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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

Development Studies is no longer accepting new applications.


The MPhil course consists of i) one core paper taught in Michaelmas Term,  ii) a selection of optional papers offered in Lent Term and iii) a 15-20,000 word dissertation.

   i) Core Paper ‘Intellectual Traditions of Development’

All students will attend this core paper in Michaelmas Term. The paper is collectively taught by CDS academics and covers major theoretical and methodological approaches in development thinking and practice. The paper will cover major themes such as capitalism, race, role of the state, technology, financialization, conflict and violence, social movements, trade, global governance and decolonization. The particular themes and lectures offered can vary from year to year and the above is given as a general indication.

   ii) Optional papers

In Lent Term, students will choose two from a range of optional papers (6 to 8) which will provide a ‘deep dive’ into some of the themes covered in the core paper. Optional papers may change periodically to reflect current interests and concerns.

The teaching for all papers predominantly takes place over the first two terms in the academic year (Michaelmas and Lent Terms).

   iii) Dissertation

The MPhil also consists of a 15-20,000 word supervised dissertation. Students will apply to the course with a dissertation proposal and will be allocated a supervisor with relevant research experience. Supervisors will usually be academic members in CDS/POLIS but may also be chosen from other departments. Students will receive two supervisions per term and are expected to work on the dissertation throughout the academic year.

One to one supervision

Students will be allocated an individual Academic Supervisor upon commencing the programme and are encouraged to meet with them at least once a term to discuss general progress and flag any issues.

Students will be allocated a Dissertation Supervisor with relevant research experience. Dissertation supervisors will usually be academic members in CDS/POLIS but may also be chosen from other departments. Students will receive two supervisions per term and are expected to work on the dissertation throughout the academic year.

There is no scheme of regular academic supervision related to the taught elements. 

Students are also encouraged to complete termly self-assessments to review their own progress and indicate any difficulties.

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

Seminars & classes

For the core paper, small-group discussion classes are offered in Michaelmas Term. Some optional papers may also have student-led seminars based on group presentations.

The CDS offers a Development Studies Seminar Series, where guest speakers give academic talks to members of the Centre. MPhil students are actively encouraged to attend this series, as it supplements topics discussed throughout the programme.


In Michaelmas Term, the Core paper consists of 16 x 2-hour lectures.

In Lent Term, students will take two option papers consisting of 8 x 2-hour lectures each.


Students can expect to receive an online feedback report each term from their Academic Supervisor.

Subject to the agreement of the examiners, students will receive a provisional mark and written feedback for their assessed essays prior to the Final Examiners' Meeting at the end of the academic year. These marks cannot be taken as final until approved by Degree Committee, also held at the end of the academic year.


Thesis / Dissertation

Students will submit a dissertation of 15-20,000 words towards the end of Easter Term.

Research carried out for the purpose of the dissertation must receive ethical approval by the Ethics, Risk and Fieldwork Committee prior to the student commencing research, otherwise, the dissertation cannot be accepted.


All students will write two 5,000 word essays. For the first essay, students will be able to choose from a wide number of questions based on topics covered in the core paper. Students will be required to submit essay 1 before the start of Lent Term.

For the second essay, students will be able to select one topic from a range of questions based on the optional papers. Essay 2 will be submitted before the start of Easter Term.


There may be an oral examination at the discretion of the examiners.

Key Information

9 months full-time

Study Mode : Taught

Master of Philosophy

Centre of Development Studies This course is advertised in multiple departments. Please see the Overview tab for more details.

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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.

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