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Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning


Cambridge Higher Education Studies Research Ethics Committee

As teaching is increasingly recognised as a scholarly activity, research into the learning and teaching experiences of students and staff is highly valued and useful in providing an evidence-base for improved educational experiences. However, as such research involves students in vulnerable positions relative to staff members and the institution, it is necessary to plan carefully and consider ethical issues.

Ethics review is required for any educational research that you undertake. Cambridge now has a process for applying for ethics review of internal institutional educational research projects, supported by the Cambridge Higher Education Studies Research Ethics Committee (CHESREC).

Please see the Review Process for more information on how to apply, including a self-assessment checklist and application form.

For enquiries, contact:


Do I need formal ethics review for my project?

It may be that the formal involvement of an ethics committee in your work is not necessary, for instance if you are evaluating your teaching for internal purposes rather than undertaking a formal educational research project. However, the University expects all researchers embarked on research involving human participants or personal data to consider the ethical risks of their work. To that end, we have set up a three-stage process for review of teaching and learning research projects, which is detailed in our Review Process.


Is support available for my application?

The committee is providing a new workshop intended to introduce colleagues to - and demystify - the ethics review process, discussing common ethical issues, appropriate alignment of methodology, and practical tips for an application. More information and the opportunity to book onto the first instance of the workshop can be found at the link.


Whose research does this committee support?

We support educational researchers seeking ethics review for research projects focused on teaching, learning or other educational experiences within the University of Cambridge, or research projects relating to student admissions, including outreach / recruitment work with potential students. The committee is intended for 'low risk' educational research projects.

We primarily exist to support the research activities of people not affiliated with a Department or Faculty. This includes, for example, researchers from CCTL, the Disability Resource Centre, Cambridge Admissions Office, University Libraries, and student partners in the Cambridge Students' Union.

We also support research activities undertaken by interdisciplinary teams, or where students are engaged as co-researchers in Cambridge student-staff partnerships on projects not directly related to their discipline. This might extend to projects involving other institutions, but researchers applying for ethics review by CHESREC should have a focus on Cambridge practice at the heart of their project.

Finally, we support research by those whose local research committees do not necessarily have the disciplinary expertise to support research teaching and learning practices in higher education.


Whose research is not supported by this committee?

Medical educational research that involves patients or takes place in clinical environments cannot be considered. This includes research that involves participants or data collection in a ward, out-patients clinic, NHS premises, or clinical environment where patients could be present. For this type of research, please contact either the Humanities & Social Sciences REC or the Psychology REC.

Student-led research projects are supported, but will need to be endorsed by a Cambridge member of staff. Where the researchers are medical students, the same limitations apply as above for medical educational research, as CHESREC cannot review research that involves patients or takes place in clinical environments. Additionally, projects that involve Clinical School students will need to be approved by the Clinical Dean: contact the Clinical School Research Governance Officer.