Senior Tutor’s Report

Dr Penny Barton

2023 saw many developments in the Tutorial side in College. Our new Wellbeing Team was established with the arrival of our new wellbeing lead (Grace Hernandez) and later her Assistant (Claire Hogg): together they have been able to develop a wide range of initiatives for both students and staff, experimenting to see what ‘lands’ with the different cohorts. 

Penny Barton - Senior Tutor

We have several new staff in the Tutorial Office too. We expanded the concept of having two Assistant Senior Tutors into having a Deputy Senior Tutor, and also two or three Education Coordinators, to organise study skills, bringing great new energy into the team. With my impending retirement a new Senior Tutor, Dr Georgie Horrell (previously Admissions Tutor and currently Deputy Senior Tutor), was appointed from a competitive field, and began work on 1 January 2024. Sandy Chambers, our long-serving Student Health Advisor (College Nurse), stood down in October 2023 and will be much missed.

Many staff commented on the positive attitude of the 2022 undergraduate Freshers, and this seems to have continued with the 2023 intake. Nevertheless, we do see the increase in mental health issues noted by society worldwide, and also some shifts in expectations, as well as the changing needs of students with a much larger range of home circumstances – many more of our students need to be supporting their families rather than vice versa.  Private accommodation in Cambridge is now scarce and very expensive, so a smaller proportion of undergraduates want to live out.  We also have much larger numbers intermitting and returning, so we have had a bit of a crunch with the availability of accommodation in the last couple of years, and are considering how best to address this challenge. Our postgraduate community continues to grow with the addition of more part-time Masters courses, so that we now have slightly more postgraduate students than undergraduates.

Homerton College Gardens
Sally Nott

2023 was a good year on the academic side. Most of the 2020 ‘Covid’ cohort completed their degrees this year and managed a significant step-up in academic performance after a particularly difficult second year. Many subjects reverted to in-person timed exams, and this may happen more with the rapidly rising availability of AI technology. Examiners also reverted to using more of the whole range of available grades.

Unfortunately only about a third of finalists had their results by General Admission (graduation day) owing to the marking and assessment boycott. The Senate House, now much more accustomed to taking a flexible approach, rapidly devised an alternative ‘celebration’ ceremony which was almost identical to the normal ceremony, but allowed their degrees to be bestowed in absentia later once their results were available. We had the normal happy day of students graduating with their families on 1 July – in some ways more relaxed than usual because most of the results had not been declared (fortunately no-one was subsequently found to have failed). First and second year undergraduates also did well, with some spectacular results in the 2023 second year cohort – five of whom topped their university class lists; in Economics, Land Economy, Education, Linguistics, and Sociology with Social Anthropology.