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Education Quality and Policy Office


General Board policy

The General Board do not allow candidates to offer combinations of papers which are not permitted in the regulations. There are three exceptions:

  • Incuria
    Where a genuine error has been made by a Director of Studies or Tutor; it should not be assumed that a plea of incuria will necessarily be approved
  • Illness
    Where an alternative assessment is proposed in the light of illness or disability; approval will also be required from the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee
  • Disadvantage
    Where denying the request would seriously disadvantage the candidate's preparation for the examination; e.g., if changes to Tripos Regulations have occurred while a candidate has intermitted

In all such cases the General Board would expect the Faculty Board concerned strongly to support the application.

In cases where the application is made on other grounds, e.g. because the student falls within a particular category of student, such as an Affiliated Student, or because of the student's preferences or prior experience, the Board are most unlikely to approve the request.

They adhere to the general principles that:

  • an opportunity which is available to one student should be available to all;
  • both the student and his/her advisers should have known which combinations of papers were permissible under the regulations;
  • the integrity of the structure of the Tripos is undermined by allowing too many individual exceptions to the prescribed routes through it.

Faculty Boards and comparable authorities which wish to maximise student choice should frame their Tripos Regulations accordingly.

Procedure for requesting dispensation

For requests to allow illegal combinations due to illness or disability, the procedures of the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee apply. 

For requests to allow illegal combinations due to incuria or disadvantage, Colleges are expected to ensure that their Tutors and Directors of Studies are aware of the regulations for examinations as well as upcoming changes to the structure of courses.  Where students have been entered for illegal examination combinations in error a plea of incuria can be submitted to the General Board's Education Committee.

Initial actions for the College

The relevant Tutor or Director of Studies should write to the Education Quality and Policy Liaison Officer at the earliest opportunity with:

  • details of the case (full name of the candidate and all examination components);
  • an explanation of why the error occurred;
  • any indication of the additional support that the College will provide to ensure that the candidate will be prepared appropriately for the examination (or a statement that no additional support is necessary);
  • confirmation that the candidate is aware of the consequences that might arise from any non-standard teaching provision and that they are aware of any additional support promised by the College.

Supporting information required from the Faculty/Department

The Education Quality and Policy Office will then ask the relevant Faculty/Department for:

  • confirmation that the proposed examination entries represent a valid educational programme;
  • an indication of any potential difficulties that the candidate might encounter in their preparation;
  • confirmation of the Faculty Board's strong support for the case to be allowed.

If the supporting information is not received the candidate will be informed that they should apply to have terms disregarded.


The EQPO Liaison Officer will advise the date of the next available Committee meeting at which the request will be considered. 

The Officer will advise the College as soon as possible whether the plea has been approved and, if it has, will make appropriate arrangements with the Student Registry.