skip to content

Postgraduate Study

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the University's principal research degree for graduate students and is available in all faculties and departments.

A Cambridge PhD is intellectually demanding and you will need to have a high level of attainment and motivation to pursue this programme of advanced study and research.

In most faculties, a candidate is expected to have completed one year of postgraduate study, normally on a research preparation master's course, prior to starting a PhD.

Completion normally requires three or four years of full-time study, or at least five years of part-time study, including a probationary period.

Terms of research are normally consecutive and, for full-time students, require residency in Cambridge. Not all departments offer part-time research degrees.

Various routes to the PhD are possible and, if you are made an offer of admission, it will be made clear whether you are required to study for a master's degree or certificate in the first instance, or will be admitted directly to the probationary year for the PhD. You are registered for the PhD only after a satisfactory progress assessment at the end of the probationary year (five terms for part-time degrees). The assessment is designed also to focus your mind on the stages necessary for the completion of your research within the normal time limit and to address any structural problems that have arisen during the first year. Students must pass the first year assessment in order to continue their PhD study.

During your PhD, your effort will be focused on writing a dissertation. The word count of the dissertation is dependent on the department and the Student Registry or Educational Student Policy will be able to tell you the maximum word limit. This must represent a significant contribution to learning, for example through the discovery of new knowledge, the connection of previously unrelated facts, the development of a new theory, or the revision of older views, and must take account of previously published work on the subject. Some Cambridge dissertations go on to form the basis of significant publications.

Although you will spend long hours working independently, your department and College will both support you throughout your PhD. You are also able to attend regular seminars in your subject area and could be involved in teaching, perhaps giving seminars or supervising, or in the social life of your department and College.

PhD course search

Go to the Course Directory and filter courses using the relevant checkboxes.


Term Information

Full Time

Fee terms 9 terms
Research terms 9 terms
Thesis terms 12 terms
Fee terms 15 terms
Research terms 15 terms
Thesis terms 21 terms
Fee terms
Minimum number of terms for which the UCF must be paid
Research terms
Minimum number of terms of research that must be started before a thesis may be submitted
Thesis terms
Maximum number of terms of research that may be completed before a thesis must be submitted