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At the IoA

All applications for Institute funding whether for Conferences, Workshops, Meetings, Observing or Collaborative visits, will be assessed on merit, should be relevant to your area of research and will generally involve your participation, either by giving a talk or presenting a poster. This is applicable to all students, Home and Overseas, unless your sponsor specifically provides direct funding for conference/workshop attendance. Funding for attendance at events which are considered as essential to your PhD project will have been identified at the start of your PhD. Otherwise, we will do our best to help you take advantage of a wide range of opportunities that should help you develop as a researcher.

STFC and some other sponsors provide the Department with a grant to support your research (note that some sponsors will require you to make a specific application before each trip and will reimburse you directly). These funds are intended to cover all the resources, facilities and travel you will require to complete the research for your thesis. The IoA pools these grants and dedicates the resultant funds primarily to student travel, thus you do not have a personal travel budget. Please note that these funds cannot be used to meet the costs of an activity that falls outside of a students funded period.

While there is not a hard limit to the total cost of such trips over the course of your studies, our budget is finite. We try to be very flexible but you should also take advantage of other sources of funding or potential contributions from your College, from the organisers of conferences and from other possible sources. If another institution has promised to reimburse part or all of your expenditure, it is generally possible to arrange for the IoA to pay the full cost up front and for you to reimburse the Institute when you receive the money.

Please note: Given the length of the MPhil, it is most unlikely that students will have time to travel to conferences, courses or make collaborative visits during their 10 months at the IoA. As such, the IoA, unfortunately, does not have funding available to support trips for MPhil students.


There are few supplementary sources for travel support, but it is a good idea to join the Cambridge Philosophical Society,  which organises seminars and meetings and provides travel grants. The membership fee is modest for students and certain IoA academics can sign the membership nomination form. Philosophical Society grants are only available if you have been a member for more than 12 months. You may also want to consider joining the Royal Astronomical Society, who have grants for situations not covered by other funding agencies. Membership is just £1 for the first year for students. Most Colleges provide some travel and/or book grants, as does the Institute of Physics if you’re a member.

Permission to Travel

Firstly, you should discuss any opportunities with your Supervisor. Consideration should be given to the relevance to your thesis topic and timing, e.g. would you be better to wait until you have some results to present or is it a suitable time of year in relation to our assessment exercises? If your supervisor is supportive, you should complete the appropriate Permission to Travel Form. You will need to work out roughly how much the trip will cost, including flights, travel to the airport, accommodation, food, etc., and registration fees for conferences (these can often be paid up-front by the IoA). Each trip will be assessed on its individual merit.

Permission to travel is required for ALL trips taken outside of the UK even if funding is not required from the department. Permission to travel should be obtained from the Postgraduate Student Office after your supervisor has given her/his support. You should not make any arrangements before obtaining permission from the Postgraduate Office to attend. Failure to obtain permission to travel may result in any expenses and/or insurance claims being rejected.

Arranging Travel

Make sure you check your passport and any visa requirements.

Flights and accommodation can be booked with Key Travel, the University's preferred travel agent, if required. Consult the Postgraduate Office before making any arrangements, who will advise and provide the necessary purchase order.

Travel Insurance must be obtained through the University, and is available free of charge to all staff and postgraduate students travelling on University business. To obtain travel insurance, visit Travel Insurance | Insurance ( Full details of the policy are available on this page. Once arranged, please forward the confirmation e-mail to the Postgraduate Office.

Risk Assessments you must complete a risk assessment form and returned it to the Postgraduate Office before you travel. Failure to do so could invalidate your travel insurance. In most cases a low risk form will be sufficient but if you are unsure please use the Risk Rating Table for further guidance.

Observing Trips

As part of your course, you may be required to visit overseas observatories to collect data and learn to use the facilities. For Home students on STFC funding, STFC will generally pay for at least two nearby (La Palma) or one long-haul (Chile or Hawaii) observing trip.

If you are not a STFC student then funding for observing trips can be more problematic but not impossible. Some other sponsors can be persuaded to contribute but if there is no prospect of other sources of funding, and you have been admitted specifically for an observational project, the IoA will pay for two nearby (La Palma) or one long-haul (Chile or Hawaii) observing trips per student.

If your supervisor suggests you go observing, your first port of call, regardless of who is funding the trip, should be Debbie Peterson or Paul Hewett who will guide you through the practicalities.

Please note that students cannot go observing unaccompanied but are required to work with experienced (non-student) observers.

Collaborative Visits

Collaborative visits are less common than observing trips but occasionally, as part of your course, it may be desirable for you to work for a period of time at another institution. This might happen if your Supervisor is spending time working away from the Institute with a colleague at another institution or if another organisation provides specialised training in data handling or other techniques. If your supervisor suggests you make a collaborative visit, please consult Debbie.

Non-STFC-funded students will need to ascertain whether their funding body is willing to cover the cost of collaborative visits to other institutions.

For Observing Trips and Collaborative Visits, you will be asked to complete a brief application form outlining purpose of visit and costs.

Claiming Expenses

To claim back your expenses, fill in an expense form with all relevant receipts and return to the Postgradute Office for approval. You will generally receive the reimbursement within two to three weeks. You should be careful not to exceed the amount authorised when completing your permission to travel form. If you incur unexpected expenses during your trip, please ensure that you explain the reasons fully when submitting your expenses claim.

Please take a look at expenses_quick_guide_infographic.pdf ( which is a guide to what type of expenses are allowable.

Advances are generally not recommended, however in exceptional circumstances students can apply to the University Cashier for a cash advance, see link below for further details.