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Covid-19 FAQs for undergraduate students

Coronavirus FAQs for undergraduates

University information on Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Please refer to the University webpages for up to date information and UK Government links relating to health, travel, visa and immigration matters, and staff working arrangements. They also contain important University statements on arrangements for teaching and learning, assessment, and research in Easter Term 2020. These webpages also include a growing set of helpful FAQs.

These pages represent the central definitive resource for University information on Covid-19 – please check them frequently.

Why has the University decided that lectures will be delivered online in 2020/21?

You will have seen the news stories that Cambridge lectures will be online for 2020–21, in light of the current pandemic. Large lectures represent only one dimension of the Cambridge teaching experience. No students are taught by lecturing alone: in particular this announcement does not cover the supervision teaching that is so central to a Cambridge education. We are working on plans to ensure small-group teaching can be delivered safely in person. Some students (PhD and many Masters) do not attend lectures at all, and this announcement will not affect their experience.

Undergraduate lecturing has been shifted online since the Covid-19 outbreak, and very successfully. Online lectures have certain advantages: they can be viewed and reviewed; they can be paused; they can be designed in new, imaginative ways using different kinds of media. In St John's, and in the University as a whole, we are working tirelessly to ensure that the student experience as a whole will remain as rich, constructive and intellectually challenging as possible. This does not mean, however, that lectures will remain online once the pandemic is over!

College information on Coronavirus (Covid-19)
Exams and assessment

What will happen about exams and assessments?

The University has released detailed guidance for exams and assessment, teaching and learning, admissions and finance for 2010-2021. If you have specific concerns relating to your studies, please contact your Director of Studies, Tutor, Senior Tutor or course director.


How is the College coordinating the response to Covid-19?

Overall strategy for our response to the pandemic is determined by a Covid Gold group, consisting of the College Council and Chaired by the Vice-Master.  Implementation of that strategy is led by a Covid Silver group, chaired by the Domestic Bursar, which features a representative from all College departments and meets weekly. The Silver group's primary task is to discuss and plan the College's operational response to maintain the health and safety of students, staff, Fellows and visitors.

This structure has taken over from the initial Covid Committee which met daily on weekdays at the start of the lockdown period. It was chaired by Prof Ernest Laue, and included the Vice-Master, President, Lead Clinical Nurse, Senior Porter, Domestic Bursar, Head of Communications, Head of HR, Prof Miska (Tutor), and Prof Jiggins (Council).

What are the rules about entering the UK from abroad?

You are expected to conform to the latest PHE and Government advice on self-isolating (sometimes called quarantine).

Currently if you enter the UK from another country, unless that country is connected by a so-called ‘travel corridor’, you are required to self-isolate for 14 days when you arrive in Cambridge. Read the latest government guidance on self isolating when entering the UK. Before travelling, please check the Government guidance for the list of countries connected by travel corridors, as these will change over time. Please note that you are required to fill in an online passenger locator form 48 hours before arriving in the UK (details can be accessed, again, via the Government guidance page).

If you believe you will be required to self-isolate, please contact Student Services well ahead of your arrival to discuss the necessary arrangements that will need to be put in place for your arrival. 

There are strict rules about what you can and cannot do while travelling to Cambridge, and during the self-isolation period. Breaches can lead to fines.

If you are uncertain, please contact your Tutor.


Students returning in the summer

If you are a student returning to St John’s College accommodation here are some things you should be aware of:

  • The College has conducted a risk assessment of its site and accommodation.
  • The College has put in place proportionate measures to mitigate against the current risks.
  • Targeted cleaning of all communal areas in College is conducted and cleaning materials are available for those who live off site.
  • Social distancing measures are in place in certain areas of College – please adhere to them.
  • Hand cleansing facilities are available.
  • College members may visit College for the purposes of recreation – see above.
  • The College asks that you support the Cambridge University Covid community statement. This asks that to ensure that our people and community continue to thrive, each one of us has a responsibility to:

     - Behave in a way that minimises the risk of infection
     - Treat each other with dignity and respect
     - Keep up to date with public health guidance and follow it at all times.

Can I still bring guests into College?

College members may bring members of their own household in for recreational visits. The College is unfortunately still closed to members of the public, St John’s alumni and University alumni.

Gatherings of more than six people who are not part of the same household are not permitted, and all visitors must comply with government and College rules to reduce the risk of transmitting Covid-19.

Visits to other households in College are not permitted.

How should I behave in College?

Please follow government advice about social distancing. While living in College you are sharing a space with others who are in vulnerable categories including Fellows who are over 70 and fellow students with underlying health issues. We therefore expect you to behave appropriately. Please maintain a distance of two metres from others and do not gather in groups. Please think carefully about reducing all opportunities for infection.

Cleaning in College accommodation

See below for cleaning information and risk assessments

Students living in College - cleaning information

Students living in Hostels - cleaning information

What you need to know about cleaning

Cleaning basins and taps - task card

COSHH risk assessment - kitchen sanitiser

COSHH risk assessment - washroom cleaner and descaler

Safety data sheet - washroom cleaner

Safety data sheet - kitchen sanitiser

Academic Matters

Will I receive a tuition fee reduction?

Tuition fees are charged by the University, not by the College. The University’s position on the matter is as follows:

The University, in common with other institutions throughout the world, is working hard to respond to the global pandemic by continuing its work remotely, as far as is possible. Teaching and assessment will be delivered this term in alternative formats, library resources are available online, and collegiate University support services (including pastoral and welfare support) continue to be available, and accordingly tuition fees will be due. This position is in line with that of the Department for Education and with Universities UK, which has stated that "where there is wide-ranging support for active and ongoing learning and progression, students should not expect any fee refund from  their university".

If students are unhappy with their learning experience or assessment results they will be able to raise a complaint with the University. So that students can defer making any complaint until the outcome of remedial actions and the results of assessments are known, the normal 28-day time limit for raising a complaint will not apply in relation to complaints arising from the impact of Covid-19. All students will be informed in Easter term of procedures and deadlines for raising complaints relating to the impact of Covid-19 either on their learning experience or assessment results.

Please see also the FAQ on the University’s website (

If you are suffering from financial hardship, please approach your Tutor in the first instance.

Will I receive a College fee reduction?

A smaller part of the fee that you pay goes to the College. For most students this is simply rolled in with tuition fees, so that you pay a single lump sum. The College fee goes towards College services and facilities, including your supervision and direction of studies, your pastoral and welfare support (from tutorial guidance to the Health & Wellbeing Centre and the counsellor), learning resources, IT, the JCR and SBR and so forth. (Your College fee does not cover the full cost of these: they are heavily subsidised by the College.) Given that these remain a vital part of the College’s provision to you, St John's, in common with all other Colleges (and in line with the University’s position as described above) is continuing to charge these fees.


International students

Do I need to self isolate/quarantine when I return to Cambridge?

Please see the question in the General section above: 'What are the rules about entering the UK from abroad?'

College provision and wellbeing

Should I wear a face covering in College?

Face coverings provide protection for other people where it is not possible to maintain appropriate social distancing. Washable face coverings have been ordered for all College members. Each mask comes in a resealable plastic bag and includes fitting and washing instructions. Masks have already been distributed to all staff currently working on site, and as further deliveries are received, arrangements will be made for all other College members to receive their face masks.

Masks must be worn when collecting food from the Buttery. College members will be asked to collect a disposable mask on entry to the BDR building or to wear their own face covering.

Guidance on how to wear a face covering

For those still in residence what facilities will be available?

The College’s provision has been reduced to core functions, and will depend on staff availability. We do anticipate that staff absence will impact catering, housekeeping, portering and nursing. Cover will be available for Tutors’ absence.

We have closed the gym, squash courts and bar on public health grounds. The College is also now closed to tourists, and the JCR and the SBR are closed. 

The Library is open - please see the Library FAQs for full details.

The College Chapel is open for private prayer and reflection from 10am-6pm every day for members of College and their guests. Entry and exit is via the Chapel Court doors. Seating has been designated to allow for social distancing, and hand sanitiser is available on entry. Regular and ongoing cleaning will continue in the Chapel.

Regarding access to College, some gates will close at certain times.

The Great Gate entrance to the College is closed, and Cripps Porters’ Lodge will close each day at 4.30pm. Your College card will still give you access to Cripps as usual.

The gate by Cripps into Magdalene College is locked.

Parcel/mail collection is available from the Great Gate Porters’ Lodge from 7.30am-4pm Monday to Friday, and 9am-4pm Saturday and Sunday.

Can I still get food from the Buttery?

The Buttery Dining Room opens for lunch from 12pm to 1.30pm and serves a hot meal for students, staff and Fellows. It is also open between 5.30pm and 7pm. These are both for takeaway meals only. Entry to the BDR is from K staircase 2nd Court and the exit is via the BDR Patio.

Face coverings must be worn in the BDR when collecting food. College members will be asked either to collect a disposable mask on entry to the BDR building or to wear their own face covering.  

Can I go punting?

Punt hire is available. Punts will be cleaned from 10am each day ready for hiring, and availability is limited so bookings are restricted to current students, staff and Fellows. Please see the Porters' homepage for bookings, and read the punting hire guidelines. This will also be availble on the St John's Punt Society webpage.

If I stay in College and fall ill what help will the College be able to provide?

You should self isolate for 10 days if you develop a new continuous cough and or a fever (greater than 37.8C). Students will have to self-isolate in their rooms and should inform the College immediately using our online form..We will check on those we know are self-isolating. When opting to self-isolate students asked to nominate 2 willing people as self-isolation supporters – also intending to stay. We are concerned about the loneliness some students may feel and will provide advice/support wherever we can.

Further NHS guidance on self-isolation

What should I do if I am self-isolating?

You should self isolate for 10 days if you develop a new continuous cough and or a fever (greater than 37.8C). You must complete our online form. We will then provide specific advice for your individual circumstance.

Please consult the Public Health England Advice.

Information about ending self isolation

I have developed symptoms of Covid-19. Can I get a test and, if so, how?

In partnership with Addenbrooke's Hospital, from Wednesday 3 June, all University and College members, as well as members of your household (anyone with whom you share a bathroom, toilet or kitchen) will be able to obtain a PCR (swab) should they have symptoms of possible SARS-CoV-2 infection (Covid-19). 

The test involves a simple nose and throat swab and should take less than three minutes.

If you develop a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, or other flu-like symptoms such as sore throat or muscle aches, you should:

  • Call Addenbrooke’s Hospital Occupational Health on 01223 216767 (08:30 to 16:30 Mon-Fri), stating that you wish to be tested as part of the University of Cambridge’s testing programme
  • Inform your Porters' Lodge immediately
  • Stay at home and self-isolate until you receive further instructions from the Addenbrooke's Hospital Occupational Health or Infectious Diseases teams, in accordance with Public Health England (PHE) guidance.

    You will be offered a test at one of two locations:
  • S2 Testing Pods, Addenbrooke's Hospital – 8.30am-5pm Mon-Thurs and 8.30am-1pm Fri. Accessible by car, or bike while wearing a mask. If you are already on the Biomedical Campus, you can access the pods on foot while wearing a mask.
  • The Pod outside the Dyson Building, Department of Engineering, Fen Causeway entrance – 8.30am-2.45pm Mon-Thurs. Accessible by car, or bike/foot while wearing a mask.

Directions to both sites

If you develop symptoms outside these hours, or cannot access either of these two locations, you can arrange a test at an alternative location using the NHS website.

After you have been tested, please continue to self-isolate until you receive your result. This will be available within 48 hours of the test.

If your test result is positive, you will be called on the same day as the test by the Infectious Diseases team from Addenbrooke's Hospital. If your test result is negative, you will receive an email or text message from Addenbrooke's Hospital Occupational Health within 48 hrs of the test. Please continue to self-isolate until you receive your test result.

The PCR test that will be used was developed in collaboration with the PHE laboratory at Addenbrooke's Hospital, and all results are integrated with the hospital system and reported to PHE.

This type of test checks whether you have Covid-19 at the time the swab is taken. There is another type of test (for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies) that checks whether you have previously been exposed to the virus. We do not offer that type of test, which is not yet widely available.

Will mental health services be available to me even when I am out of residence?

The Tutors will be available to support you. Please approach your tutor initially via email. The College Counsellor is currently available for Skype/Zoom or telephone consultations. The University Counselling Service is putting in place arrangements for counselling by telephone for appointments already made, and will be developing these plans. For College counselling, please contact the Lead Clinical Nurse in the first instance.  

I am in a situation of financial hardship, or do not have equipment needed for working from home - can the College help?

If you are suffering from financial hardship as a result of travel and other arrangements made, please approach your Tutor in the first instance.

The College Learning and Research Funds are still available. You can use your LRF funds to support purchase of computer equipment, books or other items that are needed to facilitate working from home. If you have already used up your LRF funds or feel that they are insufficient then please talk to your Tutor about Hardship funds.

How can I help?

  •  A Cambridge-wide information gathering exercise is being established to identify researchers willing to be involved with the local or national Covid response should the need arise. This could involve assisting in testing or research. A website has been established to capture this information: Please complete it if you are willing to offer help locally or nationally.
  • Anyone who is able to help others is being encouraged to consider donating items or money to the Trussell Trust.
  • In Cambridge, food or financial donations can be made to Jimmy’s,  a charity that has been helping the homeless in the city for more than 20 years. 
  • The Red Hen Project is a small Cambridge based charity that works to support vulnerable families in the city. The charity has been providing food parcels to families in need during the lockdown.
  • You can also support Addenbrooke's and its staff during the coronavirus crisis. Your donation to Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust will aid the wellbeing of staff and help to provide vital equipment needed to support the Intensive Care Unit.
  • Women’s Aid, a national charity, is concerned about the impact of coronavirus lockdown measures have on women and children and is encouraging donations as pressure on their services increase.
  • Supermarkets also have collection points for different charities and food banks.