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Medical Intermission (postgraduates)

If you are unable to study for more than two weeks due to a medical condition, you should apply for a period of medical intermission; this is a complete break from study for health reasons.

You should discuss this with your supervisor and department and possibly also your College Tutor, before submitting your application.

You should submit your application as soon as you know that you need a break from study. If you are uncertain about how long you will need to intermit for, you should not delay applying as the dates can subsequently be revised - you can indicate your uncertainty in your comments on the application form. Also, you should not wait until you have supporting medical evidence as this can be forwarded later.

If you have any questions about medical intermission, please contact the Student Registry through our help centre:

Applying for and returning from medical intermission

Information on how to apply (via self-service account) is available on the ‘Applying for a change in your student status’ page but please see below for information specifically relating to medical intermission.

You should discuss with your supervisor and department and possibly also your College Tutor, before submitting your application. You should submit your application as soon as you know that you need a break from study.

  • Select start and end dates for intermission. Intermission can only be backdated by a maximum of 30 days from the date you make your application. For example, for an application submitted 31st October, the earliest start date for intermission will be 1st October. However, please note that you are expected to apply to intermit as soon as you know that you need to take a break from study - intermission should only be backdated where there are very good reasons. If you are uncertain about how long you will need to intermit for, you should not delay applying as the dates can subsequently be revised - you can indicate your uncertainty in your comments on the application form.
  • Provide relevant information regarding your medical condition and its impact on your academic progress.
  • Confirm the email address we should use if we need to contact you during your intermission
  • Once you have submitted your application, submit your medical evidence (please see below) to your College who will forward to Student Registry for referral to Medical Advisors, who will confirm whether the intermission is warranted by the medical evidence. You should not wait until you have supporting medical evidence before applying.

If your application is approved, you will need to apply for permission to return to study at the end of your intermission. Please see the information on ‘returning from medical intermission’ . If you wish to return early and this is approved, the remainder of your period of intermission will be rescinded and your submission deadline brought forward accordingly.

Further information about 'fresh starts' for students on taught Masters courses

If you are on a taught Masters course and you wish to restart your course upon your return due to significant disruption to your studies prior to intermitting, you can apply for a fresh start. You should discuss this with your Department before applying to ensure they can support this. To request a fresh start, you need to apply for an examination allowance:

Guidance notes and application forms | Student Registry (

Of the two examination allowances available for postgraduate students, you should apply ‘to be allowed the opportunity to be examined or re-examined’. In most cases the College submits the application on the student’s behalf.

If a fresh start is approved, you will be liable for fees for the full 3 full-time , or 5 part-time, terms at the rate for the academic year in which you restart your course, in addition to fees for any terms for which you were liable prior to intermitting. You may be eligible to apply for a fee remission but there is no guarantee this will be approved.

If you wish to make a fresh start on a new course, i.e. not the course you were admitted to, you will need to withdraw and reapply via Postgraduate Admissions. An exception might be made if the change of course is not your choice, but is necessitated by circumstances outside your control, for example if your course will no longer be running.

Length and timing of intermission

You should apply for a period of intermission if your break from study lasts more than two weeks.

Doctoral students should provide start and end dates that are appropriate to the circumstances that necessitate the intermission - it is not necessary for these to be in line with University or Full Term dates.

Medical intermission and temporary withdrawal are not normally possible in the first term - students normally have to withdraw and reapply. Intermission during the first term will only be approved in exceptional circumstances, with the strong support of the Degree Committee, and cannot normally be used as a way of deferring admission. Students will normally be required to withdraw and reapply. 

If you are in your final term of study it may be more appropriate to either take a short extension of up to 30 days for medical reasons, or temporarily withdraw from study. You will not normally be able to intermit once you have completed the maximum number of terms for your degree (for example 12 for the full-time PhD).

There are limits on the number of consecutive terms and number of terms overall of intermission that are permissible. 

Programme of study Maximum consecutive terms of intermission Maximum terms over course
Full-time PhD, EdD, MSc and MLitt 3 6
Part-time PhD, EdD, MSc and MLitt 5 10
Full-time Masters  3 3
Part-time Masters 5 5

Terms of intermission for maternity or paternity leave (non-medical intermission) do not count when calculating whether students have intermitted for the maximum period permissible or the maximum number of consecutive terms. For example, if a full-time doctoral student has already intermitted for 6 terms for other reasons, they can still intermit on grounds of maternity or paternity leave.

Keeping term and fee liability

Full-time students are required to spend at least three terms resident in Cambridge.  For a term to be 'kept' a student has to reside in Cambridge for a minimum number of nights (59 for the Michaelmas and Lent Terms and 52 for the Easter Term).  These nights have to be between certain dates - further information can be found on the Terms of Study page. 

Normally if studying for 21 days or more of a term you will be liable for fees for that term. Intermission will not impact on the overall number of terms of fee liability. However, students returning from a period of intermission of six or more consecutive terms (which is very rare - see above for the usual limit on consecutive terms) will normally be liable for fees at the rate that prevails upon their return which will almost certainly be higher.

Medical evidence

You should not wait until you have supporting medical evidence as this can be forwarded later. It is important that you submit your application as soon as possible.

You must provide sufficiently detailed current evidence from a medically qualified practitioner, for example a doctor’s report. Where appropriate, evidence from an accredited counsellor or disability advisor may also be considered. The University provides guidance for medical practitioners, which may help when requesting medical evidence. The evidence:

  • should ideally provide a clear diagnosis which includes the nature and severity of the illness; if there isn't a confirmed diagnosis, the letter should confirm that the condition is under investigation;
  • should state when, how and to what extent the condition is likely to affect the ability to study;
  • should be precise and self-explanatory. The amount of evidence required will vary. For example, hospital admission will need a shorter explanation than a less obvious or less serious condition where background information and details of medical history may be required;
  • Where a student is also making a request to return to study following the period of intermission, the medical evidence should also clearly indicate when the student is likely to be able to resume study.
  • must be in English. If documents are not originally in English, they must be translated by a professional translating service. In some cases, it is acceptable for documents to be translated by a member of your College;
  • should be on headed paper which includes full address and role title of the practitioner, dated and signed by the practitioner (or other appropriate professional).

The University is not able to cover the cost of medical documents submitted in support of an application for intermission.

The medical evidence, including your Student Support Document if you choose to submit this in support of your application, will be referred with the rest of your application to Medical Advisors, who will confirm whether the intermission is warranted.

During medical intermission

Medical Intermission is a complete break from study. If studying for a research degree, your submission date will be extended to take account of the time you have not been studying.

Whilst intermitting, students are not permitted to study or undertake any form of employment. You can remain in Cambridge during a period of intermission and may choose to maintain contact with your Supervisor, but you are not expected to be actively engaged in your studies or to be accessing laboratories or other facilities. 

You should not use College facilities during intermission, nor engage in social activities within College, without the express permission of the College.

If you intend to leave the UK and take with you, or remotely access, any research that is subject to Export Control legislation you should take action to ensure you comply with the law.


If funded by the SLC, a Research Council or other funding body, you should always discuss plans for intermission with the relevant administrator before applying as there may be implications for your award (for example, temporary suspension).  

Hardship Funds 

If you are not in receipt of funding for a period of intermission and are experiencing financial hardship because of this, you may be eligible to apply for hardship funding. You can:

US/Canadian Federal loans

If you are planning on applying or have been granted intermission whilst in receipt of a current federal loan or hold one that is in deferment or require further information please contact:

Information for students studying on a Tier 4/Student sponsored visa

A Tier 4/Student visa is granted for the purpose of full-time study in the UK. If a student is not engaged in full-time study for a period of time, the terms of Tier 4/Student visa sponsorship no longer apply and the Home Office expects the student to leave the UK.

If a period of intermission is granted, the University is required to cease Tier 4/Student visa sponsorship and report the change of circumstances to the Home Office. The Home Office act on this change by curtailing the Tier 4/Student visa to sixty days and the student is advised to leave the UK.

In certain circumstances the University is able to continue sponsorship for a Tier 4/Student visa for a period of intermission up to a maximum of sixty days. This would only be considered in cases where the student can still complete their course within their existing visa expiry and would not include intermission for the purpose of either internship or course which does not contribute to studies at Cambridge. If sponsorship is continued but the sponsored student does not return to studies after this intermission, the University is required to cease sponsorship in line with the above.

In exceptional circumstances, such as serious illness or injury, Tier 4/Student visa sponsorship can be continued for an intermission providing the student can still complete their course within their existing visa expiry. The maximum period of continued sponsorship would be four months. Applications where there may be grounds for continued Tier 4/Student visa sponsorship during an intermission period greater than 60 days should be referred to the International Student Office for approval unless it is for maternity or paternity leave which can be granted for a maximum of 4 months.

Any previous intermission will be taken into account when considering whether Tier 4/Student visa sponsorship can be continued.

In cases where Tier 4/Student visa sponsorship is ceased, the University will be able to issue a new Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) for a new visa application once return to study is approved; please contact the International Student Office to request this CAS.

For further information please contact the International Student Office:

Sources of support

Upon your return from intermission, you should arrange to meet with your Supervisor and College Tutor to discuss any additional support or adjustments needed. 

If you have a health condition or disability or are experiencing difficulties which are impacting on your well-being there are a number of sources of support available. Information about some of these can be found here:

You might also find the Student Wellbeing and Equality & Diversity websites helpful.