the autumn give students the information and support they will need.

In this film, Master of Jesus College Sonita Alleyne talks about her confidence in students’ abilities to pursue their academic interests and find inventive ways to enjoy their time in Cambridge with their friends.



students in face coverings at St Edmund's

College life in times of COVID-19

18 September 2020

“For the creative, with the energy to grasp them, this year will present opportunities like no other.” Dr Judith Bunbury, Senior Tutor at St Edmund’s College, looks ahead to the coming term, and all it has in store for new and returning students.


The city of Cambridge and surrounding communities currently have a relatively low incidence of COVID-19 but the prospect of a new and rapid spike in cases remains a very real threat, particularly as people begin to return for the new academic year. So it is essential that you follow the information on these StaySafeCambridgeUni webpages and government advice.

Please also read and align yourself with the Collegiate University’s COVID Community Statement. This brief statement of purpose emphasises our individual and collective responsibility in minimising risks, and maximising support, for students, staff and visitors.

All resident members of Colleges are expected to abide by these key principles:

  • Minimise the risks of virus transmission in all aspects of your life
  • Limit contact with other people outside of your household
  • Observe social distancing practices when you go out, not meeting up with more than six people, keeping at least 2m apart wherever possible and taking other precautions, such as wearing a face covering, if this is not possible
  • Sanitise or wash your hands regularly
  • Do not leave home if you, or anyone you live with, has symptoms (see below).

Please keep up to date with the evolving government guidance on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus, on social distancing and on what you can and can’t do in England as a result of the pandemic.

If you’re returning to Cambridge or are starting here for the first time this year, things will look a little bit different as we’ve put in place procedures to reduce your risk of catching COVID-19. Find out what arriving at College and going to your accommodation will look like. Please note that procedures will vary from College to College, and these short films should simply be viewed as an example of some of the procedures that may be in place.







Jump to:

  1. Households in the University of Cambridge context
  2. Social distancing guidance in the College context
  3. Clubs and societies
  4. College spaces and services
  5. Pastoral and wellbeing matters

How COVID-19 is transmitted and how to reduce risks


1. Households in the University of Cambridge context

If you live in College accommodation that includes a shared bathroom/shower and/or toilet and/or kitchen area, then all the occupants that share these facilities constitute a ‘household’. Close and consistent adoption of this practice has helped protect students already in Cambridge in the months since lockdown was applied, and we need your help to maintain this to minimise the risk to yourself and others.  The size and nature of each household will inevitably vary depending upon the type of accommodation available and offered in different Colleges.

Take joint responsibility for keeping your room and shared facilities clean: By taking care of cleaning your own room and by cleaning shared facilities each time you use them you reduce the frequency of visits from housekeeping staff, keeping everyone safer.

Communal entrances to accommodation: Be aware of high-contact surfaces including door handles and stair bannisters in communal entrances. Wash your hands before leaving your household and immediately after returning.


2. Social distancing guidance in the College context

Please make every effort to minimise the likelihood of bringing infection back to your household by staying up to date with government guidance: Staying alert and safe (social distancing) and by following these guidelines:

Stay alert to social distancing guidance when you are away from your household

Keep up to date with specific guidance for staying safe outside of your home. Follow all relevant signage and local rules in your Colleges or workplace. When meeting friends and family you do not live with (your household), you must not meet in a group of more than six people, indoors or outdoors. The police have powers to enforce these limits, including to issue fines (fixed penalty notices) of £100, doubling for further breaches up to a maximum of £3,200.

You should not mix with anyone outside of your household unless you maintain appropriate social distancing (2m, or 1m with a face covering) – this applies to common areas in the College, as well as other parts of the collegiate University and Cambridge in general.

See the section below for advice on how to reduce risk where two-metre distancing is not possible.

Face coverings

You must wear a face covering in public in a wide range of environments, particularly if you cannot maintain a distance of at least two metres. The University and Colleges have issued a joint statement on face coverings which applies to their premises. Some Colleges or Departments may have additional guidance, so please check with your College.

Practise frequent handwashing and good respiratory hygiene

Sneeze into a tissue and dispose of it hygienically, cover your mouth if coughing and wash your hands again. Use hand sanitizers where and whenever these are provided.

Socialising within College

Colleges are aiming to provide many facilities and opportunities for socialising on-site and you are encouraged to use these in favour of external venues. Please check with your own College what is available.

The Colleges’ bars, catering and dining facilities will be run as 'COVID-secure', in line with government rules with expectations of social distancing clearly indicated. Colleges will be able to arrange or approve activities that may involve more than six people if social distancing between households can be maintained.

Students (or JCRs, MCRS, societies etc) can continue to run their own events ONLY if:

  • they include fewer than six people; or
  • the event is undertaken with the full knowledge and consent of the College (or University) in an approved 'COVID-secure environment', which will require the event organisers to work with the venue (College or University building) to complete any necessary risk assessments for the specific event, and consider how and whether the venue will provide management or monitoring.

Socialising away from University and College buildings

When you’re out and about in Cambridge, please remember we live within a wider community and that social distancing must be maintained at all times.

You can meet up in a group of six or fewer people from different households, but you must remember to maintain two-metre social distancing. You can also socialise with members of your household, but remember that if you are in a group of more than six people it may appear as if you are breaking the law and you may be challenged, including by police officers or by concerned members of the public. Venues in the city such as cafes, pubs and restaurants may limit groups to six people.

Venues following COVID-19 secure guidelines, such as pubs, shops, restaurants or places of worship, will be able to continue to host more than six people in total. When you visit one of these places, you should

  • follow the limits on the number of other people you should meet with as a group - no more than six people unless you all live together
  • avoid social interaction with anyone outside the group you are with, even if you see other people you know
  • provide your contact details to the organiser so that you can be contacted if needed by the NHS Test and Trace programme
  • remember to wear a face covering unless exemptions apply
  • avoid long queues as these can obstruct other people and make social distancing difficult

Visitors to Colleges’ non-residential areas

Check with your College’s Porters’ Lodge for the latest local visitor guidance which may vary between Colleges. Please keep visitors to the minimum necessary.

In general, outdoors in the College gardens, you may gather in a group of up to six people from different households, but retaining two-metre social distancing. In indoor communal areas, for example dining areas, local social distancing instructions must be observed. Work-related in-person meetings with visitors in non-communal areas should take place only where absolutely necessary and must be held in line with the College’s risk assessments for the venue. Always check with your host on local rules before visiting another College.

Visits to or from households in College accommodation areas

If you invite people to visit your household space (including your room and/or a shared kitchen or social space as part of your household), you should continue to maintain social distancing within any space – if your room is not large enough, you should not invite them in.

No room (or shared space) in accommodation areas should have more than six people in it at any one time.

Please respect at all times the wishes of other members of your household.

It is important that you check with your College’s Porters’ Lodge for the latest visitor guidance for your College, because this is likely to vary between Colleges.

Household visits in off-site College hostels or in private accommodation

If you live in an off-site College hostel or in private accommodation, then you are responsible for retaining a list of your visitors in the preceding 21 days for Test and Trace purposes. Work as a household to minimise the number of visitors to your accommodation areas to ensure you do not exceed the six-person limit; consider using group-chats to coordinate visits.

As part of a ‘social bubble’

Government guidance on meeting people from outside your household allows, in theory, for a person living in a single person household to connect up with a second household (a ‘social bubble’) – enabling closer contact between individuals without social distancing. In the interests of safety and equity to all members of a shared College household, people living in College accommodation will not normally be allowed to operate social bubbles in this way. To do so might be unfair or lead to undue pressure on other members of a shared household since a social bubble is permitted to contain only 2 households in total. Further, all members of both households in the social bubble must isolate for 14 days if any member of either household becomes symptomatic.

Staying with friends or relations away from Cambridge

Only do this when absolutely necessary. If you stay overnight away from your Cambridge household social distancing and the 'rule of six' must be maintained. Keep a list of people you stayed with in the preceding 21 days for Test and Trace purposes. Undergraduates must discuss any planned term-time absence from Cambridge with their tutor in advance. Local restrictions may apply in some areas of the United Kingdom, where increased incidence of COVID-19 infection has been detected in the community. These restrictions typically apply for an indefinite period, but they are subject to regular review. You should not visit households in any of these areas while such restrictions apply.


3. Clubs and societies

Many clubs and societies are preparing for the upcoming term and working hard to put safety measures in place. Others will be reviewing how they operate and will provide further details in due course.

For more information on how each club or society will be operating during the pandemic, we advise you to refer to individual websites. These can be found through the University of Cambridge Registered Clubs and Societies page

Sports and exercise

Certain activities are exempt from the six-person rules. These include organised indoor and outdoor sports, physical activity and exercise classes. Please see government guidance on recreational team sportsoutdoor sport and exercise allowed under the gyms and leisure centre guidance. Sports events can take place if they are organised and sanctioned by the College or University, and if the relevant sports-specific guidance has been taken into consideration.

Performing arts

For music, drama and other performing arts, government guidance that covers both rehearsals and performances should be followed.


4. College spaces and services

The latest detailed information on the current arrangements for key services (Porters’ Lodge, catering, housekeeping etc), and the availability of communal, study and social spaces, is available on your College website.


5. Pastoral and wellbeing matters

Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has brought personal hardship to many if not most of us in different ways. However, the University and Colleges are committed to offering as much help as possible and are working closely together to this end.

If you require support or help your immediate source is your College. Your Tutor or Senior Tutor would normally be your point of first contact, but College Nurses, Porters, Deans or Chaplains and the Tutorial Office staff in general also typically form part of Colleges’ support teams.

Welfare Officers and other executive members of your JCR or MCR are also able to offer support.

The University’s core support services, University Counselling Service and Disability Resource Centre, are maintaining an online service. Do make use of them if you need to, with your Tutor’s help if needed. A vast array of online support and information can be accessed through the University’s wellbeing website. Finally, check your College website for information on College-based support.

Please let your Tutor or someone else in the support team at your College know if you are feeling lonely, anxious, or isolated, particularly if you are currently living in non-shared accommodation.


How COVID-19 is transmitted and how to reduce risks

COVID-19 is transmitted in three ways:

  • Direct person-to-person contact - if an infectious person breathes droplets on you or you pick them up through physical contact with an infectious person.
  • Contact with a contaminated surface - if you touch a surface contaminated with the virus and then touch your nose, eyes or mouth, you may be infected.
  • Aerosol transmission - fine droplets of liquid containing virus are breathed out, form an aerosol and are carried through the air. You may become infected if you breathe these in.

If you are further away from someone there’s less risk of catching the virus from droplets or aerosol transmission. However, distance isn’t the only thing that matters.

  • Duration - the longer you are close to an infectious person, the higher the risk.
  • Fresh air - the risk is lower if you are outdoors, or in a well ventilated area,
  • Direction - the risk is lower if you are not face-on with the infectious person

The risk of transmission is small at 2m and where possible, you should maintain 2m distance.

If it is not possible to keep 2m distance, reduce the risk to yourself and others at 1m by taking suitable precautions:

  • Limit the number of people or households that you come into contact with, e.g. avoid peak travel
  • Sit / stand side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them
  • Meet people outdoors, rather than indoors
  • Keep interactions brief
  • Wear a face covering on public transport, in shops or crowded indoor environments
  • Increase ventilation
  • Avoid loud talking or singing with others

To minimise the risk of transmission via surface contact, you should:

  • Regularly wash your hands using soap and water or use hand sanitiser
  • Avoid touching surfaces and do not touch your face
  • Dispose of waste safely, including items such as paper face masks or gloves

In all cases, you must not go to work or attend other public spaces if you are symptomatic, or a member of your household is symptomatic.