Health and Academic Issues

If you find that you are in a position where continuing your studies will be detrimental to your health, whether physical or mental, if you have struggled with any long-term or recurring illnesses, or are unwell during exams, you may be eligible for examination allowances or an application to intermit from your studies.

If you feel any of this applies to yourself, it is vital you contact your tutor at the nearest opportunity. You may also contact your Mental Health Welfare officer should you have any general questions. You will be advised, where necessary, to have a consultation with your GP to receive a note confirming your illness. This process can take up to fourteen days, and typically incurs a cost of approximately £20, so where possible attempt to book this appointment sooner rather than later as this will put you in a much stronger position if your illness does affect your academic performance. You may speak to your tutor about possible reimbursement of this cost.

Please see below for information on intermission, formally known as permission for terms to be disregarded.

PERMISSION TO HAVE TERMS DISREGARDED (previously known as Degrading or Exceptional permission to go out of Residence) means the disregarding of terms for the purpose of calculating a student's standing to take an examination and to graduate. Such leave is therefore normally given for a complete academic year, or occasionally a complete calendar year. Leave can be given retrospectively. The University's Applications Committee decides whether or not a student is granted permission. If you feel you have a case, you must ask your Tutor to write to the Applications Committee. The Applications Committee will always be sympathetic to applications for leave for an academic year on account of chronic illness. However, it is important to note that this is not always the case if such an application is made shortly before the examination period. Sometimes the Applications Committee will ‘allow the examination’ which means that the student can proceed to the next year or to graduate even though they did not take all or any of their exams.

Leave to have terms disregarded allows the student, in effect, to repeat all or part of an academic year during which the student has been ill, and take an examination in a year in which he/she would not otherwise have been eligible to take it. So, if students reach the Easter Term and feel that they cannot do themselves justice in the examination, because of their illness, this may be an option. With some illnesses this may allow the student time to recover from an illness, or it may allow students to compensate for time lost owing to illness.


Typical, but not exhaustive, reasons for application:

  1. Absence from Cambridge due to medical or emotional reasons, or other such extenuating circumstances;
  2. Illness or extenuating circumstances which are having a negative impact on your studies.
  3. Illness or extenuating circumstances that have interrupted your studies.

When the reason for the application is medical, the Applications Committee will request medical evidence e.g. a letter from the student’s GP or the Counselling Service. Copies of supervision reports are also required to accompany the application. These will be generated by the Tutorial and Admissions Office staff for your Tutor.

A few things to consider

  1. Once agreement has been reached between you and your Tutor that an application for leave is the best possible course of action, you are normally required to leave Cambridge. If a student has been unable to take their exams through serious illness which has necessitated them going out of residence they are not able to return to Cambridge except for treatment (in which case a separate application must be made to the University Applications Committee to allow the student to do so). This is consistent with the University policy regarding such students. Students who are granted permission to have terms disregarded are not allowed to return to Cambridge until they have permission from the University to return into residence. To be clear this includes May Week events. The only exception arises where a student needs to be resident to obtain essential medical care in Cambridge or whose home is in Cambridge. Such students however are not allowed to participate in May Week events within the College to ensure as fair an application of the rule as possible. This applies equally to those undergraduates who have returned home due to ill health but hope to graduate in June with the benefit of an Allowance. These students may be allowed to return into residence a day or two before graduation on application to the Senior Tutor. However, if it is felt that the student’s best interests are served by remaining at home then permission will be denied.
  2. If you want to change the amount of time for which you are seeking permission for terms to be disregarded then a further application must be made to the Applications Committee.
  3. If you have to go out of residence quickly for medical reasons, make sure you are seen by a doctor at the time. This ensures that they can provide you with a medical certificate that best reflects the severity of your medical condition (and not later when you may be feeling better).
  4. Permission for terms to be disregarded does not cause facts to be changed. Permission for terms to be disregarded does not change either the number of terms kept or examination results.
  5. If you leave within 20 days of the start of full term then you are entitled to a discounted return of your University fees. However, the fees are unlikely to be refunded in full.
  6. Carefully consider the terms for which you request permission for terms to be disregarded . The Applications Committee may be unlikely to allow you to return for just the Easter (exam) term.
  7. Permission for terms to be disregarded is intended to relieve a student from a disadvantage: it is not intended to allow a candidate to gain an advantage over others.
  8. Make sure you inform the Student Loan Company if permission is granted.
  9. If you want to seek permission for terms to be disregarded after completing 2/3rds of the academic year, the University will usually but not always ask that your college requests you to be allowed the exams, and not to retake the year.
  10. Students leaving College mid-way through a Term cannot be refunded for their rent for the remainder of that Term as per their residential agreement.
  11. Ensure that you are fully aware of the conditions of returning into residence. If you have intermitted for medical reasons, you will be required to provide supporting medical evidence giving an up-to-date assessment from the relevant medical practitioner and addressing all the issues raised in the original medical assessment which supported the application to degrade and attesting to the student’s fitness to resume is required.

Contact Isabel,
Mental Health and Disabled
Students’ Welfare Officer

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