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Postgraduate Admissions

Course closed:

Social Anthropology is no longer accepting new applications.

A Cambridge PhD in Social Anthropology is very highly regarded, both in the UK and overseas. We have some extremely distinguished alumni who have been enormously influential in academic Anthropology globally. The majority of our PhD graduates go on to jobs in academia, while others build very successful careers in the media, civil service, and the development sector, among others. The Cambridge University Department of Social Anthropology is unparalleled as a place to study for a PhD, combining world-class teaching and resources with a friendly but intellectually challenging atmosphere.

The PhD course 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. It includes intensive fieldwork training in the first year, a research period of 12 to 18 months, and a further year for writing the thesis (a maximum of four years is allowed in total). Students work with their main Supervisor and a Faculty Advisor, who acts as a source of supplementary advice.

The PhD course begins with nine months of training in research issues and methods, culminating in the writing and submission of a Fieldwork Proposal.  PhD students doing the pre-fieldwork course can expect to leave for field research at the end of their third term (June–July), subject to passing the fieldwork clearance interview.

Students then usually undertake 12–18 months of ethnographic fieldwork. 

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 fieldwork, writing-up students are expected to attend the following seminars during term-time:

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

Opportunities are also available for teaching practice for senior PhD students.


MPhil students at Cambridge wishing to continue to the PhD in Social Anthropology are required to achieve a mark of at least 73 overall in the MPhil in Social Anthropology. 

Open Days

The Open Day usually takes place at the beginning of November. The event is suitable for those considering applying for postgraduate study at the University. It provides opportunities to meet with academics, explore the Colleges, and find out more about the application process and funding opportunities. Visit the Postgraduate Open Day page for more details.

Key Information

3-4 years full-time

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Social Anthropology

Course – related enquiries

Application – related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 1, 2020
Application deadline
April 30, 2021
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2021

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

Graduate Funding Competition
Jan. 7, 2021
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 14, 2020

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2021, Lent 2022 and Easter 2022.

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