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Postgraduate Admissions

Course closed:

Politics and International Studies is no longer accepting new applications.


First-year students are expected to attend mandatory methods and approaches course and Social Science Research Methods seminars in their first term, and presentation workshops in Lent term.

One to one supervision

All POLIS PhD students are supervised by a permanent member of the academic staff who is an expert in the field. The principal supervisor and the student meet at regular intervals throughout the PhD. Typically, the principal supervisor and student meet fortnightly during the first year and more intermittently afterwards. Supervisions consist of discussions on the student’s topic, their training, their research plans and findings, and comes to involve feedback on drafts of dissertation chapters and a general discussion of the field of research.

Students are also appointed a postgraduate advisor who can be drawn upon for additional advice.

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

Seminars & classes

POLIS runs a wide array of research seminars, workshops and classes, and these are advertised to PhD students as well as on the Department website.

For first-year PhD students, there is a weekly seminar on the methodological and philosophical questions that underpin research in the contemporary social sciences. Alongside this, PhD students choose two further courses to attend from a range of options, such as statistics, qualitative methods and languages.


Students are welcome to attend any relevant masters and undergraduate lectures that relate to their research and subject interests.


Students will receive regular constructive feedback throughout the course of their PhD.

Students can expect to receive:

  • Regular oral feedback from their principal supervisor, as well as yearly online feedback reports;
  • Written feedback from their postgraduate advisor and first year assessor after the first year registration exercise
  • Written and oral feedback from their principal supervisor and postgraduate advisor with each subsequent annual meeting


Thesis / Dissertation

The primary purpose of PhD study is the preparation and presentation of a substantial piece of original research in the form of a thesis.  A successful thesis must:

  • represent a significant contribution to learning through the discovery of new knowledge, the connection of previously unrelated facts, the development of a new theory or the revision of older views.
  • take due account of previously published work on the subject.
  • be clearly and concisely written and must not exceed a maximum of 80,000 words (excluding the bibliography).

All students will defend their PhD thesis in a viva voce examination.

Written examination

First year students must complete their first-year registration exercise in order to progress to the status of PhD. They must submit 10,000 words of their research,  they may also add a section of the thesis of up to 10,000 words. Candidates are also expected to submit their progress log, in order to show the methods training (and any other relevant activities) they have undertaken.  Finally, the candidate must provide a timeline for the remainder of their research. This must include when and in what order the candidate intends to proceed with research.


The expectation is that the PhD programme is completed full time. Only in very exceptional circumstances will applications be considered for part time study.

Key Information

3-4 years full-time

5-7 years part-time

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Politics and International Studies

Course - related enquiries

Application - related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 1, 2021
Application deadline
Jan. 6, 2022
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2022

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

Graduate Funding Competition
Jan. 6, 2022
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 13, 2021

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2022, Lent 2023 and Easter 2023.

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