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Postgraduate Study


This page describes how to appeal a postgraduate admission decision or complain about an aspect of the admissions process.To ensure that we have the information we need and can handle your appeal or complaint appropriately, please read this guidance carefully.

What is an admissions appeal or complaint?

An admissions complaint is about the admissions process but seeks some other remedy than changing its outcome. An appeal made using the complaints form will be dismissed.

An admissions appeal seeks to change an outcome of the admissions process. Most often this will be an appeal to reverse the rejection of an application and have it reconsidered. However it might also be against, for example, the imposition of a specific admission condition.

A postgraduate admissions appeal can be made only in relation to one or more of the following three grounds and cannot be made on any other. Appeals that are ineligible will be dismissed.

  1. A serious procedural error (such as the University’s provision of inaccurate information or a failure to follow published postgraduate admissions policy).
  2. Bias in the decision-making process, defined as treating someone less favourably than another because of either (a) belonging to a protected group, as set out in the University’s Equal Opportunities Policy or (b) their identity in coming from a disadvantaged social or educational background.
  3. Extenuating circumstances affecting your application which, for good reason, you did not inform the University of in your application, and which would have had a material impact on the admission decision.

Note that evidence of procedural error, bias or extenuating circumstances is required. If no substantive evidence is offered an appeal will be withdrawn. Please also note the following points:

  • Neither an admissions appeal nor complaint can be made about a matter of academic judgement, that is a judgment where only the opinion of an academic expert is sufficient to decide on the issue.  More information and examples of academic judgement can be found here.
  • The rejection of a good applicant does not in itself represent evidence, even if that applicant has met the minimum academic requirement.  Entry to our courses is extremely competitive and meeting minimum requirements does not guarantee admission.
  • A statement from a Cambridge academic that they are interested in supervising a research proposal does not mean an applicant will be offered a place. The rejection of an applicant who has received such interest does not in itself represent evidence for an appeal.
  • The speed of a decision does not in itself provide evidence of a procedural error.  The University aims to make quick decisions where possible, to help candidates plan their futures.
  • An appeal made on the grounds of extenuating circumstances may be withdrawn if there is no good reason why these were not declared at application, regardless of the circumstances themselves, or if you have not used the exam mitigation procedures available to you at your institution.

Before you submit an appeal or complaint

It may be that your issue is out of scope for the postgraduate admissions appeals and complaints process and is better dealt with elsewhere. An appeal or complaint which is out of scope will be dismissed. Please read the following guidance carefully.


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 should be contacted directly.

Additional information

The appeals and complaints process should not be used to restate the qualifications and achievements that make you suitable for a course. Nor should it be used to provide additional information about your qualifications and achievements, including any gained after your application. Such information does not constitute a legitimate ground for appeal. You are welcome to apply to the University in future years if you have additional achievements to report.

Fee status

Any candidate who thinks they have been wrongly assessed for fee status may seek a review by submitting a self-assessment questionnaire. This questionnaire can be downloaded from your Self-Service account or from the Fee reassessment page. This process has its own appeal route, with details provided to relevant applicants. Do not use the appeal process described here to request fee status reassessment or for a fee status reassessment appeal.

Exam grades and academic conditions

In general, we will not consider an admissions appeal that is based on mitigating circumstances or procedural issues affecting your grades in an exam.  Instead, you should use the exam mitigation, appeal or review processes in place at the institution where you take your exams (including at Cambridge) so that these circumstances are taken into account in awarding your grade.  Where such a process has not been used, you will need to explain why not.

If your admissions appeal does relate to your exam performance it will, in general, only be considered once all relevant exam appeal and mitigation processes have been completed. For students taking a degree at Cambridge this will be the exam allowance or examination review process, as appropriate. In such cases, the 28-day deadline for making an admission appeal will start from the completion of the exam appeal. If you believe there are special circumstances, you should make this case in the appeal form.

Other procedures

A separate appeals and complaints process is available for admission to the following courses:

Appeals and complaints from registered postgraduate students about their current course should be made through the Office for Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals. This includes those moving into the doctoral phase of a 1 + 3 programme.

Stage 1: Local informal resolution

Before completing an admissions appeal or complaint form, you should seek an informal resolution with staff in the relevant department or other institution - for example, the director of the course you applied to. Contacts can be found via the Postgraduate Course Directory.

If you have a query or concern about your College allocation, you should contact the Senior Tutor or Postgraduate Tutor within the College in the first instance.  College contacts are available here.

If you have not attempted local resolution before submitting a stage two form, your appeal or complaint may be withdrawn.

Stage 2: Submitting an appeal or complaint

You must submit your stage two admissions appeal (see the definition of appeal above) using the form here.

You must submit your stage two admissions complaint (see the definition of complaint above) using the form here.

If the relevant form is unavailable, email

You must submit an admissions appeal or complaint within 28 calendar days of receiving your formal admission decision. Submissions outside this timeframe may be dismissed.  At its discretion, the Postgraduate Admissions Office may accept an appeal or complaint beyond this deadline but only in exceptional cases where a valid reason for delay is evidenced.

You can withdraw an appeal or complaint at any time by emailing the same address, but once withdrawn the appeal or complaint cannot be reinstated.

You will not be disadvantaged for submitting an appeal or complaint made in good faith, and this will not affect any offer of study already issued or prevent you from being able to re-apply to the University in the future.

Responding to your appeal or complaint

We will acknowledge your appeal or complaint within 5 working days of its receipt, dated from the working day on which the form is first received).

An admissions appeal or complaint can be dismissed if it is trivial, vexing, or malicious, or if it repeats a case that has already been made.  An admissions appeal or complaint can be withdrawn if no substantive evidence is offered (and for an appeal this must relate to one of the eligible grounds).  The rejection of a good candidate does not in and of itself represent evidence.

If your appeal or complaint is accepted as within scope it will be investigated and a decision will be made by the Postgraduate Admissions Appeals and Complaints Panel, which is independent of the Postgraduate Admissions Office or any department or College. The investigation is likely to include requesting responses from the staff or department that considered your application. Though information will only be shared where necessary for the investigation, this is likely to involve sharing your identity and your appeal or complaint with the institution or person which is the subject of complaint or whose decision you are appealing.

All parties involved in an appeal or complaint are expected to act reasonably, fairly and courteously toward each other and to respect the University’s written documentation and legal obligations.

You will normally receive a decision within 20 working days of receiving the appeal acknowledgement. If a decision will take longer than 20 working days, you will receive an update regarding the investigation.

The appeal or complaint decision notification will include the decision, the reason for the decision, and any actions being taken as a result.

The appeal or complaint decision confirms the University’s final position in relation to a Postgraduate Admissions appeal or complaint and ends the process. The decision may be communicated to any staff or department involved in the investigation.