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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

Social Anthropological Research is no longer accepting new applications.

The MPhil is a 9-month full-time taught course which can be taken as a freestanding qualification or as a route to the PhD. It is a demanding course that enables students to develop their knowledge of social anthropology to a high level of specialization within a short time. It is designed for graduate students who have a strong background in Social Anthropology, either on its own or as part of a joint degree; and who want to engage directly and more deeply than before with debates in contemporary social anthropology. The course provides specialist social anthropological training in a dynamic programme of research-led teaching and professional development.

In addition to individual supervision to support their dissertation and essay writing, students attend a core course seminar and seminars on specialist modules. The core course covers contemporary themes and concerns in social anthropology as well as professional and skills development. Specialist modules cover research methods and themes related to staff research interests, with topics that vary each year. A provisional list of planned modules can be found on the Department's website. 

Students will develop a critical and well-informed understanding of the discipline of social anthropology that they can use as the foundation for focussed individual research, building their capacity for social anthropological research in academic and other professional contexts. For those who intend to go on to doctoral work the course will help them to acquire the requisite research skills and to prepare a well-planned and focussed PhD proposal.

Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the course will have developed a deeper knowledge of key problems in anthropological theory, interpretation, comparison and analysis in relation to ethnographic practice and debates in the anthropological literature. They will have formed a critical view of a range of anthropological theories, and the application of those theories to bodies of ethnographic data, and acquired a conceptual understanding and critical perspective that enables the evaluation of current research and methodologies in the discipline.

The course offers training in the following transferable skills:

  • ability to engage with and undertake critical analysis of complex issues;
  • ability to write for both a general and an academic audience;
  • ability to engage constructively in discussion in groups in which many different views are held, often passionately; and
  • ability to design and undertake hands-on research. This includes training in:  archival review of literature; ethnographic research methods; analysis of results; and skills in research proposal preparation and presentation.

Students are also encouraged to use the range of training and developmental opportunities available across the University, including training on research methods through the SSRMP, careers advice through the Cambridge University Careers Service and language learning through the Language Centre, including Academic English.


Continuation to the MRes or PhD is usually subject to the following:

  • Acceptance of an application for continuation by the MRes and PhD Committee
  • An overall mark of at least 73 in the MPhil is normally required for continuation to the MRes or PhD

Applicants intending to continue to the MRes or PhD programme should state so in their statement of purpose, however, acceptance for the MPhil does not guarantee that you will be accepted for continuation.

Open Days

The Postgraduate Virtual Open Day usually takes place at the end of October. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions to admissions staff and academics, explore the Colleges virtually, and to find out more about courses, the application process and funding opportunities. Visit the Postgraduate Open Day page for more details.

See further the Postgraduate Admissions Events pages for other events relating to Postgraduate study, including study fairs, visits and international events.

Key Information

9 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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