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Part II subject allocation procedures

Advice to Tutors and Directors of Studies

The allocation of students to subjects in Part II of the Natural Sciences Tripos is the responsibility of the Natural Sciences Tripos Management Committee. It is very important that Tutors and Directors of Studies advise their students on the suitability and popularity of the available courses and indicate to them their likelihood of being accepted into the Department(s) of their choice.

Subjects may have restricted entry due to space and supervision constraints and students may be entered in a second round of allocations. There are usually no restrictions on numbers of places available on Astrophysics, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Materials Science, Physics, and Physical Sciences.

The majority of students will be notified of their allocated subject via a personal email.  Approximately 80% of students are placed in the "first round" of allocations, into their first choice Department.

The remaining students are told which Department they have been allocated to within two weeks to enable them to prepare fully for their third year. A very few students end up not being allocated to any Department, because of their choices and the popularity of the Departments they have chosen. These students must work with the Director of Studies to find a course for their next year. No central support is available for this.  Also, any request to change Part II department or option after Round 2 should be addressed directly to the Department, although the NST Coordinator should be kept informed of any changes.

The allocation procedure is designed to make the allocation of students as fair as possible. Inevitably, any system will not solve the difficulties of too many students wishing to study in a particular Department: there may still be some students who are not allocated to any subject. Although every effort will be made to avoid this possibility, the allocation of students has taken place through this advertised procedure and with the agreement of all Departments and the Colleges.

Notes of Guidance

  • All potential Part II students need to enter their choices on the online form (this includes physical science students and Med/VetST, students transferring IN from another Tripos, those transferring OUT to another Tripos, and returning students).
  • If you are aware of any students currently out of residence who will be returning to Part II, please ask them to register their preferences in the online form, or do so on their behalf, so that they can be allocated, or Departments reminded to hold their previously allocated place.
  • If you are aware of any students with any other extenuating circumstances please let the NST administrator know.
  • Students may indicate through the online form up to FOUR preferences of Department and option they would wish to read at Part II. Choices are indicated in order of preference, and students will be required to indicate, where relevant, their preferred study option (research project or dissertation) or preferred Department (for the Physical Sciences option).
  • For Departments where there are no restrictions on numbers, students can limit their choice to one Department.
  • If a student wishes to transfer to another Tripos they will not be entered in the first round of allocations.  They will be contacted after Round 1 and, if they have not yet received confirmation of their transfer, they will be invited to enter preferences to be considered in the second round of allocations.
  • For biological sciences subjects, in order to ensure that students are placed in one of the two rounds, they should be encouraged to use all their choices and put down, as their fourth choice, a Department and/or course where there are generally places available. In particular they should be encouraged to put down a BSS preference.  Previous years' allocation data is provided for this purpose: in general, the dissertation options in some biological Departments, and many of the physical sciences Departments have an excess number of places.
  • If a student does NOT wish to undertake a major research project in their final year, then they should be directed to use the 'BBS' option on the online form next to the relevant Department(s).
  • For most Departments, there are a set of selection criteria which outline the procedure by which students will be selected and the attributes that are being sought. Some Departments also require additional information and students are advised to contact the Department(s) directly as well as registering their choices online.
  • Those students considering taking Part III should consult the information available on the NST website at: The Fourth Year - Part III and the relevant Part III site at: Course websites
  • Students are not required to indicate any intentions regarding Part III at this stage
  • There are two rounds of allocations; in the first round, available places are filled according to students’ first choices and the published selection criteria; in Departments initially oversubscribed, up to 90% of places are filled. College Tutorial offices will be notified of students who have not been allocated a subject and/or Department in this first round as soon as possible. The second round, following an opportunity for choices to be amended, involves a pool-style interdepartmental meeting to allocate as many of the remaining students as possible.
  • Please bear in mind that if students wishing to transfer to a new Tripos have not registered preferences for the second round of allocations and they subsequently do not meet the requirements to transfer they will not have received an NST allocation.