Guidance notes for undergraduate students
During the course of your studies, you may find you are unable to continue because of a health condition (physical or mental), disability-related issues, bereavement, financial reasons, or another serious reason. In these circumstances, you can apply for permission to take time out (normally an academic or calendar year) by intermitting in order to get back on track.
The purpose of intermission is to allow you the necessary time and distance away from your studies to seek any necessary support, recuperate (in the case of ill health) or overcome any difficulties resulting from grave circumstances, and to alleviate any academic disadvantage caused to you as a result of ill health or other grave cause.
If you would like to consider intermitting, you should contact your Tutor to discuss your situation and the implications of intermitting, as they will need to apply on your behalf to the University for permission to take time out (or ‘disregard terms’ in University language). You may also wish to consult the Students' Unions' Advice Service (SUAS).
The notes below are intended to give you important information about what is involved in applying for intermission, and the procedure which must be followed on your return to the College after any period away.
You are asked to read these notes carefully. You may also like to consult one or more of the following:
- The University Statutes and Ordinances, Chapter III: Examinations – Allowances to Candidates for Examinations
- The Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee Notes for Guidance for Staff and Students
- The guidance on intermission written by CUSU
What is involved?
Intermission is the term used to describe a break from your studies during any terms in which you are unable to properly engage with your studies due to serious, unforeseen circumstances.
In most cases, intermission will involve your leaving your College residence to take time out from your studies. The grounds for intermission are usually very serious, and the permission to intermit is granted on the basis that you are facing grave circumstances that make it impossible for you to continue with your studies without the time away. These are such problems as a chronic or acute illness, serious disability-related issues, bereavement or other grave causes.
In some cases, intermission may also be a requirement of changing Tripos. If you are considering a change of Tripos you should consult with your Tutor and Director of Studies at the earliest opportunity, to discuss what may be required.
Your College will apply to the Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee of the University Council for permission for you to intermit. If granted, permission is normally given for intermission during a complete academic or calendar year. Which is the case will depend on how much of the academic year in which you intermit you have successfully completed, as well as on some other factors (such as whether the papers you are currently taking will be available in the academic year when you expect to return to resume your studies).
Consultation within College
The decision to apply for intermission can be taken only after consultation with your Tutor, and/or the Senior Tutor or Deputy Senior Tutor; and often also with your Director of Studies.
If you are applying for intermission on medical grounds, it will be important to plan for appropriate treatment, to maximize your chances of a good recovery and a successful return to study. If this applies, your Tutor and/or Senior Tutor or Deputy Senior Tutor will want to discuss this with you; as well as plans for supporting your return.
Implications of intermission
Intermission may have considerable implications, and you should take these into account and discuss them with your Tutor and Director of Studies when deciding whether or not you want to apply to intermit.
Permission to go out of residence after attending for part or all of a term will not automatically lead to cancellation of your fee liability for that term. You will become liable for fees for any term or terms in which you have been in residence for more than 21 days. If you have remained in residence for a longer period, there may, in exceptional cases, be grounds to apply for a fee remission; your Tutor will be able to advise on whether your circumstances may warrant this.
If you are eligible for a student loan or a Disabled Students’ Allowance, speak to your Tutor about how intermission will impact your continued eligibility for these sources of support.
Your Director of Studies will work with your Tutor to give you advice about the academic implications of intermitting including course/paper availability when you expect to return, any planned changes to your course (set texts/topics etc.) and whether work can be carried forward (e.g. dissertation, project work). Your Director of Studies may need to give you specific advice about regulations for your particular Tripos.
3. Tier 4 visa
If you are studying on a Tier 4 visa, the University would normally be required to cease Tier 4 sponsorship during intermission and report the change in circumstances to the Home Office. Your current Tier 4 visa would subsequently be curtailed and you would be required to leave the UK. You will need to obtain a new Tier 4 visa from overseas prior to returning to Cambridge to recommence your studies.
4. Access to College/University facilities and premises
During intermission, you will remain free to visit the city of Cambridge and to meet up with College/University friends if you mutually wish to do so. However, intermission is intended to relieve you of any academic disadvantage, rather than offering an opportunity for you to gain an academic advantage, and is granted on the basis that you are not able to study. As such, in all but very exceptional cases, permission to intermit will require you to leave your College residence. Furthermore, you will not be permitted to use/access your College’s or the University’s facilities/premises (even for social visits or events) during your break from study without prior permission from the Senior Tutor or Deputy Senior Tutor.
It is therefore essential to discuss with your Tutor any social arrangements you might wish to request for returning to College or University premises so this can be given full consideration. This can be done before you leave, or subsequently.
Exceptions to bear in mind
- You can access the Students' Unions' Advice Service and the Disability Resource Centre at any point during intermission.
- If, as is occasionally the case, you are required to undertake an academic assessment in order to meet a condition for return, you may be offered relevant access to University and College premises/facilities such as accommodation and libraries for a limited period of time to help you prepare appropriately.
- There may be very exceptional circumstances in which it is permissible for you to return to or remain in College accommodation during a period for which you are permitted to be out of residence. For example, if you are receiving specialist medical treatment in Cambridge which would be unavailable if you were to return to your permanent home address or if you don't have a permanent home address beyond your College accommodation. Council tax liability may arise in such instances.
While intermitting, you will not normally be permitted to formally represent either your College or the University in any way, for example in sporting competitions.
Your Tutor will be able to explain any other implications of intermission, if applicable.
There may be a considerable amount of information given to you during discussions about intermission and its implications. Given the sometimes complex and detailed nature of these conversations and the difficult circumstances you may be facing at the time, you are encouraged to ask your Tutor or Deputy Senior Tutor to put any key points you need to know in writing to you so you can refer back to these later. Please note the full implications of intermission may not be known at the time you go out of residence, particularly if your intermission continues for more than a year. However, the College will keep you informed of any new developments while you are intermitting.
You may also wish to consult with the Students‘ Unions‘ Advice Service to explore any implications of intermission, or read guidance on intermission written by CUSU.
University application to be allowed to intermit
The actual application to intermit will be made by your Tutor, Senior Tutor or Deputy Senior Tutor on your behalf to the Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee.
As part of an application, the Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee will expect to see evidence of your circumstances. In the case of intermission on medical/health grounds or serious disability-related issues, medical evidence from a registered medical professional (such as a GP or an accredited counsellor) will be required, confirming that you are unable to continue with your course. The College will give you a template letter that you should forward to your medical practitioner in order to ask them to provide evidence in support of your application. Alternatively with your consent, your College may write to your medical practitioner asking for a report to be included with the application. (See below, Appendix 1, for more details about the type of evidence required.)
Evidence to support intermission due to other grave causes may take a variety of forms but must demonstrate that the circumstances you are facing are serious, unanticipated and beyond your control and should be provided by an appropriate, independent professional or body (e.g. a death certificate).
Other information is also required as part of an application, including an application form, a covering statement from the College as well as supervision reports and any formal marks received to date. The College will collect these and forward them to the University Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee on your behalf. For intermission on medical grounds, you will also have to sign a declaration form giving permission for medical evidence to be seen by a member of the Committee. You can also provide a brief statement yourself in support of your application and may wish to consult the Students’ Unions’ Advice Service regarding this.
The College will be required to state explicitly whether it supports your case. The content of the College statement to the Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee will be discussed with you in full and you are welcome to request a copy of any part of it if you would like to do so.
Before you go
Where possible, your Tutor will meet with you before you leave to go over any relevant documentation. This might include relevant sections from these notes, the Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee guidance notes, the College’s statement to the Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee, the application form, the declaration form permitting medical evidence to be viewed by members of the Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee and generally ensuring all documentation is in order.
Your Tutor will also want to discuss the method and frequency with which they might contact you whilst you are intermitting. It is not common for contact to be regular but you may appreciate an email or call at a certain point whilst you are away and your Tutor will want to consider what will be most helpful in your particular circumstances and what your preferences are in this respect. You may also wish to discuss access to the College Nurse or College Counsellor during intermission.
It is your College Tutor’s responsibility to write to you to confirm whether your application to intermit has been approved. They should also provide a copy of the Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee’s letter to you. Approval to intermit may come with certain College-imposed or Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee-imposed conditions which must be satisfied before you will be permitted to return to study. Depending on the reason for intermitting, such conditions include providing evidence of engagement with continuing medical treatment or psychological support, agreeing to a fitness to study plan, providing evidence that financial difficulties have been fully resolved, or, in very exceptional circumstances, sitting a formal assessment. Any conditions should be clearly and unambiguously set out to you, along with any relevant deadlines, in writing, at the point that intermission is approved. If you have concerns about any of the conditions which have been imposed, you should approach your Tutor, Senior Tutor or Deputy Senior Tutor, or if you feel you need impartial support you can contact the Students’ Unions’ Advice Service.
While you're intermitting
While you're intermitting, you may wish to:
- Visit the Facebook support group for intermitting students, which is maintained by CUSU.
- Contact the Students' Unions' Advice Service, which provides free, confidential, impartial and non-directive advice to Cambridge students.
- Contact the Disability Resource Centre if you are intermitting as a result of a newly diagnosed medical condition or disability, to ensure any support and associated funding can be put in place in time for your return. Depending on the nature of your medical condition or disability, the Disability Resource Centre may also be able to arrange study skills or mentor support to help you develop strategies and assist you in a successful return to study.
- Read the guidance on intermission written by CUSU.
- The College will reserve a room for you in the academic year and term when you are expected to return. However, it is helpful to let the College know, for instance via your Tutor, if you have any specific access or other requirements for your room. If possible, please let your Tutor know well in advance of your return so the College can ensure an appropriate room is reserved for you.
- Contact the University's International Student Team (if you are a Tier 4 student) for advice on making your new visa application before returning to Cambridge.
- If you are receiving support from the University Counselling Service before intermission, speak to them if you need help sourcing access to counselling support outside the UCS while you're intermitting.
Before you return to study
Both the College and the Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee will need to be fully satisfied that the circumstances which prompted the need for you to intermit have improved sufficiently to allow you to return and complete your course successfully.
If you intermit for medical, disability or health reasons, you will not be permitted to return into residence until medical evidence has been provided that confirms you are fit to resume your course. The Tutorial Office will contact you during the term prior to your expected return to ask you to obtain evidence from your medical practitioner. You will be sent a template letter to forward to them. Alternatively, with your consent, your Tutor may write to your GP or other doctor to seek a report on your behalf. The medical notes should be given to the medical professional who is best placed to comment on your state of health at the time you wish to return to study and, wherever possible, this should be the same person who provided the medical evidence to support your original application. If it is someone different, you should ensure the new practitioner is provided with a copy of the original medical evidence, to ensure they have all the information necessary to assess your fitness to return to study (see below, Appendix 1, for more details about this). The evidence provided to support a return to study should be based on a medical assessment held not earlier than the following dates:
- for Michaelmas return: assessment not earlier than 1 July; form to College normally by 10 August.
- for Lent return: assessment not earlier than 1 October; form to College normally by 10 November.
- for Easter return; assessment not earlier than 1 February; form to College normally by 10 March.
Medical evidence should state that you have recovered or that any medical condition or disability you have can be satisfactorily managed, with necessary support measures in place, to allow you to return and complete your course successfully. The Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee will need to see this evidence, and permission to return will not be finally confirmed until they have done so.
If necessary, an application to extend your period of intermission can be made to the Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee via your Tutor, Senior Tutor or Deputy Senior Tutor. Further evidence will be required to support any extension request.
2. Tier 4 visa
If you require a Tier 4 visa to study, you will need to liaise with the University's International Student Team for advice on making your new visa application prior to returning to Cambridge.
3. Academic assessments
In very exceptional circumstances, the College may require you to take an academic assessment before permission to return is granted. If this is the case, this will have been confirmed to you by the College as a condition of your return at the point intermission was granted, along with the nature of the assessment and the standard of performance that will be required.
The College will only impose this as a condition of return where it believes there are strong pedagogical grounds for doing so and will liaise with you in advance about the support that is available. This might include, for example, a limited period of access to College/University facilities such as libraries and accommodation, and/or time with a supervisor or Director of Studies in the lead up to your assessment and formal return to study.
If you require any adjustments to examinations as a result of a medical condition or disability, the College will honour these adjustments for any academic assessment following intermission. If you will be returning to study having been newly diagnosed with a long term medical condition or disability which may require reasonable adjustments that have not been put in place for examinations previously, it is recommended you speak to the Disability Resource Centre well in advance of your expected return to study to ensure that your support requirements can be determined in advance. Depending on the nature of your disability or medical condition and support needs, the Disability Resource Centre may also be able to provide support from a specialist study skills tutor to assist you in transitioning back to study.
On returning from intermission
Usually you will be asked to meet with the Senior Tutor or Deputy Senior Tutor as soon as you return to study. This meeting will be informal but should aim to:
- welcome you back to College;
- ensure any new requirements are identified to enable support mechanisms to be put in place, including disability-related support (if applicable);
- bring you up to date on any relevant changes that have occurred within College during your time away;
- agree with you what information regarding your circumstances will be shared with your DoS, supervisors and Faculty/Department and who will share it; and
- if you are returning as a first year student, you should be given the opportunity to provide your preferences regarding: participating in College-run Freshers' events, attending functions such as the matriculation dinner, and whether you would like to be allocated a College or subject 'parent' (where applicable).
The University Counselling Service also runs workshops for intermission returners, which you may find helpful. Details are regularly updated on the UCS web pages.
You may find it beneficial to regularly check in with your Tutor to discuss how you are settling back in to study and College life following return from intermission. Your Tutor may arrange to discuss this with you specifically, or you can raise it at your regular tutorial meetings.
Notes on medical evidence
Application to intermit
Please try to ensure any medical professional providing medical evidence to support your application to intermit gives a clear diagnosis including both the nature and severity of your illness/medical condition/disability, and how this is likely to have affected your ability to study and/or, if relevant, your examination preparation and/or performance. The evidence should also indicate when the medical professional considers it likely that you would be able to resume your studies and any measures that may be necessary to support you when this happens.
Specific questions to ask them to address in their evidence letter supporting your application to intermit include:
- What is/are the medical reason(s) for the student to need to intermit their studies?
- What was the date on which you first saw the student for this illness/medical condition/disability?
- What treatment has the student been receiving for this condition?
- Please give details of any further treatment or support the student may need before being able to resume their studies. If you know there is a lengthy waiting list for such treatment, please indicate how long this is likely to be.
- What is the prognosis for this condition and when is it likely the student will be fit to resume study?
Application to return into residence
If you have intermitted on medical grounds, a further application to the Examinations Access and Mitigation Committee will be required before you are permitted to return into residence. Medical evidence from a doctor, psychiatrist or accredited counsellor must be provided and whenever possible it should be from the same person who made the original diagnosis to support your application to intermit. The evidence should address the points made in the original diagnosis. The original report should be made available to the practitioner should there be a change of personnel. The College may reserve the right to seek a further independent medical assessment. If you are undergoing continuing psychiatric treatment, full details of future supervision or monitoring arrangements should also be provided when applying to resume study.
Specific questions to ask the medical professional to address in their evidence letter supporting your application to return to study:
- What was the original diagnosis which caused the student to intermit?
- What treatment was given and has the student fully recovered or is ongoing treatment/support required to manage the illness/medical condition/disability? Please provide details.
- In your opinion, is the student fit to return to University study? Is that fitness to return conditional on further support?
- If further support is required, please provide a prognosis and give details of what support or supervision is necessary for the student to study successfully (for example from academic advisers, College Nurse etc.). In the case of psychiatric treatment, full details of any subsequent supervision or monitoring should be given.