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Postgraduate Study

The Linguistics Section is unique in the UK in that it integrates theoretical and applied linguistics in a single academic department. The Linguistics Section provides great variety and flexibility in course contents as well as subject-specific training and diversity of intellectual interactions. PhD topics in the range of research specialisms represented in the Section and beyond the Section in the MMLL Faculty are accepted. Students may choose to focus on a theoretically oriented study of the language sciences (e.g. interest in the syntactic organisation or sound structure of different languages or in the analysis of meaning in semantics and pragmatics), but may also be interested in a more applied direction of Linguistics (e.g. language acquisition, language processing, data mining of language corpora) or may choose to look at Linguistics from a specific language point of view (e.g. Italian linguistics). 

In British universities, the PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) is traditionally awarded solely on the basis of a thesis, a substantial piece of writing that reports original research into a closely defined area of enquiry. Within linguistics, some PhD students may do most of their work in libraries, spend part of their time collecting and analysing fieldwork data, or carry out experiments in the phonetics laboratory or psycholinguistics laboratory. The completion of the PhD thesis is generally expected to take three to four years. It is also possible to take a part-time route, and the expected timeframe would be five to seven years.  

In addition to providing special supervision, both the Linguistics Section and the MMLL Faculty run a programme of professional training for the benefit of all research students.  The programme includes seminars and workshops on library resources, giving conference papers, publishing, applications and interviews, teaching skills, specialist linguistic training, and film-making. The University runs a central programme covering a range of topics from PhD research development to language training and writing and editing skills. Students also have access to a Social Sciences research methods training programme. If you wish, you are likely to be given the opportunity of gaining experience in small group teaching for colleges. There may also be opportunities to gain some experience in language teaching in the MMLL Faculty.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the programme, candidates will have acquired excellent skills, experience and knowledge to undertake postdoctoral work (research and teaching) or another related profession.


For Cambridge students applying to continue from the MPhil by Advanced Study to PhD, the minimum academic requirement is an overall distinction in the MPhil.

For Cambridge students applying to continue from the MPhil by Thesis to PhD, the usual academic requirement is a pass in the MPhil.

All applications are judged on their merits, and students must demonstrate their suitability to undertake doctoral level research.

If the Master's degree from which the applicant is progressing is not the MPhil in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, the Master's degree has to contain a substantial Linguistics component. 

Open Days

The Postgraduate Virtual Open Day usually takes place at the end of October. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions to admissions staff and academics, explore the Colleges virtually, and to find out more about courses, the application process and funding opportunities. Visit the Postgraduate Open Day page for more details.

See further the Postgraduate Admissions Events pages for other events relating to Postgraduate study, including study fairs, visits and international events.


This course is advertised in the following departments:

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Key Information

3-4 years full-time

4-7 years part-time

Study Mode : Research

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics This course is advertised in multiple departments. Please see the Overview tab for more details.

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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