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The University of Cambridge is an endorsing institution under the Home Office’s Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route. This route is for graduates who have a genuine and credible business idea they wish to put into practice in the UK.

The University has a central role in identifying suitable graduates who have developed business ideas and in endorsing and supporting them. Endorsements are limited to 20 - 30 for each participating institution and are subject to approval by a selection panel.

Who is eligible?

  • You must have been awarded a Bachelor, Masters or PhD degree from the University of Cambridge OR
  • You must be employed by the University of Cambridge as a postdoctoral worker with a Tier 2 visa sponsored by the University of Cambridge (not a Cambridge College) and you must hold a UK degree or PhD.

In addition:

  • The business should have the potential to add to the UK economy rather than routine business that will compete with other traders. Working as a consultant, for example, is unlikely to meet the requirements.
  • You will be expected to demonstrate that you have the entrepreneurial skills and commitment to develop the business.
  • If endorsed, you must be committed to spending the majority of your working time on developing the business idea.
  • Endorsement cannot be given for businesses that engage in property management or property development.
  • If you are applying within the UK you must be switching into this visa category from one of the following visas: Tier 4 student visa or Tier 2 post-doctoral researcher sponsored by the University of Cambridge. You must apply to switch prior to the expiry of your current visa.
  • You cannot previously have been granted immigration leave in the UK under Tier 1 (Post Study Work), the Science and Engineering Graduate Scheme, International Graduates Scheme or Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme.
  • For your visa application, you will be required to demonstrate £945 if applying from inside the UK or £1,890 if applying from outside and must have held this amount in your bank account for a consecutive 90 day period before you apply.

How long can you stay?

After completing your time on the Graduate Entrepreneur visa, you will be eligible to switch to Tier 1 Entrepreneur with reduced investment funds of £50000. A Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa is initially valid for 3 years and 4 months with the possibility of further renewal subject to meeting extension requirements.

What are the visa compliance requirements?

  • Only start your business once you have made the visa application. This is because a Tier 4 visa does not allow you to work on a self-employed basis.
  • There are no restrictions on working hours or working for another employer whilst you develop your business. However, spending the majority of your working time on your business idea is a condition of the visa.
  • You will be assigned a University contact who you will be required to meet once every quarter to discuss the progress of your business. The University contact will also determine whether the business is making satisfactory progress in order to be supported for a further 12 months.
  • Adhere to the conditions set by the University and UK Visas and Immigration (if you do not keep contact or breach the conditions of your leave, the University must report this to UKVI).

Our selection criteria and panel

Endorsement by the University is subject to a presentation before a selection panel, consisting of at least two of the following panel members: Hanadi Jabado, Shirley Jamieson, Dr Shima Barakat, Stewart McTavish, and Conrad Chua, Executive Director of the Cambridge MBA. Additional staff may be asked to join the panel if required.

The panel assesses applications against the following criteria:

  Weak = 1 Moderate = 2 Strong = 3
Clarity of Market Vague unsubstantiated assertions about market size and growth rate. Adequate description of market, size and growth rate with limited factual support. Thorough fact-based description of market, size, evaluation of the financial viability of the idea (to include production and operational expenses, and pricing/sales revenue), and growth rate based on direct experiences.
Competitive position Poor description of existing competitors. No obvious reason for continued growth. No defensible / sustainable position. Adequate coverage of existing competitors, some issues on competitive edge, defensibility/ sustainability. Existing competitors described. Clear edge for the proposed team. Defensible / sustainable position.
Product or service reality Unclear how product or service will work or what value it gives the customer. Convincing story on how product or service will work but limited idea of future generations or product line/service extensions. Convincing story of how the product or service will work and capability of diversifying into new areas.
Presentation Rambling structure, missing information, typographical errors, excessive use of superlatives. Clear and doesn't force you to skim-read irrelevant detail. Well-organised. No irrelevant sections, no careless errors, all superlatives supported.

When can I apply?

Interviews will be held on the following dates in 2018. Applications can be submitted at any time but must be submitted by the application deadline in order to be invited to interview (references can arrive later than the application deadline but must arrive by the date of interview).

The next interview will be held on Tuesday 5th March 2019 and the application deadline is 22nd February 2019.

We intend to hold interviews in May, July and September 2019, dates for interviews and deadlines for applications will be updated soon.

If you wish to apply for the visa from within the UK, you will need to take into consideration your current visa expiry in deciding when to submit your application. You should allow at least one month after the interview and before your visa expiries to be able to take your application forward. 

Our application procedure

  1. Read our information notes.
  2. Complete the application form and send it to the International Student Office at
  3. Choose referees who are not members of the endorsing panel or fellow students. Your referees should submit their references to the International Student Office email address before the application deadline
  4. If your application meets the eligibility requirements, you will be invited to interview on one of the dates outlined above. If you are overseas, the interview will be conducted via video conference.
  5. The decision of the panel is final. There is no appeal process.
  6. If the panel approves endorsement, as part of your visa application you will be required to demonstrate you meet the financial requirements for the visa application. If applying inside the UK, you must have held £945 for a consecutive 90 days period. If you are applying outside the UK, you must have held £1890 for a consecutive 90 day period.
  7. You will need to complete and return the Tier 1 GE declaration which sets out the terms and conditions of receiving endorsement under the scheme.
  8. The University will issue an endorsement letter to successful candidates. The endorsement letter is valid for 3 months, in which time you must apply for the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa. The International Student Office must also email a copy of this letter to the Home Office.  
  9. To apply for the visa, you will need to send the completed Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur application form, the University-issued endorsement letter and the original financial evidence to the Home Office along with the application fee.
  10. If applying for your Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa from within the UK you should note that there is no priority or super priority service available. The advertised processing time using the standard service is 8 weeks, and you cannot travel outside the UK during this time.
  11. Once you have made your visa application, you will need to maintain quarterly contact with your appointed University contact. For any individual endorsed from January 2018, the contact points are January, April, July, October.
  12. Once you have received the outcome of your application, notify the International Student Office. You will be required to bring in your visa for copying onto your record.

Read the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) policy guidance to ensure that you understand this route, and what is required of you (both at application and throughout the period of sponsorship).

Please direct queries on the application form or process for consideration of applications to the International Student Office by email,


What are my chances of being endorsed under this scheme?

It is a competitive application process and the strength of the business proposal is the key criterion for selection.

Can I be endorsed if I wish to set up a business with a partner or team?

The proposed business can be a partnership, whether other members of the team require endorsement or not. Endorsement under the scheme is granted on an individual basis. This means that as well as meeting the eligibility requirements, your application will be assessed on its individual merits and an assessment of your role within the business. You will need to have been central to the creation of the business idea and demonstrate how you will play a key role in its development

How likely is it that I could get an extension to my Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa for a second year?

The decision by the University to endorse a student for a second year is dependent on making satisfactory progress with the business in the first year. This assessment will be made by your designated University contact, who you will have met with during your first year, in liaison with the International Student Office and, where necessary, the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur selection panel. Since the inception of the scheme, the vast majority of those who have been endorsed by the University for the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa have received endorsement for continuation into a second year.

Am I able to submit an application to be considered outside of the set interview dates?

Only in exceptional circumstances would the University be able to interview outside of the published interview dates. If you would like to request consideration for this, email the International Student Office at outlining the exceptional circumstances.

Can I be endorsed to develop an existing business?

The scheme supports graduates in developing a business idea. It is therefore expected that the business itself will be in the very early stages of development. Tier 4 students should also be aware that self-employment is not permitted on a student visa so you can only start work on the business once you have submitted an application for Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur

If I am unsuccessful, can I apply again?

A second application can only be considered if the business idea is different to that outlined in the first application or the idea has developed significantly since your interview.