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Postgraduate Admissions


One to one supervision

During your research, you will work closely with a supervisor who is a specialist in your research area. The supervisor does not lay down a topic for research, but will offer advice and help as to the choice of a topic. He or she will help you draw up a plan and a timetable for the thesis, and will give you detailed feedback on your written work.

The Cambridge French Section offers supervision in an exceptionally broad range of areas and there is usually more than one specialist in any given area. Members of the Section are specialists in areas of French-language literature, film, history, philosophy and culture from the Middle Ages to the present day. In addition to your supervisor, you will normally also be able to draw on the help and support of another member of the academic staff, your advisor, who may or may not be a specialist in your area, but who will be able to give general academic advice and support.

Students may reasonably expect to see their supervisor once every two or three weeks.  Supervisors normally take care to provide written comments on written work, and to give constructive criticism. There is no need for written work to be provided for every meeting: general discussion and planning are vital, too. The length of supervision can vary, depending on the stage a student is at and on the nature of the written work, if any, to be discussed. As a rule, however, such meetings generally last between 30 and 60 minutes.

Generally, a student can expect 10–12 hours of supervisions over the course of each academic year.

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

Seminars & classes

Students are encouraged to attend regularly the French postgraduate research seminars and the French research seminars in their area (the areas are: Medieval, Early Modern, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth and Twenty-First Century, and Linguistics). These seminars usually meet two to four times a term.


Attending lectures is optional but students are encouraged to take advantage of lectures offered across the University which are relevant to their research.


Feedback on progress is provided through regular meetings with the supervisor. Termly supervision reports are written and are made available to the student online.


Thesis / Dissertation

There is a normal word limit for the thesis of 80,000 words (including footnotes and appendices but excluding bibliography). The thesis should represent a significant contribution to learning through the discovery of new knowledge or through the connection of previously unrelated facts, or the development of new theory, revision of older views or some combination of these. In writing the thesis you are expected to take account of previously published work on the subject and the thesis should be clearly and accurately written, paying due attention to English style and grammar. Candidates for the PhD in Cambridge are guided by a supervisor, though they will normally also discuss their work with a number of other experts in their field.

Following submission of the thesis, an oral (viva) examination is held, involving two examiners appointed by the Degree Committee of the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, one of whom is normally external to Cambridge.


Annual progress interviews constitute a system for the formal monitoring by the Degree Committee of the progress of all students working towards a PhD. Termly progress interviews take place in the fourth year of the PhD.

Postgraduate students are admitted in the first instance for a probationary period during which they are not registered as a candidate for the PhD degree. The first-year interview is the context in which registration as a candidate for the PhD is formally considered. Satisfactory progress is a condition for being registered as a doctoral student and for remaining on the register.

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Key Information

3-4 years full-time

5-7 years part-time

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of French

Course – related enquiries

Application – related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 1, 2020
Application deadline
June 2, 2021
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2021

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

Lent 2022

Applications open
Sept. 1, 2020
Application deadline
Oct. 4, 2021
Course Starts
Jan. 5, 2022

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

Graduate Funding Competition
Jan. 7, 2021
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 14, 2020

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2021, Lent 2022 and Easter 2022.

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