Update From The Vice Chancellor

Update from the Vice-Chancellor 26 Feb 2021

A message to staff and students from the Vice-Chancellor with further details about the easing of England’s current lockdown.

Dear all,

Earlier this week, the government set out its plan for the easing of the current lockdown in England. The Department for Education has published further detailed guidance on how the government’s “roadmap” applies to universities. Colleagues across the collegiate University have been discussing how this guidance applies to the University and Colleges.

Lent Term and Easter vacation

There is no immediate change to the University’s provision for this term or the Easter vacation. Teaching will remain online for the majority of courses. Those courses (such as clinical medicine) that are already offering in-person teaching will continue to do so. In line with current rules, research students will continue to be permitted access to specialist facilities if necessary for their work.

Students are being asked to remain where they are at present – whether this is in their out-of-term address or in Cambridge accommodation – and should not travel unless it is for one of the exceptional reasons listed in our updated student guidance.

It is important to stress that, under the current guidance, all students who are currently in Cambridge are expected to remain here over the Easter vacation, unless one of the limited exceptions apply or the rules restricting travel change. We will inform you if they do.

If you fall into any of the exceptional categories listed in the guidance, and are given permission by your college to return to Cambridge, you are encouraged to get a test through the asymptomatic screening programme as soon as possible when you are back. Please follow your college’s guidance on the rules you need to observe.

Library services

There is no immediate change to the provision of current library services. A gradual reopening process for the University Library, departmental libraries and college libraries is underway, with the goal of physical library access across Cambridge returning to Michaelmas Term levels by the start of Easter Term. 

Easter Term

We hope to welcome back as many students as possible in the Easter term. This will depend on what is allowed by the government, which has announced it will review the feasibility of the return of undergraduate and postgraduate students on taught courses by “the end of the Easter holidays”. We are seeking guidance from the government as to when this might be. The government will give a week’s notice to students before they are allowed to return. We will share further information on this as soon as we have it.

At the moment we are planning for all students to be back in Cambridge next term, save for those who have an underlying health condition or who cannot travel to Cambridge. We acknowledge that due to the short notice for return and the need to quarantine for 10 days, it will be difficult for international students to return to Cambridge. All students who face such difficulties in returning should contact their College to discuss remote study for Easter Term.  

Exams and assessment

The examination and assessment timetable is under review. It is likely that the timetable will extend to 2 July, but we will seek to ensure that final year undergraduates and postgraduate students on taught courses have their exams scheduled as early as possible to enable them to graduate.


Work is underway to establish whether some form of modified in-person graduation ceremony is possible this summer. This will depend on government restrictions, and on whether an in-person event can be carried out safely.


Once again I wish to share news of the success of the University’s asymptomatic screening programme for students. There were zero positive cases reported among the 4,099 students screened between the 15 and 21 of February.

Key workers and staff who cannot work from home, and who are therefore in need of regular testing, are reminded that there are now rapid testing community centres in several locations across Cambridgeshire and neighbouring counties.

Tackling COVID-19

Today I would like to draw your attention to the recently published interview with Professor Sharon Peacock, who has been leading the UK’s efforts to sequence variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 – yet another example of the University’s remarkable contribution to understanding and combatting the disease.

And finally…

Something extraordinary happened in Cambridge over the past weekend. A rare cactus, the Moonflower, blossomed in one of our Botanic Garden’s glasshouses. This incredibly rare occurrence was witnessed remotely by botanists and plant enthusiasts around the world via a livestream. Anyone who missed this fleeting moment of scientific interest – a heart-warming sign of hope as we begin to leave winter behind – can revisit it here.

With best wishes,


Prof Stephen J Toope