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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)



General Information:

Whilst registered as a postgraduate student at Cambridge, you are expected to be in continuous attendance in Cambridge, unless the Student Registry has given you permission to work away from Cambridge, to reside outside of the University precincts or to intermit your studies.  As a postgraduate student, the University's standard vacation periods do not apply to you. You are expected to be studying full-time throughout your course, until submission of your thesis/dissertation, with short breaks for holiday (up to 8 weeks per year) as agreed with your supervisor.  

See also:

Work away: 

Reside outside the 20 mile limit:

What is an Intermission?

An intermission is a break from study for a defined period.  Intermission is otherwise known as a suspension of status and a disregard of terms. 

You can intermit for a period when you are unable to work on your research or study but not for periods where you have studied and have undertaken an assessment but have not performed well. In these cases if you are on a taught graduate course you may be able to apply for an examination allowance.

The following reasons would be considered for a period of intermission:

Medical Intermission:

  • Illness

Non-Medical Intermission:

  • Maternity leave
  • Paternity leave
  • Adoption leave
  • Family circumstances (such as nurse/support a sick relative)
  • Deal with an emergency situation – you will need to specify what this is
  • Language course that is not intrinsic to your research
  • Research fellowship that is not intrinsic to your research
  • Internships/placements which are not intrinsic to your research but may be for your career development.  This includes both paid and unpaid internships or placements, such as those opportunities offered by (but not required by) funding bodies, e.g. the Research Councils policy internships schemes.

The following reasons would not be considered for an intermission:

  • Taking up employment (unless this is in the form of a paid internship or placement)
  • Running out of money
  • Visa issues
  • Failing an assessment
  • Language course that is intrinsic to your research - you should apply to work away for such absences
  • Research fellowship or internship or placements which are intrinsic to your research.  In these cases you would normally apply to work away from Cambridge for the period of internship/placement.  This includes the BBSRC Professional Internships for PhD students (PIPS) scheme (See
  • Holiday - As a graduate research student 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 permission to work away is also not required), at times agreed with your supervisor, provided that these do not exceed 8 weeks in a given year.


When should I apply for an Intermission?

If you need to take a break from study (other than for a holiday) for more than 2 weeks you will need to make an application to intermit or to temporarily withdraw.  The option you choose will depend on the reason for your absence.  

See also: Work away:

Temporary withdrawal: 

Students whose disability or illness is likely to affect their progress and performance should contact their College Tutor to discuss in the first instance.


When can I apply for an Intermission?

You should apply for a period of intermission as soon as you know that you will need a break from your study.  It is possible to intermit for a maximum of thirty days retrospectively from the date you initiate an application in your CamSIS self- service pages. Applications to intermit retrospectively for a period more than 30 days from the date of application will be approved only in very exceptional circumstances.

Intermission in the first term of study would only be agreed in exceptional circumstances.  It cannot be used as a way of deferring admission. 

Similarly, it is not expected that you apply to intermit towards the end of your course.  For a PhD/MSc/MLitt/EdD student it is not expected for an application to intermit to start after the end of your final year; if you are studying for one or two year programme of study it is not expected for an application to intermit to start after the end of one year if on a one year programme or the end of the second year if on a two year programme.  Exemptions can be made for applications for medical intermission during this period.

What happens when I intermit?

If you are on a research programme, your submission date will be extended to take account of a period of intermission.  You will be notified of any change to your submission date in the email you receive approving an intermission. Depending on your period of intermission, it is possible that will not ‘keep’ a term.  If you are registered as a full time student, you are required to 'keep' term.  This means that for every term you are required to be in Cambridge for at least three-fourths of each term. If the term of research is recorded for you as ‘kept’, and if you are liable for fees, you will be charged fees for this term.

University Terms:

  • The Michaelmas Term begins on 1 October and consists of eighty days, ending on 19 December
  • The Lent Term begins on 5 January and consists of eighty days, ending on 25 March or in any leap year on 24 March
  • The Easter Term begins on 10 April and consists of seventy days ending on 18 June, or, and,  depending on when Easter falls, The Easter Term begins on 17 April and consists of seventy days ending on 25 June

How to keep term:

  • 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)

What can I do when I am on intermission?

You can remain in Cambridge during a period of intermission and may choose to visit your Department during this period of intermission and to talk occasionally with your Supervisor and other members of staff with regards to your research, but you are not expected to be actively engaged in your research 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. 

Intermission means that you are not permitted to undertake work, either related or unrelated to your studies.  If you do wish to take up employment – you will need to email the Student Registry to let them know this is your intention.  In most cases you will be temporarily withdrawn as a student and will need to apply for reinstatement when ready to resume study.

How long can I intermit for?

The minimum length of intermission is 2 weeks.

  • Full-time students can apply for up to a maximum of three consecutive terms at any one time.
  • Part-time students can apply for up to a maximum of five consecutive terms at any one time.

For a PhD/MSc/MLitt student it is not normally agreed for you to intermit for more than six full time terms/ten part-time terms in total. In addition you cannot have agreed more than three consecutive full time terms/five consecutive part time terms.
If you are studying for one or two year programme of study there will be restrictions to the number of terms intermission that can be agreed. For a Masters or any other one year programme it is not normally agreed for you to intermit for more than three full time terms/five part time terms in total. 
If you apply for more than this, or, it is determined this is required, your temporary withdrawal will be actioned automatically by the Student Registry. You will get an email to advise if this has/will be happening to you.

How might intermission affect me financially? 

If you are funded by a Research Council you must inform the administrator of your funds immediately if it is likely that you will need to intermit, or if you have had an intermission agreed.  Depending on the reason for your intermission, your award may continue or be suspended for your period of intermission.  It is your responsibility to discuss this matter with your funding administrator and find out the exact arrangements for your funding. If you are intermitting to take maternity or paternity leave, on the grounds of ill health, or to complete an internship or placement organised by a Research Council (such as policy internships), you may be eligible for continued funding during your period of intermission.   

Similarly, funders such as Gates and the Cambridge Trust may continue to fund students during periods of intermission in certain circumstances.  You should contact your funding body to confirm eligibility for continued payment of maintenance during a period of intermission.

If you are not eligible for continued funding, it is possible that any maintenance payments received during a period of intermission may be considered an 'overpayment' which will have to be repaid.

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 Advisors can also signpost to other relevant sources of funding (see also Turn2Us).

I have a UK student loan, will intermission affect this?

If you are in receipt of an SLC loan you may be able to apply for a Student Finance England discretionary payment.  The Students’ Unions’ Advice Service Advisors are money advice trained and can also provide expertise in relation to eligibility for an applying for these funds.

I have a US/Canadian Federal loan, will intermission affect this?

If you have taken federal loans or have federal loans in deferment they will be affected if you have any intermission agreed.
US regulations require that you inform your lender of any changes in enrolment so if you have had an intermission approved you must also inform your lender that you have taken a 'Leave of Absence'.

If you have a federal loan for the current year please refer to:

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:

Eligibility for benefits

The Students’ Unions’ Advice Service can advise as to eligibility for government benefits.

How might intermission affect me as a Tier 4 visa holder?

A Tier 4 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 sponsorship no longer apply and the Home Office expects the student to leave the UK.

If an intermission - medical or non-medical - is granted, the University is required to cease Tier 4 sponsorship and report the change of circumstances to the Home Office. The Home Office act on this change by curtailing the Tier 4 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 visa for a period of intermission up to a maximum of sixty days. This would only be considered 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 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 sponsorship during an intermission period greater than 60 day 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 sponsorship can be continued.

In cases where Tier 4 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:

How do I apply?

Go to your CamSIS Self-Service Page/Apply for Things/Application Forms and Select the term(s) you will be taking the intermission. [Please note, Easter Term runs from April to the end of September] It is important to use the drop down/calendar look up. 

In the Text box, state the actual dates that you require the intermission to start and end, and provide a detailed statement of reasons for your application.  If applicable, provide a statement to confirm that your sponsor/loan provider has agreed to you intermitting.  Advise of where you will be based (Country/City/Region) whilst intermitting.  Upload a copy of your supporting documents (this is required in all cases). Detailed letter from a medical practitioner on headed paper, signed and recently dated.  The following will be accepted as supporting documents:

  • Detailed letter from a Counsellor on headed paper, signed and recently dated
  • Confirmation from the Supervisor/Dept/DC regarding disruption of laboratory facilities) specifying the nature of the difficulty and the timing and duration of the delay to study
  • Confirmation from your sponsor/funding body that an intermission is permitted

All supporting documents must be supplied in English. Any documents not originally in English should be translated by a professional translating service and certified. Where appropriate, it is acceptable for documents to be translated by a member of the Student's College. The University is not able to cover the cost of supporting documents.

How do I track my application?

You must track your application via your CamSIS self-service.  You will be able to see who has next to decide on your application and it is for you to ensure your application progresses in a timely manner.  The process of application runs linear from you as the student initiating an application, to your Supervisor then to Department, College and Degree Committee. Once received at the Student Registry, if all the information is provided, the Student Registry can consider your application and make a decision.

How will I know the outcome of my application?

When a final decision has been made by the Student Registry you will receive an email notification. This email will be copied to other interested parties, such as your Degree Committee and College.  Your CamSIS record will be updated shortly afterwards.

If I am not satisfied with the outcome of my application, what should I do?

When you receive the email from the Student Registry advising that your application has been denied, you will be notified of why this decision has been made and what this will mean for you.  You can request a review of this decision by  Please mark your email: Request for Review of Graduate Application Decision.

What do I need to do to return from intermission?

If you have intermitted on non-medical grounds you will be expected to return into residence as expected on the date agreed by the Student Registry for your return – you can see this date in your CamSIS record and the email sent by Student Registry approving your intermission.

If you have intermitted for medical reasons you must provide evidence of your fitness to return to study before you can resume study and should not resume your study without first receiving an email from the Student Registry agreeing to your return.  This means that in advance of your return, you will need to complete the required forms and return them to the Student Registry together with a detailed letter from your medical practitioner and/or counsellor for consideration. Either you or your College can submit the forms, but they should be submitted in good time. 

The Student Registry refer to independent medical advisers for confirmation that your supporting documents are sufficient to allow for your return to study.  Depending on the time of year, this can take 2-3 weeks.


Once your return to study has been agreed, the Student Registry will write to inform you and copy your College, Department, Degree Committee, the Disability Resource Centre and if applicable, the International Student Office, for information.

Medical practitioners who you have asked to support your request for your return to study should be provided with the University's specific Guidelines for medical practitioners

Please note that a temporary withdrawal will be actioned automatically by the Student Registry in the event that your return is not agreed by the date your intermission ended in your CamSIS record. A temporary withdrawal does not prevent your application to return to study progressing through the process in the normal way, and, should your return be agreed, and you have been temporarily withdrawn, reinstatement will be actioned automatically by the Student Registry at this point.

What should I do if my plans change?

If you are unable to resume your study after your planned period of intermission, you may be eligible to apply for further intermission.  You should email the Student Registry as soon as possible to let us know if you will not be returning and advise of your

If you wish to return earlier than planned intermission please email  to request permission to return earlier than planned, giving the date you plan to return to study and why this is the case.  If you have intermitted for medical reasons you will have received a condition of your fitness to return to study before you can resume. Evidence of this condition having been met is required prior to you returning to your course of study. You are not authorised to resume your study without first receiving an email from the Student Registry agreeing to your return. 

If I have any further queries who should I contact?

Please contact the Student Registry:

For visa related queries, please contact the International Student Office: