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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

Polar Studies (Scott Polar Research Institute) is no longer accepting new applications.


The course is assessed exclusively by research but students also complete relevant skills and research training.

One to one supervision

PhD students can expect to meet their supervisor or supervisory panel at regular intervals to discuss progress and future direction. 

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

Seminars & classes

The Department runs a Skills and Research Training Programme over the first two terms for first-year PhD students (approx. 16 hours in the first year). There is also a programme of training sessions for third-year PhD students (approx. seven hours). There are also more specialist classes offered within the University that can be attended as required, eg those organised by the Climate, Life and Earth Doctoral Training Programme (up to approx. 20 hours). The majority of second-year students do fieldwork outside Cambridge.

The Institute runs a Seminar series in both the Social Sciences and the Physical Sciences, with invited speakers from outside, which PhD students are encouraged to attend. The Department also runs several reading groups, and research seminar programmes with invited speakers from outside, which students are also strongly encouraged to attend as relevant.

Posters and Presentations

First-year PhD students are expected to present their research to the Department at a research seminar, and third-year PhD students present their research at the third-year postgraduate conference.


Students can expect to receive an online feedback report each term.


Thesis / Dissertation

 A thesis of up to 80,000 words, if a candidate's work falls within the social sciences and humanities, or 275 numbered pages (of which not more than 225 pages are text, appendices, illustrations and bibliography) if a candidate's work falls within the physical sciences.


All PhD students are probationary in the first year. Students are required to submit a written progress report which is examined by two assessors and an oral examination of the report will be undertaken. Progression to the second year and registration for the PhD depends on a successful first-year review.

Key Information

3-4 years full-time

5-7 years part-time

Doctor of Philosophy

Scott Polar Research Institute

Course - related enquiries

Application - related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 15, 2022
Application deadline
March 31, 2023
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2023

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

Course Funding Deadline
Dec. 1, 2022
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 12, 2022

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2023, Lent 2024 and Easter 2024.