A message from the Master

Now that we have reached the end of Easter Term and the academic year 2019-20, it feels appropriate to pause and reflect on how Sidney has adapted to the ongoing crisis and how we will move forward into the Long Vacation and another year of study and research.

The College has done its utmost to ensure that students, both those who were still in residence over Easter Term and those working away from College, have had the support they need.  It has been enormously encouraging to see how our students, Fellows and staff have adapted to these difficult circumstances with their customary good humour, creativity and dedication. I would once again like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to keep College operations running within the constraints of these challenging circumstances.

I would also like to congratulate our students, many of whom have taken their undergraduate exams and carried on with their research in these trying times. Though the end of this year and, for some, the end of your time at Sidney, has not been what you would have expected or wanted, you should be justifiably proud of all you have achieved in these unprecedented times, knowing that the College community, which includes your contemporaries as well as staff and Fellows, will continue to support and welcome you long after the end of your degree. We are aware that you are entering a world full of uncertainty and doubt. We remain, however, confident that you will continue to make Sidney proud in the face of whatever challenges arise, not just as a result of the current situation, but over the course of your bright and hopeful future.

Many of you will have seen the stories in the news over the course of the past few weeks regarding the significant changes being made to teaching and learning at Cambridge in 2020-21. The Collegiate University’s plans are being kept under regular review and their objective remains to restore the full teaching programme as soon as possible. As social distancing is likely to remain in place in some form for a significant part of the next academic year, the University has made the difficult decision to suspend mass lectures for the whole year. Instead lectures will be made available online. Small group teaching, including laboratories, tutorials, seminars and individual supervisions, which is at the heart of Cambridge’s educational provision, will continue in person as much as possible.  We will, of course, do our very best to keep you updated with any further developments in relation to this issue or any other matters concerning to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sidney is still in the stages of planning for the most effective restoration of on-site activity from October 2020, as well as the further development of the virtual College community which has emerged during lockdown. We have set up a Task Force, with student and staff input, to deliver what we hope will be as close to a “normal” Sidney experience as social distancing allows.  We will need to continuously review our plans in accordance with evolving Government and medical advice and communicate these to you as soon as possible. Our first and foremost priority during this uncertain time will always be protecting the health, wellbeing and safety of our students, Fellows and staff, and to that end, Sidney currently remains closed to visitors and our staff are continuing to work from home wherever possible.

Next year marks 425 years since the College was established by Lady Frances Sidney. We have weathered difficult times before and I remain confident we will do so again, with the enthusiasm of our students, the commitment of our Fellows and staff, and the support of our alumni and friends.

My sincere thanks to you all for your patience, kindness and generosity. I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well, and that we will be able to return to a sense of normality in the not too distant future.

Richard Penty


Updated 2 June 2020