Coronavirus FAQs

Please refer to the University website for up-to-date information and for Government links relating to health, travel, visa and immigration matters, and staff working arrangements. These pages also contain important University statements on arrangements for teaching and learning, assessment, and research in Easter Term 2020.


WOLFSON College: COVID-19 FAQs updated 27 March 2020


Why is the College asking everyone to go home if they possibly can?

In a message sent on 18 March 2020 the Vice-Chancellor reported that

"the University has today moved into its “red” phase in response to the Coronavirus pandemic" and that the University is "asking students – both undergraduate and postgraduate – to return home now, if possible. It is especially urgent for international students needing to make travel arrangements to do so as quickly as possible, as many countries are already imposing travel restrictions.

There will be no face-to-face teaching in the Easter term, and there will be no examinations in Cambridge. All teaching will move on-line. The University will communicate with all students by the end of March about alternative assessment arrangements.

All University libraries will be closed to all users from 17:00 pm on 18 March. From 17:00 pm on Friday 20 March, all other University buildings will be closed to students. "

All students – both undergraduate and postgraduate, those on taught courses and those conducting research – will be affected by these closures.  

The Coronavirus pandemic is a Public Health Emergency. A large residential institution, like a Cambridge College or a cruise ship, is one of the places where an infection like this will spread most rapidly. The University is closing ALL BUILDINGS  AND LIBRARIES because it believes this is the best way to safeguard its students. The College is asking all students to go home if they possibly can because we believe this is the best way to safeguard each of you and provide the best care for that small group of students who cannot return home. 


By what date must I leave my College-provided accommodation?

You should make plans to leave as soon as possible, if you have not done so already, as travel restrictions increase with unpredictable rapidity. But the College understands that it is not always possible to get transpotation immediately and that you will require some time to pack up your belongings and put them in storage.  No one will be forced to leave, but we hope that all UK students will be gone by Monday 23 March, and that all international students will be gone by Tuesday 31 March at the latest. The later date for international students is in acknowledgement that they will need time to find and book affordable flights.  

Can I leave my belongings in my room?  

Ideally, you will take them all with you. Now that we are in the red phase, we do not expect the University to reopen before the end of the Easter Term. But we know that not everyone will be able to take their things if they are flying home. Anyone currently in College who is vacating their room after 08.00 on Thursday 19 March should pack up their belongings, label them and take them to the College baggage storage, which will be open at extra times this week. If you are leaving on the 18th, then you may pack up your belongings, label all of them clearly with your name and CRSID, and leave them for staff to collect and put in storage. Please be sure to email Jo Fisher  to let her know that you have done this.

May I return to Cambridge to pick up my belongings? I left before the University closed, and all my things are still in my room.

Since the Government instructed everyone on 23 March to stay home for the next three weeks, it is impossible to permit any return to College grounds to pick up belongings unless the need is urgent. All requests to return to collect belongings before 14 April must be approved by the Senior Tutor. If the government's instruction on staying home should change, then you may return to pick up your things.

My family members are vulnerable and I am afraid of bringing the virus with me. May I stay?

Please discuss this matter with your family. In most cases it should be possible to segregate you or them once you get home. This period of segregation would run at most 14 days, after which you would be able to support one another. The period of reduced access to most College and all University facilities is likely to last for months. 

In the longer run, you are better placed to help your loved ones from home and there is nothing that you will be able to do for them here here. It is better to leave sooner, rather than later, before the virus has spread more widely and transport becomes more difficult. No one will be forced to leave College accommodation (unless the Government requires this), but you are at much lower risk of infection — and of infecting others – if you are in a small household.  

I have a place to go, but one or more members of that household is currently in self-isolation. May I stay?

You may stay until the period of household isolation has ended and the last infected person has completed their seven days of self-isolation. However, you should consider whether it makes sense to travel home anyway and live temporarily elsewhere.

Will I have to continue paying rent on my room if I have a period or termly license?

We are still formulating our policy on rent rebates, but we do not wish students to bear the cost of college accommodation that they cannot occupy because of this emergency.

For students in private accommodation

Students in private accommodation in Cambridge are NOT required to give up your rooms and break your contracts. Many of you may wish to do so, especially those of you who expect to complete your courses this year (final-year undergraduates and Master's students).

If you wish to remain in private accommodation you should do the following:

  1. Complete the College Census form (if you have not already done so). 
  2. Ensure all your CAMSIS contact details are correct — current address, phone, emergency contact info.
  3. Prepare to be in your flats/ homes for an indefinite period of time (12 weeks likely) without the possibility of leaving except to purchase food or go for walks in which you are at least 2 meters away from anyone else.
  4. Check government and University guidance regularly (once a day should be enough) to ensure you are up to date on any changes.
  5. Please stay in touch with your Tutors and let them know if you need to self-isolate/household-isolate or are in any other difficulties. It is likely that our ability to assist will be limited, but we will eventually be developing some sort of virtual wellness and support programmes (not today, not tomorrow and maybe  not next week, but soon…. we hope) to which all College members will have access, wherever you are in the world. 

If you are leaving private accommodation and your landlord/rental agency is insisting that you continue to pay rent or penalty fees, even though you are leaving because of a public health emergency.

  1. Read your contract carefully and be sure you understand its terms.
  2. Contact your Tutor (not the Senior Tutor) to discuss details and potential remedies.
  3. Note that there is no information yet about any government or University assistance for students in this situation, but it is important for you to report these incidents now, so that we have a record in case it proves helpful in future.

Academic matters

Will the decision to leave affect my residence requirements?

Refer to the Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor's message on teaching arrangements, dated 16 March 2020.

What library resources and services can I access when not in Cambridge?

There are a host of resources available to you wherever you are in the world. You can also contact the College librarians if you have any questions. Please see the library webpage 'Using the library at a distance' and information about remote access to University, Faculty and Department Libraries.

International students

What effect will leaving have on my visa?

The University’s FAQs deal with this point. See also the Government’s own’s guidance.

Several countries have closed their borders either to non-nationals or to all international flights. I come from one of those countries. Should I still return home? 

Students in difficult situations such as this will not be required to leave the College. However, if you can develop a travel plan to get home safely, you should do so.  Please also note that we will expect you to return home as soon as flights resume or borders are opened if the University is still in the red phase of response to the pandemic.

College provision

For those still in residence what facilities will be available?

The Cafeteria is open for limited hours. Meals must be eaten in your room. Please maintain a distance of at least 2 metree from each other as you queue to enter the servery.

All other public spaces in College will be closed. This includes: 

  • The Club Room (including the Café and the Bar)
  • The Gym
  • The Library
  • The Computer Room
  • The OCR
  • The Seminar Room
  • The Karen Sparck Jones Room
  • The Lee Room
  • The Fuchs House Music Room
  • Lee Hall
  • All bookable rooms in Plommer House and the Chancellor’s Centre

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

The College will not be able to provide routine nursing care. Students who live alone without shared facilities will have to self-isolate in their rooms for seven days if they develop symptoms of new persistent cough and or fever. However, it is important to note that revised Public Health England guidance now requires all ‘household’ contacts to also self isolate for a period of 14 days starting from the day of first onset of symptoms in the group. ‘Household’ is defined by the College as those sharing the same kitchen or bathroom or toilet. Further PHE guidance is here.

We shall check once a day on self-isolating students (SI) or household isolating (HI). We encourage all remaining students to nominate two willing people in Cambridge (but not in your household) to provide support. 

What should I do if I am self-isolating? 

You should self isolate for seven days if you develop the criteria of a new continuous cough and/or a fever greater than 37.8°C (consult Public Health England Advice). You must email or call (01223 355900) the Porters' Lodge if you meet these criteria. Do not go to the Porters' Lodge in person. 

The Porters will provide you with a College Information Sheet. We may ask you to self-isolate in a room different to your own, depending on availability. Note that revised Public Health England guidance now requires all ‘household’ contacts to also self isolate for a period of 14 days starting from the first onset of symptoms in the group. ‘Household’ is defined by the College as those sharing the same kitchen or bathroom or toilet.

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

Your Tutor will be available for consultation via email. The University Counselling Service is putting in place arrangements for counselling by telephone for appointments already made, and will be developing these plans. 

I am in a situation of financial hardship, can the College help?

If students are suffering from financial hardship as a result of travel and other arrangements made, please consult your Tutor. The University’s Special Hardship Fund has set aside funding specifically to assist students who are experiencing financial difficulties related to Coronavirus.