On Friday (26/2), Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope emailed students to set out plans for the Easter vacation and next term. He explained that the university would be looking to welcome as many students as possible back to Cambridge next term, but that exact return dates for undergraduate and postgraduate students would be reviewed towards the end of the Easter holidays. Students would be given at least a week’s notice in advance of their return date.
For those students who are currently in Cambridge, the current situation has raised questions about arrangements for the Easter vacation. There are still travel bans in place, and yet colleges have announced that students who stay will be expected to pay rent - at higher vacation rates, in some cases - for the duration of their residence. We hope the following information will provide greater clarity.
The UK government recently announced in a blogpost  that there will be a travel exemption for students so that, where necessary, they can leave their term-time accommodation and return once over the course of the Easter break (before April 29th). Although it is recommended that students remain where they are as much as possible to limit potential transmission, students are able to make use of this exemption which permits them to make one return trip. There is also a separate exemption which permits travel for mental health or wellbeing reasons. It is recommended that students should get tested before leaving and returning, and that if this test is positive then students should self-isolate for 10 days and not travel.
In light of this information, we would make the following recommendations for students:
Get in touch with your college tutor if you are planning to travel under either of these exemptions, so that they are informed as to your whereabouts and aware of any mental health or wellbeing-related issues that you are facing.
Let your college tutor know if you are planning to stay in your college accommodation but are concerned about meeting the rent costs. There is hardship funding available to cover unforeseen costs and aid students who are struggling financially, either generally or as a result of this situation.
It is also important to note that rents are locally determined by colleges. J/MCRs represent students at a college level and are in a position to consult and negotiate with colleges on the issue of high vacation rents during this exceptional time. You can also get in touch with Rent Strike Cambridge, who are organising around the particular issue of collegiate rents, to strategise about applying pressure and building collective power.
The SU will continue to advocate for and support students on this issue. If you are having any particular issues with your college, feel free to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Office for Students has also published some FAQs about the Easter vacation. You can read these here.
The SU International Students’ Campaign and the SU Class Act Campaign have recently produced a useful graphic about the process of applying for hardship funding. You can find it on their linked social media.
If you are seeking free, confidential guidance and advice to help with your individual situation, you can get in contact with the Student Advice Service.