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Postgraduate Admissions

Course closed:

Development Studies is no longer accepting new applications.


First-year students will take a compulsory Research Methods course in their first term.

One to one supervision

PhD students will work alongside their supervisor which is specified at the application stage. Typically, students will meet with their primary supervisor at least once a term, to review their research, ensure their submission timeline is on track as well as discussing any issues the student may have during the course of their programme. Students will also be assigned a Graduate Adviser, both as a secondary point of contact and to provide cover in the Primary Supervisor’s absence.

Students are encouraged to complete a self-assessment once a term, via their self-service account. Supervisors will also write a report on the progress of their student once a term. 

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

Seminars & classes

Students are also encouraged to attend a wide range of seminars and other events that are organised by the Centre of Development Studies and departments throughout the University, such as the Social Sciences Research Methods Centre. Development Studies seminar sessions are reserved for PhD students to give a presentation on their own research. This is a great opportunity to develop presentation skills and receive valuable feedback from both senior academics and peers relating to their thesis.


The mandatory Research Methods course held during the first year has classes throughout term time.  Students are also invited to attend open lectures held in the Centre, the department, as well as across the University. Details of these will be available on the University virtual learning environment, Moodle, sent via email or advertised across the campus.


Students can expect to receive verbal feedback, as well as an online feedback report each term from their primary supervisor. Feedback will also be given on their presentations.


Thesis / Dissertation

A PhD thesis for the Department of Politics and International Studies must not exceed 80,000 words, and will normally be near that length. The word limit includes appendices but excludes footnotes, references and bibliography. Footnotes should not exceed 20% of the thesis.  For more details, please visit the Graduate Exams Information page. 

PhD vivas (oral examinations) are usually held in the Centre and are conducted by two examiners, one internal and the other external, according to University regulations.

Practical assessment

Two assignments need to be completed as part of the taught Research Methods course conducted in the first year of the programme.

Key Information

3-4 years full-time

Doctor of Philosophy

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. 1, 2020
Application deadline
Jan. 7, 2021
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2021

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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