Cambridge University planning to have students back on campus for Michaelmas Term 2021

Graham Virgo confirmed in an email to students that whilst small-group teaching will be in person, it is unclear whether in-person lectures will occur

In an email sent today (24/06), Graham Virgo, the University of Cambridge’s Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, has outlined that students are expected to be “in Cambridge for the start of the next academic year”, with some opportunity for temporary permission to study remotely for those with “compelling reasons.”

The email outlines that it is not yet clear whether larger in-person lectures will take place next academic year. However, it confirms that, where possible according to public health requirements, the University expects to deliver “small-group teaching and practicals in-person”, and give students “full access to learning facilities.” Term will start at the “normal time.”

Virgo adds that the University is “committed” to offering students “the fullest possible educational and student experience”, and that they will “continue to review” their approach to arrangements for next year. They are due to provide more detailed information to students at the end of July.

When outlining plans for the next academic year in this recent communication to students, Virgo says the University will remain open next year, starting at the “normal time.” Therefore, term dates remain “unchanged”, with Michaelmas Term beginning on Tuesday 5th October and ending on Friday 3rd December, although some postgraduates courses start earlier and end later than this.

He asks that both new and returning students are “flexible” in their travel plans at this stage, as more advice about arrangements for the start of term will follow in July.

He goes on to detail that the University expects all students, including those studying part-time, “to be in Cambridge for the start of the academic year” in order to meet the requirements of their course or research. He adds that this is “subject to” any “requirements” for a staggered arrival and “any unforeseen difficulties travelling to Cambridge.”

Taking into account students with “compelling reasons” not to return physically to Cambridge, the Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, revealed that there will be the opportunity for “temporary permission to study remotely.” The reasons for this outlined on the University’s coronavirus webpages currently include “health reasons” and “inability to travel.”

The email reveals that the university expects to deliver “small-group teaching and practicals in-person,” “where public health requirements allow and subject to local risk assessment.” It adds that as “it is not yet clear” whether conducting “larger” in-person lectures will be feasible, such lectures will be delivered either “in-person or online.” They expect to “review this over the summer.”

Virgo adds that students will be offered Covid-19 tests “upon their arrival in Cambridge,” and that “appropriate testing” will be carried out, “as required,” “throughout the academic year.” He also “strongly” encourages students to “book their vaccine as soon as possible to protect themselves and others.”

The University also expects, where possible, that students will be “given full access to learning facilities” including “laboratories, libraries and museums”, with “appropriate” safety measures in place.

The email details that University will continue to “risk assess buildings and activities,” putting in place “appropriate” cleaning regimes and, if necessary, restricting the number of people allowed to gather. Students “may be expected to wear face coverings unless they are exempt” in “some areas.”

The final point of the email emphasizes that the Colleges and the University “will continue to offer pastoral support to their students” and “centralised student support” respectively. Virgo points to some of the services on offer as part of this, such as the Student Counselling Service, Disability Resource Centre, Careers Service, support for mature students, student parents and care leavers.

Virgo adds that these “services will continue to be provided, either in person or via real time face-to-face technology”, and emphasises that there are “many people” to help students who need support, encouraging students to contact their Tutor, Director of Studies or college nurse if they have any concerns.

In making these arrangements for the next academic year, the University “remain committed to excellence in education, learning and research”, the email says, and every College “remains proud to be their students’ Cambridge home” and “looks forward to welcoming returning students into their College community.”

Cambridge is “committed” to offering students “the fullest possible educational and student experience” and therefore hopes that teaching will continue in person “to the extent that this is allowed by public health requirements.”

The email states that the University will “continue to respond to the changing public health situation” and they will “continue to review” their approach, planning to provide more detailed information to students by the end of July. 

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Feature image credit: Ella Fogg