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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

African Studies is no longer accepting new applications.


The MPhil in African Studies is a taught postgraduate course, structured by four key elements. These are the core course, the option course, the dissertation, and language training.

The formal assessment consists of two parts: coursework essays (submitted for the core course and the option course) and a dissertation (submitted at the end of the course). You are also required to submit a practice essay on a topic related to your dissertation research, and a dissertation proposal, but these are not formally assessed. Language training is also not a formal part of the degree assessment, but all students are required to demonstrate that they have attended a language course in either an indigenous African language or a language spoken in Africa (other than English) and made good progress at language acquisition. The language element of the MPhil course is jointly managed by the University of Cambridge Language Centre and the Centre of African Studies. All students are enrolled for a course at the University of Cambridge Language Centre, which is taught over 15 weeks during Michaelmas and Lent terms, and are usually expected to take Swahili Basic 1 if available.

For further details visit the Course Structure and Assessment page on the Centre of African Studies website.

One to one supervision

Eight to ten (guideline rather than a rule) hours per year.

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

Seminars & classes

Core course: 16 two-hour lessons taught in the Michaelmas and Lent terms. Option courses: usually between 8 and15 weeks through Michaelmas and Lent terms. The option course may consist of a single term or two term paper.


The Centre of African Studies Seminar Series (Michaelmas and Lent terms) and various non-compulsory lectures from other departments. Please see the Centre website for details.


Practical skills training may be incorporated into the core course when possible.


You will receive an average mark and a written report on the practice essay during the Lent term.

You will receive a written report on your core course and option course essays in  either Lent or Easter term.

You will receive feedback on your dissertation plan and progress from your supervisors in Lent and Easter term.

Supervisors will write a termly Postgraduate Supervisor Report which will be made available to students.


Thesis / Dissertation

The dissertation will be submitted during Easter full term and should be between 15,000 and 20,000 words. It counts for 60 per cent of the final mark. If the examiners consider it necessary, they may conduct an oral examination on the dissertation.


The core course is assessed by means of an essay of no more than 5,000 words on a topic chosen from a prescribed list of questions, which is distributed by the MPhil office. The option courses are generally assessed by means of an essay of not more than 5,000 words (some option courses may vary slightly). The core course essay and option course essay each count for 20 per cent of the final mark.

A compulsory practice essay on a topic related to the dissertation is to be submitted in addition to the core and option course essays. This essay does not count towards the final mark but a pass mark of above 60 should be obtained. Any student who does not attain a pass mark at the first attempt may be required to re-submit.

Written examination

Language Course

All students are enrolled for a language course at the University of Cambridge Language Centre, which is taught over 15 weeks during Michaelmas and Lent terms. 


A compulsory practice essay in which a pass mark of above 60 should be obtained. Candidates whose grade falls below this on the first attempt may be required to resubmit.

Key Information

9 months full-time

Study Mode : Taught

Master of Philosophy

Centre of African Studies 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. 4, 2023
Application deadline
Feb. 29, 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.