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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

Social Anthropology is no longer accepting new applications.

This ESRC recognised course provides intensive research training in social anthropology, social science research methods more generally, and the opportunity to complete a research dissertation under academic guidance.  It is ordinarily expected that MRes students will progress directly to registration for the PhD course and fieldwork, subject to excellent results in their MRes. However, the MRes can also serve as a free-standing project if a student wishes to pursue advanced study and to acquire additional research skills without proceeding to the PhD programme.

It is expected that applicants for the Social Anthropology MRes will have a first-class Honours degree or strong High Pass in a Master's degree in Social Anthropology.

The MRes in Social Anthropology is intended for students who already have full training at Undergraduate and/or Master's level in the methods and perspectives of Social/Cultural Anthropology.

The course is a one-year period of rigorous training in research issues and methods that leads to the production of an independently-researched 15,000 word dissertation and a substantial fieldwork proposal.  The taught portion of the MRes programme is the same as the nine-month PhD pre-fieldwork training programme: students take the same courses in ethnographic methods and social theory, and receive the same close interaction with their supervisor, a senior member of department staff. There is also training in quantitative social science methods.

The course offers critical discussion of students' research projects and provides training in:

  • how fieldwork contributes to social scientific knowledge;
  • how to isolate the theoretical questions that inform particular pieces of ethnography; and
  • how to identify the kinds of empirical evidence necessary to address those questions.

Students work with a main Supervisor and a Faculty Advisor, who acts as a source of supplementary advice. Students will normally continue with this Supervisor if they continue to their PhD.

Additional information for those continuing to the PhD

Students continuing to the PhD will then normally undertake 12–18 months of ethnographic fieldwork subject to the successful completion of a 7,000–word fieldwork proposal and fieldwork clearance interview with the PhD committee.  Students would usually leave for field research at the start of their first term of the PhD (October/November).

On return to Cambridge, students devote the remainder of their research time to writing their PhD thesis in close consultation with their Supervisor.

Upon return from the field, writing-up students are also expected to attend the following seminars during term-time:

  • The PhD Writing-Up Seminar
  • The Senior Research Seminar
  • Anthropology Beyond the Academy
  • Anthropological Lives

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course students should have:

developed a deeper general knowledge of the comparative, theoretical and epistemological issues underlying contemporary social anthropological research and, where relevant to proposed doctoral research, developed a deeper knowledge of a specific geographical and/or topical area of anthropology and of the critical debates within it;

developed a knowledge of a range of current methods, methodologies and research findings and a conceptual understanding that enables their proper deployment and evaluation; and

where relevant, advanced own plans for field research and undertaken field preparation with reference to both the overall aims of the course and the specific social, ethical and other practical matters relating to their chosen field.


Continuation from the MRes to the PhD is normally subject to achieving a High Pass (a mark of at least 70) in the MRes. Students wishing to continue to the PhD must submit a formal application for continuation during their MRes year., which must be accepted by the PhD Committee.

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

11 months full-time

Study Mode : Research

Master of Research

Department of Social Anthropology

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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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