New rules: How different Cambridge colleges are handling lockdown 2.0

Dua Lipa wouldn’t have even been prepared for this

We had a good run guys. I hope that four weeks of a lockdown-free term has served you all well. But alas, we are now several days into our second national lockdown, and I’m sure you’ve all noticed an eerie silence walking through college courts or groaned at the impossible length of the Mainsbury’s line – because what else is there to do now other than stock up on cheese and wine.

As a collegiate university, rules about the new lockdown across Cambridge are of course as unpredictable as the free drinks at Pret (I’ve convinced myself they give me the wrong order on purpose now) and are entirely dependant on which college you’re at.

Though there are obviously hard and fast rules maintained at all colleges (no mixing of households, no indoor visitors, etc.), there are also some rogue and surprising differences in the ways that students have been permitted to socialise in college, and The Cambridge Tab has rounded up a few interesting examples! (Note: these have been entirely limited by the number of out-of-college friends I have, and also how many of them actually reply to my messages 🙃):

Evening formals at Emma?

Many of us won’t have been to a formal since March (I’m pretty sure my gown’s still at home), but a few colleges started running socially-distanced “household formals” in Michaelmas. Emma was one such college, and they don’t intend on stopping them now. An email to Emma students even announced that there will be a series of special Christmas household formals that can be booked into shortly.

Bridgemas formal will live on! (Image credit: Genevieve Holl-Allen)

Magdalene has sadly decided to suspend the system for formals that was in place this term, but Churchill and Catz have plans to start running “household dinners” that students can attend. At Catz, this will mean that at least for now, attendees can ditch their gowns and formal dress (radical, ik).

Fitz takes sanitising to new heights

Some colleges, Christ’s for example, have told students that bedders will still be coming to clean communal areas and bedrooms. But Fitz have said that housekeeping will not be entering household areas AT ALL during lockdown. That’s right, in a shocking turn of events, Cambridge students will have to clean up after themselves 😮.

An email to students at Fitz explains that each household will be given additional supplies for cleaning individual rooms and shared spaces. Households have been asked to place rubbish at the bottom of their staircases for collection each day before 10am. Meanwhile, the complimentary laundry service at Emma will of course be continuing as normal – I dread to think what would happen if they ever let students fold their own clothes.

Bars, Booze and Butteries

Due to government restrictions, college bars are no longer allowed to sell alcohol on the premises. Certain colleges however have made these indoor spaces available for recreational use by household groups. At Christ’s, for example, the Buttery remains open during the day serving coffee and soft drinks, and can be booked out by households in the evening, to socialise and use the TV. The bars at Magdalene and Wolfson will be completely shut, but King’s and Selwyn are keeping theirs open as study spaces.

Booze is still very much available at Churchill, even if not from the bar. Beer and wine can be bought from the college shop and consumed in outdoor public spaces. Whilst Emma has announced that their bar’s takeaway service will stop, an email sent to grads at Girton has said that the college is looking into the possibility of collecting pre-ordered drinks from the bar, with more details to follow.

A whole new workout

In line with government advice, team sport at most colleges has not been permitted to continue. Students have been encouraged to exercise outdoors on college grounds with their households or one other person with two-metres distance.

Catz have gone as far as to allow college members to run on their main lawn, which is typically reserved for Fellows and graduates only. Time to fulfill all those rebellious dreams about stepping on the grass, guys.

It’s been a heartbreaking time for rowers across the university, and college boathouses and gyms have now closed their doors to its members. At King’s however, ergs have been placed across two tents by the plodge for rowers to use as programmed by the KCBC captain. I wonder if they’re actually holding out for May Bumps to be a thing? #Awks.

Singing through the sad times

Perhaps part of the reason why the college atmosphere is so quiet these days is that most music practice rooms have had to close (Although at Fitz and Churchill they are staying open for use by individuals and/or households).

Music might still be overheard at colleges like Emma where the choir are still permitted to practice, and Christ’s, King’s and Peterhouse will be streaming recorded services online. Queens’ are even releasing a series of pre-recorded choir performances, to keep spirits up and mark important occasions such as Remembrance Day.

Meanwhile, at Homerton


No, seriously. Students at Homerton are yet to receive an email outlining new lockdown rules 😬. The most recent communication that the college sent to students was a Week Five bulletin explaining that guidelines were to follow shortly:

“It is day one of a new national ‘lockdown’, and we are sure that you must be wondering what effects the new restrictions will have on your life and studies. There will be a separate message sent out providing further information of changes we will have to bring in to some College activities – but where possible we are keeping as many study spaces, the Library, and other facilities open as we can, for you to safely use.”

Still waiting on an email, one student from Homerton commented: “We still haven’t received anything. Nothing has really changed so far in Homerton though, the only thing I’ve noticed is they’ve limited some tables in the JCR so only one household can sit there at a time.”

Oh Homerton, I really hope you make it through this.

(Image credit: Author’s own screenshot)

All I want for Christmas…

…is to go home. As in, please, please Boris, let me spend Christmas with my family and not my DoS. Most college emails have said with relative confidence that students will be allowed to leave Cambridge for Christmas, although of course, certain flight restrictions may be in place.

Downing and Christ’s have also confirmed that they will be allowing students to remain in college accommodation over the holidays if needs be, and students at Christ’s have been encouraged to speak to their Tutors if they think rent costs might be an issue. Christmas is definitely going to be different this year, and if I do get stuck in Cambridge for December I’m just hoping that Sainsbury’s won’t run out of Yorkshire puddings!

That’s all, folks

We definitely didn’t cover as many colleges as we could have, but I personally feel like I’ve learned a lot about the inner workings of our collegiate system. Mainly, it’s a reminder that we at Cambridge are extremely privileged to be in a situation where we can still see each other, make (safe) use of many facilities, and where colleges are able to put adjustments in place for making life just that little bit easier.

I’ll leave you all by wishing everyone a happy second-half of term, filled with as much outdoor frisbee, socially distanced walking, and household dinner sessions as you can possibly manage!

Featured image credit: Charissa Cheong and Wikimedia Commons (Queens’ College crest, St Catharine’s College crest, Magdalene College crest, Churchill College crest, via Creative Commons License)

Homerton College have been contacted for comment.