Clare College Cambridge

FAQs for postgraduate students

The University is asking all students who are able to do so to return home without delay

Can I still go home, despite government advice to avoid all but essential travel?

The UK Government issued strengthened ‘staying at home and away from others (social distancing)’ advice on Monday 23rd March – this can be found here. This advice  was reinforced in a letter from the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, to Universities on Thursday 26th March which notes: 

The Government’s advice is that students remaining at university in England should now stay where they are and not attempt to travel. If you are living in student halls, or private rented accommodation, you should remain there and stay indoors while current restrictions are in force. As the Prime Minister said, staying put and remaining indoors is a crucial step now to slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19, to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed, and save the lives of fellow citizens. The government published advice on staying at home 

Although the general rule from the UK Government is to avoid all travel, there may be cases where international students are receiving conflicting advice from their home government. Students who have not already done so, and who are in a position to travel, should of course seek their home governments’ support for repatriation as appropriate. Any students who receive this support should contact their Tutor or the Senior Tutor, who will be able to provide them with documentation to assist them in travelling to the airport. It is possible that any student attempting to travel home may be stopped by the authorities and required to return to Cambridge. In this situation the College would welcome the returning student but, depending on the specific circumstances of exposure to potential infection, may require a period of self isolation upon their return to Cambridge in order to minimise the risk to the College’s resident student population and its staff.

Why has the College asked as many students as possible to go home?

To the College the most important thing is that when the situation becomes truly difficult, students are at the place where they feel most at home. No student will be forced to leave the College. However, Government advice changed on Thursday 12th March as the UK has gone from the ‘contain’ to the ‘delay’ phase. The aim is to ensure that the disease does not spread fast so as to reduce pressure on the health service. On March 18th, the University moved from the ‘amber’ phase of its contingency planning to ‘red’. The announcement is on the University website. The College is aware that a significant number of our staff will fall ill. If schools are closed, staff will also have to stay at home to look after younger children. The College may therefore not have the resources to provide the same facilities and support it can in normal times. The Pro Vice Chancellor wrote to all students on about University preparations on 16th March. Follow that advice and to keep in close contact with your program director or graduate supervisor on the action that is best for you. We believe most students will generally be better off going home for the time being where possible because they can support their own families and be better looked after if they fall ill. Already foreign governments are closing their borders to all but their own nationals, and students are strongly advised to make their plans accordingly.



When have I got to leave my College-provided accommodation?

Ultimately, no person will be forced to leave their College accommodation 

Undergraduate students have been asked to leave as soon as possible. We recommend this for postgraduate students too. The College will support students in addressing any consequent issues.

Can I return to collect belongings from my room in College-owned accommodation?

This is not possible at the current time, based on the current Government ‘staying at home’ guidance. This guidance will be reviewed around 14th April but our current expectation is that this advice will remain in place for the next few months. The College will try to contact you before touching belongings left in your room. However, it is important to note that safety and security checks will continue across all College-owned and College-managed accommodation and this will include the removal of perishable items from accommodation areas.

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

We encourage you to discuss this matter with your tutor and your family. Steps may be possible to segregate you or them once you get home. In the longer run, you may be better placed to help them from home. Each case is distinct and you will not be forced to leave College accommodation.

What should students who are renting privately do?

Students who are renting accommodation privately, not from a College or the University, will have a contract or licence with their landlord.  They should comply with this contract; paying rent and giving notice as it requires and they should contact their landlord if they feel they need to shorten the rental period for any reason. They should still heed the advice from Public Health England on whether it is better to be in Cambridge or elsewhere for their safety and wellbeing, and should follow the public advice on self-isolation and social distancing.  

Colleges remain responsible for supporting as best they can all of their students, so please do complete the census if you are anywhere in Cambridge. Anyone who is in difficulty should contact their Tutor.  In particular, please inform the College immediately if you are self-isolating or are ill.

Academic matters

What arrangements are in place for examinations 

Refer to the statement made by the Pro-Vice Chancellor Graham Virgo on 31st March 2020 and especially to detailed communications from your Faculty or Department for matters relating to assessments relating to taught postgraduate courses. Further guidance can be found in FAQs on the main student pages on the University’s COVID-19 website.  Your Graduate Tutor, or Director of Studies where applicable, will also provide additional advice.

I am not able to study effectively at home; can I return to Cambridge for Easter Term?

The current position is that students should remain where they are until the Government’s reinforced advice to stay ‘at home’ is reviewed and lifted. If you have been unable to study effectively for your examinations in Easter Term then you will have the opportunity to submit a request to the University through your Tutor to  apply to delay your examinations until the second assessment period  when University re-opens for students (refer to University FAQs or your Tutor); but please note that we cannot yet be sure when that second assessment period will take place, given our dependence upon Government advice. It is most unlikely to be before September 2020 at the earliest, and may be later. 

Will the decision to leave affect my residence requirements?

Refer to the Senior Pro-Vice Chancellors message on teaching arrangements , dated 16th March 2020, available here.

I am due to have exams in April or later, I would rather stay in Cambridge (for example clinical medics, vets and taught Masters)

Refer to the Senior Pro-Vice Chancellors message on teaching arrangements , dated 16th March 2020, available here

International students

What effect will leaving have on my visa?

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

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

No student will be forced to leave the College. However, if you can, and have a clear travel plan to get you home safely then you should do so. See also ‘Can I still go home?’ However, students in difficult situations such as this will not be required to leave the College.

I am from a country that has imposed quarantine on my return. Should the likelihood of the need to self-quarantine on my arrival in my home country for two weeks affect my plans to return home, book flights?

Take official advice for your country and discuss this with your family. No person will be forced to leave the College.

College provision

Should I let the College know that I am remaining in Cambridge during the COVID-19 outbreak?

It is really important that you let the College know if you remain in Cambridge after 23rd March 2020. All Colleges, across Cambridge, are working hard to provide core services for their remaining students; this may require collaborative work between neighbouring Colleges in the coming weeks. You were previously asked to complete a census to provide core data to help the College in planning support. Please email if any of the following information changes: your plans to remain in Cambridge (in College-owned or private accommodation) or your address.

Students living in privately rented accommodation in Cambridge are also urged to keep the College updated on changes to their situation, to enable us to provide what support we can. You are still a part of our community. Students whose home family is located in Cambridge do not need to do so but all communication will be welcomed.

How does Government advice on social distancing actually work in the College environment?

Please take time to read and digest the Government’s advice on staying at home and away from others. Some students live in self-contained accommodation with its own kitchen, bathroom and toilet (shared facilities) – or currently occupy a room in an otherwise empty shared house. However, if you share any of these facilities with other people then you should consider yourself to be in a ’household’ with those others. This is an important factor when interpreting the Government advice, especially where this refers to members of the same household. The core principles of the advice on social distancing are that you should only leave your room or household for very limited reasons:

  • shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
  • one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household. If you exercise with a friend (not from your household) then you should remain at least 2 metres distant from them.
  • any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • employees travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home.

These reasons are exceptions - even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household. The College gardens should be used responsibly by households and no longer open to non-College members or visitors.

Please follow the existing NHS guidance to help minimise onward transmission of all respiratory infections including COVID-19. 

Can I have friends to visit me in College during the outbreak?

All College-owned accommodation and facilities including gardens are closed to non-members while the current UK Government advice on social distancing remains in force. This means that you should not host visitors in your room or in the College grounds unless they are members of your existing ‘household’. This advice is intended to reduce the over-all level of human interaction and thereby slow the spread of infection. Hosting visitors from outside the College brings unnecessary risk of infection to members of your household, other College members and staff, as well as to yourself. Remember of course that contact with friends online and via social media is always possible, and it works! Try Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, MS Teams and many other free apps.

You may choose to exercise with friends who are not members of your household away from the College, but you should always ensure you remain a minimum of 2 metres distance from them.

I am remaining in Cambridge and think that I am more vulnerable to more serious COVID-19 related disease. What should I do?

Check the current PHE advice on vulnerable persons to see if your health condition does indeed make you more vulnerable to COVID-19 related disease. A subset of these more vulnerable people are at greater risk of very serious COVID related illness. Check here to see if this includes you. This group will receive a letter from NHS in the coming weeks with specific advice on how to shield from infection. If you haven’t received a letter but think you should have done then you should contact your GP or NHS consultant’s office directly straight away and discuss their advice with the College Nurses as a matter of urgency (see next paragraph).

Aside from this, all students who consider themselves vulnerable to more serious disease are encouraged to confidentially make themselves known to the College Nurses at They should follow the PHE advice at the above link, ensuring they are stringent in following social distancing advice including frequent handwashing, and keep in mind that there may be safer options for accommodation. Vulnerable students who find themselves in a ‘household’ isolation situation should take specific advice from the College Nurses. If in doubt, please always ask for advice and call NHS111 if necessary.

What facilities in College will be available for those still in residence?

The College’s provision has, unfortunately, been reduced as a consequence of the UK Government’s ‘staying at home’ advice on social distancing for all members of the population, with specific advice for people who think they may have coronavirus infection. This has impacted staffing and so limited our provision of services including catering, housekeeping, maintenance, portering, the Library and nursing. However many services, including tutorial, nursing and pastoral support continue to be available remotely, via home working. Cover will also be available for Tutors’ absence. 

All indoor social spaces have been closed in the College, in line with Government guidance, including the Dining Hall, the Buttery, Junior and Middle Combination Rooms, the College Library (although on line services remain available as advised by the Librarian), the computer room, and the mail room. Re-opening will be considered as soon as Government advice permits this.

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 but support will be available remotely through the College Nurses. Students who live alone without shared facilities will have to self-isolate in their rooms for at least 7 days if they develop symptoms of a new persistent cough and or fever. However, it is important to note that revised Public Health England guidance (see UK Government advice ‘Stay at home: guidance for households with possible Coronavirus infection') 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.  Someone from College will check in regularly, via phone or email, on those we know are self-isolating (SI) or household isolating (HI). We previously invited students to volunteer as self-isolation supporters. Now, we encourage all remaining students to have, ideally, 2 willing people – also intending to stay, who have agreed to help each other should this be needed. 

We are concerned about the loneliness some students may feel. Where possible we will also provide online advice/support, again assuming the staff are well enough. Your Tutor will also keep in touch via email.

What should I do if I am self-isolating? 

You should self isolate for 7 days if you develop a new continuous cough and or a fever (greater than 37.8C). Follow the advice available at UK Government advice ‘Stay at home: guidance for households with possible Coronavirus infection'. You must email or call the Porters Lodge or 01223 333261– but do not go along in person. They will advise you further, and will inform the College Nurses and your tutor so they can be in touch.

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. The College Nurses and Tutorial Office will assist in communicating with other members of your ‘household’. The College Nurses will confirm when the period of self-isolation can end, this will be in line with the government guidance on ending self-isolation.

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

Your Tutor, or a duty Tutor, will be available for consultation via email. The College Nurses will be offering online (video, instant messaging) or telephone consultations and counselling please email in the first instance.  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 in response to COVID-19 issues, please approach your Tutor and also complete a College Hardship Application (available on the College website). In parallel, you should also explore Departmental or funding agency hardship support, as well as the University’s Special Hardship Fund for the COVID-19 situation. Please note that applications for the University’s Special Hardship Fund require you to have researched College and Departmental or funding agency hardship support, and you are expected to have filled in the relevant field on the application form to have confirmed this. Students suffering from financial hardship should email the Financial Tutor


Updated 1st April, 2020