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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)


Risk Assessment form

Fieldwork Training

All first year PhD students will be required to watch a 1 hour online risk assessment safety video on the universities safeguarding web pages. This is aimed at students embarking on fieldwork and was produced by Safer Edge, a travel risk company. The training is aimed at students to help them to produce a comprehensive risk assessment which will then be reviewed by the department. You will be unable to start your field work without the department's approval. The link for this is found below;

There is also a guidance document with lots of information in and links to also assist in this process;

This must be completed prior to the First Year Registration exercise and confirmation of completion must be added to your Student Progress Log.

Fieldwork and Risk Assessment Procedure

In order to carry out fieldwork, students must apply for and be granted Leave to Work Away from Cambridge. You must apply for LTWA for all research absences over 2 weeks.

It is very important that the University has a record of where you are when not in Cambridge. For those students sponsored under Tier 4, it is absolutely essential.

You should not consider leaving Cambridge without having received notification by email from the Student Registry that your application to work away has been approved. 

Leave to Work Away on the Student Registry website. 

As part of the application for Leave to Work Away, every student must complete a risk assessment; the most recent form can be found at the top of this page. 

We will not accept any Leave to Work Away applications if they do not have a fully completed risk assessment form attached. Please use the Threat Table as a basic template that offers some useful examples of general travel risks. 

The risk assessment should acknowledge the FCO advice for the country you are visiting and their intended control measures (a few examples from the FCO for the USA are hurricanes, terror attacks, violent crime etc.). The risk assessment is not a bureaucratic exercise; it is a tool to enable you to properly prepare for your trip and for the Department to be satisfied that you have done this.

The completed risk assessment should be approved and signed by your Supervisor and then uploaded to your LTWA application; you should also submit the form to your PhD Administrator. 

All completed risk assessments are kept in the student’s electronic file along with a check in log of contact with the student, when this is required (see below).

Once you have applied for Leave to Work Away and returned your Risk Assessment, both forms will be considered by the relevant Graduate Studies Committee. 

If concerns are raised by the Graduate Studies Committee about any aspect of your proposed fieldwork, you and your Supervisor will be contacted and asked to provide additional assurances, to put more robust systems in place to ensure your safety, or to adapt your plans.

When necessary, students may be asked to complete further training in fieldwork safety and security; if this happens, you will be contacted with details of the supplementary training.

Once your applications have been approved by the Graduate Studies Committee, approval is then sought from the Department of POLIS Degree Committee. Once passed by the Degree Committee, the application for Leave to Work Away is processed by the Student Registry who will notify students of their official permission to leave Cambridge. 

Leave to Work Away Check in Procedure

Students who are conducting Leave to Work Away in locations that have an Amber Foreign and Commonwealth Office warning are required to check in weekly with their PhD Administrator. However, students who are nationals of the country they are conducting fieldwork in, and who have either family or friends in-country, will not be required to check in.

Students are expected to return to Cambridge if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office warning for a location changes to Red (advise against all travel).

Students who fail to check in will be contacted by the PhD Administrator, and if they still fail to return contact, the PhD Administrator will contact the first emergency contact.

If the emergency contact has had no contact with the student the PhD Administrator will alert the student’s supervisor, PhD Director, Department Administrator, the University’s Insurance Section and the relevant embassies.

Degree Committee Meeting Dates

  • 3 October 2019
  • 24 October 2019
  • 28 November 2019
  • 16 January 2020
  • 13 February 2020
  • 12 March 2020
  • 23 April 2020
  • 21 May 2020
  • 25 June 2020

To be included on the agenda, applications must be ready at least 10 days prior to the meeting. 


Fieldwork Data Security

A lecture/seminar from UIS and the Computer Laboratory on fieldwork data security, with recommendations for staff and research students working outside the UK. Credit to David Modic and Kieren Lovell.