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Scholarly Communication


Following a decision made by the Board of Graduate Studies at its meeting on 4 July 2017, from 1 October 2017 all PhD students will be required to deposit both a hard copy and an electronic copy of their thesis to the University Library.

Provision of a hard copy thesis to the Library

The University policy relating to the deposit of theses is “Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Science and Master of Letters” in the Statutes and Ordinances of the University of Cambridge. This states:

“Before being admitted to a degree, a student shall deposit with the Secretary of the Board one copy of her or his dissertation and one copy of the summary, both the dissertation and the summary being in a form approved by the Board (Section 17 - p472).”

PhD graduands provide the Student Registry with a bound copy of their thesis to which they attach a 'Deposit & Copying of Dissertation Declaration'. Student Registry then provides the Library with these hard-bound theses which are catalogued and placed on the shelves in a restricted area. Further information can be found on the Student Registry pages.

Provision of an electronic copy to the University repository

Electronic theses need to be submitted to Apollo, the University’s institutional repository through the upload form at

Electronic deposit does not mean that the full text of the thesis will automatically be available. At the point of upload, students will be given the options to either make their thesis available Open Access immediately or to restrict access for an initial 6 months. This restriction is renewable for further 6-month periods, up to a maximum of 2 years. During the period of restricted access, the metadata and abstract of a thesis (but not the full text) will be findable in the repository. For details on how access to restricted theses will be managed, see here.

Funder requirements for making theses available Open Access

Please note that students who are funded by any of the UK’s Research Councils are required to make their these available Open Access within a certain time period. RCUK Training Grants have a requirement that students with funded PhD positions make a full text version of the thesis available no longer than 12 months following award of the doctorate. The RCUK Training Grant Guide states: "Councils recognise that commercial, collaborative or publication arrangements may necessitate a slight delay; the delay can be at the RO’s discretion but we expect the thesis to be deposited as soon as possible. The RCs expect the RO to have in place a documented process for determining where exceptions can be granted to the requirement for publication within 12 months."

For more information, see the overview of Open Access policies and funder requirements.

Managing third party copyright in theses

We acknowledge that third party copyright is a major issue for some disciplines. Images in a thesis that is submitted to the Library for cataloguing do not require clearance because they are considered to be ‘unpublished work’. However that situation changes if a thesis is made open access, where permission is required from the copyright owner(s). Information about what is permissible under fair dealing is listed here. We have some information on third party copyright in theses on these webpages


The Board of Graduate studies have stated that theses will be held under embargo for six months in the first instance with an automatic extension to two years if the author requests this. After that the work will be made open access. In the case where theses contain a large amount of third party material it is understood that obtaining permissions would be onerous (and potentially impossible).


The OSC will place two versions of the work in the repository – where third party material is redacted from the Open Access version. This means the text is available without copyright concerns. The full research version of the thesis is still available for request under the same conditions as now, where the requestor signs an agreement that their use of the work is for research purposes only. This absolves the need for permissions. 


It is likely that we are in a transition period. This new requirement has been introduced to people very advanced through their PhD and retrospective permission seeking could be an unreasonable expectation. However into the future, ideally new students will approach their research from the outset with an awareness of the requirements of permissions for third party copyright. The Library is interested in hearing how we can help departments with this, through provision of education and training, and services such as templates.


Reasons for restricting access

Valid reasons for restricting access to a thesis for up to two years include (but are not necessarily limited to):

  • Confidentiality agreement with sponsor
  • The contents constitute a trade secret, or its disclosure would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of any person or the University
  • Disclosure would constitute a breach of confidence actionable by the owner of that information
  • Thesis contains confidential or sensitive material (e.g. patient data, animal research)
  • Making your thesis freely available may invalidate an application for a patent on a product or process described in the thesis
  • The thesis is due for publication without substantive changes to the text.

Valid reasons for longer or indefinite access restrictions include:

  • Confidentiality agreement with sponsor provided this expressly requires an indefinite restriction.
  • The thesis contains confidential or sensitive material (e.g. patient data, animal research) such as that disclosure would be likely to endanger an individual's health or safety
  • Publication would cause the candidate or third parties mentioned in the text to be open to legal challenge or racial, ethnic, political or other persecution.

Longer or indefinite access restrictions will require support from an appropriate University body.