Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6585

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Vol cl No 27

pp. 451–469



18 June, Thursday. Easter Term ends.

24 June, Wednesday. Publication of an extraordinary issue of the Reporter, including Reports for Discussion on 7 July.

  7 July, Tuesday. Discussion deadline, receipt of written submissions by 4 p.m.

14 July, Tuesday. Discussion of a Topic of Concern, receipt of written submissions by 4 p.m. (see below).

29 July, Wednesday. Publication of an extraordinary issue of the Reporter, including Graces for submission to the Regent House.

Discussion of a Topic of Concern: Tuesday, 14 July 2020

The Council has called a topic of concern to the University on decisions taken in response to the coronavirus outbreak (see p. 454). The Vice-Chancellor duly invites those qualified under the regulations for Discussions (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 105) as well as all employees of the University and the Colleges to submit remarks by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, 14 July 2020 on the following:

Topic of Concern to the University: Decisions taken in response to the coronavirus (COVID‑19) outbreak (p. 454).

Discussions in the Senate-House have been suspended in response to government advice and the Council has agreed that until further notice remarks will instead be accepted for publication as written submissions (see Reporter, 6584, 2019–20, p. 449). Submissions, which should comply with the usual rules for Discussion remarks (Statutes and Ordinances, pp. 105 and 110), should be emailed to by the 4 p.m. deadline above to be eligible for inclusion in the Discussion Report. General information on Discussions is provided at

Grants from the Colleges Fund

10 June 2020

The Council has received the following report from the Colleges Fund Committee, which under Regulation 4 for the Fund (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 1083) it now publishes to the University.

1. The amount available in the Fund for distribution in 2020 is £4.906m.

2. The Colleges Fund Committee has approved the following grants to be paid in June 2020:


Hughes Hall


Lucy Cavendish College


St Edmund’s College


Wolfson College


Fitzwilliam College


Robinson College


Darwin College


3. These grants have been calculated by taking account of the model of a ‘standard’ College with a basic requirement for endowment. The figures take account of the endowment requirements of the relevant Applicant College as estimated by the Committee’s model having reference to numbers of undergraduates, full-time equivalent graduates, Fellows, and College Teaching Officers.

4. The Committee has again placed a cap on the grant made to any one College. It has limited the maximum grant to 150% of the average grant. Four Colleges have had grants limited in this way.

5. The Committee has agreed that, given the current exceptional circumstances relating to COVID‑19, the grants may be used for operational purposes.

6. The Colleges Fund Committee has not approved any exceptional grants in addition to the endowment-based grants listed above.

Statement on key principles for the delivery of education in the 2020–21 academic year

16 June 2020

The Council, on behalf of the University, and the Colleges have jointly agreed the following statement for circulation to current and prospective students.

The academic year 2020–21 at the University of Cambridge

The University and Colleges of Cambridge are preparing to welcome students – undergraduate and postgraduate – to Cambridge for the academic year 2020–21.We remain committed to excellence in education, learning and research. We want to work with every member of the Collegiate University community to support them as they live and work in this beautiful city and to offer them the fullest possible experience of being here.

Cambridge has welcomed and nurtured students for hundreds of years. The Collegiate University provides a deep‑rooted sense of community and rich opportunities for learning. Small group teaching – supervisions, seminars or individual tuition – is at the heart of our educational provision and will continue in person as far as possible or via real‑time face‑to‑face technology where not.

Colleges are looking forward to welcoming students into residence and are making preparations for teaching, welfare, social and extra‑curricular activities during the year ahead. Every College remains proud to be their students’ Cambridge home, and is working with student representatives to ensure that induction and welcome events in the autumn give new students the information and support they will need as they join their College community.

The Collegiate University sets out below its principles for delivering education in the academic year 2020–21. In the light of the COVID‑19 pandemic we will seek to mitigate risks to health by applying social distancing and other government guidelines and continuing to respond to the changing public health situation through appropriate changes to our courses, services and facilities. Where official guidance or concerns for the health of students and staff demand it, we will review our approach.

1.Cambridge will be open to students next academic year. We will do all we reasonably can to accommodate the needs of students whose individual circumstances mean that they cannot attend any in‑person teaching.

2.The academic year will start as normal and term dates will not be changed. Michaelmas Term will start on Tuesday, 6 October and end on Friday, 4 December, although some postgraduate courses may start earlier as previously advertised. New and returning undergraduate and postgraduate students are advised to be flexible in their travel plans at this stage; more advice about arrangements for the start of term will follow in July .

3.Teaching will be delivered by a blend of in‑person and online teaching, and we will adapt our timetables, teaching methods, course content and locations for delivery of teaching to achieve this. The balance of the blend will depend on the stringency of social distancing and other regulations in force at the time. Where possible, teaching by seminars, practicals and supervisions will be delivered in person, and it may even be possible for lectures to smaller groups to be given on this basis. In any case, all lectures will be recorded and made available online. If large‑scale lecturing in person becomes permissible, the University will reintroduce it as soon as possible.

4.Research and learning facilities: It is our aim that all students who require it for their studies will have sufficient and suitable access to research laboratories, libraries, museums and other facilities, subject to the restrictions of social distancing.

5.Minimising risk: All University and College buildings will be risk assessed and managed on an ongoing basis, following government guidelines and advice. This may involve managing how we all enter and leave buildings to allow for social distancing, reducing numbers of people allowed into a building or area, appropriate cleaning regimes, altered timings of events and any other measures considered appropriate to mitigate risk of exposure to COVID‑19. We will promote health and infection control measures across the entire University, and communicate and implement changes to any of these measures resulting from local‑lockdown requirements as required.

6.Accommodation: As many students as possible will be given accommodation in their own College. The Colleges and the University are working closely together to help all our students find accommodation within the University or in Cambridge.

7.Support: As well as teaching, Colleges offer a home environment and pastoral support to their students; the University additionally provides centralised student support, including the Student Counselling Service, Disability Resource Centre, Careers Service, support for mature students, student parents and care leavers. These services will continue to be provided, either in person or via real time face‑to‑face technology. For more information on our welfare support, see and your own College’s website.

By the end of July the University will issue a further statement for current and prospective students; this will confirm if any particular changes are intended to be made to any courses. Any such changes will be notified to current and prospective students through our established processes for making changes to our courses as set out in our Terms of Admission for undergraduate students and applicable contractual terms for postgraduate students. The Colleges will also provide more detailed guidance about returning to Cambridge and the practicalities of student life in the autumn.

We look forward to welcoming our students, old and new, in the next academic year.

Decisions taken in response to the coronavirus (COVID‑19) outbreak on student‑related matters

17 June 2020

In its Notice of 9 April 2020 (Reporter, 2019–20, 6583, p. 435), the Council confirmed that it would provide a list of decisions taken to manage the University’s activities at the start of the COVID‑19 pandemic. This Notice provides that information concerning student‑related matters, along with further information on the background to the decision‑making since mid March 2020. The Council will publish a second Notice next week on decisions taken on other matters.


The Council and the General Board recognised early on that swift action would be required to enable the University to weather the emerging crisis. That is why the members agreed to grant delegated authority to the Chairs of the Council, the Board and their sub‑committees to take such action as was needed. This was not an unfettered authority; rather, it was one granted solely for decisions related to the pandemic that were both necessary and required a rapid response. The Council also agreed at its meeting in March that, where there was sufficient time, it would still receive matters for approval at a meeting (such as the proposal for a Contract Extension Scheme, which was discussed and approved at a Council meeting via videoconference on 21 April 2020). The Council and the Board were given a flavour of the kinds of decisions that would be taken at their meetings in March, including a probable move to online teaching and assessment should students be ordered to remain at home, and were satisfied that the action that was likely to be taken would be proportionate. None of the reports of decisions taken under delegated authority has changed that view.

There are no provisions in the Statutes and Ordinances that explain how decisions are to be made in an emergency or what is to happen when the University must react at very short notice to government measures. However, it is clear that, as an employer, the University has a responsibility to protect the health and safety of its staff. It owes the same duty to its students and to visitors. The University must also abide by the law and observe guidance issued by the government. As normal teaching and assessment could not take place owing to government‑imposed measures, it followed that those arrangements would need to be set aside and alternatives provided.

Some of the decisions taken were or may have been in breach of the rules set down in Ordinances and General Board Regulations. The Council accepts the position adopted by those granted delegated authority that it was appropriate to take the action required to manage the University’s operations at the time. It is too late to reverse most of those decisions. The Council also notes that no member has made a representation under Statute A IX 1 to seek review of a decision taken during this period. However, in the interests of certainty for all concerned, the Council believes that it is important to seek the Regent House’s approval and ratification of any decisions which were taken in breach of Ordinances or of General Board Regulations.1 The Council is therefore submitting Graces to ask the University to make an Order under Statute A II 1, the effect of which would be to make an exception to any requirements of Ordinances or General Board Regulations which may have been breached, and to validate the relevant decisions, and actions taken in reliance upon them, both retrospectively and prospectively (Graces 1 and 2, p. 461).

Arrangements in the 2020–21 academic year

The Council is also mindful that the ongoing restrictions on face‑to‑face contact will continue to have an impact on its normal arrangements for some time, and that, although hopefully unlikely, another lockdown cannot be ruled out. For that reason, the Council will seek approval of the suspension of certain provisions for a fixed period. In advance of that, and to provide certainty about the arrangements for the conferment of degrees in the coming weeks, it is submitting a Grace for the approval of an amendment to Ordinance (Grace 3, p. 461).

Topic of concern

The Council has decided that there should be an opportunity for the discussion of a topic of concern on the decisions listed below concerning student‑related matters and those to be published later on other matters. All employees of the University and the Colleges will be invited to send in their remarks on this topic, in addition to those already entitled to do so (see p. 452). This will enable members of the collegiate University to share their views, so that the Council can draw lessons from the comments made, to shape the future management of an emergency on the scale of the current pandemic.

This topic will be included on the agenda of the Discussion on 14 July 2020.

Decisions taken (student-related and non-student matters)

The list below covers actions taken in response to the government’s decision to take the country into lockdown and therefore these related mostly to the University’s activities in Easter Term 2020. It does not cover decision‑making relating to plans for the next academic year, which are expected to be dealt with in the normal way. Most of the overarching decisions – for example, to move teaching and assessment online and to close University buildings and ask staff and students to work from home – were made in March, and other decisions flowed from them.

The University, in common with all other universities, had to modify its normal operations at short notice to align with government advice. All decisions were taken in response to, and in the context of, the public health and regulatory advice and government measures applicable at the time. For that reason, the decisions below are presented against the dates on which they were announced and alongside information on some of the key changes to the advice available.

References below are to the University’s activities and its staff. The Colleges worked closely with the University on many aspects of the emergency response but decisions made by the Colleges concerning their own activities are not listed. The list also focuses on decisions concerning all staff and/or all students or the University as a whole. Therefore decisions made by individual University institutions affecting only their staff and/or students are not captured, nor are details of all individual changes included (for example, changes to the examination schemes of each Tripos are not listed, nor is the adaptation of operational processes so that they can be managed remotely).

The notes below record whether a decision was made under delegated authority (and subsequently reported to the Council and the General Board).

Matters regulated by the Statutes and Ordinances

Possible breaches of Ordinances / General Board Regulations

16 March 2020:

Government advice steps up following an initial announcement on 12 March 2020 introducing the first social distancing measures. From 16 March 2020, the advice discourages large gatherings, recommends working from home, the avoidance of non-essential contact, and frequent hand washing, and that anyone with a new persistent cough or fever self-isolates for 7 days. Those with underlying health conditions are encouraged to self‑isolate.

17 March 2020:

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises British nationals to avoid all non‑essential foreign travel.

After the Congregations on 21 and 27 March 2020, all Congregations, Discussions and Sermons are postponed until further notice (a Notice confirming this is published in the Reporter on 18 March 2020). See below.

18 March 2020:

The government announces the closure of schools, colleges and nurseries from 5 p.m. on 20 March 2020 until further notice.

Students – both undergraduate and postgraduate – are asked to return home, if possible.

There is to be no face‑to‑face teaching in the Easter Term 2020 and no examinations in Cambridge. All teaching is to move online. A commitment is made to provide information about alternative assessment arrangements by 31 March 2020 (see below).

These arrangements are to be in place until 30 June 2020 and may be extended.

20 March 2020:

The Prime Minister orders all pubs, restaurants, gyms and other social venues to close until further notice.

A commitment to providing a further opportunity to take an assessment once the University is fully operational for those students whose preparation or assessment is significantly disrupted in Easter Term 2020 (for example, by caring responsibilities, illness, or technical difficulties). Further information is provided on 31 March (see below).

23 March 2020:

The government instructs people to stay at home, only going out for limited purposes. Non‑essential shops, businesses and venues are closed, gatherings of two or more people in public are banned, and all social events stopped. Police are given the powers to enforce these new restrictions.

25 March 2020:

The Minister for Science, Research and Innovation encourages UK universities and research institutions to continue to consider whether it is possible to continue with science and research programmes, particularly to protect work that is considered of critical urgency or importance, where pausing the activity is not possible or would severely impede research delivery, or where it requires ongoing maintenance and supervision.

27 March 2020:

Confirmation that students in University accommodation will not have to pay rent for any period in which they have left residence because of COVID‑19.

Confirmation that students who meet the requirements of their course will be able to graduate in absence and that alternative arrangements will be made to celebrate students’ achievements once it is safe to do so. Further information is provided on 31 March (see below).

Approval of a Grace and supplicats for degrees takes place online and in absence in the presence of the relevant officers, who are located within the Precincts of the University.

Under Regulation 3 of the Ordinance on Supplicats (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 174), a degree may be conferred at a Congregation (which should take place in the Senate-House or within the Precincts of the University) but there is no alternative method of conferment.

31 March 2020:

Information is published about the principles and policies guiding the University assessment of students in Easter Term 2020. The following decisions are made under delegated authority concerning the examination arrangements in 2019–20:

All students in some other place outside the University Precincts until the end of Easter Term 2020 are to be treated as resident (postgraduate research students who are no longer in Cambridge are asked to confirm that they are still working on their research).

In respect of entries and lists of candidates for examination, the examination timetable for Easter Term 2020 is revised and the requirement to submit entry confirmation forms is waived

See Regulations 9–15 of the Ordinance on Entries and Lists of Candidates for Examinations, Statutes and Ordinances, p. 249.

All students receive information about specific changes to the form and conduct of examinations by 31 March 2020 or shortly after that date (after the normal cut‑off dates for making these changes). Most examinations are available over a 24‑hour period2 within which candidates sit the examination for the usual three hours (but for some examinations, the window is shorter and/or the examination period is shorter; examinations shorter than three hours).

See Regulations 1 and 2 in the Ordinance on the Form and Conduct of Examinations, Statutes and Ordinances, p. 254.

See the Ordinance on the Duration of Written Examination Papers (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 254).

Changes to the scheme of examination for some courses are agreed and information about those changes is published online.3 In all cases the Faculty Boards concerned have provided assurances that the changes do not affect their students' achievement of the learning outcomes.

The scheme of examination is described in the General Board Regulations for the course. Changes can be made, provided that the General Board is satisfied that the students’ preparation for the examination is not affected.

In those cases where Faculties and Departments have required their modified assessment to be summative, marks will be recorded on students’ transcripts. Marks for formative assessment will not be recorded on students’ transcripts.

In most Triposes the requirement to obtain honours to progress to the next year is waived. For those who cannot complete any course work set (for example owing to illness, caring responsibilities or technical difficulties), there is an opportunity to seek an extension.4

First- and second‑year undergraduate assessment is to be marked but not classed.

The classing of assessment is described in the General Board Regulations for the course.

For students expecting to graduate in Easter Term 2020 or for whom there is a requirement to pass the Tripos to progress, where they are unable to take their modified assessment at the scheduled time in Easter Term (for example, owing to illness, caring responsibilities or technical difficulties), they may receive an extension for the submission of coursework.

They also have an opportunity to take an online examination during a second assessment period on a date to be determined once the University is fully operational again.

Finalist undergraduate students and students on integrated Master’s programmes, and students on postgraduate taught courses will have the opportunity to receive a classed degree.

These students will be assessed and will get marks for each component of their assessment, which will appear on their transcript. A class will then be determined by the Examiners on the basis of the marks achieved, except where this results in a class lower than the class previously awarded in their second year, in which case that class will be recorded on their transcript. Any student who was not awarded a class in their second year but was allowed to progress, will be classed only on the basis of their achievement in the 2020 assessments. This replicates normal practice.

Students who are eligible to be classed but who are unable to take any assessment either in the first or second assessment period, or only some of the assessment, or students who are otherwise affected by serious medical or other grave cause will be considered by either the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee (EAMC) (or the Board of Graduate Studies) for an alternative examination allowance, for example a ‘DDH’ (Deemed to Deserve Honours) class, or will be classed on the marks received from a subset of the assessment that has taken place.

A ‘safety net’ is introduced for this year’s graduating undergraduate students.5 As long they pass their assessments, they will not receive a class lower than the class which they were awarded in their second year examinations.

The General Board (acting through its Examination Access and Mitigation Committee) is to consider applications in the light of changes to examination arrangements resulting from COVID‑19, including applications from final‑year students who were not awarded a class in their second year and therefore cannot have the ‘safety net’ applied.

Students will not be ranked in 2019–20 but will be able to see all the marks awarded.

The examinations for some subjects are to start before the dates as set out in Ordinance.

See Regulation 2 of the Ordinance on Dates of Examinations and Publication of Class-lists (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 252).

Class‑lists will not be posted publicly outside the Senate-House (owing to the closure of the Old Schools) or published in the Reporter for the 2019–20 academic year.

Regulation 5 of the Ordinance on Dates of Examinations and Publication of Class-lists (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 254) and Regulation 4 of the Ordinance on the Publication of Lists of Successful Candidates in Examinations (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 255).

The requirement for the Chair of Examiners to provide a scheme showing which of the Examiners is to attend at the beginning of each examination session is waived.

See Regulation 7 of the General Regulations for Examiners and Assessors (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 257).

All graduands are to proceed in absence on the dates agreed for Congregations (because of the extension to the assessment period, the majority of students will not have been classed by 27 June and therefore an additional date is subsequently added on 8 July 2020).

Degrees in absence are conferred on 25 April and 16 May 2020 but no Congregation is held.

Under Regulation 3 of the Ordinance on Supplicats (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 174), a degree may be conferred at a Congregation but there is no alternative method of conferment.

Supplicats are received by the Registrary but are not posted in the Schools Arcade (owing to the closure of the Old Schools).

See Regulation 7 of the Ordinance on Supplicats (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 174).

Students on their year abroad are asked to return home unless it is not safe to do so and/or there are travel restrictions.

The eligibility criteria for the Special Hardship Fund are extended to allow students to apply for funding to cover unexpected, direct and immediate costs resulting from COVID‑19.

1 April 2020:

Confirmation is given that postgraduate research students in receipt of maintenance stipends from funds managed within the University will continue to receive them.

16 April 2020:

The government announces that lockdown measures will remain in place for another three weeks.

20 April 2020:

The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme goes live. Under the scheme, the government pays 80% of employee wages up to £2,500 a month, plus employer National Insurance and pension contributions for furloughed staff.

21 April 2020:

Confirmation that until face‑to‑face teaching begins again, a recording of all lectures will be made available via Moodle, and all students – undergraduate and postgraduate – will be able to ask for permission to record online supervisions and small group teaching.

For the purposes of assessment in Easter Term 2020, students are permitted to self‑certify illness and caring commitments and similar disruptions.

10 May 2020:

The Prime Minister announces a roadmap for lifting restrictions, with unlimited outdoor exercise from 13 May 2020 as a first step.

28 May 2020:

The Prime Minister announces the reopening of primary schools (for children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6) and nurseries from 1 June 2020.


  • 1Under Statute A V 1(d), the General Board has power to make regulations about any matters within its responsibility, including those relating to University courses and examinations. Temporary suspensions of General Board Regulations were approved by the Chair of the Education Committee on behalf of the General Board under delegated authority but no Notice was published in the Reporter to confirm the revised arrangements.

  • 2To allow for students living in different time zones, for students who are permitted extra time and/or rest breaks due to disability, or any technical difficulties that students may encounter.

  • 3See:

  • 4The General Board’s authority to grant extensions, usually exercised by the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee, has been delegated to Departments and Faculties in relation to assessments in the Easter Term 2020.

  • 5Excluding a small subset of integrated Master’s programmes, following agreement with the Faculties concerned.