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Faculty of Philosophy




Postgraduate students in the Faculty organise and prepare their work for assessment with the help of supervisors, who are appointed by the Degree Committee. Students are expected on most occasions to produce written work for supervisors to comment on and not to meet only for general discussion.  Students themselves are responsible for making sure that they meet their supervisor regularly. They should not expect to be chased if they do not come forward with work, but they should feel free to contact their supervisor for help or advice at any time.

Students’ interests and research topics often change as they progress and this may make it advisable for them to change their supervisors or to work away from Cambridge for a time. This is a perfectly normal situation and candidates should not hesitate to ask for a new supervisor if they need one. The best way is usually to discuss and agree the change informally with both present and prospective supervisors, before putting the request formally to the Director of Postgraduate Studies (MPhil Course Director in the case of MPhil students). If candidates need independent advice about making such a change they should consult the Director of Postgraduate Studies or other members of the Degree Committee.

Postgraduate students should take the initiative in discussing their work with each other, in attending (and reading papers to) seminars and in consulting members of the Faculty other than their supervisors.


MPhil candidates

MPhil candidates have an Advisor, who is responsible for helping the student choose essay and dissertation topics, as well as a supervisor for each of their three pieces of written work. In most cases the Advisor will be the supervisor for at least one piece of work, but MPhil students are encouraged to take the opportunity to work with several supervisors. MPhil students should meet with their essay or dissertation supervisors roughly fortnightly during Full Term, and with their Advisor as necessary. 


PhD/MLitt candidates

PhD/MLitt candidates have a principal Supervisor with whom they are expected to do most of their work; they also have an Advisor who will be able to give them additional advice and whom they should feel free to consult. Along with the principal Supervisor, the Advisor will take part in the various reviews of the candidate’s work. Students working for the PhD or MLitt should meet their Supervisors at least once a month during Full Term.



Supervising Undergraduates - possibility for PhD students

Much supervising of Philosophy undergraduates is done by University Lecturers and College Fellows, but postgraduate students who are registered for the PhD may offer to undertake supervisions, i.e. small group teaching of undergraduates, after their first year. Undergraduate supervision is arranged by College Directors of Studies in Philosophy, and paid for by the Colleges at standard, piecework rates (currently around £31 per hour). Students may undertake up to six hours per week for the twenty teaching weeks of the year.

Postgraduate students who wish to do some undergraduate supervising should discuss the possibility with their own supervisors and attend the training sessions that are provided by the Faculty. The Faculty Office keeps a register of research students who would like to supervise, which is circulated to Directors of Studies. The Faculty provides the Teaching and Transferable Skills course, which includes a session on supervising at the beginning of Michaelmas, for new supervisors in Philosophy.  The Centre for Personal and Professional Development also offers courses on supervising undergraduates. Help with supervision topics, and suggested reading for them, may be obtained from experienced undergraduate supervisors and from the Secretary of the Faculty Board.  The Faculty also produces a Guide to College Supervisions, which is circulated to Directors of Studies and all postgraduates.  Further copies can be obtained from the Faculty Office.


Leading Undergraduate Seminar Discussion groups and Logic Classes

Postgraduate students also have the opportunity to lead discussion groups for first and second year students and to assist in the running of first year logic classes. Those who are near completing their PhD may be invited by the Faculty to give a short course of lectures on the subject of their research.  All of these forms of teaching provide excellent experience and useful entries on CVs; and all are paid.

Postgraduate students considering taking part in supervising/teaching as mentioned above should consult University Guidance on working while studying, which can be found here. Please also see the Faculty's Guidelines for Discussion here.