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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

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. For each of these pieces of work you will be arrange a supervisor, and choose a topic, in consultation with your Advisor, who is assigned to you by the Faculty at the start of Michaelmas Term. There are some restrictions on topics – see MPhil course structure for details – and deadlines for submission of titles. But broadly speaking you will have a lot of choice about what you write about, and a lot of opportunity to choose topics that especially interest you.

Essays - general guidance

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

To encourage a prompt start on essay work, your first essay has to be submitted by the end of Michaelmas Term*. You should consult with your Advisor very early in 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, please consult the MPhil Course Director. You will receive a mark for your first essay, and any feedback and guidance, which may seem appropriate at that stage, before Christmas.

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

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

When choosing titles for your essays, keep in mind that their main function is to enable the Degree Committee to select the most suitable examiners. Titles should be direct and specific enough to serve this purpose (without, e.g. misleading witticisms!), but not so specific that they tie your hands if you want to make some late 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, you 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 resting with supervisors. However, a typical and reasonable supervising schedule would be as follows:

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

- two further supervisions for each essay (comments on and discussion of a first draft, with advice for possible improvements; and further comments on a revised draft, for each)

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 your dissertation supervisor. As in the case of essays, don't be too general or too specific, and choose a title that makes it easy for the Degree Committee to appoint the most 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 you should not let this tempt you to make your MPhil dissertations too ambitious: you should bear in mind that you have a strict word limit (12,000 words), and a strict submission deadline at the end of Easter Term*. You should also bear in mind 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.

Your MPhil dissertation should 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 you are in any doubt about this, please consult your Advisor, or your Supervisor for the piece of work in question.

Dissertations must not be substantially the same as anything submitted for any other degree, diploma or similar qualification at any university or similar institution; but they may be submitted concurrently e.g. for publication, or to obtain a Research Fellowship or other employment.

Dissertations may be accompanied by two copies of any unconnected or unrelated work which the candidate has published, and which the examiners may take into consideration.


Procedural information for Coursework

Please also see Essay and Dissertation Guidance 

  • How to submit - 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 Secretary. 
  • Presentation guidelines - MPhil essays and dissertations must be in English, be typewritten in 12 point type face, have numbered pages and properly acknowledge your sources of information (including unpublished ideas and suggestions e.g. from your supervisor) in notes and a bibliography. For essays you are not required to submit a cover sheet or a separate title page. Essays are subject to anonymous marking. Please save your essays just using the title of your essay (no reference to your names or student number). Do not include your name anywhere within the text of your essay. For dissertations you must have your name clearly marked on a front sheet and you must incorporate the Student Registry ‘Declaration in the Preface’ (see ). 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 Secretary, 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. Except in exceptional circumstances (e.g. a medical emergency), late submission will attract a penalty of five marks for every working day, or proportion of this for part of a day. It is sometimes possible to arrange an extension to the submission deadline, usually due to unforeseen medical circumstances. Further information about this possibility can be found on this webpage:  As noted on the above webpage, short deadlines which would not impact on the dates on which the marks would be considered by the Exam Board and Degree Committee can normally be considered locally, by the Faculty. Please contact the Postgraduate Secretary if you feel this applies to you.  For longer extensions, students should initiate an application for an extension via their CamSIS self-service account, although only after consulting with their MPhil advisor.    Students with a known disability who require an extension to their essay or dissertation deadlines may be granted one if it is requested. Students should discuss what accommodations they require with the MPhil Course Director. Ordinarily, an extension will require that the student's Student Support Document from the Disability Resource Centre makes a recommendation to that effect. The Course Director may also seek further medical evidence. Extensions of up to two weeks can be granted by the Course Director. Requests for longer extensions will be considered by Degree Committee in light of the student's needs and the submitted medical evidence. The length of extensions may be constrained by the dates on which marks have to be approved. Students will be informed if an extension may lead to a delay in the date of their graduation.
  • 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 introducing students to a very wide range of philosophical topics. All MPhil students are expected to attend this seminar every week.

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. 

Many postgraduate students run seminars themselves on special topics. The Faculty website has details of current groups and research events here. Postgraduate students are strongly encouraged to attend the Moral Sciences Club, which meets weekly in term to discuss papers normally given by visiting philosophers.


Intermission/ Examination Allowances

If your work is hindered or interrupted by medical, financial or other problems you should discuss your options with the MPhil Course Director and the Postgraduate Tutor in your college. Depending on the circumstances of your difficulties, it may be appropriate for you to request an intermission; or, if the problem occurs during an examination period, an examination allowance. More information on Intermission can be found on the following webpage:

More information on examination allowances can be found on the following webpage:

We understand that sometimes it might be difficult to talk about personal problems, but the staff in the Faculty are here to help, and are positive in finding solutions to help you continue your studies. Please feel free to also consult the Postgraduate Secretary if you would like to discuss these, and other options, at any point in your studies.


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 secretary. The form can be found here:

In cases where the marks given to the dissertation by the two examiners prior to the viva are significantly different, one purpose of the viva is to help them to come, if possible, to an agreed mark. However, 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 examiners may decide to move their mark up or down, in the light of the viva. For example, the candidate may persuade them during the viva that objections to the argument of the dissertation they had formulated while reading it are not valid; in such a case they may move their marks up. Or the candidate may show an ignorance of relevant literature and a failure to respond to objections which persuades the examiners that a principle of charity which they had applied in reaching their marks was not warranted; in such a case they may move their marks down. Only in exceptional circumstances, however, should their post-viva agreed mark be more than 5 marks outside the range of their pre-viva marks. The viva will usually concentrate on the dissertation, but it may also include questions on the general area of philosophy in which it falls. 


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: