In Cambridge intermission is referred to as "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, though not always 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 they 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.

When the reason for the application is medical, the Applications Committee will request medical evidence, for example 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.

Leaving Cambridge

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. 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.

Factors to consider

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Permission for terms to be disregarded does not cause facts to be changed.
  4. 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 Loans Company if permission is granted.
  9. If you want to seek permission for terms to be disregarded after completing two thirds 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. If this causes financial hardship then an application may be made for a Downing Bursary.

Return into residence

In July the Senior Tutor will write to students who have been granted permission for terms to be disregarded and who we expect to return for the following academic year.

Included with the letter will be relevant forms and information about confirming your fitness to resume study in October. Supporting medical evidence confirming the student’s fitness to resume is required. This must be received by the College no later than 14 August for return the following academic year and 10 November for return in the following calendar year.

Wherever possible the assessment should be from the same practitioner providing the original evidence for the application for permission for terms to be disregarded. Where the student may have been under specialist medical or psychiatric supervision, the assessment should be from that practitioner rather than the student’s GP.

The College may reserve the right to seek a further independent assessment. The Senior Tutor will then make an application on your behalf to the University Applications Committee for you to be allowed to return into residence.

We will write to you again as soon as we have received a response from the Committee. Returning students with mental health difficulties will be required to see the University’s Mental Health Adviser (MHA), Juliet Bristow or Jenny Schiller, prior to return and contact details will be included in the July letter to enable students to make a convenient appointment.

The MHA will assess your mental health progress whilst you have been away from College and establish your support needs for your return into residence. The MHA will then advise College staff on what provisions need to be in place for you to successfully continue with your studies. The MHA will also provide medical evidence to accompany your application to return into residence.

Returners group at the University: Counselling service

The College strongly recommends that all returning students attend the University Counselling Service’s Returners’ Group sessions which run during October and November for students who are re-integrating into College after degrading for a period.

The group began in response to concerns expressed by Tutors and students themselves, and has run, very successfully, in the last few academic years. The concerns are about re-integrating into a community where one’s peers are now a year ahead (or may have graduated), when there is an anxiety that the situation which underlay the request to degrade may return, and there is a perception of having ‘failed’ in some way.

The group is intended to offer support as students find their feet again, to address problems as they arise before they feel too big to deal with, and to nurture self-esteem which might have been diminished by the experiences of the previous few months.

To these ends it allows students to think and talk about some of the practical and emotional issues involved during their return.