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Faculty of Philosophy



General Information

  • The MPhil code of practice is here.
  • MPhil students may also find it useful to refer to CamGuides. This is  is a free online resource for all Master’s students with a taught element, designed as an introduction to some of the academic, digital and research practices that they will engage in at the University of Cambridge. It encourages students to think about ways they can prepare for their Master’s degree before it starts. CamGuides does not need raven access and students will have access to the resource throughout their time in Cambridge.
  • Sources of advice and support can be found here.


MPhil Course Structure

MPhil students are assigned an MPhil advisor who oversees their studies during the course. The advisor and student will discuss essay topics and potential supervisors. The advisor is the student's first port of call for questions related to the course.

Coursework Overview

MPhil candidates are examined on one essay of not more than 4,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography), an essay of not more than 8,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography), and a dissertation of not more than 12,000 words (including footnotes and appendices but excluding bibliography), all on subjects which must first be approved by the Degree Committee. There are some restrictions on topics – see MPhil course structure for details – but students have a great deal of freedom to select topics of interest to them. There are also deadlines for submission and changing of titles. 

Essays - general guidance

Where deadlines are marked '*' below, see the Postgraduate Calendar on the Philosophy website for the exact dates

The first essay is submitted by the end of Michaelmas Term *. Students consult with their Advisors at the start of Michaelmas Term (and by the end of week 1 at the latest) to arrange a topic and a supervisor for this first essay. In case of any doubt, students should consult the MPhil Course Director. Students receive a mark for the first essay and any feedback and guidance which may seem appropriate at that stage, before Christmas. 

The second essay is submitted in the last week of Lent Term*. Students are strongly advised to meet with their Lent Term essay supervisor(s) before they depart for the Christmas break. 

Before starting work on an essay, students should discuss the suitability of the topic with the essay supervisor (who may or may not be the Advisor). Students submit the first essay title to the Postgraduate Administrator at the beginning of the sixth week of Michaelmas Term*, and submit the second essay title in the first week of Lent Term*. These go to the Degree Committee for approval. Minor amendments to titles of second essays may be accepted until the beginning of the sixth week of term*.

When choosing essay titles, students should keep in mind that the title's main function is to enable the Degree Committee to select suitable examiners. Titles should be direct and specific enough to serve this purpose (without, e.g. misleading witticisms), but not so specific that they make it difficult to make some change of focus. (For example: 'Leibniz' is too vague; 'Leibniz on contingency' is fine; 'Two meanings of "analytic" in Leibniz and how the distinction between them helps us to defend his views on contingency' is probably too specific.) Once a title has been agreed, students can add a subtitle, but the examiners will assess the essay for relevance in relation to the agreed title, not the subtitle.

There is no formal limit on the amount of supervision a student may have on an MPhil essay. The decision on how much to provide rests with supervisors. However, you may expect to receive a total of about 4 hours of supervision for each essay in total. A typical and reasonable supervising schedule would be as follows:

-An initial meeting with the supervisor for orientation, general advice, guidance on reading

-Three further supervisions (comments on preliminary reading and an outline; comments on and discussion of a first draft, with advice for possible improvement; and further comments on a revised draft)

The student would then submit the final version without further supervision.

Dissertation - general guidance

Titles of MPhil dissertations need to be submitted for approval shortly before the beginning of Easter Term* (with minor amendments possible up to the third week of Easter Term*). Dissertation topics should be chosen carefully, and after consulting the dissertation supervisor. As in the case of essays, students are advised not to be too general or too specific, and choose a title that makes it straightforward for the Degree Committee to appoint suitable examiners.

MPhil candidates hoping to continue to a PhD will often choose essay and dissertation topics with an eye to their proposed PhD research. But students should not be tempted to make the MPhil dissertations too ambitious: students should bear in mind that there is a strict word limit (12,000 words), and a strict submission deadline at the end of Easter Term*. Students should note that no significant part of an MPhil dissertation may be incorporated as it stands in a PhD thesis, although it may of course form the basis for new work.

The MPhil dissertation will be submitted at the end of Easter Term*. 


University Regulations on work submitted

Please note that it is a University regulation that work already submitted for a degree outside Cambridge cannot then be submitted for a Cambridge degree ( If students are in any doubt about this, please consult Advisors, or the Supervisor for the piece of work in question.


Procedural information for Coursework

  • How to submit (titles and work) - You must submit your proposed essay and dissertation titles via email to the MPhil Course Director via the Postgraduate Administrator ( by the deadlines in the PG Calendar. No amendments can be granted to the title of your first essay. Once the MPhil Course Director has approved your title, you will receive an email from the PG Administrator confirming that your title has been approved. If, however, the MPhil Course Director cannot approve your title, for example because there is some ambiguity, you will also receive communication from the PG Administrator asking you to reconsider and resubmit an amended title. It should be stressed that approval of titles is not a pure formality. Students who start work on their essays/dissertation before the titles have been approved, do so entirely at their own risk. If in doubt, consult the MPhil Course Director (via the PG Administrator) early about the suitability of titles. Essays and dissertations should be submitted via Moodle, the Learning Platform used by the University. Further details on the process for submitting work via Moodle will be sent to candidates by the Postgraduate Administrator. 
  • Presentation guidelines - MPhil essays and dissertations must be typed in English, use footnotes rather than endnotes, have numbered pages and properly acknowledge sources of information in notes and a bibliography. You must acknowledge all sources of information, including unpublished ideas and suggestions, e.g. from your supervisor. For essays students are not required to submit a cover sheet or a separate title page. Essays are subject to anonymous marking. Please save essays just using the title of the essay (no reference to student names or student number). Students should not include their name anywhere within the text of the essay. For dissertations, it is usual for your examiners to conduct a viva with you, so marking will not be anonymous. For the dissertation only therefore, student names should be marked clearly on a front sheet and students must incorporate the Student Registry ‘Declaration in the Preface’ (please follow the instructions here ). The Faculty's presentation guidelines for postgraduate students can be found here .  
  • Wordcounts - MPhil candidates are examined on one essay in Michaelmas Term of not more than 4,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography), an essay in Lent Term of not more than 8,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography), and a dissertation in Easter Term of not more than 12,000 words (including footnotes and appendices but excluding bibliography) Please note that the word limit (including footnotes and appendices but excluding bibliography) for both essays and the dissertation will be strictly applied. Examiners may decline to read any material in excess of it. For both essays and the dissertation, candidates are required to include a statement of the word length at the end of their piece of submitted work, before the bibliography. In addition, the word count will be verified by the Postgraduate Administrator, when candidates submit their essays and dissertation.
  • Coursework deadlines - can be found in the Postgraduate CalendarPlease note that submission deadlines for essays and the dissertation are taken very seriously. In the absence of mitigating circumstances, late submission will attract a penalty of five marks for every working day, or proportion of this for part of a day.
  • Extensions - We recognise that sometimes students will need to seek an extension to the submission deadline. Students seeking an extension should contact the Postgraduate Administrator and the MPhil Course Director in the first instance.
  • Students with Student Support Documents outlining their access and reasonable adjustments requirements may request extensions if needed, and are invited to discuss which accommodations they require with the MPhil Course Director. 
  • Short extensions of up to 5 days can be granted by the MPhil Course Director. Students will be required to confirm that they have informed their College Tutor of the extension. Students may self-certify the reasons for these short extensions and are not required to supply supporting documentation. 
  • Extensions longer than 5 days: the MPhil Course Director will request that the student provides supporting documentation from a medical/welfare professional or from the student's College Tutor. The request will be considered by Degree Committee. The length of extensions may be constrained by the dates by which marks have to be approved. Students will be informed if an extension may lead to a delay in the date of their graduation. 
  • Students are advised that extensions are more administratively straightforward for the Michaelmas and Lent Term essays, as short extensions there are unlikely to affect the timing of the student's graduation. For the dissertation, extensions are also possible, but extensions of longer than 5 days are likely to affect the timing of the viva, receipt of marks, and graduation. Further information about this extensions can be found on this webpage:
  • Plagiarism/academic misconduct - The Faculty's policy on plagiarism/academic misconduct can be found hereThe University’s definition of academic misconduct, including plagiarism, can be found here. MPhil students will be asked to check a box confirming that they have read the University’s definition of academic misconduct when they submit MPhil coursework via Moodle. Students should be aware that the University has the right to use text-matching software to verify the originality of work submitted at any time during the MPhil course. It is the Faculty’s policy to routinely check work submitted for plagiarism.
  • Assessment of MPhil essays and dissertations - please see the following: 

                    MPhil Examination Procedures

                    Marking Criteria for the MPhil   

  • Data retention policy for the MPhil can be found here


Previous examples can be found here


MPhil Seminar, Postgraduate Seminar, Lectures and Meetings

There is a weekly seminar for MPhil students, at which they present and discuss their work. The seminar focusses on developing presentation and discussion skills, as well as introducing students to a wide range of philosophical topics. All MPhil students are expected to attend this seminar every week and a register will be taken.

The Faculty also arranges other seminars especially for postgraduate students, including a postgraduate seminar, run by PhD students with no academics attending, fortnightly throughout the academic year.

Postgraduate students are encouraged to attend upper-level Tripos lectures and any other seminars (across Faculties) that are relevant to their work, please consult your Advisor for advice on which to attend.

Postgraduate students are strongly encouraged to attend the Moral Sciences Club, which meets weekly in term to discuss papers normally given by visiting philosophers. Similar meetings are organised in other Faculties (e.g. the 'D' Society for the philosophy of religion).

The lecture list including MPhil seminars can be found here.  The University Timetable allows you to construct your own online timetable. Reading lists and handouts for lectures and course readings will be located on the relevant paper's moodle page. 

Oral Examination -Viva

MPhil candidates will have an oral examination (‘viva’), on a date to be arranged with them by the Examiners in the week following submission of the MPhil dissertations. Candidates should therefore ensure that they are available for the whole viva period*, excluding the weekend. (The Examiners may in exceptional circumstances waive the oral examination, but candidates must not assume that they will.) If a candidate would like to request adjustments to their viva on the grounds of disability, they should complete a ‘voluntary disclosure form’ and return this to the postgraduate administrator. The form can be found here:

The main purpose of the viva is to test the depth of the candidate’s understanding of the issues discussed in the dissertation, and surrounding issues. The viva will usually concentrate on the dissertation, but it may also include questions on the general area of philosophy in which it falls. 

Students should bring a copy of the dissertation to the viva in case the examiners wish to ask about specific passages in it. 

MPhil vivas typically last around an hour, although some may be significantly shorter or longer than this. 

For further information about the viva, see the MPhil Examining Procedures here:


MPhil Results

MPhil candidates will be told the their final result as soon as possible after their Examiners’ reports have been considered by the Degree Committee at its meeting in late June/early July*. Students will also be able to view their dissertation and overall mark via their CamSIS self service.


Final Congregation Dates

The final congregation (graduation ceremony) of the academic year is usually on the third Friday or Saturday in July*. Further information on ceremony dates can be found here. Those hoping to graduate in July should contact the Praelector of their College in early June to check the ceremony date for their College and reserve a place.



We ask MPhil students to provide their feedback at regular intervals throughout the MPhil course, in the form of a questionnaire sent from the Postgraduate Office. Usually there is one questionnaire sent per term. Feedback from students is important in helping us to improve the course, and we ask that all students complete all questionnaires.


Applying for a PhD at the Faculty of Philosophy

MPhil students may apply to continue as PhD candidates. If you are interested in doing so, you should discuss this with your Advisor early in Michaelmas Term, and also notify the Postgraduate Secretary, to ensure that you don’t miss the relevant application and funding deadlines. You will need to complete an online application via the admissions portal, similar to the one you completed in applying for the MPhil. It is available from the Postgraduate Admissions website:

The deadline will be in early December* or Mid-October if you are a student from the US who wishes to apply for Gates funding. The application requires a research proposal of 500 words, two references, and two writing samples. One of these writing samples should be something produced on the MPhil course (typically a version of your first essay), while the other maybe one of the samples you submitted in applying for the MPhil. Please discuss your research proposal with your potential PhD supervisor before submitting it, and talk to your Advisor about the whole application.

Please note that admission to the PhD is not an automatic consequence of successful completion of the MPhil. The Faculty receives many more applications for the PhD than it is able to accept, and can admit only a minority of qualified candidates. The Degree Committee makes a judgement on each individual case, taking into consideration all the evidence it has available about the suitability of the candidate to complete a thesis on the proposed topic. Ordinarily, several conditions need to be satisfied before the Degree Committee will recommend that an MPhil candidate proceed to work for the PhD. These are necessary but not sufficient conditions:

(i) If you are offered a PhD place it may be conditional on your achieving a specified mark in the MPhil as a whole. Typically, candidates who successfully proceed to the PhD will be those who are achieving marks for the essays and dissertation of 70 or better, although you will not yet know any of your marks at the time you apply to the PhD.

(ii) In addition to satisfactory marks in the MPhil a candidate needs to show an ability to generate and to develop original ideas. (The MPhil marking criteria indicate that it is possible to obtain quite good marks without showing any substantial originality.)

(iii) A candidate who is to be accepted for the PhD needs to produce an acceptable research proposal.

(iv)    The Faculty needs to be confident that it can provide proper supervision for the candidate's proposed research.

If you are an MPhil candidate who is then accepted into the PhD programme, and if your PhD research is suitably related to your MPhil work, you will usually be allowed to count some or all of your three MPhil terms towards the residency requirements of the PhD, if you are ready to submit your thesis before the minimum terms of study have elapsed. This means that you may submit a PhD thesis after only six more terms, if you wish. Please see the following webpage for further information: