Coronavirus: our response

The Coronavirus pandemic has affected us all. On this page, find out more about Somerville’s response, how we’re connecting with our community, and how your support matters more than ever.

The financial and practical implications of the virus have already had a huge impact on the way we approach our core activities of teaching and research and created disruption to our students and researchers. You can find the latest statements regarding our approach to the situation from our Principal, Jan Royall, and Treasurer, Andrew Parker, below.

Like many people around the world, some of our students are facing unanticipated hardship as a result of the crisis. If you would like to help to support our community, please consider making a gift to the Somerville Annual Fund.

While Somerville’s members are dispersed around the world, our shared identity and values are stronger than ever. We have been celebrating that Somerville spirit this term on our social media through our ‘Somerville at Home‘ series of videos, live seminars and even quizzes, all of which are available here on our website archive.

Jan Royall, Principal

What a time this is to live through. The current pandemic has ushered in an age of uncertainty, when the shimmering prospects of the future contemplated by our young people have been replaced by a cloud of unanswered questions.

It is, and will undoubtedly remain, a huge challenge for all. And yet, in many ways, institutions like Somerville were created to enable people to deal with crises like this one – providing them with knowledge and skills, inspiring their research, and in doing so making individuals and our society more resilient. Our learning has lost neither its currency nor its power to change the world. Our community still offers a sanctuary for those wanting to transform themselves and the world through the power of thought. Our people, from students to fellows to alumni, may be physically scattered, yet I see evidence everyday of how they continue to advocate for causes and work that are essentially of a piece: compassionate, intelligent, dedicated to the public good.

So many lives are in turmoil. I am acutely conscious of the disruption to the studies as well as the hopes and aspirations of offer-holders and our students. The latter have dealt brilliantly with the transition to online learning, and huge thanks must go to our academics who have provided online lectures, tutorials and assessments so brilliantly whilst juggling caring commitments and research. As ever, our student community has inspired me with its response, not least for the ingenious and altruistic ways our JCR and MCR have devised to support each other and others outside our community. I am immensely proud of them all.

There will be difficult times ahead. All our plans must change, the way we work together and live together must adapt. We will have to spend more carefully, live more frugally, be more conscious in everything we do, savour the truly important things of life. But in so doing, we will come back stronger. As Somervillian Elizabeth Kirk (1946) so wisely said: “Circumstances of daily life will change, but Somerville’s ethos will not”.

Andrew Parker, College Treasurer

“The Covid 19 virus will have a very significant impact on our income in 2019-20. A combination of no student room rents in Trinity Term, no Easter or summer conference income, reduced endowment income and reduced rents from our commercial tenants will reduce our income will be £2.3m. We have some savings from reduced activity and we have taken full advantage of the government’s furlough scheme but even so we expect to have a deficit for the year of £1.6m.

The picture for 2020-21 will be very similar. Reduced endowment and commercial rental income, reduced conference income and uncertainty about student numbers will reduce our income by £2m. We have identified cost savings of £0.5m, whist trying to insulate core teaching and research activity as much as possible, but this will still leave us with a deficit of £1.5m for the year.

The College has made use of the government’s furlough scheme in order to preserve jobs, especially for those who cannot work from home. We are topping up the amount received to ensure that these staff continue to be paid in full. Somerville is also committed to allocating even more support to students facing unexpected hardship as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. There are at least 50 students on site who cannot return home, and as a result we have ensured there is a skeleton staff in operation, including 24 hour porters and on-call maintenance.

At this moment the Annual Fund has never been more essential, with contributions enabling us to respond to the urgent needs of our students, staff and the very fabric of the College. If you would like to support the Annual Fund today, please visit our giving page for further details.”