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Thesis Submission and Examination

The most up to date and comprehensive information on submitting your thesis can be found on the Student Registry website, but a brief guide is included here.

Student Registry: Examinations

Before you submit

Appointing examiners

In order for your thesis to be examined once you've submitted it, your title must be approved, and examiners found. For this to happen, you need to apply for examiners to be appointed for you.

It makes sense to do this as soon as your supervisor is satisfied that the dissertation is nearing completion, and you have a firm and realistic submission date.

Although the appointment of examiners can happen at any time (even after you have submitted), if you would like the examination and degree awarding process to be quick, you should apply for the appointment of examiners about two months before you intend to submit.

To set things in motion, you should complete the "Intention to Submit a Research Thesis" form below, and send it as instructed to the Degree Committee. On the form you should propose the exact title of your dissertation, the date you propose to submit it, and include a short summary of the contents of the dissertation. The summary must be written in English and should be about 300 words - one side of A4 is perfect. The exact title of your dissertation and your name should be at the top of the page.

If you expect to leave the country soon after submission you must bear in mind that you will be expected to attend a viva voce (oral) examination in this country, so check your visa! You should state your proposed date of departure on your Intention To Submit form, to keep both the Degree Committee and the Student Registry informed. If you are leaving Cambridge, but remaining in the UK, your contact details should also be given.

When the Degree Committee office receives the Intention To Subimit form it will write to the Head of Department requesting nominations for your internal and external examiners.

The names of examiners are a confidential matter and their appointment should not be discussed with you - University regulations stipulate that students should not know the identity of their examiners until they are approved and appointed.

If it is considered appropriate to appoint an external examiner from outside the UK, the Head of Department may send a letter to the Secretary of the Degree Committee outlining why this is necessary. This letter should accompany the request to appoint examiners.

Word limits, style and format of the thesis

You must submit a certificate stating that your thesis does not exceed the prescribed word limit when you submit your thesis. Unless approval to exceed the prescribed limit has been obtained beforehand your thesis may not be examined until its length complies with the prescribed limit. The word limits set by the Degree Committee for the Faculty of Biology are:

  • PhD: 60,000 words, excluding bibliography, figures, appendices etc.
  • MPhil: 20,000 excluding tables, footnotes, bibliography, and appendices.

  1. Typescript on A4 paper.
  2. Portrait format is expected, but landscape format may exceptionally be allowed by some Degree Committees; please consult them directly for approval.
  3. Double-sided printing is permissible for both soft and hard bound versions of the dissertation.
  4. One-and-a-half spaced type.
  5. Minimum font size for text is 11pt (12pt is preferred) and for footnotes is 10 pt and should be easily readable e.g Arial, Times New Roman.
  6. Margins no less than 0.5" (1" is the norm).
  7. Your dissertation must include a title page giving your full name, your College, the full title of the dissertation, and the degree for which it is submitted. It should also include a summary, a declaration of originality and a statement of length (see Student Registry: Submitting the Dissertation for full details).

Further stylistic guidelines can be found on the Student Registry website:

Student Registry: Format of a Dissertation

Student Registry: MPhil/MRes

Some students now include a CD-Rom with their thesis; permission to do so must be sought in advance. The appropriate form can be downloaded from the CamSIS self-service system.

Student Registry: Including a CD-Rom (or Other Item)


Again, please refer to the Student Registry for full details of how your thesis should be bound:

Student Registry: Binding

Although the two copies of your thesis you submit may be either soft bound or hard bound, our advice is always to initially submit soft bound copies, and then get the hard bound copies once your thesis (and any corrections) has been approved.

Both the Graduate Union and the Print Room at the Computer Laboratory provide a good service (although the Print Room doesn't stitch bind). For hard bound copies it is best to contact the various local bookbinders (details on the Graduate Student Notice Board on the first floor), or the Graduate Union, to establish how long it may take for your thesis to be bound and thus hopefully avoid any delays.

Graduate Union

Where to submit and what to take with you


In order to be able to submit your thesis, you must have applied beforehand for the Appointment of Examiners.

When you are ready to submit your thesis for examination, either in person, through a friend (or other third party) or by post, it should go to the Student Registry at 4 Mill lane, Cambridge. You should check their website for the latest documents required to accompany your thesis:

Student Registry: Submitting the Dissertation


You should check the following webpage to find out when and where to submit your thesis:

Student Registry: Submitting and Examination: MPhil/MRes

In order to be able to submit your thesis, you must have applied beforehand for the Appointment of Examiners.

When you take your thesis to the Degree Committee, you should also take a completed "Certificate of Dissertation Submission for the MPhil Degree" form.

The earliest you can submit your MPhil is the first day of your third term, but you still have to pay fees for three terms.

Someone may submit your thesis on your behalf, but you would need to have completed and signed the Certificate of Dissertation Submission form to either give to them to hand in along with it, or email the form directly to the Degree Committee.

Note: Unlike PhDs, MPhils are not required to submit a hardbound copy of their thesis.

After the viva

In some instances, the Degree Committee for the Faculty of Biology recommends that the degree is awarded subject to corrections being made to the dissertation. It is usual to let the candidate know about these changes at the time of the viva. The internal examiner must inform the Secretary of the Degree Committee that these changes have been completed to the examiners' satisfaction.

There is a limit on the amount of time you have available to complete your corrections and submit your hard bound copy after the BGS meeting where your degree has been conditionally approved:

  • 1 month to submit your hard copy, if corrections have already been completed and approved, or you didn't have to make any
  • 3 months for minor corrections
  • 6 months for more substantial corrections

Once you have successfully defended your PhD thesis at the viva voce examination and any corrections have been approved by the appropriate (usually internal) examiner, you can hardbind your thesis (only PhDs are required to do this, not MPhil students).

You will need to get two copies hard bound: one which you should take to either the Degree Committee or the Student Registry, along with a further copy of your summary and a hardbound declaration form (this is the copy that will be deposited in the University Library), and a second copy for the Department's Balfour Library. A copy of the receipt from the binders should be given to the Senior Library Assistant, who will be glad to arrange reimbursement for the Balfour Library copy. It is essential that the Department has copies of all theses because they are invaluable for students starting work in related fields and provide our only record of your achievement. They are also used for preparing references and nominations for prizes.

Student Registry: Submitting the Hard-Bound Dissertation

If you originally submitted a hard bound copy this same one can be resubmitted, as long as any corrections can be easily inserted on a single sheet or marked where appropriate.


Student Registry or Degree Committee?

Where you need to take your hardbound copy depends on the stage you are at in the process:

  1. If you have only recently had your viva, and therefore the examiners' reports have not yet been approved at a meeting of the Board of Graduate Studies, you should take your thesis to the office of the Degree Committee for the Faculty of Biology (at 17 Mill Lane).
  2. If the BGS meeting has already taken place and you have received a letter from them confirming conditional approval "subject to completion of corrections and submission of a hardbound thesis", the hardbound copy will need to be submitted to the Student Registry (where you originally submitted your softbound copy).

If in any doubt, speak to the graduate administrator!