SU Win on Remote Working for Research Students

Covid-19 Update: SU Win on

We are delighted that after extensive lobbying from the SU, staff in Schools, and other student representatives, the University has decided to revise its policy on remote study for postgraduate research students (PGRs) for Lent Term 2021. In addition to the existing grounds for eligibility, PGRs (both doctoral and non-doctoral) will now be able to apply for leave to work away on the basis that access to in-person University facilities is limited. Given our experience of Michaelmas and the likely continuation of pandemic measures after the vacation, this is a condition that will apply to the large majority of students in Lent.

We also want to ensure that this policy change results, in practice, in the flexibility that PGRs have been asking for. If you experience issues with your application that you would like us to raise with University or College management, please get in touch with Aastha or Siyang, by email or on Facebook. You should also speak to the Student Advice Service if you need support with your individual case.

Unfortunately, the policy regarding undergraduate and postgraduate taught students remains unchanged; applications to study remotely can only be made on the existing grounds of increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, mental health, and travel disruption. Any applications outside these criteria - such as on the grounds of finance, convenience, preference to reside elsewhere, or general reluctance to reside in Cambridge due to COVID-19 - at the moment will not be approved. This is the case even if you do not have any in-person contact hours.

If you think all students should be able to study where they choose, make sure you get your voice heard by filling in this form with your Christmas message to the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Stephen Toope.

See below for more information about the University’s remote study policy for Lent, and guidance on making an application. You can find the University’s official policy here.

Guidance on applying to study remotely in Lent Term 2021

All postgraduate research students (doctoral or non-doctoral) can apply for leave to work away on grounds that your access to in-person University facilities is restricted. This refers to all University, Department, and Faculty facilities and libraries, and restricted access can be due to either buildings remaining closed or limits on the number of people who can access those buildings. You can apply via your CamSIS self-service, and approval is dependent on the support of your supervisor and Department/Faculty. Permission should be granted provided that:

  • Your supervisor confirms that access to facilities is restricted;
  • Your supervisor and Department/Faculty agree that you can work remotely without the need for additional provision, e.g. off-site software licences;
  • Appropriate remote supervision arrangements can be put in place;
  • Remote working is in the best academic interests of you and your research.

In order to receive final approval, your application also needs to be supported by your College and your Degree Committee.

All students can apply to study remotely based on one (or more) of the following grounds:

  • A disability or health condition resulting in increased susceptibility to infectious diseases (ISID);
  • Being in Cambridge would have an adverse impact on mental health and wellbeing;
  • Difficulties travelling to Cambridge due to travel restrictions or other disruption.

If you wish to study remotely on grounds of mental health and wellbeing:

  • This can refer to a variety of concerns including the potential circumstances of self-isolation or another lockdown, e.g:
    • Anxiety about the health risks of the pandemic and their impact on you;
    • Anxiety about COVID-related (racial or other) discrimination or harassment and its impact on you;
    • Negative impact of social isolation/lack of support within Cambridge;
    • Any other reason that you believe staying in Cambridge in these circumstances will significantly negatively impact your wellbeing.
  • You do not need a GP letter - you should speak to a College tutor or nurse and they can support your application.
    • If you are told otherwise by your College, you are being given incorrect advice. Refer to this guidance and if you need further support with your application, get in touch with the Student Advice Service.
    • You can also get in touch with the SU’s sabbatical officers, who may be able to raise this with senior University figures and/or contact your Senior Tutor on your behalf.

Unless you experience a delay in arriving or are granted permission to study remotely, you are expected to be resident in Cambridge for all of Lent Term. This means that if you anticipate that being resident in and required not to leave Cambridge for the whole of Lent Term would have an adverse impact on your wellbeing, you should seek to apply for permission to study remotely in advance of term beginning.

If you have a Tier 4 visa, studying remotely (including overseas) in Lent should not have an impact on your visa status. This provision is part of the Home Office’s temporary concessions in response to the pandemic, and will continue depending on how the pandemic situation develops. Your visa will only be affected if there is a change to your student status, i.e. if you intermit, temporarily withdraw, or otherwise do not continue your studies.

If you experience any difficulties, please get in touch with:

  • The University’s International Students’ Office and/or the SU’s International Students’ Campaign, if you are an international student seeking information and/or you have any immigration-related concerns.
  • The SU’s Student Advice Service for free, professional, and confidential advice and support with your individual case.
  • The SU’s sabbatical officers if you would like to raise an issue with University or College management, or need information you have been unable to find from other sources - we’ll do our best to find it for you.