skip to primary navigationskip to content
 

Prospective Postgraduate students – Frequently asked questions

icon alert normal Please note that during the current Coronavirus outbreak, prospective postgraduate students, and offer holders, should refer in the first instance to the Postgraduate Admissions Office's dedicated pages with up to date information here

 

1.   I would like to apply for your MPhil in Philosophy. Can you tell me if I’m eligible?

  • Applicants to our MPhil should have a minimum of two years of study of philosophy at undergraduate level, and should have gained at least the equivalent of a high 2:1 (67%) in their undergraduate course. You can find out more about our MPhil admissions requirements here:      

       https://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/directory/phphmpphi

  • Our MPhil course is essentially a research course, in that students come to us to work with allocated supervisors on three pieces of coursework - a 4, 000 word essay, an 8, 000 word essay, and a 12, 000 word dissertation. Although there is a weekly MPhil seminar, and students may attend undergraduate lectures/seminars as they wish, there is no formal teaching for this course. For this reason, it’s important that applicants have a strong background in Philosophy before they arrive here.
  • If you don’t have at least 2 years of Philosophy at undergraduate level, then it’s unlikely that you would be a competitive applicant for this particular course.

Some students who don't have the required undergraduate background in Philosophy may take a taught Masters in Philosophy elsewhere before applying to our MPhil course.                                                                                                              

There is also the possibility to take our undergraduate course in two years as an affiliated student, which would then give you the required background for our MPhil course. More information about this option is here:

https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/why-cambridge/support/mature-students/second-undergraduate-degrees                                                                             

If you don't have the required background for the Philosophy MPhil course, and depending on your particular area of Philosophical interest, you might instead be interested in the MPhil course offered by the Department of Philosophy & History of Science at Cambridge:

https://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/study/graduate 

This course doesn’t have quite such strict entrance requirements with regards to background in Philosophy.  


2.  
I would like to apply for your PhD in Philosophy. Can you tell me if I’m eligible?

  • Applicants to  our PhD should have at least two years of undergraduate study in Philosophy, with the equivalent of a high 2:1, and should have a Masters in Philosophy. You can find out more about admission requirements here:

https://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/directory/phphpdphi/requirements 

  • If you don’t have an undergraduate background in Philosophy, you might also want to look at the PhD offered by the department of History and Philosophy of Science:

https://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/study/graduate/phd 

  • If you are unsure as to whether your Masters would meet our requirements, please send through a transcript of your current, and any other degree courses, and our Director of Postgraduate Admissions will assess your eligibility.


3. 
I have seen that you ask applicants to both your MPhil and PhD to submit two writing samples. Can you tell me some more about what is required from these samples?

  • Writing samples submitted should be your best, recent, philosophical work.
  • The word count of 3, 000 – 5, 000 words includes footnotes/references, but excludes bibliography.
  • Where applicants have shorter pieces of work, we would suggest expanding on them to bring them up to the word limit. If you submit pieces that are slightly under the word count, but are nonetheless strong pieces of work which you feel clearly demonstrate your ability to write well, this would still be acceptable.
  • If you wish to submit an extract from a longer piece of work as one of your writing samples, this is also acceptable, if you make it clear in your application which section you want the assessors to read, up to the 5, 000 word limit. Applicants should however make sure that the section is comprehensible on its own.
  • The purpose of the samples of work is to allow our assessors to see evidence of your ability to put across philosophical arguments. Assessors will be looking to see that you can write concisely and clearly, and will use the pieces of work to gain an impression of your argumentative abilities. Please submit pieces which you think match these criteria.
  • For PhD applicants, it will in addition be of advantage if one of your writing samples is in the proposed area of study.
  • For MPhil applicants, assessors are primarily looking for quality of writing. If you are able to submit a high quality piece of work that is also within the area that you intend to continue to work on at Cambridge, that is good, but it’s more important that you submit a high quality piece of work, even if it isn’t in the exact area that you would hope to come here to work on.


4. 
As a PhD applicant, am I expected to contact a potential supervisor before applying?

  • It is not a condition of applying that applicants have already secured in-principle agreement from a potential supervisor.
  • However, an important consideration when deciding which students to admit would be having staff within the Faculty who are able to supervise a student. A list of our staff and their areas of interest here: 
    https://www.phil.cam.ac.uk/people/teaching-research
  • Applications are looked at as a whole - i.e. academic record, references, writing samples, research proposal and fit with the Faculty. However, if your proposed area of research doesn’t tie in with the areas of interest of our staff, then you might be best advised to look at other courses/departments.


5. 
As an MPhil applicant, am I expected to contact a potential supervisor before applying?

  • We would not expect MPhil applicants to contact potential supervisors before submitting an application. You can however view the research interests of members of the Faculty here:

https://www.phil.cam.ac.uk/people/teaching-research

  • Applicants can write to Faculty members asking if they would in principle be interested in supervising research on certain topics, but Faculty members may only reply briefly.
  • The Faculty cannot guarantee allocation to specific supervisors before a student’s admission. Applicants admitted to the course are assigned an MPhil advisor, who would help them decide on topic/s, and assign a supervisor for each piece of work.
  • Students don’t need to arrive here knowing exactly what they are going to work on, but it is helpful to indicate research interests in your application, so that our assessors can gauge whether your interests match those of Faculty members, to be certain that we have relevant staff members who would be able to supervise you. At least one essay topic that you write on must be in the following areas of Philosophy, including their history: Metaphysics and Epistemology, Philosophy of Mind, Logic and Philosophy of language, Philosophy of Science, Ethics and Moral Psychology, Aesthetics, and Political and Legal Philosophy. Both essays cannot come from the same area. Your dissertation does not need to be from one of the above topics, but there would need to be a member of staff available to supervise the topic you choose, and MPhil advisors can help with this.


6. 
Can you give me some information about what funding opportunities might be available to me?

Any candidates who are offered a place, and have indicated on their application that they wish to apply for funding, are put forward by the Faculty to the University's funding competition. You can read more about how this works here:

https://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/finance/funding/graduate-funding-competition  

You can also view University funding sources here:

https://www.student-funding.cam.ac.uk/  

Some of these funds will be very specific to a certain background/research area etc, and won't just be reliant on the competitiveness of the academic side of your application.

The Faculty puts forward nominations for MPhil and PhD applicants to be considered for Gates funding. You can read more about Gates funding here:

https://www.gatescambridge.org/

The Faculty also puts forward nominations for PhD applicants to be considered for AHRC funding. You can find more information about it here:

https://www.oocdtp.ac.uk/

Colleges can offer different funding options, so it’s worthwhile looking into what the different Colleges can offer, before deciding which College to apply to. Details of Colleges are here:

https://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/colleges/college-key-facts-and-figures

The Faculty offers  one small PhD studentship (the Crausaz-Wordsworth Studentship), and one small MPhil Studentship (the Timothy Joyce Studentship). Further details of these studentships can be found via the University’s Funding Search:

https://www.student-funding.cam.ac.uk/

 

For information on English Language requirements, international equivalencies, submission of transcripts and supporting documents, etc. please see the Frequently Asked Questions on the Postgraduate Admissions webpages:

https://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/find-out-more/applicant-faq