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Current Postgraduate Students


Research Impact Statement

General Boad and its Education Committee (GBEC) have now agreed that PhD students can submit a Research Impact Statement with their thesis that details the impact of COVID-19 on their research. If the student wishes to do this (it is optional), the statement should be made on a template form, signed by both student and supervisor, and submitted with the thesis to Moodle. GBEC state the statement should describe any restrictions or difficulties experienced in undertaking their research as a result of COVID-19 and details of any alternative arrangements made to complete the work for their thesis, but it should not include details of students’ personal circumstances.

Further information can be found on the Degree Committee website.


Your PhD thesis must be prepared in accordance with the University regulations, which state that the thesis is not to exceed, without prior permission of the Degree Committee, 60,000 words, including summary/abstract, tables, and footnotes, but excluding table of contents, photographs, diagrams, figure captions, list of figures/diagrams, list of abbreviations/acronyms, bibliography, appendices and acknowledgements. Appendices are relevant to the material contained within the dissertation but do not form part of the connected argument. Specifically, they may include derivations, code and spectra, as well as experimental information (compound name, structure, method of formation and data) for non-key molecules made during the PhD studies.  If it does not cause the thesis to exceed the allowed word count, the experimental information for all compounds should normally be included in the main body of the thesis in the Experimental Section.

See below links for further information on regulations:

Your thesis will be examined by two examiners: one will be internal (from this Department) and one will be external (from a different University).

Funding vs. University Deadlines for PhD Thesis Submission

The official duration of a PhD is three years (defined by the University) but students (regardless of funding duration) are usually given a PhD submission deadline of four years by Student Registry, intended to provide an overrun period for unforeseen delays.  If you are granted a period of intermission, your submission deadline will be extended but your funding may not.  Our Chemistry Department PhD students come to us with a range of different types of funding, normally lasting for between three and four years and confusion can sometimes occur as to what a student is expected to complete during their funded period in the Department, whether that be 3 years, 3.5 years or 4 years in total. 

As a Department, we have agreed that although the Student Registry usually allows you up to four years in which to submit before your name is removed from the Postgraduate Register, because it is practically very difficult to be in Cambridge beyond the funded period and because you cannot expect laboratory/office space or financial support during the fourth year unless your sponsor/supervisor has confirmed the funding, all students should be able to complete their PhD studies (including all experimental work and often also writing the thesis) within the funded period, whether that be 3 years, 3.5 years or 4 years in total.

It is really important to communicate with your Supervisor at all stages of your PhD and in particular at least six months before your funding is due to run out, discuss together the plan for completing your studies.  If it looks like you will need to over-run your funded period, you need to firstly discuss with your Supervisor whether they or your funding provider can provide additional funding for you during the over-run period. 

If this is not possible and your funding is for three years, you may wish to apply to the University Hardship Fund. You can do this as long as there is clear justification for you needing to run beyond the three years defined by the University as being the length of PhD study.  It is unusual for the University Hardship fund to support applications from students who are over-running when they already had 3.5 or 4 years of funding in place.

You should also enquire with your College as to whether they can support you: they may have a College Hardship fund which you can apply for.

If all these channels fail and you are getting into real financial difficulty, please come and talk to a member of the Postgraduate Education Team so we can understand and potentially help you/signpost you otherwise.

PhD Thesis Submission within Four Years

Submission of your PhD thesis within four years of starting your PhD is important, both for you and for the Department.  From your perspective, if you do not, you will be at a significant disadvantage compared with those who do submit within four years:

  • You will be removed from the register and you will not be allowed back on without support from the Department and your Supervisor;
  • Your CRSID will no longer work;
  • Funding will no longer usually be available to support you;
  • College accommodation is normally unavailable beyond four years;
  • If you need to move away, finishing writing up is often problematic due to a lack of access to facilities you need in the Department;
  • If you begin a job elsewhere and have not finished writing up before you do that, the whole process can become very drawn out, your research gradually less and less relevant and the chance of successful submission greatly reduced.

In addition, funds for future students may be jeopardised if current students do not submit on time: the four year submission rate is a key metric often employed by funding bodies when they decide who to fund.  Even if you submit just one day late, e.g. 1st October vs 30th September for Michaelmas starters, you are classed as failing to meet the four year deadline and become part of the statistics which may work against us when we try to get funds to support your successors. 

If you have any doubt about completing your PhD within four years, always raise your concerns with your Supervisor, Academic Mentor or any member of the Postgraduate Education Team as early as possible.

Further Information and Relevant Links Regarding Submission

Submission of additional materials: You may seek permission through the CamSIS Self Service page to submit additional materials with your dissertation. Datasets supplied as a separate item or an additional volume connected to the printed thesis, but not included within it, require this permission. This process should be initiated prior to the soft bound submission.

Submission of a hard copy (2 copies if you are a Theoretician) can be found here.

Submission of a digital thesis: You can find information on how to do this on the Cambridge Student Registry website.

For further information on PhD submission please see ‘Examinations’ on the Student Registry website, and the Degree Committee for the Faculty of Physics and Chemistry website. 

After the viva

Your Examiners will complete the Reg2 form after your viva, which provides a recommendation to the Degree Committee as to whether you are approved for PhD with minor or major corrections (the most common options selected), without corrections, if you need to revise and resubmit or if you fail (very rare).  For further information, please see the Student Registry, and the Degree Committee for the Faculty of Physics and Chemistry.