The Principal’s Address – September 2020

from Phil Scherb, Principal, Cambridge Seminars College

The start of each academic year is always unique, but the uniqueness of this September has been something else altogether.

No sooner had we successfully got our A-Level students through the results fiasco and our March foundation students into university through clearing, than attention was turned, as always, to the new academic year.

Where our minds would normally have been focussed on speaking to new students, updating specifications, new courses, tweaks in procedures, timetabling, analysis of results and improvements in systems, this one has also brought with it a set of additional and new challenges.

If you had told me a year ago I would have spent more time comparing the various merits of N95, surgical, valve or fabric masks and the sizes and viscosity of hand sanitizer (finding the ketchup like sweet spot between bottom-bangily-solid and flying out of the bottle, across the room and taking out the odd eye with it) I would have thought you were drunker than usual. Each of you, I’m sure, has a whole new vocabulary and skill-set than you did this time last year. ‘Social distancing’ , ‘second spikes’, ‘R’ rates, and even ‘flattening the sombrero’ have all become common parlance, and I am sure each of you has further examples from your own country. It will be fun to share these as the term progresses.

The global situation has brought with it fresh challenges for everyone and this has resulted in students either wishing to, or being forced to, study online, either in part or for all of their course. We have also had issues with students arriving in the UK and going straight into quarantine, or being unable to have their visas processed due to local lockdowns and backlogs.

Your patience with each other as we all get connected and settled into the ‘new normal’ has been remarkable and appreciated by all of the staff. It is a great testament to the collegiate feeling we all work so hard to foster and a tradition of inclusiveness that goes back to the college’s very beginning.

As the term goes on and you all progress through your courses, there will no doubt be further challenges for each of us as the situation changes and unfolds. It’s great to know that we all understand and have the maturity and empathy to help one another achieve our best. Thankyou!

More importantly however, our move online has enabled us to reach students who would previously have been unable to study with us, whether through the associated costs of travel and accommodation or other life/work commitments making an extended stay impossible.

So, despite the world apparently being shut down, this term we have welcomed students from over 12 different countries, an age differentiation spanning 20+ years taking a huge range of subjects, across a huge range of levels. It’s inspiring to see that this continued desire to learn, challenge, achieve and improve remains undimmed in so many different people from so many different walks of life. We will do our best for each and everyone of you, and only ask that you do the same for yourself.

And amidst all the change and this is the one thing that has remained constant, providing the wonderful ‘normal’ in the new normal: the determination of the staff and students of Cambridge Seminars College to work together to ensure they not only get through and complete their courses, but they achieve and learn as much as they possibly can. It’s going to be a pleasure accompanying you on your journey, whatever shape it may take.


Good luck in your studies, we wish you the very best.

Phil Scherb 

Posted by:

Jacob Klimaszewski

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