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Degree Committee for the Faculty of Earth Sciences & Geography


Terms of research/study and Terms of Residence

In order to qualify for a Cambridge degree, you need to do at least the following: 

  1. pass all the academic requirements for the degree;
  1. do the required number of terms of research / study;
  1. 'keep' the required number of terms of residence (full-time students only);
  1. pay your bills so you have no outstanding financial obligations to the University.


Terms of research/study

degree minimum number of terms required maximum number of terms permitted
MPhil 3  
MSc or MLitt 6 12
PhD 9  (full-time), 15 for (part-time) 12 (full-time), 21 (part-time)

Full-time graduate students are expected to be resident in Cambridge and actively pursuing research throughout the year with no break between terms, although you are entitled to short breaks for holidays.


Terms of residence

  Michaelmas Term Lent Term Easter Term
Term dates 1 Oct - 19 Dec

5 Jan - 25 March

or 24 March

 in Leap Years

10 Apr - 18 June

if full Easter term starts before 22 April

17 Apr - 25 June

if full Easter term starts on or after 22 Apr

Total term nights 80 days 80 days 70 days
Nights to keep term 59 nights 59 nights 52 nights

Every full-time graduate student must be in Cambridge for at least three terms to meet the residency requirement and qualify for a degree. You are expected to live in Cambridge throughout your graduate studies unless you have been given permission to live elsewhere or have Leave to Work Away or during periods of holiday agreed with your supervisor, not normally exceeding 8 weeks in a 12-month period.

To count a term as 'kept', you need to reside in Cambridge for 3/4 of the of total number of nights during each term (i.e. 59 for the Michaelmas and Lent Terms and 52 for the Easter Term).

The majority of students comfortably meet the residency requirement. In restricted circumstances some Masters student who need to undertake a period of fieldwork/working away within term dates may have difficulty meeting the full residence requirement: see the  Leave to Work Away page for advice. It is important you are aware of the term dates and residence requirement. The dates in Easter Term are also important to MPhil by thesis students as they dictate the earliest date you can submit your thesis.



PhD & MPhil by thesis: The University's standard vacation periods do not apply. If you are a full-time student you are expected to devote around 40hrs per week to your course of study or course of research for the full duration of your course. The academic year for a PhD student runs from 1 October to 30 September - the 'long vacation' applies to undergraduates only.

You may take short breaks for holidays, up to a maximum of 8 weeks per year, at times agreed with your supervisor. Part-time students should receive a pro-rata holiday entitlement.

If you are planning on being away for a purpose other than a holiday, you need to make an application for intermission or leave to work away as appropriate, so that the time away is formally authorised by the University in the normal way.  

MRes & MPhil (taught): Students registered for an MRes or MPhil (taught) should refer to their Course Handbook or Department Graduate Office for course-specific guidance on taking holiday.

If you can't find the page you are looking for or find a broken link do let us know (please use the email link in the 'Contact us' section below).

Office closures

The Degree Committee for the Faculty of Earth Sciences and Geography will be closed from 5pm on Thursday 28 March 2024 and will reopen again on Tuesday 2 April 2024.
Research degree theses should still be submitted by your submission deadline even if that falls over the holiday period.