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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

History is no longer accepting new applications.


The PhD in History is entirely research-based and students are expected to do a significant amount of independent research. However, the PhD also aims to give students an experience of different historiographical methods as well as professional skills relevant to both a career in academia or elsewhere.

One to one supervision

All History PhD students are supervised by a member of academic staff who is an expert in the field. The supervisor and the student meet at regular intervals throughout the PhD, which they determine together. Typically, the supervisor and student meet frequently in the first year and more intermittently once the student is registered at the end of the first year. Supervisions consist of discussions on the student’s topic and its relevant historiography as well as feedback on drafts of thesis chapters and a general discussion of the field of research.

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

Seminars & classes

The History Faculty runs a wide array of research seminars, workshops and classes.

Students in the Faculty of History are also welcome to attend sessions run by the wider University, including Researcher Development sessions, and sessions run by the Social Science Research Methods Centre and Language Centre among many others.


Although not compulsory, students are welcome to attend relevant undergraduate lectures on their topic.

Small group teaching

Each student is expected to attend on a regular weekly basis at least one of the postgraduate workshops run by the Faculty. These workshops are normally spaces for PhD students to share their work and collect feedback, as well as offer feedback on the work of others, but MPhil students are usually also welcome to attend and participate in lively discussions with fellow postgraduate students about the process of academic writing.

Posters and Presentations

Each year the Faculty runs presentation days for PhD students in their first year. These are opportunities for PhD students to present their work to others and gather feedback on their own work and offer feedback on the work of others. This is a valuable academic skill and will be of great benefit to you throughout your career, whether you continue in academia or professional roles. PhD students may also have the opportunity to present their work in one of the many postgraduate workshops run by the Faculty.


Students will receive regular constructive feedback throughout the course of their PhD.

Students can expect to receive:

  • regular oral feedback from their supervisor, as well as termly online feedback reports; and
  • oral feedback from peers during postgraduate workshops and seminars.


Thesis / Dissertation

The primary purpose of PhD study is the preparation and presentation of a substantial piece of original research in the form of a thesis. From the very beginning of the PhD course, the student focuses primarily on the writing of the thesis.

A successful PhD thesis in Cambridge must meet the following examination criteria:

  • It must represent a significant contribution to learning through the discovery of new knowledge, the connection of previously unrelated facts, the development of a new theory or the revision of older views.
  • It must take due account of previously published work on the subject.
  • It must be clearly and concisely written and must be no less than 70,000 words and not exceed a maximum of 80,000 words (excluding footnotes and the bibliography)

The student’s original contribution to knowledge is assessed in the light of what it is reasonable to expect a student to complete within three years, or five years if part-time.


At the end of the first year, all PhD students will complete a 'Registration Assessment Exercise'. This involves the preparation of an essay of up to 10,000 words (not including notes, bibliography, or appendices) and a meeting to discuss your work in progress and project plans.

Students may also complete a second review exercise in the third year, on request by either the supervisor or the student.


Practical assessment

All students will defend their PhD thesis in a viva voce examination. 

Key Information

3-4 years full-time

4-7 years part-time

Study Mode : Research

Doctor of Philosophy

Faculty of History

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Dates and deadlines:

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.

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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