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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

Politics and International Studies is no longer accepting new applications.


All first-year students are expected to attend mandatory methods and approaches course. Full-time students are also expected to attend Social Science Research Methods seminars in their first term, and professionalisation workshops in Lent term. Part-time students may opt to take the professionalisation workshops and the Social Research Methods seminars in their first or second year.

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 thesis chapters and a general discussion of the field of research.

Students are also appointed a postgraduate adviser 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 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. When these are taken will depend if the student is full-time or part-time.


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 termly online feedback reports;
  • Written feedback from their postgraduate adviser and first year assessor after the first year registration exercise
  • Written and oral feedback from their principal supervisor and postgraduate adviser 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.


All students must complete their registration exercise to progress to the status of PhD.  For full-time students this will be in the Easter term of the first year and for part-time students in the Lent term of the second year.

For the registration students must submit:

  • 10,000-word research report, they may also add a section of the thesis of up to 10,000 words (optional).
  • A 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.

Students are expected to discuss any fieldwork plans with their supervisor prior to submitting any papers for the registration and are encouraged to include a first draft of their application for Fieldwork and Ethics as part of the materials submitted for the registration exercise.  

Key Information

3-4 years full-time

4-7 years part-time

Study Mode : Research

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. 4, 2023
Application deadline
Dec. 5, 2023
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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