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PhD studying and assessment

Continuing to work

The challenges PhD students face during the coronavirus pandemic will be many and varied but in almost all cases several months working at home (or in College for those students who cannot go home) can be productively used in writing and in undertaking additional online training in transferable or project-specific skills.

Because you can be working at home or in College for a number of months, whichever year you are in, it will not usually be appropriate to intermit, and this seems to be the view of many of the funding agencies, which do not recommend intermission at this time. Be assured that in due course the HPS Degree Committee will look sympathetically on requests for submission-date extensions, if required. We recommend that you take stock around six months before your submission deadline when you will have a clear idea of the amount of additional time needed, if any.

Many of the resources you are likely to need can be accessed remotely, but in some cases you may have to change your research plans, for example, if you can no longer access an essential archive, fieldwork site or other resource. In these cases, and others where it may be sensible to alter the timing of elements of research, please consult your supervisor in the usual way.

Students who are unable to stay in Cambridge and who can carry on working on their project, albeit at a reduced rate, should apply for leave to work away (LTWA) from Cambridge until the end of June. Students who cannot remain in Cambridge and are unable to continue to work on their project remotely should consider applying for non-medical intermission, but this may have funding and visa implications.


Students who self-isolate may still be able to work on their research. If this is not possible, you can take the period of self-isolation as annual leave or apply for a non-medical intermission.

Students with COVID-19

Students who contract COVID-19 should apply for medical intermission if you are affected for more than two weeks. You will not need to submit medical evidence. If you are caring for sick loved ones, this can also apply.

First-year registration exercises and annual reviews

First-year PhD students should proceed to prepare registration materials to be submitted by the usual deadline, but we recognize that the current situation brings additional challenges. Please discuss this with your supervisor, who will help you prepare appropriately. Your supervisor will advise on whether an extension to the submission deadline is necessary, and they can also help you with an application if it is. But in the majority of cases we expect first-year assessments to proceed in a straightforward way with meetings taking place over Skype and confirmations of recommendations being communicated in late June.

Annual reviews for those in later years should also proceed as planned. These will provide opportunities to take stock and, where necessary, to consider revised plans.

Submission and examination of the PhD

Appointment of examiners and approval of title

There is no change to the procedures for approval of title or appointment of examiners.

Softbound thesis submission

Students wishing to submit their softbound thesis for examination should contact and we will arrange for you to submit electronically via Moodle Assessments.


The HPS Degree Committee has established procedures for conducting vivas by video conference including connection testing in advance and technical support throughout.

Submission of hardbound thesis

JS Wilson Bookbinders will accept an electronic copy and will print and bind the thesis and let Student Registry know when this has been done so that they can process the approval for the award of your degree without delay. They will also store the theses until Student Registry reopens. Students who are not able to use JS Wilson to bind their thesis will need to request an extension.

Further information about submitting your hardbound thesis

Confirmation of the degree

The HPS Degree Committee and the Board of Graduate Studies will meet remotely over the coming months to consider the approval of degrees and other individual student matters.


It has long been possible to graduate in absentia, so if your PhD has been awarded and you are unable to be in Cambridge you will still be able to graduate.

Financial difficulties

Students who find themselves in financial need due to COVID-19 can apply for funding to cover unforeseen expenses through the University's 'Special Hardship Fund'. The cap on applications has been raised to £3,350, to help those in the most need. Students should apply through their Graduate Tutor or Dean. (Senior and Graduate Tutors have been sent the application form.) Applications will be processed regularly and payments made to the College for transfer to the student, or to the student directly. All other University hardship funds should continue to run during this period, as normally as possible, for applications that are not related to COVID-19.

Advice and support

Keep in regular and frequent contact with your supervisors, and to a lesser extent your advisors. Make the most of the communities to which you belong, especially your fellow students in HPS, including through your rep Bobby Vos. Don't forget that your College is there to provide pastoral support, if necessary, or that there are further sources of support for your wellbeing on the University webpages and via the Graduate Union. For general academic advice Nick Hopwood, Director of Graduate Studies, is always available, and for administrative matters you can contact Tamara Hug as Secretary of the Degree Committee.