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What is ‘working away’?

As a graduate research student (for example PhD, MRes or MPhil by Dissertation) you are expected to be in residence in Cambridge working on your research throughout the year, with short breaks for holidays. You are entitled to take holiday (for which Leave to Work Away is not required), at times agreed with your supervisor, provided that these do not exceed 8 weeks in a given year.  You do not have breaks between terms or a long summer break. 

As a non-research graduate student (for example MPhil by Advanced study or a 'taught' MPhil), you are expected to be in residence in Cambridge studying during term time. You do not have a holiday entitlement, but can take breaks from study during the vacation periods between terms without being required to apply for permission to do so. If you plan to undertake research, fieldwork or data collection away from Cambridge whether during term time or the vacation periods, you will need to apply to work away.

As a part-time or full-time student, you will need to apply to work away if at any time during your course you plan to be away from Cambridge other than for short breaks for holidays. If your are a part-time student who does not live in Cambridge, you will need to apply for leave to work away if you plan to be away from home other than for short breaks (as mentioned above). This includes periods of fieldwork or completing any compulsory element of your course or for you to undertake work directly related to your studies.   Also, you will need to apply to work away from  Cambridge if you plan to return home to write up your thesis or to complete any necessary corrections.

If you are granted permission to work away you are considered still to be under the active supervision of your Cambridge Supervisor unless alternative arrangements have been approved.



When can I apply to work away?

You should apply to work away 2-3 months before you plan to leave Cambridge, to allow time for your application to be reviewed.

If you are in your first year of study, you should check with your Degree Committee whether you are permitted to work away before you have completed your first year registration (a number of Degree Committees do not permit you to work away from Cambridge until your first-year assessment and registration has taken place; some other Degree Committees, in which extended fieldwork is the norm, do not carry out the assessment and registration exercise until your fieldwork has been completed).

If you are an MPhil student regulations permit you to apply to work away from Cambridge but require that you keep the term as follows:

To keep Michaelmas, a student must spend fifty-nine nights in Cambridge between the 1st October and the 19th December (inclusive)

To keep Lent, a student must spend fifty-nine nights in Cambridge between 5th January and 25th March (24th March)

To keep Easter, a student must spend fifty-two nights in Cambridge between 10th April and 18th June (unless Full Term begins after 22nd April, in which case between 17th April and 25th June)

You must receive an email confirming the approval of your application to work away from the Student Registry before you leave Cambridge.

If you will be studying on a programme which permits students to work away in their first year of study you will still need to apply to work away using the online system.



What can I apply to work away for?

What you can apply to work away for varies depending on where you are in your course.    In all cases you must clearly state for what purpose you are away.

During your period of research

There must be good academic reasons for seeking permission to work away; for example

  • fieldwork 
  • to complete an internship or placement integral to your course and which could be sponsored by your funding body, e.g. the BBSRC DTP PIPS.  If you plan to undertake an internship or placement which is not integral to your course, you should apply to intermit your studies.
  • to complete language training required by your course


When writing up your work prior to submitting your thesis

If you wish to return home to write up your thesis you will need to apply to work away. In these instances you will not be required to submit a risk assessment or acquire insurance.

When completing post-examination corrections to your thesis

When you have submitted your dissertation and are waiting for the outcome of your examination, you are not required to apply to work away for this period.
If you are later notified that you are required to undertake further work to your dissertation, such as corrections, revisions etc. you are expected to apply to work away if not in Cambridge. If you are working on your corrections from home, you will not be required to submit a risk assessment or obtain insurance.

 You do not need to apply to work away for short periods, such as attending conferences.

Students are not usually able to apply to work away for the purpose of employment.  If you wish to take a period of employment you must apply to be removed from the Register.

Applications are considered on a case by case basis and must have the support of your supervisor, Department, Degree Committee and College.



How long can my period of working away be?

You should apply to work away for absences over 2 weeks.  Permission to work away can  be granted for a maximum of 3 terms at any one time.   If, during your period of working away, you find that you need additional time, you can apply to extend your period of working away by submitting another application to work away.

You are required to spend at least 3 terms of residence in Cambridge; any request to work away which would limit your time in Cambridge to less than 3 terms will be approved only in very exceptional circumstances.



Where can I work away?

You can apply to work away anywhere in the world.  However, before you apply to work away outside the UK, you must refer to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website for travel advice for the country or countries you plan to visit during your period of working away.  If you plan to visit a country or countries which are subject to an adverse FCO rating you must be aware of the Insurance Office statement in this regard.



How do I apply to work away?

Instructions on how to submit an application and track its progress can be found on the 'Applying for a change in your student status' page.



Why do I need a risk assessment?

The University has a legal obligation to assess the risks of all its activities where they affect staff or students.  This includes students working away from Cambridge even if this involves working at another institution in the UK or abroad.   You must therefore have an approved risk assessment in place before you apply for permission to work away.

The Head of your Department is responsible for ensuring that appropriate risk management is in place for periods of working away and must therefore approve your risk assessment.  Some Faculties and Departments have their own risk assessment templates, and you should confirm with your Department or Faculty which template should be used.  For information, the University Safety Office has detailed advice and generic templates on their website at



Why do I need insurance?

You will need to show that you have adequate insurance for any period of working away unless:

  • You are remaining in the UK
  • You are applying to return home to write up your thesis or to undertake further work to your thesis, such as corrections).

Further details on University insurance can be found at

University insurance is not available for students who are returning home to work on their thesis or for students who are away from Cambridge but remain in the UK.



How will I know the outcome of my application?

When a final decision has been made, you will receive notification from the Student Registry by email. This email will be copied to other interested parties.



Can I apply to work away retrospectively?

No, applications to work away must be made in advance of any planned period of working away, and approval must have been granted before you leave Cambridge.  It is not possible to consider retrospective applications.

You must not start a period of working away without formal email approval from the Student Registry.



What can I do if my application is denied?

You will receive an email from the Student Registry which will give the reason(s) why the application was denied.  If your circumstances have changed or you have additional information which was not included in the original application, you can request a review of the decision not to approve your working away by emailing



I am on a Tier 4 visa.  Can I still apply to work away?

If you are studying on a Tier 4 Student Visa your work away is recorded as an authorised absence. This means that we do not have to inform the Home Office of this temporary change, but you are required to maintain your termly contact with your College whilst away from Cambridge. If you are in the UK you must continue to do this in person. For leave to work away overseas, this contact must be made by e-mail at the start of each term; in this e-mail you should confirm your current circumstances to your College i.e. continuing fieldwork overseas or writing up at home.

If you have any queries or concerns regarding your Tier 4 visa you should contact the International Student Office (



How can I extend my period of working away?

If you wish to extend your period of working away you will need to complete a new application via your CamSIS self-service pages in the normal way for the extended period.



What do I need to do if I wish to return from working away earlier than planned?

If your plans change and you wish to return to Cambridge earlier than planned, you do not need to make a formal application but should notify your supervisor, Department, College and the Student Registry ( of the date of your return to Cambridge.



How does a period of working away impact on my fee payments?

You will be charged fees during any periods of working away, except:

  • If you commenced a course of study before  the 1st October 2010
  • You are participating in an approved exchange agreement where there is a period spent at another institution and a fee waiver has been explicitly agreed by the Student Registry. Approved exchange agreements to date are: A* and NIH OxCam.  This does not include outgoing Erasmus students, as fees should be waived at the European University, rather than at Cambridge.  If you are on one of these programmes, please include this in your application to work way.
  • You have completed 9 terms and are working away to write up your thesis.



I am a Research Council funded student, what implications are there for me?

If you are funded by a Research Council you may be required to have a period of working away as part of your programme.  You may still be eligible for your maintenance stipend for periods of working away, depending on the reason for the work away.  Most  Research Councils allow for periods of working away to complete fieldwork or to complete language training.

You should consult your funding administrator in advance of your plans to work outside the University to clarify your position.



I have a US/Canadian federal loan.  Will a period of working away affect my loan?

Applying for a period of working away from Cambridge may have an impact on your eligibility for US/Canadian federal loans, and for the deferment of any undergraduate loans.  You should contact the Student Loans team in the Student Registry ( for more information.



How can I access fieldwork funds?

This section provides guidance which is generic for all students.  Schools may have specific eligibility criteria which can be accessed via the links below. 

School of Arts and Humanities:  contact your Department administrator.

School of the Biological Sciences:  contact your Departmental Graduate administrator.

School of Clinical Medicine:  contact the Graduate Training Office.

School of Humanities and Social Sciences: contact your Department administrator (School of Humanities and Social Sciences)

School of Physical Sciences:  see the websites at Degree Committee for the Faculty of Earth Sciences and Geography and Fieldwork Fund for Physics and Chemistry

School of Technology:  see the website at Graduate School of Technology

Who can apply?

  • Home, EU and Overseas students are all eligible to apply for fieldwork funding

  • You should normally be within the fee paying period of your course

  • If you are based at a University Partner Institution you are not eligible for fieldwork funds; you would need contact your supervisor or the Institution’s graduate administrator regards any finding which might be available;

  • You cannot apply for fieldwork funding for periods spent at another institution as part of an approved exchange agreement as the relevant agreement should provide for such expenditure.  If you take a period of fieldwork, as well as spending time at another institution, you could apply for funding to cover your fieldwork expenses.

  • It is normally expected that a single trip will be made for fieldwork; although it may be possible to apply for a series of trips, rather than one single trip, provided that this can be justified as essential to your project with the support of your supervisor.

What can you apply for?

  • There is no entitlement to a certain level of funding, such as a specific proportion of the total amount required or a specific proportion of fees paid.

  • If you are funded and your funding package includes resources for fieldwork expenses are expected to use these resources first  (e.g Research Training Support Grant from a Research Council or from the Wellcome Trust or another source).  You should only submit an application for fieldwork funds if the funds you already have are not sufficient.

  • You should apply to all other relevant funds.Details of other funds can be found via the Cambridge Funding Search..  Any amount awarded from School fieldwork funds will be reduced if you are awarded funds from other sources.

  • Applications must be for costs incurred which are essential to completion of the research but are over and above normal living costs.This could include:

    • Assistance with rent costs if you are obliged to pay rent to maintain accommodation in Cambridge;

    • UK or international fieldwork costs;

    • research in a collaborator’s lab usingspecific equipment not available in Cambridge, accessing resources not available in Cambridge (eg observing, working in archives & collections);

    • Travel (using the most economical routes available);

    • Field assistance;

    • Accommodation (as economical as possible);

    • Equipment hire;

    • Preventative/ prophylactic medication purchased in advance.

You should visit the School specific website for details of what may be applied for in your School. 

What can’t I apply for?

  • Basic food and subsistence included in normal living costs;

  • Vehicle purchase, unless it is more cost effective to buy a car than hire one for the duration of the fieldwork.When vehicles are purchased, they should be sold at the end of the fieldwork with the funds returned to the University, or if appropriate left for a subsequent student;

  • laptop purchase;

  • conference attendance, including fees or travel and accommodation costs;

  • medical treatment whilst on fieldwork (this would be covered by your insurance)

  • Equipment purchase, unless there is a need for specific equipment tailored to your fieldwork (such as protective clothing) and the cost of this is not covered by other means.

You should visit the School specific website for details of what may be applied for in your School. 

How do I apply?

You should visit the School specific website for details of how and when to apply.  You may need to provide details of the proposed fieldwork and a breakdown of the costs requested.

What happens when I return to Cambridge?

You should visit the School specific website for details of their requirements about providing details of your expenditure.  You may be asked to complete a declaration confirming your expenditure and to submit receipts. You may also be required to return any unspent funds (which will then be used to fund future students).

If for any reason the fieldwork is abandoned or is unsuccessful and you return to Cambridge earlier than planned you will need to return a proportion of any funds awarded.  This also applies if you withdraw from study during the period of fieldwork.  



If I have further queries, who should I contact?