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Postgraduate Study


Although the course is a research degree, PhD students are entitled to attend lecture courses within the Department. They should discuss with their supervisors which courses would be most beneficial to their research.

First-year students are normally required to take two master's-level taught modules (selected from a list of approximately 80 modules) as part of their first-year assessment, and will participate in regular seminars, which will equip them with essential skills in research practice and communication. Students may also be expected to engage in additional researcher development activities.

All doctoral research takes place in University of Cambridge facilities. However, the Department and its supervisors have strong links to other institutions both in the UK and around the world. After their first year, students may, therefore, apply for permission to undertake research in other institutions for extended periods of time. All necessary practical arrangements are the responsibility of students and their supervisors.

One to one supervision

Students will be part of a research group, with which they will usually have daily contact. In addition, students will have at least eight one-to-one meetings with their principal supervisors annually.

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

Seminars & classes

Over the course of the first year, students will attend approximately 24 hours of seminars targeted at developing their research and communications skills.


Most students will attend two 16-hour lecture courses in the first year.

Literature Reviews

Conducting a literature review is a normal part of the PhD writing process.


The Department is flexible in permitting students, with the support of their supervisors, to undertake research in an industrial setting. Permission to work away from the University is required. Although students may intermit to take paid internships for career-development in certain circumstances and with appropriate permissions, the University has strict rules on undertaking paid employment while engaged in a full-time research degree.


Throughout the PhD, students can expect to receive feedback from their supervisors, who they will meet for regular supervisions, as well as assistance from those working in the same research group. Principal supervisors will also submit termly reports on students' progress, which will be made available via an online system. Students also have an annual opportunity to submit a self-evaluation report, on which their principal supervisor may comment.

Every student is also allocated an adviser, who is available for consultation alongside the supervisor. Additionally, in the first year, students will receive feedback from the Researcher Development Course leaders, and will receive feedback on coursework assignments if relevant modules are chosen.


Thesis / Dissertation

The outcome of the PhD programme is determined through the submission and examination of a 65,000-word thesis. Examination will include an oral examination on the thesis and the general field of knowledge within which it falls by two examiners.


All PhD students are probationary in the first year and progression to the second year (and registration for the PhD) depends on a successful first-year review.

The first-year probationary review involves consideration of marks in two master's-level taught modules, in addition to a written progress report submitted at the end of the year. The modules (one of which may be substituted for a reading club) are selected from a list of approximately 80 published in the student handbook. Many of these modules are examined either by coursework or by a combination of coursework and written examination.

The report will cover the research work completed during the first year, as well as a review of appropriate literature and a clear indication of how the PhD will develop in the second and third years (i.e. future work). An oral examination will be held to discuss the contents of the report and the plans for the remainder of the project.

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Key Information

3-4 years full-time

4-7 years part-time

Study Mode : Research

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Engineering

Course - related enquiries

Application - related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 15, 2022
Application deadline
Oct. 4, 2023
Course Starts
Jan. 5, 2024

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

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
May 16, 2024
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2024

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

Lent 2025

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
Oct. 2, 2024
Course Starts
Jan. 5, 2025

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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