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Postgraduate Study


Once you've made your application, this is how it's processed.

flowchart to show processing application
Application processing flowchart

You can track the progress of your application via the Applicant Portal.

Receipt of your application

After you've submitted your application and supporting documents via the Applicant Portal, you'll receive a confirmation email from us.

Remember, your application will not be considered until it is complete, and it's not complete without both references, so please ensure these are submitted by your referees.

Assessment of your application

Your completed application will be assessed in sequence by up to four different offices.

The time it takes to consider and process your application varies for each office.

1) Department/Faculty review

The department or faculty where you wish to study will consider your application first, including (where relevant):

  • assessing all the materials you've submitted as part of your application
  • finding an appropriate supervisor
  • ranking you for funding
  • inviting you for an interview

If your application is unsuccessful, it will not progress any further.

For information on how a particular department processes applications, check the relevant course entry in the Course Directory. Please note that if a potential supervisor says they are willing to supervise your topic this does not mean you have been offered a place.  Your proposal needs consideration by a range of academics and the offer of a place can only be made by the Postgraduate Admissions Office.

How long does it take?

  • Around 90% of applications are considered by the department within 12 weeks. Many applicants will receive a decision earlier than this.
  • For those applicants who do not receive a decision within 12 weeks, it is likely your application has been placed on a reserve list and you should contact your department to check its status.
  • Some departments wait until the course deadline has passed and then consider all applications together, while other departments will consider applications as soon as they are received.

2) Degree Committee review

If the department decides to recommend you for admission, the Degree Committee will then consider your application.

If they approve it, they will then make a recommendation of admission to the Postgraduate Admissions Office.

How long does it take?

  • It takes approximately ten days from departmental approval for your application to be considered by the Degree Committee.

3) Postgraduate Admissions Office (PAO) review

PAO co-ordinates the admission process, and will assess the application following the Degree Committee’s decision to admit.

If PAO approves your application, you will then receive an offer of admission.

Only PAO can issue your official offer of admission on behalf of the University.

PAO will also assess the documents submitted for meeting the conditions of your offer and confirm your admission.

If your admission is confirmed, PAO will process your CAS, if you require a Tier 4 visa.

How long does it take?

  • It takes approximately ten days from degree committee approval for you to receive a decision from the Postgraduate Admissions Office (PAO).
  • If you are made an offer and provide documents to meet the conditions of your offer, these documents take around ten days to process.

The decision

A final decision on your application will be sent to you by email. You can also track the progress of your application via the Applicant Portal.

Decisions on admission to the University are made on academic merit, the availability of places on a course, and the availability of an appropriate supervisor.

If you submitted your application before the general funding deadlines in December or January, you should receive a formal decision on your application before the end of March. The majority of offers are made in February and March.

If your application is unsuccessful, you may receive notification of the outcome sooner than those who receive an offer. This is because the process for establishing all the components of an offer is more time consuming.

If you receive an offer of admission, please see the Your Offer section of our website for what happens next.

Please note there is a deadline to accepting your offer, which is different from the deadline to meet your offer conditions. You can find the deadline for accepting your offer in your Certificate of Offer.


The Postgraduate Admissions Office cannot provide feedback on admissions decisions, give reasons for not offering admission, nor advise you on how to improve your application.

Faculties or Departments may agree to provide feedback (though they are not obliged to do so and may choose not to as a matter of policy) and should be contacted directly.

College membership

Your application will only be sent to Colleges if and when a formal offer of admission has been made by the Postgraduate Admissions Office (PAO).

How long does the process take?

  • You should normally receive notification of your College membership within three weeks of receiving your formal offer of admission from PAO.

Confirmation of admission

If you are made an offer of admission, this will be conditional, and your admission will only be confirmed once you have met all the conditions of your offer.

For more information see the Confirmation of Admission page.

Immigration requirements

Applicants requiring a Tier 4 visa to study will receive a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) once their admission has been confirmed. These are usually issued by the Postgraduate Admissions Office in June for admission in October.

For more information see the Immigration pages.

Equal Opportunity

The University of Cambridge is committed to equal opportunity and adheres to the University's policy in relation to all admissions processes.

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