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University sponsored research carried out overseas must uphold the University’s ethical standards while also being cognisant of local expectations, practices and laws. Any research that would require ethical review when carried out in the UK should similarly be subject to appropriate ethical review when carried out overseas. Such review may be sought from a University of Cambridge research ethics committee.

For projects in which the research takes place entirely overseas, researchers may seek ethical approval from a research ethics committee in the country in which the research is to take place. In such cases, full ethical review by a Cambridge research ethics committee may be unnecessary, as long as the overseas research ethics process and standards are at least as rigorous as our own. 

To decide whether this is the case, researchers who wish to rely on an overseas ethical review process should seek confirmation from a Cambridge research ethics committee to confirm that the overseas process is sufficiently robust to meet the University’s standards and expectations. If the committee deems the review process to be insufficiently robust, they may require ethical review under University processes to ensure that the project meets University ethical standards (potentially in addition to overseas approval).

As such, researchers should always seek advice from their local or School-level research ethics committee before seeking ethical approval for a project through an overseas ethical review process[1].

In addition, researchers should also note that:

  • Projects that take place partly overseas and partly in the UK will require appropriate UK ethical approval for the research that takes place in the UK.

  • Some funders may require ethical review to be carried out both in the UK and overseas, care should therefore be taken to read the relevant funder conditions before relying solely on overseas ethical review.

  • Some departments/faculties may choose to require ethical approval via a University committee for all overseas research.


Date Last Reviewed: March 2023
Date of next review: March 2026
Version 1
[1] For instance, the School of Clinical Medicine has approved two exemptions from University ethical review for research that fulfils specific criteria and undergoes an appropriate governance check