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The pattern of study will, for full-time study for the PhD, be a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 4 years. For the part-time PhD it is a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 7 years. However, in certain circumstances, students can apply for exemption or allowance of terms in order to to count terms of previous study or research towards the minimum number of research terms required for the PhD and to submit their thesis before their 9th (full-time) or 15th (part-time) term.

Applying for Allowance or Exemption of Terms

Reasons for application Allowance/Exemption Number of terms When to apply
Research carried out in the University of Cambridge prior to starting a course of research (for example as a Research Assistant) Allowance 3 full-time or 5 part-time The application can be made at any stage of the course. However, approval will initially be provisional. Full approval will be granted upon submission of the thesis for examination, provided this is before the first day of the 9th term full-time or 15th term part-time.

Completion of an MPhil, MSt or one of the Diplomas in Economics, Legal Studies or International Law at the University of Cambridge 

Students may seek to incorporate some of the work carried out for their Masters/Diploma into the PhD providing the status of the work is clearly acknowledged in the PhD thesis and there is sufficient additional work at doctoral level to warrant the awarding of a further degree.

Exemption 3 full-time or 5 part-time Retrospectively at the point of submission of the PhD thesis and only if the thesis is ready for submission before the first day of the 9th term full-time or 15th term part-time.
Transfer from another institution because the supervisor is taking up a post in the University Exemption 3 full-time or 5 part-time The application can be made during the admissions process or at any stage thereafter.

How to apply

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

If transferring from another institution, it is possible to apply for exemption of terms during the process of applying for the PhD. In this case your prospective Department and the Postgraduate Admissions Office will process the request for exemption as it will not be possible for you to access the application form used by current students. 


A candidate transferring with a supervisor and who has paid fees at the other institution will not be expected to pay fees for a period exempted at Cambridge (up to 3 full-time or 5 part-time terms). Please note that if your application is approved, your End of Registration Date will be brought forward by the amount of terms you have applied for.

For students applying for exemption or allowance on grounds of previous research in the University of Cambridge, if an exemption or allowance of terms is agreed to enable early submission of a PhD thesis for examination, students may at that stage be considered for an exemption of fees. Exemption is normally only considered for students who are self-funded. If granted an exemption or allowance of terms, students will be eligible for fees for each term up to and including the term in which they submit their thesis. For example, if a full-time student submits their thesis in their 6th term, they are eligible for exemption of 3 terms; if they submit in their 7th term, they are eligible for exemption of 2 terms.

For further information please contact Student Registry (