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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

Social Anthropology is no longer accepting new applications.


Teaching for the MPhil is via introductory sessions, seminars, lectures, small-group supervision and individual supervision. It is centred around four seminars (Kinship/Gender, Politics, Economics, and Religion) that constitute the principal teaching under the headings 'Production and Reproduction' (Paper 1) and 'Systems of Power and Knowledge' (Paper 2). Those who are pursuing one of the professional options are expected to attend and take an active part in the above core seminars as well. 

In addition to these seminars, the Department requires all MPhil students to attend a range of lectures that are relevant to the MPhil course, plus those for one optional paper, chosen by the student during the first week of the Michaelmas term. Students are not expected to confine themselves exclusively to these lectures, and are encouraged to attend any lectures they or their supervisor consider relevant to their work. The Department also offers a fieldwork research methodology course for all MPhil students.

Each student will have a Principal Supervisor: a member of staff who can provide general guidance throughout the course, as well as advice on the assessed work (essay and dissertation). In addition, students attend small-group supervisions to discuss essays they write on themes from the core seminars and in preparation for exams.

One to one supervision

Students will meet regularly with their Principal Supervisor individually throughout the course, and with their Group Supervisor, in small groups. The frequency of supervisions will vary depending on the time of year; overall, students can expect approximately seven hours individually, and seven hours in a small group.

The University of Cambridge publishes an annual Code of Practice which sets out the University’s expectations regarding supervision.

Seminars & classes

48 hours per year.


60 hours per year.


Each student is expected to write five-six essays over Michaelmas and Lent term. Students normally receive written feedback on each essay, and there is oral feedback and further discussion during supervisions. These essays are not given an official mark or grade and do not constitute part of a student's degree result. Instead, they help students develop the skills of anthropological analysis and are a key means for students and supervisors to monitor progress over the year.

A student is also expected to write one assessed set essay and one dissertation over the year on both of which they will receive written feedback from the assessors.

Supervisors submit online progress reports at the end of each term on the student's CamSIS account.


Thesis / Dissertation

A dissertation of not more than 13,000 words, including title page and footnotes, but excluding synopsis, tables, appendices, and bibliography on a subject approved by the Archaeology, Anthropology and Sociology Degree Committee, which must not overlap with the subject of any assessed essay offered by the candidate.  

An oral examination may be held at the discretion of the examiners. If needed this would take place in late September.

The dissertation counts for 40 percent of the student's overall mark for the course.


Set Essay:  an independently-written, analytical essay of not more than 6,000 words, including title page and footnotes, but excluding figures, tables, appendices and bibliography, on a subject chosen by the candidate from a list published each year by the Department and related to the optional paper they are taking.

The subject of the essay must not overlap with the subject of the dissertation. 

This essay counts for 20 percent of the total marks.

Written examination

Students sit a written examination for each of the following papers:

  1. Paper 1 The Scope of Social Anthropology I: Production and Reproduction
  2. Paper 2 The Scope of Social Anthropology II: Systems of Power and Knowledge.

Each exam paper counts for 20 per cent of the total marks.

Key Information

11 months full-time

Study Mode : Taught

Master of Philosophy

Department of Social Anthropology

Course - related enquiries

Application - related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
May 1, 2024
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2024

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Course Funding Deadline
Dec. 5, 2023
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 11, 2023

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2024, Lent 2025 and Easter 2025.

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