Dear Colleagues

I am writing one final time to ask you to do all you can to protect thousands of our students from the severe impact of the marking and assessment boycott, as time is short.

Exams are now over for undergraduates. As they relax and celebrate, I realise I need to set out more clearly than ever just how enormous the impact of the boycott is likely to be at Cambridge. Students could still be waiting for degrees well into the next academic year.

I must also set out, as many of you have asked, what University management is doing to help students. And finally, I must explain what we have done in relation to the national dispute on pay and conditions, where progress is stalled. There seems no prospect of a resolution in time for our students.  


From a total of approximately 4,500 undergraduate students who would have expected to graduate, our latest estimates suggest that over 50% are likely to be impacted by the boycott. If nothing changes in the next 10 days, the HSPS, English, Geography and History Triposes have all declared that their finalists will not be receiving their degrees this summer.  

Amongst taught postgraduate students who would expect to graduate in July (on 9 month courses), initial estimates suggest that out of a total more than 1000 students, there are likely to be impacts on the vast majority – maybe as many as 90%. This high number reflects the concentration of PGT students in subject areas that are heavily impacted by the boycott.

The consequences are severe, and in some cases, immediate. Those who need degrees for international student visas (for the US, for example) have a narrowing window to be able to start their degrees on time in August. A number of students need to demonstrate completion of their degrees to take up jobs, some starting in July. Professional bodies will also require evidence of completion for the recognition of qualified status. International students who were hoping to stay in the UK for post-study graduate visas will incur additional costs (close to £1000) to remain in the UK, and have uncertainty about whether they will get degree results in time to take up work opportunities – we think there may be at least 400 students who will be in this position.

University actions

We proposed measures in February to try to support students in the face of the boycott, but these proposals were not supported by Regent House, limiting the options for response. This means that our students are more severely impacted by the boycott than students at most other universities. We have been working tirelessly with colleagues in faculties, departments and Colleges, to continue to manage the impacts of the boycott, and provide clear advice to students. Two task forces are supporting staff and departments by giving detailed advice on specific issues relating to examinations and assessment, while maintaining academic standards. The industrial action website, and student-facing FAQs, have been regularly updated to help provide information at a time of real uncertainty and stress.

Specifically, we have approved the release of provisional marks where these exist, to help provide some evidence of academic attainment. We have reminded examiners that they can class part of a cohort, even if marks are missing for some students, and have provided colleges and departments with template letters for employers and educational institutions.

We have arranged celebratory events at the end of the academic year, at the time of graduation ceremonies, to enable students to celebrate with friends and family. We have also successfully lobbied the Home Office to support international students who wish to stay on graduate visas.

The wider dispute

This is a national dispute; we cannot fix the problem just by agreeing to pay staff better. You will be fully aware that I have previously called for the employers’ organisation, UCEA, to resume negotiations with the union, the UCU. We continue to engage with the UCU at a local level, but they are unable to respond locally, despite our overtures. Over the recent cost of living crisis, the university has twice made payments to staff above the nationally agreed pay uplift . More widely, since I started my tenure as Acting Vice-Chancellor, my senior colleagues and I have been focusing on our ‘people’ strategy, and especially on reward and incentives, working conditions, casualisation and the broader package that we can provide for our staff, to make this an excellent place to work. That work continues, and we will do all we can, locally, while we wait for the outcome of national-level discussions.

So, as my time as Acting Vice-Chancellor comes to an end, I ask you to consider again the impact of your individual choices on the hopes and plans of students whose education and lives have already been so badly affected by the pandemic. Please help them to graduate, which is what they deserve, and the outcome that we all want for our students.

Thank you.


Anthony Freeling

Key dates for the publication of Tripos results in impacted subjects

(all exams marks need to be received at least a week before these dates and exam boards need to meet within that week. Should these deadlines be missed, there is not guarantee exams can be marked, and class lists produced and approved in summer)

Tripos Date
Natural Sciences Tripos, Part II: Materials Science 16/06/2023
Master of Advanced Study in Mathematics 21/06/2023
Computer Science Tripos, Part II 21/06/2023
Mathematical Tripos, Part III 21/06/2023
Natural Sciences Tripos, Part II: Physics 21/06/2023
Natural Sciences Tripos, Part II: Pathology 21/06/2023
Natural Sciences Tripos, Part II: History and Philosophy of Science 21/06/2023
Mathematical Tripos, Part II 22/06/2023
Natural Sciences Tripos, Part II: Physiology, Development and Neuroscience 22/06/2023
Law Tripos Part II 23/06/2023
Modern and Medieval Languages Tripos, Part II 23/06/2023
HSPS Tripos, Part IIB: Politics 23/06/2023
HSPS Tripos, Part IIB: Sociology 23/06/2023
HSPS Tripos, Part IIB: Politics and Sociology 23/06/2023
Natural Sciences Tripos, Part II: Astrophysics 23/06/2023
English Tripos, Part II 24/06/2023
History and Politics Tripos, Part II 24/06/2023
Historical Tripos Part II 26/06/2023
Natural Sciences Tripos Part II Biological and Biomedical Sciences 26/06/2023
Geographical Tripos, Part II 26/06/2023
Music Tripos, Part II 26/06/2023
Land Economy Tripos, Part II 26/06/2023
Philosophy Tripos, Part II 26/06/2023
LLM Examination 27/06/2023

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