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Postgraduate Study


Choosing a Department/Supervisor

If you wish to undertake a research degree you should first make sure that the appropriate faculty or department has the necessary expertise and resources. Some faculties ask that you identify a suitable supervisor before you submit your application. The course information available in the Course Directory should have information about if, when, and how you should identify a suitable supervisor. Please consult the faculty or department website if you need more guidance, and if you are still unsure contact the faculty directly for advice.

If you choose a dissertation topic outside the immediate area of the supervisors available, or which is not considered feasible given the time allowed for the degree and resources available in the University or by arrangement elsewhere, it will not be possible to admit you to a research degree.

If you wish to change your research topic once admitted, or at the point of continuing from a master's degree to the PhD, so that it falls outside the limits of what the Degree Committee judges can reasonably be provided, you may not be allowed to continue.

If your funding is tied to a particular research topic (for example, by the terms of a sponsorship agreement) you will have little scope to change it later.

Transferring your Research Degree from another University

If you are admitted after having carried out research towards a doctorate at another University and you wish to pursue the same topic at Cambridge, you must declare that the work has not and will not be submitted at the other university for any qualification; we may seek verification from the other institution. Although you will have been accepted on the basis that the topic of work can be supported by the department or faculty, you must be prepared to allow the research to be guided by the Cambridge supervisor and to observe the academic conventions pertaining to the new department or faculty.

Equally, you should bear in mind that you cannot expect to receive resources to follow any particular line of study that you wish, unless a specific technique or requirement has been specifically agreed with the institution at the outset.


The requirements for space and general research resources will be specific to the subject of research. Your faculty, department or institution is responsible for providing the basic requirements appropriate to your subject area and agreed research topic. This includes the provision of basic accommodation (such as, for scientists, bench space) according to the needs of the subject; this is likely to be in a mixture of private and shared study and recreational space.

Research Proposal

At a very early stage you and your supervisor should agree on a short written proposal, which indicates the aims and justification of the dissertation, the main research questions, literature and investigative work to be covered, and a very provisional outline of chapter titles and sub-headings. There should also be a written plan or timetable indicating how the work is going to be undertaken and identifying critical points when you will meet with your supervisor or otherwise be in contact with each other.