Advice on exceptional circumstances affecting your ability to study in Cambridge in the academic year 2020-21

General principles

The University of Cambridge is a residential institution and the expectation is that all full time students on degree-level courses will be in residence in Cambridge in 2020-21. In exceptional circumstances, however, it may not be possible or appropriate for a continuing student or a student who has met all the conditions of their offer to come to Cambridge for all or part of the academic year, and we will consider on an individual basis the best way to respond to such situations - this might be to offer the option of studying remotely away from Cambridge, to intermit studies or to be re-considered for entry at a later date.

Requests from offer-holders will not be considered until they have met the conditions of their offer.

The Colleges and the University will consider a disability (including a mental health condition that can be defined as a disability) which would be exacerbated by living in Cambridge under current circumstances, or a health condition which results in an individual being more susceptible to infectious diseases, as potentially ‘exceptional circumstances’ for these purposes. Students who cannot travel to Cambridge because of disruption to flights or travel restrictions in the UK or overseas may also have a valid case to claim ‘exceptional circumstances’ until the travel restrictions are lifted.

The following will not normally be considered as valid reasons not to come to Cambridge to study:

  1. concern about changes as a result of the current pandemic to modes of teaching and assessment, because we will ensure that the education provided in Cambridge is of the highest quality;
  2. concern about quarantine requirements, social distancing or other arrangements put in place in response to Public Health England requirements, because we will do all we can to ensure that the experience of education in Cambridge will be the best and most inclusive it can be despite these arrangements;
  3. concern about health risks arising from living in the Cambridge area, because we will do all we can, with our partners in the local community, to minimise risks to health.

Continuing students with financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic may be considered for intermission. Confirmed offer holders who can no longer afford to take up their place will normally be expected to withdraw and reapply, although it may be possible in exceptional cases to defer entry to a later date. Undergraduate and postgraduate students who are eligible for a loan from the Student Loans Company are reminded that they can request reassessment at any time. New and continuing undergraduates from the UK who are experiencing financial difficulties are encouraged to talk to their College.

If a student believes they have other valid grounds to request intermission or to be considered for entry at a later date they should consult their College. Such requests will be considered on a case by case basis.

Studying remotely for reasons of disability or susceptibility to infectious disease

We will do all we reasonably can to ensure that students who are exceptionally given permission to work remotely away from Cambridge because of a disability or known susceptibility to infectious diseases can do so through provision of online and recorded lectures, online supervisions and access to digital formats of educational materials, including library resources. Some of this provision will be available to all students as part of changes necessary to teaching under social distancing requirements, whilst others may be bespoke arrangements for the particular student who is studying remotely. In some cases it may not be possible to ensure that a student is able to meet the competency standard for the course through remote provision only. In these cases, it may be necessary for the student to intermit or defer entry. For some students, working remotely may have an impact on their funding or visa status and this will need to be taken into account before a decision is made as to the most appropriate action.

There will be no reduction in University or College fees for students who are given permission to study remotely.

Permission to study remotely will be granted for a limited period of at most one term at a time. The arrangement will be kept under active review to ensure that it is working satisfactorily, and adjustments made if necessary and practicable.


Late arrival as a result of travel disruption 

Students are expected to make plans to arrive on time in Cambridge to start or continue their course, or earlier if they are coming from a country from which the UK Government requires a period of self-isolation, unless remote study is approved for reasons of disability or increased susceptibility to infectious disease or for a research student during a period of fieldwork or ‘writing up’.   

Students who cannot travel to Cambridge on time owing to travel disruption, which includes limited flight availability, visa delays or local/international travel restrictions, can make a request owing to ‘exceptional circumstances’ to arrive late. This applies to all new and current students. Undergraduates and those on taught postgraduate courses should contact their College in the first instance. Research students should contact their Supervisor.  

Such requests will be considered and, where possible, permission granted for a late arrival for a defined and limited period of time sufficient to give the necessary flexibility for the student to be able to travel to Cambridge and self-isolate on arrival if required. Support to start studies remotely will be provided during this period if practicable, and students will be able to matriculate online. If travel disruption continues, limited, short-term extensions of up to two weeks at a time may be considered on a rolling basis provided remote learning is practicable.  

If the delay to arrival is such that it will not be practicable for the student to follow the course, then the student will need to discuss possible arrangements with their College, and in the case of research students with their Faculty or Department. This might involve entry at a later date, intermission from study or withdrawal from the course. 

Requesting permission to study remotely, to intermit or to be considered for entry at a later date; or to arrive after the start of the course

Any student who wishes to request permission to study remotely, to intermit or to be considered for entry at a later date should, in the first instance, discuss the matter with their College. Research students should also discuss the matter with their Research Supervisor.

Requests from offer-holders will not be considered until they have confirmed that they have met the conditions of their offer; once they have done so they should discuss requests for remote study, intermission or to defer entry with their College.