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Postgraduate Study

I could not imagine a better place to do a PhD. The programme includes rich and varied seminars addressing research methods, ethnographic writing and anthropological theory. Other post-field students and I find that suggestions and comments we receive during the weekly writing seminar, led by a senior member of staff, are more helpful than those received from any setting beyond the department. So too the ‘senior seminar’ series gives an invaluable opportunity to participate in anthropological discussion at the highest level. The Department offers students a fantastic environment in which to develop their work so that it speaks to anthropological theory in the most impactful way possible. Meanwhile, the many opportunities across the university for region-focused and inter-disciplinary discussion also help make this an exceptionally productive environment in which to develop one’s voice as a researcher.

Yet the most valuable and vital aspects of the PhD programme are relationships with other students. My cohort-mates and I have developed our work in conversation with each other, which feels incredibly exciting. Many of the ideas guiding our respective theses came out of shared discussion. I am profoundly grateful to be writing my thesis in a department with such a dynamic programme. The collegial relationships developed throughout my time in Cambridge are sure to be central to my life in anthropology moving forward.

Tom Powell Davies - 2015 cohort (April 2021)

Prior to beginning my PhD, I'd heard a lot about how PhDs could be lonely and isolating journeys.  So, I feel particularly fortunate that the four years of my PhD were truly some of the best in my life. The PhD programme at the Department of Social Anthropology offers just the right amount of structure. We had regular PhD seminars--always led by a senior faculty member-- in which we analysed academic writing, experimented with different research methods, and eventually critiqued each other's early drafts. These regular meetings kept me grounded, helped me get to know the many wonderful members of the Department, and also created the sense of belonging to a cohort. 

My relationship with my supervisor, also contributed tremendously to my experiencing my PhD journey as enjoyable, exciting, and relatively stress free. Particularly after I returned from fieldwork, my supervisor gave me complete freedom to decide the pace and the manner in which I wanted to go about analysing and developing my material. We would meet every few weeks to discuss emerging themes, ideas, literature, outlines of chapters, and finally, drafts of chapters themselves. My supervisor never imposed a vision for the project on me, but had an uncanny ability to quickly grasp my developing ideas and help me think through what I was finding. I always left our meetings feeling a bit more confident and excited about my work.

Dr Sazana Jayadeva (2010 cohort) (April 2019)

I found the Social Anthropology Department a uniquely friendly place to do a PhD. I felt warmly welcomed by the academic staff, fantastic administrative office, and my fellow students from the off and have continued to find it not just an impressive academic environment but also a place of friendship. In particular, I found immensely helpful the writing-up seminar - an incredibly supportive weekly discussion with other students about someone’s work in progress, chaired by a senior member of the Department. Everyone I participated in it with agreed that it was astoundingly helpful to our academic development and to supporting each other through the difficult period of writing up. It would be hard to overestimate what I learnt from being around so many leading anthropologists, especially through having a dedicated supervisor read so much of my writing that they got to know my research inside out and could have long discussions with me about it.

Dr Patrick McKearney - 2012 cohort (April 2019)

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Key Information

3-4 years full-time

4-7 years part-time

Study Mode : Research

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Social Anthropology

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Application - related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Michaelmas 2024

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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