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Degree Committee for the Faculty of Earth Sciences & Geography


University support

  • The Student Registry website provides a wide range of information for supervisors of postgraduate students.
  • You can also self-enrol on the Moodle course Supervising Postgraduate Students.
  • In general, you should refer to these sources for guidance with most aspects of supervision. This website attempts to fill in some additional details.

Local support

If you need assistance in any aspect of postgraduate supervision, you may contact (probably in this order, depending on the complexity and nature of the problem):

You should in general pause before making direct contact with a student's College Postgraduate Tutor - the tutorial code supports high levels of confidentiality, so we suggest you obtain your student's consent (if possible) before contacting the tutor. Your termly supervision will be read by the College and can be used to alert them of difficulties.


Some of the more common problems you may encounter with student supervision are outlined below.

What do I do if my student......

Q. is ill / bereaved / facing difficult personal circumstances

If problems occur that cause the student to lose more than a few weeks of time from their course or research, they should seek help from their College Tutor, Course Director or Department Postgraduate Office, or a medical professional (if appropriate) at the earliest opportunity. 

A When to Refer guide has been developed to support student-facing staff in Faculties and Departments to assist students in accessing the right pastoral support at the right time. 

Intermission may be appropriate if the student is suffering poor health (medical intermission) or is facing difficult family circumstances (non-medical intermission). Intermission stops the clock on the research and extends the end of the course by the agreed amount.

Your Department Postgraduate Office can advise you if intermission is suitable. It is really important that difficulties are addressed as early as possible. Intermission cannot be applied for in retrospect - it must be done at the time of the problem.

MRes/MPhil (taught) - if the problem affects the preparation for or taking of the exam, students should be advised to contact their College Tutor in the first instance who will make application to the Senior Examiner or engage with the examination allowances process as appropriate.


Q. has a disability/long-term health condition

Students can seek advice and support from the Disability Resources Centre. After assessment the Department Postgraduate Office is usually provided with a Student Support Document which provides guidance on any adjustments or additional support needs the student has.

Should examination access arrangements be required the Degree Committee Secretary (PhD, MSc, MPhil by thesis) or College Tutor (MRes, MPhil taught) should be consulted.

The DRC also provides information to those who teach disabled students and a Code of Practice: Access and Inclusion for Disabled Students.


Q. isn't making progress

If your student seems not to be making sufficient progress for the stage of their course, you should check whether or not they are experiencing problems. You can seek help with managing problems from your departmental Director of Postgraduate Studies or Postgraduate Administrator. Please don't let issues linger unresolved.

Students cannot be removed from the University without a strong, well documented case being made to the Postgraduate Committee by the Department and Degree Committee, so you will need to work with them to seek a solution. Make sure your supervision reports are up to date in CamSIS and that meetings with your student are documented.

The Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals offers a mediation service between willing students and their supervisors. Please contact your Department Postgraduate Administrator or OSCCA directly for further information.


Q. needs to go on fieldwork or research outside of the University

Student should apply for Leave to Work Away through their CamSIS self-service at least two months before departure. A student cannot leave Cambridge until they have recieved an official decision on their application from Student Registry.

Permission for working away is not normally granted until the probationary review registration exercise is complete and a decision on registration made.

MRes, MPhil by thesis, MPhil taught:
These programmes do not normally have sufficient time available for a student to work away and satisfy the University's residency requirement which must be met for the degree to be awarded. Exception may be granted where fieldwork is essential to the programme. Please consult with your Department Postgraduate Office or the Degree Committee if a short period of working away is essential.


Q. wants to take up paid employment during study

The rules around postgraduate working can be found here.

Part-time work during study

  • Full-time postgraduate research students undertaking a course of more than 12 months (i.e. PhD or MSc) or the MPhil by research may undertake paid work up to a maximum of 10hrs per week if approved by you as supervisor and their College Tutor.
  • The work undertaken should be either academic-related, related to a student's professional or career development, or outreach work undertaken on behalf of the University. Requests to undertake work that does not fall into one of these categories should not be approved.
  • Students are still expected to devote 40hrs/wk to their studies even if they are approved to undertake paid work.
  • Masters students are generally expected not to work during term-time.

Full-time work

  • It is not possible to be registered as a full-time postgraduate student and undertake full-time paid employment.
  • Postgraduate students who who wish to leave the University to take up full-time paid employment before submitting their thesis need to apply to temporarily withdraw from study through their CamSIS self-service.

Q. wants to return home to write up or complete corrections

Students who wish to return home to write up their thesis or complete corrections post-examination should apply for permission for Leave to Work Away through their CamSIS self-service.

Q. isn't going to submit on time

Departments are under strong pressure to make sure that more than 70% of their PhD students submit the thesis within 4 years of starting doctoral training.

  • for a conventional PhD, and for doctoral training programmes without a separate degree qualification in the first year, this will date from the start of the probationary period (date of admission to the course);
  • for a formal 1+3 CDT with an MRes or MPhil in the first year, the '4-year' clock starts running at the start of the probationary period of the PhD phase (ie start of the second year of the CDT programme).

Please do all you can to make sure your student submits in time. If illness or other serious problems prevent this, consider whether an application for intermission is appropriate.

A short extension (normally no more than 3-6 months) can be granted for good reasons that have your written support (but note that this will still be an overrun - neither an extension nor withdrawing from study will stop the clock). Your termly submitted supervision reports will be considered alongside any extension application.

Why does this matter?

Four-year submission data are collected by the Research Councils and the Office for Students for all doctoral students; they may determine whether or not a department gets RC studentship funding and are among the data submitted in DTC applications. In departments with small numbers of students, the failure of only one or two students to meet the deadline can cause the department to dip below the cut-off point.

You are asked therefore to direct so far as possible your student towards this target, or an earlier target if their funding ends before their University final submisison date. A key consideration is if (s)he has lost time due to any of the following - act on it immediately and consider making an application as shown:

  • illness (medical intermission) unless it is just in the last month prior to submission (extension to submission deadline if necessary but extension will not stop the clock and the student will be recorded as having overrun)
  • disability (extension to submission deadline if necessary but extension will not stop the clock and the student will be recorded as having overrun)
  • bereavement, maternity/paternity, other family difficulties (non-medical intermission)
  • unavoidable lab/supervisory disruption, change of topic through no fault of their own (extension to submission deadline if necessary but extension will not stop the clock and the student will be recorded as having overrun)
  • time out from doctoral research to train in a difficult language/technique intrinsic to research (working away. Note working away does not extend the submission deadline)
  • time out to undertake an internship (non-medical intermission or working away depending on the nature of the internship. Note working away does not extend the submission deadline)

If you need help to navigate this thicket of allowances, please ask your Department Postgraduate Office.

If none of the above applies, but your student needs more time (s)he can apply for a short extension before the deadline through their CamSIS self-service. If you can provide a strong academic case and it is supported by the Department it may be granted, but this will not stop the clock and (s)he will be recorded as having overrun. Applications initiated after the submission deadline will be automatically rejected.


Q. I'm going on sabbatical, retiring or leaving Cambridge

I'm leaving Cambridge to take up a post elsewhere
Will your students stay or go with you? This may depend on how far through the degree they are, any conditions of their funding and whether facilities will remain available in Cambridge. If students are to stay, you could remain as their supervisor, but a second supervisor who oversees their day-to-day supervision in Cambridge; please consult your Department Postgraduate Office as soon as possible. If students are to go with you, in addition to your arrangements with the receiving University, they will need to complete an application to withdraw from this University.

I'm retiring
Whether you continue to supervise depends on your circumstances. You should discuss this with your Department Postgraduate Director. Should you continue to supervise an additional supervisor will need to be appointed to provide 'UTO' support as required for OfS funding.

I'm going on sabbatical
Arrangements for the effective continuity of supervision of your students need to be specified before you go - these should be part of the application you make to your Head of Department for sabbatical leave. Please talk to your Department Postgraduate Office in good time to ensure all parties are aware of the supervision arrangements in place for your students.


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.