Cambridge SU release open letter calling for a ‘no detriment’ policy

The open letter has been signed by over 550 students since publication

The Cambridge Student Union (Cambridge SU) has today written an open letter to Professor Graham Virgo demanding that the university change its refusal of a “no detriment” policy, following in the footsteps of other student bodies, such as the English, HSPS and PBS faculties.

The open letter, less than 12 hours after publication amassed over 550 signatures from students worried about how the pandemic may affect their exam performance, and by extension, their futures.

The letter states that “Cambridge’s decision to rule out adopting a ‘no detriment’ policy fundamentally neglects to take into consideration the practical consequences of restricted access to study spaces and facilities as well as the physical and psychological toll which COVID-19 has had on students.”


The SU are demanding that the university “rescind its support for the Russell Group Statement’s blanket ruling-out of a ‘no detriment’ policy” and instead “put in place a set of robust ‘no detriment’ policies, produced in consultation with the Students’ Union, which will mitigate the unique disruption of this academic year for all students…”

Further demands include that undergraduates in their first and second years be able to automatically progress to their next year of study, that there be an optional second exam period, and that the hourly-rate pay of all teaching staff be protected.

It comes after the university issued its plans to rule out implementing any safety net in a joint statement with the other Russell Group universities published on 7th January. In this statement, Russel Group universities stressed the difficulty in creating a blanket no detriment policy but instead assured that individual challenges and difficulties would be taken into account.


The Cambridge SU’s letter highlights that whilst the teaching staff have worked hard to ensure teaching standards remain high, the pandemic and integrated learning have marked a big change that many students have struggled to adapt to.

It further argues that the university has a duty to “[r]educe the burden of applying for individual mitigating circumstances”.

Esme Cavendish and Siyang Wei, respective Undergraduate and Postgraduate Access, Education and Participation Officers for Cambridge SU, commented: “Since the announcement of a national lockdown, we’ve spoken to a huge number of students who are rightly concerned about the impact this will have on their education, and angry that their wellbeing is once again being overlooked by the government.”

Esme and Siyang concluded by urging students to work together to make their departments aware of their feelings on the issue adding that it is “absolutely imperative that the University and its Departments and Faculties understand students’ concerns and involve them in decision-making – these letters should only be the beginning.”

Another letter by English finalist Mo Gilllani, sent to the English Faculty, pointed out that beyond the numerous challenges students have had to overcome in previous terms, the latest lockdown will serve to further widen the gap between the privileged and the under-privileged, potentially leaving students without suitable equipment or study space. This, he argues, could push “many students, understandably, to return to Cambridge during this dangerous point of the pandemic to access the content needed to maintain “academic rigour”.”

The Cambridge SU write that the “least that the University can do in this situation is to commit to the principle that no student should be disadvantaged as a result of circumstances that are beyond their control.”



Cambridge University has been contacted for comment.


Feature Photo Credit: Ella Fogg, Cambridge Student Union, Camfess


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