Welcome to all new & returning postgraduate students


Hello! We hope you’re excited to begin your postgraduate journey here at Cambridge. Moving to a new city or starting a new course poses new challenges at the best of times, and we know that this year you may have additional anxieties about University life as the global pandemic continues to affect us. This year we’ll all be experiencing Cambridge in different ways; as your students’ union’s postgraduate representatives, we’re here to advocate for your best interests and make sure you have as rewarding an experience as possible here, whatever the circumstances.


Frequently Asked Questions


The FAQ below is intended to share information that will help you settle in, but if you have any additional questions or concerns that arise later on in the year, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We hope you enjoy Refreshers’ and we look forward to representing you.


When should I speak to my graduate tutor?

All postgraduate students have a graduate tutor allocated by your College, who is responsible for your pastoral support. They are your main point of contact for general or non-academic advice and support, but may also be able to support you with academic-related issues where appropriate. Your tutor should reach out to you as you begin your course, and you should aim to see them at least once in the first term, either individually or in a group. Their role is to help you and to support you in navigating the (quite confusing!) structures of the Collegiate University, so it can be useful to reach out before any concerns you may have become more serious, even if you don’t feel you have a pre-existing relationship.


Examples of how your graduate tutor can help you include providing careers advice and writing tutorial references; liaising with academic supervisors and Departments/Faculties if you are experiencing difficulties in this area; supporting any applications you make for hardship funding, time out from your studies, or other adjustments for personal reasons to the relevant University bodies; and signposting you to sources of specialist support if necessary.


If you experience difficulties with your tutor, or need additional support with any issue you’re facing, you can speak to the SU’s Student Advice Service. You can find more information about the Student Advice Service and other sources of sources of support at the University on the Welfare page.

What hardship funding is available, and how should I apply?

As a postgraduate student, you are generally expected by the University to have arranged sufficient funding for the duration of your course prior to beginning your studies. However, you are eligible for a hardship funding award if you can demonstrate that you have encountered ‘unforeseen financial difficulties’ during your studies. Awards are normally not more than £2000 and there are two rounds each term; in Lent Term 2021, the application deadlines are 2nd February (decision w/c 22nd February) and 3rd March (decision w/c 22 March). You can apply via the online hardship awards application form, but you should make sure you speak to your supervisor and/or tutor in advance; a University hardship funding application will not be successful without a supporting statement from either a supervisor or tutor, and they may be able to give you advice on where and how to apply for funding, including potential College hardship funding. For more information and a link to the application form, see the University’s ‘Hardship Funding for Postgraduate Students’ page.


Depending on your situation, you may also be eligible for several other funds - for example, if you need help with medical expenses, research expenses, childcare costs, etc. You can find more detailed information about all of these funds in the Student Advice Service's Information Guide on Finance.

What rights do I have as a postgraduate student?

It can be difficult to do when you’re navigating a new place and institutional culture, but it’s important to know and assert your rights as a postgraduate student, in order to build a healthy working relationship with your supervisor/advisors and others in your Department or Faculty. This Graduate Union report from 2018/19 gives an overview of the rights you are entitled to and how you might establish them. If you do experience any issues with your supervisor, you might find this video and guide from the Student Advice Service helpful. You can also speak to your academic rep(s), who represent and advocate for students at Department, Faculty, and School levels. You can find out who your reps are here or here, or by contacting Siyang or Kate if you’re still unsure.


(Note: The Graduate Union merged with Cambridge University Students’ Union after 2019/20 to form a combined students’ union, Cambridge SU.)

I’m not living in my College’s accommodation. Who can support me with my housing situation?

If you’re seeking accommodation, the University Accomodation Service may be able to help you. You can register to join their waiting list and view their private accommodation directory, and they have guides to renting different types of properties in Cambridge that you might find useful. Your College’s MCR officers, who represent and support postgraduate students at the College level, may also be able to offer informal tips on renting in Cambridge.


If you experience accommodation issues that are affecting your wellbeing, you can speak to your graduate tutor and/or the Student Advice Service, who may be able to help you. If you are a private renter, you may also find it useful to join the ACORN Tenant Support Group on Facebook; you do not need to be an ACORN member to seek support with any problem you have.

Can I work or study remotely, while living outside Cambridge?

The University’s residential policy means that all students on full-time degree-level courses are required to live in Cambridge, unless they have been granted permission to work remotely, or leave to work away - the rules around this are quite complex. If you need to work away for ‘normal’ reasons, such as for fieldwork or training, or while ‘writing up’ your thesis, you should read the ‘When to apply for leave to work away’ section of this guidance.


Given the circumstances of the pandemic this year, you can also apply for leave to work away for at most one term at a time on grounds of ‘exceptional circumstances.’ All students can apply to work remotely on grounds of increased susceptibility to infectious diseases due to a health condition; having a disability (including mental health conditions) that would be exacerbated by living in Cambridge; or travel disruption due to COVID-19. Additionally, postgraduate research students (both doctoral and non-doctoral) can apply to work remotely on grounds of restricted access to in-person University facilities. You can read the University’s advice on exceptional circumstances here, and our guidance on applying to study remotely here.


In all cases, if you wish to work remotely, you should make sure you speak to your supervisor about this process at the earliest opportunity.

What other services does the SU offer?

In addition to student representation, opportunities, and advice, the SU also normally offers a range of services including a print shop, gown sale and hire, room hire, etc. from our building. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SU’s physical building is currently closed. However, you can still purchase academic gowns, bike/safety accessories, and stationery through our online shop. You can also purchase a TOTUM card to access a range of national and local student discounts, sales, and special offers.


Parent Toddler Group

Our SU Toddler Group is currently running online via Zoom due to COVID-19.

We will be reading stories and singing on Friday's from 10.30am for 40 minutes with Suzie, the usual group leader. Please contact oli.gray@cambridgesu.co.uk to join the online session for free. 


Any student (inc. PhD, MBA) or PostDoc families at the University may join.
Toddler morning