A Response to Cambridge 2020/21 Teaching Arrangements


Lucy and Seth

A Response to Cambridge 2020/21 Teaching Arrangements

The Humanities Perspective ~ Lucy Stevens

On Tuesday 19th May, it was announced that Cambridge lectures will be conducted online for the academic year 2020/21, in light of the COVID 19 pandemic. The announcement has garnered much media attention but should be considered within the context of the Cambridge teaching structure.

As a humanities student, I generally have about 10 hours of lectures a week. These lectures will still be delivered under current plans, but guidance from the colleges would suggest it will be recorded lectures which we can access in our own time. It is worth noting that, unlike other universities, at Cambridge the core of our learning is not done in lectures but rather independently in our reading and essay writing for supervisions. Lectures provide the foundations of our understanding, but the majority of our thinking and understanding is done alone in libraries or in our supervisions.

Under current plans, small group teaching will still occur in person with appropriate social distancing measures to follow government and scientific advice. This will include seminars and supervisions. Hopefully, this will avoid the awkward silences that have littered my digital supervisions this term and the risk of my Dad just wandering into the frame of my Zoom call. For humanities students at least, whilst a lack of in person lectures is an inconvenience, it should not prevent us from acquiring the necessary grounding to continue forward with in person supervision and seminar based learning.

My primary concern looking ahead to Michaelmas term at Cambridge is will the libraries be open more than my ability to be present in the lecture theatre for my lectures.

Perspective of a NatSci Student ~ Seth (@memestogenes)

Cambridge’s ‘decision’ to move online certainly took the whole student body by surprise. The articles have been dramatic, but it is not as bad it seems! This online shift only applies to large lectures. Small group teaching such as supervisions, the main thing many students apply to Cambridge for, are planned to continue as well as seminars and some ‘small’ lectures. With large and small not being clearly defined, we cannot know how many courses this will actually affect.

The change in lectures was inevitable, particularly in regard for student safety. Although many students say lectures aren't that useful, or that they hardly went, for me, lectures provided a practical way to structure my day, allowing me to see my friends and coursemates! Losing this has left me with many mixed feelings. What is hitting me the hardest is the fact that I feel like more and more of my Cambridge experience is getting lost, as I imagine many students do too. I lost a large part of my first year to bullying (mainly racism and homophobia) and second year, even though getting cut short, went a lot better. For this reason, the more time I lose, the more time I feel I want back to form fond memories of Cambridge. 

Even so, we must remember the positives, or we will all surely be driven to insanity. I am grateful for even being able to attend university - an opportunity my parents never had, the friends I have made and the experiences I have had, and however this pans out - these are the things that I will let define my experience at Cambridge!

Thank you for reading and you can watch more about of what I think about Cambridge going online here!