The University has today moved into its “red” phase in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. An email from the Vice-Chancellor has been sent to all members of the University today to inform them of this development.
Students who are in Cambridge will be asked to return home if they are able to do so. However, we know this will not be possible for all students, particularly for international students, estranged students and care leavers, postgraduate students, or students with family members who are self-isolating or in high-risk categories. Students who live permanently in Cambridge or are unable to go home should be accommodated and supported by their college and you should not feel obliged to leave Cambridge if you are unable to do so.
We know some students may have entered temporary or insecure accommodation situations, following recent confusion around communications about leaving Cambridge. If you are reliant on your college for permanent accommodation, your college should continue to provide you with accommodation and support. We would encourage you to get in touch with your college to make this clear to them as soon as possible, and we will continue to ensure that they take your needs into account.
Exams and Assessment
As a result of today’s announcement, there will be no face-to-face teaching next term and no examinations will be taking place in Cambridge. As the University makes alternative arrangements for examinations and assessments, CUSU are working hard to ensure students’ concerns are heard.
We are aware that different students have very different home environments, and some will find it difficult to study in any capacity, especially as public spaces begin to shut down. Some students will also be directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic or may have to take on caring responsibilities as a result. We will continue to emphasise the needs of these students in our conversations with the University. All alternative arrangements for assessment must fully articulate how these students will be accommodated for.
In developing alternative arrangements for assessment, we have stressed our opposition to assessments being carried out online in strict timed conditions and have urged the University to adopt as much flexibility as possible in developing these alternative arrangements.
Given the exceptional circumstances we find ourselves in, we will be doing all we can to ensure that the University exercises maximum flexibility in accommodating the needs of individual students and making arrangements and adjustments which take account of their specific circumstances. We will be lobbying to ensure that students who are not able to undertake assessments in Easter Term, as a result of the disruption caused by COVID-19, are properly accommodated for.
We would also encourage students to keep a log of any disruption that occurs to your studies over the next months, in order to make the process of applying for mitigating circumstances as easy as possible.
If students have specific concerns about arrangements being made by their Faculty or Department, we would encourage them to get in touch with their academic reps.
Funding and Financial Support
We will continue to lobby the University to ensure clear information is provided to students with regards to funding and financial support. This is of particular importance for low-income students and PhD students reliant on research funding. Further information in relation to this should be made available shortly.
If you have concerns about funding and financial support, we would encourage you to talk to your College Tutor to explore options for further financial support.
The government guidance on visas has been that the Home Office considers this to be an exceptional situation and will not be penalising those who are unable to attend their studies/work. Further information can be found here: www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-immigration-guidance-if-youre-unable-to-return-to-china-from-the-uk#licensed-tier-2-tier-4-or-tier-5-sponsors-absences-due-to-coronavirus
Students with any visa-related queries should contact the International Student Office directly. Tier 4 sponsorship will continue for students who are working away, and in these exceptional circumstances will also continue during intermission for up to 4 months, with the possibility of extension.
We are asking the University to provide further clarity in relation to visas as a matter of urgency.
We will continue to be here for you as your Students’ Union during this difficult time. Please continue to check our website for further information: www.cusu.co.uk/coronavirus, and to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact the Students’ Unions’ Advice Service (SUAS) for personal support and advice.