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Postgraduate Study


The flowchart below shows what happens after your application has been submitted (click to expand).

diagram showing the process of what happens next

1. Receipt of your application

Once you have submitted your application and supporting documents via the Applicant Portal, you will receive an email from us confirming its successful submission. Remember, your application is not complete without both references, and it will not be considered until it is complete. Please ensure that these are submitted by your referees so that your application can be considered.

2. Track the progress of your application

You can track the progress of your submitted application via the Applicant Portal, and a final decision on your application will be sent to you by email.

3. Assessment of your application

Your completed application will be assessed in sequence by up to four different offices and the amount of time it takes for each office to consider your application and process it varies. See below for the different offices involved


The department or faculty where you wish to study will consider your application first. This includes (where relevant):

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

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

For information on how a particular department processes applications, please check the relevant course entry in the course directory.

How long does the process 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.

Degree Committee

If the department decides to recommend you for admission, the Degree Committee will then consider your application and, if they approve it, they will then make a recommendation of admission to the Postgraduate Admissions Office.

How long does the process take?

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

Postgraduate Admissions Office (PAO)

PAO co-ordinates the admission process, and will assess the application following the Degree Committee’s decision to admit. If the PAO approve your application, you will then receive an offer of admission. Only this office 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, the PAO will also process your CAS if you require a Tier 4 visa.

How long does the process take?
It may take 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

4. The decision

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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

I decided to apply to Cambridge because it is a world renowned institution with excellent and interesting research opportunities. There was also generous funding available and the town is a beautiful place to live in too.

Anna, PhD in Cardiovascular Medicine