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Current Postgraduate Students


There are three main reasons why students may need to take time away from Cambridge:

These are outlined in some detail with the relevant web links below but if in any doubt regarding any aspect of what you see here or via the links provided, please don’t hesitate to ask your Supervisor, research colleagues, your Academic Mentor or any member of the Postgraduate Education Team.

a) Studying/Working Away from Cambridge

he Department and University realise that students may need to study/work away from the Department/University during their time here: reasons for this can include conferences, training events, internships or fieldwork, among others. Our duty of care towards our students requires that we support them properly in these endeavours by knowing where they are going and that they have thoroughly evaluated the risks associated with their plans. We are also legally required to know the whereabouts of our overseas students at all times.

i)  Studying/Working Away from Cambridge:

The University requires that students apply for Leave to Work Away for periods of two weeks or more.  However, the Department has a duty of care to our students and therefore, for work related trips away from Cambridge which last two weeks or less (i.e. where Leave to Work Away is not required), we ask that:

Where no significant risks are identified through this process, a Risk Assessment does not need to be submitted. Also, if you are returning to your home to write up your thesis or complete corrections for a period which is less than two weeks, please just agree this with your Supervisor and notify your College that you are leaving and how long you intend to be away: this activity does not require a Risk Assessment.

Your Risk Assessment: ideally, at least one month in advance of your time away, please submit your Risk Assessment to the Departmental Safety Officer (Dr Richard Turner), who is responsible for approving all Risk Assessments of this type. The DSO will ensure that a copy of the approved Risk Assessment is then stored in your personnel file in the Administration Office, should we/you need to refer to it.

Please make sure that sufficient time is given to writing the Risk Assessment, as you may wish to seek advice from the DSO; it may also involve others, sometimes requiring responses from collaborators before it is complete.

ii) Leave to Work or Study Away: 

If you are away from your full-time studies in your Department for more than two weeks at any time, the University must be informed. This is the case irrespective of whether that two weeks is a single trip/activity or made up of multiple trips/activities scheduled for study purposes (i.e. not vacation). In order to do this, you must apply for Leave to Work Away. Please check specific guidelines on the University and Degree Committee webpages.

Working or studying away is not vacation (see information below regarding vacation) and the rules are set by the University: you should apply for Leave to Work away as well as submitting your Risk Assessment form (see below) at least 2-3 months in advance of your intended departure date and you must receive an email confirming the approval of your application to work away from the Student Registry before you leave. The University Safety Office provides guidance on Working Away from Cambridge, should you require further information.

Specifically regarding the coming 2020-21 academic year, the University view, on which it is taking a consistent and firm line, is that it is in the best interests of research students to be residential in Cambridge for MT onwards, unless they have a valid reason not to be. The valid reasons are: arrival delayed due to travel restrictions; increased susceptibility to infectious disease; fieldwork (with an approved work away application); writing up from home (again with an approved work away application).

Your Risk Assessment: at the same time as you submit your application for Leave to Work Away, you are also required to submit a Risk Assessment to the our Departmental Safety Officer (Dr Richard Turner), who is responsible for approving all Risk Assessments of this type; the Department will not give approval for Leave to Work Away (see below - Procedure) without this Risk Assessment submission and approval process being completed, even if it is just an office-based trip. The only exception to this is in the case where you are returning to your home to write up your thesis or corrections: in such cases, you still need to apply for Leave to Work Away but you do not need to submit a Risk Assessment.

Please make sure that sufficient time is given to writing the Risk Assessment, as you may wish to seek advice from the DSO; it may also involve others, sometimes requiring responses from collaborators before it is complete.

Procedure: your application will be seen and approved in this order via CamSIS: your Supervisor, Department (Postgraduate Student Co-ordinator), College, Degree Committee, Student Registry.  If you would like to track the progress of your application approval, you should track it in this order.

iii)  Insurance 

You will most often be covered to some extent for your work/study related trip (as well as some holiday at the beginning or end - see specific benefits and exclusions) by the University Travel Insurance policy.

You need to apply for the insurance for your trip before you go away in order to be covered. 

Please make sure that the policy benefits and exclusions match with your needs and expectations before you travel and purchase additional travel insurance where necessary. Note: University insurance does not cover staying in AirBnB.


b) Intermission: Medical or Non-Medical

Intermission is a break from study of over two weeks in length that is not a vacation nor one of the reasons for absence which require Leave to Work Away (see above). Students may apply for a minimum of two weeks up to a maximum of three consecutive terms of intermission at any one time.

There are two types of intermission:

  • Medical Intermission: required due to you being ill and unable to study or perform your normal research work
  • Non-medical Intermission: can be a variety of circumstances

For further information on both types of intermission, including what to do regarding the effect of intermission on funding, students should check University and Degree Committee information.

At the first sign of any situation likely to require either medical or non-medical intermission, please make sure that you talk in confidence with:

  • your Supervisor, research colleagues, Academic Mentor, Departmental Tutor and/or any member of the Postgraduate Education Team: we are all here to help you at what can potentially be a difficult time.
  • Your College Postgraduate Tutor, who can support you with your application for intermission, should you need it.

c) Vacation

For all information regarding vacation, please see your Code of Practice and/or the following web pages:

Please do note that all vacation should be booked in agreement with your Supervisor and in line with University guidelines, term keeping and funding body regulations/requirements.

MPhil student vacation is pro rata for their 11 month period between arrival and submission but MPhil students should pay particular attention to the need to keep three terms of residence and carefully consider the timing of vacation in relation to the MPhil submission deadline.

First year PhD students should bear in mind that most first year probationary review vivas take place in the July and August following submission of the report and prioritise scheduling this over vacation plans.

In terms of logging your vacation, your local research group procedures should be followed and you should also let your College know when you are going to be away.

Periods of vacation should not be used for absences which would be covered by intermission or working away from Cambridge, including conferences (see above).


If you have any queries about vacation, you can discuss them with your Supervisor, research colleagues, your Academic Mentor, or any member of the Postgraduate Education Team and we will do our utmost to give you the information that you seek.