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Health Emergency

Posted: March 25, 2020

The Senior Tutor sent this message to all students on March 24th.  


Following the announcement by the Prime Minister of new and stricter measures to combat the spread of Coronavirus we want to update and reassure you about Selwyn’s response. Things have moved exceptionally rapidly in recent days and may change again, but there is a basic level of reassurance that we can provide that College life will continue, if not quite as usual.

The Tutors remain available if you need support, advice or just a reassuring chat. Do not hesitate to contact your Tutor if you need to. Should your own Tutor be temporarily unavailable, please email senior.tutor@sel.cam.ac.uk and we will put you in touch with one of the other Tutors. Also, the Nurse and Chaplain are easily accessible via email. The UCS and College-supported mental health provision has now moved online but is continuing. We also appreciate that the crisis may put a strain on finances.  We have sought to alleviate one big financial worry you might have had by confirming that no rent will be requested for College rooms in Easter Term if you are not able to return to Cambridge.  However, in the event that you do experience hardship directly related to COVID-19, especially if you have incurred unexpected high travel costs, please see the University’s guidance:

For those students who find themselves in financial need due to Coronavirus (Covid-19), they can apply for funding to cover unforeseen expenses through the University’s “Special Hardship Fund” The cap on applications has been raised to £3,350, to help those in the most need. Students should apply through their Tutor or Graduate Tutors (Senior and Graduate Tutors have been sent the application form). Applications will be processed regularly and payments will be made to the College for transfer to the student or to the student directly.

All other University hardship funds should continue to run, as normally as possible, during this period for applications that are not related to Coronavirus (Covid-19).

The same principle applies to the College’s Student Support funds.

In the meantime, we all await further details on the University’s changes to teaching and assessment next Term. As things stand, the key bit of advice I can give as Senior Tutor is to keep planning on the assumption that there will be remote teaching and some sort of assessment. Those with coursework or dissertation deadlines just after the end of the Easter vacation may wish to prioritise those elements of the work at this point, pending clarity on just what will be assessed later in the Term and how. Directors of Studies remain available to offer advice if you need it. See https://www.cam.ac.uk/coronavirus/students for updates on this and other matters.

There have been some questions and comments about graduation ceremonies. At present we anticipate that there will not be in person graduation in June. Depending on social distancing policies, there could be later ceremonies that are also only for in absentia conferring of degrees. We are not free agents in such matters. What we are resolved upon is that whichever way our final year students and others end up graduating we will want to stage events to mirror what usually happens in late June; subject to any social distancing policies that might endure beyond the current very stringent restrictions. To be clear: Any uncertainty on these celebrations is over when they happen and not whether they happen.

At present, returning to Cambridge to collect belongings falls into the category of ’non-essential travel’ and we ask you not to do so. If you feel there is an emergency need that makes it absolutely essential for you to so, please contact your Tutor to discuss it. Once the government reviews current policies, the travel restrictions may change and this advice along with them.

Until we have achieved greater clarity on what travel may be possible in the summer of 2020 depending on UK and international restrictions, we are putting all travel grant applications on hold. That does not mean that existing applications are void. Nor does it mean that you cannot submit a new application online. We will process those Postgraduate fund applications and any undergraduate applications for travel already completed. Other than those, however, we will pause consideration for the time being. We hope that you will understand why current circumstances dictate such an approach.

The Colleges and the University have agreed that the following groups of staff fall within the definition of ‘essential’ if we are to continue to look after those who have had to remain in Selwyn and to ensure basic levels of service and security:

Porters, for security (stored belongings will be under lock and key)


Housekeeping, to supply cleaning materials and clean communal areas that are still open

Maintenance, to deal with emergencies

Pastoral and Health support, Nurse, Tutors

This list accords with the advice received from the Minister of Education We will do all we can to try to maintain support for those who cannot leave and members of the College staff have been quick to volunteer to help us do so. We are keeping the number of personal interactions at the absolute minimum so that we reduce the risks for staff and for students and Fellows staying in Selwyn.

We will keep in touch with you all as the situation continues to develop. Not least, we are keen to ensure that the strong sense of community that characterises Selwyn can manifest itself in new ways at a time when we cannot all be physically located in the College itself. We wish you all well and encourage you all to keep in touch as we adapt to a new rhythm of life.

Try to keep cheerful, and to stay well,

Mike Sewell

The college has also sent this document to students still resident in Cambridge.

Health Emergency

Posted: March 18, 2020

The college has written to all students with the following message:

“The university has confirmed that it is now moving to ‘red’ status which means that it is, to all intents and purposes, closing imminently. We had been expecting that this might happen, so our planning at Selwyn has been done on that basis. Therefore the essential message for all students, at whatever stage of their course or irrespective of their status, remains that IF you can leave safely now and return home, you should – and you should aim to vacate your room by the end of the weekend. But we recognise that some will need to remain in Cambridge for a variety of reasons. If you wish to remain here, please discuss it with your tutor; and we will make decisions on a case by case basis. The university will provide further details about how examinations and assessment will work, but waiting for this is not a sufficient reason to remain in Cambridge.

“What we want to stress above everything is that Selwyn is committed to your health and your education wherever you are. We are a strong community, and we will maintain our pastoral care and teaching support throughout the current crisis. We will also provide the best services we can for those remaining in Cambridge, and our staff have done a brilliant job already in keeping catering, housekeeping and all the other operations going.

“You don’t need us to tell you that these are difficult times. But we will use them to prepare the college to come back better and more effective than ever – and our commitment to you will never waver.”

We will continue to update students, staff and our wider community whenever there is any news. You can also get information from the university’s coronavirus pages https://www.cam.ac.uk/coronavirus and from external authorities including Public Health England https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england.

The photograph shows one of the daily meetings at which the college management team co-ordinates its response to the public health emergency.

The spirit of Selwyn

Posted: March 13, 2020

A new video captures the wide range of life at Selwyn – from supervisions to sport, and from singing to socialising in the bar. At its heart is a performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Linden Lea” by the choir, and that is supplemented by filming from around the college. Dr Janet O’Sullivan and Dr Daniel Beauregard are seen teaching students; there is a view of the new servery and lunch in Hall; and other activities include lifting weights in the gym and playing table tennis in the JCR. The closing sequences show an additional use of the bar: as a place to work with friends.

The release of the video coincides with the college’s telephone campaign in which current students will be talking to alumni and friends about what’s going on at Selwyn and our ambitions for the future. If you’d like to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact development@sel.cam.ac.uk.

Staying healthy

Posted: March 3, 2020

The college is fully involved in preparations within the university for any spread of the coronavirus, and regular meetings are taking place at Selwyn to ensure that the community stays as healthy as possible. College officers are liaising with colleagues across Cambridge, and they in turn are taking the latest advice from Public Health England and other key institutions.

For the latest information, please check regularly on this government website:


Below is a joint message from Dr Martin Vinnell, the University’s director for occupational health and safety, and Dr Dan Tucker, senior tutor at Pembroke and chair of the university’s advisory group on communicable diseases, which has been sent to staff across Cambridge. They write: 

First of all, there is no reason to feel alarmed at current developments, or indeed at the prospect of cases being confirmed at the University or in the city of Cambridge.

The collegiate University has tried and tested systems in place to deal with the outbreak of communicable diseases, and much work is going on behind the scenes to make sure that we are prepared for any escalation while ensuring that our actions are proportionate and in line with government advice.

We are currently:

  • Speaking regularly with Public Health England (PHE)
  • Ensuring that we have appropriate expertise on our Incident Management Team, which would assist PHE if we had a positive case at Cambridge
  • Providing guidance to Colleges on how they should manage any self-isolation cases in the student population
  • Answering queries from institutions.

Staff should visit the University’s coronavirus webpage regularly: https://www.cam.ac.uk/notices/news/coronavirus-latest-guidance. This provides access to the latest government advice on health and travel, as well as a number of HR-related FAQs. Please note that it is the government’s responsibility, not the University’s, to provide public health advice, and all members of staff should take responsibility for keeping up-to-date with the latest information. If the current situation escalates further, and it becomes necessary to provide operationally-focused advice, this will be posted on the ‘Information for staff, students and departments’ section of the coronavirus webpage.

The best way to protect yourself and others from the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses is to wash your hands regularly and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues, which should be binned straight away.

It is possible that colleagues who have visited one of the countries on the government’s watch-list may fall ill, or cannot attend work because they need to self-isolate. The fact that, as of 1 March, there have been 11,750 tests for COVID-19 and only 35 positive cases, is clear evidence that they are far more likely to have another illness or condition. It is important, therefore, to be non-judgmental and calm in these circumstances, and continue as normal.

We are aware that many people are concerned about travelling or making travel plans. Staff are advised to check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel guidance regularly, make a judgement as to whether they feel comfortable travelling, and ensure that they have appropriate travel insurance in place.

There is also no reason at the moment to consider cancelling, or not attending, public events or lectures, although it is important to be mindful that the current situation may change rapidly.

Thank you for your cooperation. 

Dr Martin Vinnell, Director of Occupational Health and Safety
Dr Dan Tucker, Chair of the Advisory Group on Communicable Diseases and Senior Tutor, Pembroke College

Firm foundations

Posted: February 7, 2020

The foundation stone has been laid for our new library and auditorium. The principal donor for Ann’s Court, Chris Dobson, was accompanied during a short ceremony on February 3rd by his daughter Abbie – and college fellows and staff attended too. Ann’s Court is named after Dr Dobson’s late wife; and the current building project marks the third phase of its development. It is scheduled for completion by the end of this year.

The steel frame of the building is now complete. These photographs show the ground floor, where the auditorium will be situated; and the top floor, which is the second level of the library.

You can keep an eye on progress on the site via our webcam.

Nursing our community

Posted: January 27, 2020

The college is pleased to announce that it has created an enhanced role for a college nurse. The revised post comes with added responsibilities for the wellbeing of our whole community – and the nurse will have expanded hours and a commitment to being here throughout the year.

The new nurse, who began work on January 27th, is Carolyn Taylor. She will be available both in term times and vacations, and she is going to evaluate the optimal hours when she will be in college in the light of experience in her first few weeks. This will result in a significantly better service for students, particularly the graduate community. As well as being able to help with student and staff illnesses and wider health concerns, we will encourage the nurse to recommend steps for Selwyn to be a place where we seek the best possible physical and mental wellbeing for everyone who lives and works here.

This role has been made possible by a very generous donation from Peter and Christina Dawson, who will soon be installed as Fellow Benefactors of the college. They have previously endowed a fund that allows us to offer extra and tailored support for students with serious mental health issues, and there has been considerable benefit from this already.


A Lecture for 2020

Posted: January 7, 2020

The college is delighted to announce that the distinguished writer and broadcaster Trevor Phillips OBE will give this year’s Ramsay Murray lecture. Mr Phillips is a former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and an award-winning television producer and presenter. You can read more about him here: https://www.green-park.co.uk/people/trevor-phillips-obe/

The Ramsay Murray lecture is an annual prestigious event at Selwyn, and previous speakers have included Professor Amanda Vickery, Sir Michael Howard, Sir Keith Thomas, Professor Ian Clark, Ms Bridget Kendall, Professor Lawrence Freedman, Baroness Onora O’Neill, Professor Niall Ferguson and Professor David Cannadine.

This year’s lecture will be on Friday May 15th on the Sidgwick site, and further information – including the title of Mr Phillips’ lecture – will be available nearer the time.

Hugh and Us

Posted: December 21, 2019

Our alumnus Hugh Laurie, who studied here from 1978 to 1981, was installed as an honorary fellow of Selwyn in a ceremony on December 13th in chapel. The honour recognises his extraordinary achievements as an actor, writer and musician.

During his time at the college, Hugh rowed in the university boat race against Oxford; and he began his writing and comedy partnership with Stephen Fry, who was a contemporary at Queens’ College. Since then he has become one of the most famous faces in film and television worldwide, with two major new roles revealed early in 2020: as the captain of a space ship in Avenue 5, and as Mr Dick in The Personal History of David Copperfield.

Hugh said after the installation: “There are very few things as solidly fixed in my life as Selwyn – emotionally, artistically, architecturally and academically. It’s remarkable to return, and I am truly honoured to be an honorary fellow.”

He is seen with the vice-master Dr Janet O’Sullivan, who presented him for the installation; and afterwards being congratulated by fellows, including Hugh’s family member Haruko Laurie.

Christmas video 2019

Posted: December 12, 2019

We’re proud to present our Christmas video for 2019, which features the choir singing ‘O come, all ye faithful’ in the college chapel. This year also included are sequences filmed around Selwyn as we celebrated the season. So you will see some of the college’s festive decorations, and then students going to formal hall for what was the first of three special Christmas dinners. We hope it gives a good sense of this special time of year; and, if you like it, please share the video as widely as you want. It’s also available on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/Selwyn.College.Cambridge.


Open to all

Posted: November 28, 2019

Yorkshire has been the focus of much of our recent outreach work – with primary school pupils travelling to the college to see what Cambridge is like, and college staff visiting Leeds for activities in the HE+ programme.

In the last week of November, we hosted fifty-two Year 4 students from Leeds, who took part in an “Information Scavenger Hunt” which required discovering a range of information including the names of the Master’s dogs! This is part of a programme aimed at building interest early in attending university and showing that Cambridge is a welcoming place for people whatever their background.

For older children, there was the launch of Selwyn’s new HE+ programme in Leeds involving Year 12 students from seven schools: Allerton High School, Elliott Hudson College, Notre Dame Catholic Sixth Form College, Ossett High School, Pontefract New College, St Mary’s Menston and Woodhouse Grove.

The event took place at Notre Dame and the sessions included a talk by schools liaison officer Chloe Cupid (centre in photo) on ‘what is a lecture?’, then a lecture by Dr Kirsty McDougall (left) on forensic phonetics. Also in the photo are teachers Kitty Graham (Notre Dame) and Clare Lucas (Elliott Hudson) with Becky Taylor (Cambridge Admissions Office).

This picture shows participants from Elliott Hudson College with Chloe and Kirsty.

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