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Postgraduate Study


First-year students will take a compulsory Research Methods course in their first term, with weekly classes, and will submit and present at the end of the course.

Part-time students are expected to attend the first-year mandatory methods training course and to submit one assignment at the end of the course.

One to one supervision

PhD students will work alongside their supervisor, 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 Postgraduate 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. Some 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. Centre of Development Studies seminars are usually held weekly during Michaelmas and Lent Terms, and are approximately 2 hours in duration.


The mandatory Research Methods course held during the first year has weekly classes throughout Michaelmas Term, which are approximately 2 hours in duration.  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 Centre of Development Studies, which comes under the Degree Committee for the Department of Politics and International Studies, must not exceed 80,000 words including footnotes.  For more details, please visit the Postgraduate 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.


Students must complete the compulsory PhD Methods and Approaches course conducted in the first year of the programme and submit a Methodology Report and Methodology Presentation.

For formal registration, candidates must submit a First Year Report of around 15,000 words. This report should clearly identify the research question and establish its  relevance by:  

  1. Offering a survey of the literature; 

  2. Identifying the method(s) to be pursued; 

  3. Addressing the selection of case-studies, where appropriate; 

  4. Considering the availability of materials; 

  5. Giving an overview of the expected structure of the thesis; 

  6. Summarising the expected progression of the analysis in the main chapters; 

  7. Considering any problems or risks likely to be encountered during the work. 


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Key Information

3-4 years full-time

4-7 years part-time

Doctor of Philosophy

Centre of Development 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:

Michaelmas 2024

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
Feb. 28, 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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