The University and Colleges are committed to supporting all students in taking up or continuing their course in the coming academic year, including those with concerns about increased susceptibility to infectious diseases (ISID) such as COVID-19 and those with disabilities that are impacted by COVID-19 related social distancing measures.

This webpage provides information on the following topics:

Different susceptibility to more serious COVID-19 disease

Different people are affected to a greater or lesser degree by infectious diseases like COVID. According to the recently published UK Government report, Disparities in the Risks and Outcomes of COVID-19, the most influential factors affecting the severity of COVID-19 are age and the presence of specific underlying pre-existing illnesses. Susceptibility and outcomes of COVID-19 illness are also affected, to a lesser degree, by other factors including ethnicity and occupation.

Age is by far the biggest influence on a person’s susceptibility to more serious COVID-19 related illness – indeed the chances of COVID-related death are 70-times greater for those older than 80 compared to those younger than 40 years of age. Nevertheless, younger people may still have increased susceptibility because of underlying illnesses.  The UK Government’s public agency, Public Health England (PHE) has published guidance to help people understand if they have underlying illnesses that could put them at a higher risk, or even a very high risk, of serious COVID-19 related illness. Check these links to see if you fall into one of these groups, and if so follow the advice below.

An overview of public health and disease prevention arrangements in development for the coming academic year

Coronavirus is likely to be around us for some time to come so the Colleges and University are working flat out to make Cambridge ready to welcome students for the coming academic year with a range of preventive health and infection control measures, implementing government guidance (for an over view of what is involved see: Higher education: reopening buildings and campuses).  The University already provides extensive information through the University’s coronavirus webpages and a major information and communications initiative will launch as we approach the coming academic year. It is important to bear in mind, though, that none of these measures guarantee protection from infection; instead we each have an individual and a collective responsibility to minimise the risk of transmission of infection. Please see our Community Statement that describes our joint commitment, particularly in relation to those staff and students among us who are greater susceptibility.

At their core these arrangements are focused on:

  • Awareness campaigns of our joint responsibility to minimise transmission.
  • Limiting contact with other people outside of the accommodation household.
  • Providing accommodation in small household groups centred around shared kitchen and bathroom facilities, dedicated to each household.
  • Observing social distance away from the household, at work or in recreation.
  • Washing hands regularly, and not leaving home if you, or anyone you live with, has symptoms.

Detailed guidance is evolving alongside government advice and more detailed advice will be launched towards the start of the academic year. Current guidance for students resident in Cambridge on accommodation, social distancing, and responding to symptoms of COVID-19 can be found here.

Support for students with increased susceptibility (vulnerability) to infectious diseases including COVID-19

You should notify your College as soon as possible if you think you might be at increased susceptibility to more serious COVID-19 illness. Use the PHE guidance in discussion with your doctor to understand if you are at a higher risk, or even a very high risk, of serious COVID-19 related illness. Check these links to see if you fall into one of these groups, and if so follow the advice below.

Very high-risk group

Special arrangements will be necessary if you fall within this group because Public Health England may recommend that you ‘shield’ when levels of virus transmission in the community are high. Shielding means not going out to places of work or study, segregating from the people you live with, and not mixing with people outside of your household. From 1 August 2020, while the prevalence of transmission in England remains low, people in this very high-risk category have been advised that they may return to work, school and study, while stringently observing social distancing from people outside of their household. Shielding could be reintroduced by government if transmission levels increase again. Students in this groups should:

  • Inform the College immediately.
  • Arrange straight away for a letter from your specialist medical doctor, detailing your condition and outlining your preventive health needs in the context of plans to enter a residential student environment. Send this letter to your College’s Senior Tutor as a matter of urgency.
  • Work with your College’s Senior Tutor and, through them, with University bodies including your Department or Faculty, Student Registry and the Disabilities Resource Centre (DRC) to develop an appropriate arrangement for study and residency that fits your specific needs and accounts for possible changes in the need for shielding. Different potential arrangements will take account of your course requirements and may include working remotely or taking time away from study if this isn’t possible. Please refer to Academic allowances for academic year 2020-2021.  People in this category will not normally live in shared student accommodation and Colleges will assist you in locating self-contained accommodation, where this is recommended and not already available.
  • Work with your College to put in place a contingency plan, ahead of your arrival, for use in the event you become symptomatic in Cambridge. Your College Tutor, Senior Tutor, or College Nurse (where applicable) will help with this and will also signpost you to local health and wellbeing services in Cambridge.

Higher risk group

People in the higher risk group are not required to shield but are nevertheless advised to minimise the number of people they come into contact with outside of their household, always practising stringent social distancing and hand hygiene. Shared facilities within households (kitchen surfaces, baths, showers and toilets) should be cleaned before use and a rota may be set up to allow the vulnerable person to use the shared facilities first. People in this group are recommended to limit the amount of time they spend in communal or shared areas of their household and to ensure these areas are well ventilated. Students in this group should:

  • Inform the College immediately.
  • Arrange a consultation with your doctor for personal advice based on your plans to enter residential student environment.
  • Provide further information on your condition through the College’s health information gathering system when asked to do so.
  • Work with your College Tutor upon arrival in Cambridge to put in place a contingency plan for use in the event you become symptomatic, or for the event that another member of your shared household become symptomatic leading to your household entering isolation. In this latter case, if you are non-symptomatic, your College will assist you in moving to self-contained accommodation for the period of self-isolation.  Your College Tutor, Senior Tutor, or College Nurse (where applicable) will help with this and will also signpost you to local health and wellbeing services in Cambridge.

Support for students with disabilities impacted by COVID-related social distancing measures

Students should consider if they have any disabilities that are impacted by COVID-related preventive health arrangements (these might include long term health conditions or mobility impairments, or certain mental health conditions). Students in this category are asked to:

  • Confirm straight away to the College that you have already registered your disability with the University's Disability Resource Centre.
  • Work with your College’s Senior Tutor and/or College Disabilities Officer and, through them, with University bodies including your Department or Faculty, Student Registry and the Disabilities Resource Centre, to develop an appropriate arrangement for study and accommodation that meets your specific needs. Different potential arrangements will also take account of your course requirements and may include working remotely or taking time away from study if this isn’t possible. Please refer to academic allowances for academic year 2020-2021. Your College will assist you in locating accommodation appropriate to your needs.