skip to content

Non-Medical Intermission (postgraduates)

A non-medical intermission is an authorised break from study for such things as parental leave, family emergencies and internships or placements.

Postgraduate students who find themselves unable to study for more than two weeks due to a medical condition should apply for a period of medical intermission

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

Intermission can only be backdated by a maximum of 30 days from the date of application. For example, if you submit your application on 31st October, the earliest start date for your period of 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.

If you have any questions about medical intermission, please contact the Student Registry at

Applying for non-medical intermission (postgraduates only)

You apply for non-medical intermission via your CamSIS self-service. Information is available on the ‘Applying for a change in your student status’ page. 

Intermission can only be backdated by a maximum of 30 days from the date of application. For example, if you submit your application on 31st October, the earliest start date for your period of intermission will be 1st October. 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.

Once submitted, your application will be considered by your supervisor, Department, College and Degree Committee before arriving at the Student Registry for the final decision.

If applying for intermission in order to undertake an internship or placement outside the UK, although you are not required to complete a risk assessment, you are encouraged to do so - please contact your Department’s Postgraduate Office for the appropriate risk assessment form. Useful information on assessing risk and other safeguarding measures can be found at

Valid reasons for non-medical intermission

The following are valid reasons for non-medical intermission:

  • Maternity, paternity or adoption leave
  • Parental leave - if you have parental responsibility for a child who is under 18 years old and need time away from your studies to look after their welfare, for example, in the event of illness, the need for additional support for a disability, settling children into new childcare arrangements.
  • Family circumstances such as caring responsibilities/supporting a sick relative
  • Dealing with an emergency or other serious situation (you will need to specify what this is; please also see below for reasons which are not considered valid)
  • Bereavement or serious illness of a close family member or partner
  • Undertaking a language course that is not intrinsic to your research
  • Undertaking a research fellowship that is not intrinsic to your research
  • Undertaking an internship or placement which is not intrinsic to your research, but which will be beneficial for your career development. This includes both paid and unpaid internships and placements, such as opportunities offered (but not required) by funding bodies, such as the Research Councils policy internships schemes. Students on a Tier4/Student visa should check the guidance about the implications of undertaking an internship.
  • Taking up a position as a Cambridge SU Sabbatical Officer (President, Vice President, Welfare and Rights Officer) 
  • Current pandemic, war/conflict or natural disaster. If you have been impacted by a current pandemic, war/conflict, or natural disaster you can apply for a period of non-medical intermission
  • Jury service - students summoned for compulsory jury service who are assigned a trial that lasts for longer than two weeks may apply for intermission
Non-valid reasons for non-medical intermission

The following are not valid reasons for non-medical intermission:

  • Taking up employment unless this is in the form of a short-term paid internship or placement (see above)
  • For part-time students - regular 'pressures of work' - the normal pressures of work will not be considered a valid reason. However, increased pressures due to exceptional and unforeseen changes in the workplace may constitute a valid reason.
  • Funding issues (with the possible exception of a sudden and unexpected financial crisis)
  • Personal events that were planned or could reasonably have been expected
  • Visa/ATAS issues are not normally considered a valid reason for intermission. However, if you must apply for a new Student visa to complete your current studies but a) do not meet the requirements to apply to renew your Student visa from within the UK and b) are not undertaking activity eligible to work away, you should contact the International Student Office (International Student Office | ( for advice. Depending on your circumstances and course requirements, a short period of non-medical intermission may be considered. The International Student Office will liaise with Student Registry where appropriate; you should not submit an application for non-medical intermission for visa/ATAS issues.
  • Failing an assessment
  • Undertaking a language course that is intrinsic to your research You should apply to work away for such absences
  • Undertaking a research fellowship, internship or placement which is intrinsic to your research You will need to apply to work away for the period of the fellowship, internship or placement. This includes the BBSRC Professional Internships for PhD students (PIPS) scheme. 
  • Undertaking another degree course at another institution - you should apply to temporarily withdraw and apply for reinstatement when you have completed that course
  • Holiday Full-time postgraduate research students are expected to be in residence in Cambridge working on their research throughout the year, with short breaks for holidays. Postgraduate research students are entitled to take up to 8 weeks of holiday (for which permission to work away is also not required) in a year, at times agreed with their supervisor.
Length and timing of intermission

You can apply for a period of intermission if your break from study will last for more than two weeks.

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

Terms of intermission for maternity or paternity leave 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.

Intermission or temporary withdrawal during the first term will only be approved in exceptional circumstances and cannot normally be used as a way of deferring admission. Students will normally be required to withdraw and reapply. 

With the exception of maternity and paternity leave, it is not normally expected that you would apply for intermission in the final term of your course of study, where it would be more appropriate for you to temporarily withdraw. You will not normally be able to intermit once you have completed the maximum number of terms for your degree.

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.

Keeping term and fee liability

Depending on the timing of your intermission, it is possible that you will not ‘keep’ one or more terms. Full-time students must spend at least three terms resident in Cambridge. Please check the guidance about keeping term.   

Normally if studying for 21 days or more of Full Term you will be liable for fees for that term. Intermission will not impact on the overall number of terms for which there is 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 to pay the rate that prevails upon their return which will almost certainly be higher. 

During intermission

Intermission is a complete break from study. 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 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.

Returning from non-medical intermission

If your application to intermit is approved, your date of return to study will be in the confirmation email. You will be expected to return to study on your return date. If you are in a position to resume study on your return date, there is no requirement to formally apply or request to return, although it is advisable to get in touch with your Department and College to confirm you will be resuming study as planned. Please see below if returning earlier or later or if you will not be returning.

If you aren’t able to return to study after your intermission  Possible options will be a further application to intermit or temporary withdrawal. Contact Student Registry at if you are not sure which option is appropriate.
If you are ready to return to study early Contact Student Registry at 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.


If you are funded by the SLC, a Research Council or other funding body, you should always discuss your plans for intermission with the relevant administrator before submitting an application, as there may be implications for your award.

US/Canadian Federal loans

If you are applying for, or have been granted, intermission whilst in receipt of a current federal loan or you hold a loan that is in deferment, or you require any information relating to the implications of intermission for your loan, please contact:

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 should talk to your College Tutor about any college hardship funds for which you may be eligible. You may also be eligible for support from the Postgraduate Hardship Fund

The Students’ Unions’ Advice Service  can also signpost to other relevant sources of funding (see also Turn2Us).

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 a purpose of undertaking activity unrelated to their course, for example for an internship or volunteering opportunity, to participate in sporting events or to study a different course. Students should check the information provided about the implications of undertaking an internship.

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.

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

If you 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.