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Course Summary

MPhil in Development Studies

The MPhil in Development Studies is a multi-disciplinary nine-month taught course which offers four core papers and a range of option papers. The core papers are the responsibility of the Centre of Development Studies. Most option papers are shared with other MPhil courses (Management; Financial Research; Planning, Growth and Regeneration; Social and Economic History; Politics, Environment, Society and Development; and Social Anthropological Analysis). Some option papers are full papers and some are half papers.

How the programme is assessed

Students are required to take the equivalent of four full papers:

  • two of the four papers must be core papers
  • the other two can either be a further selection of core papers, optional papers, or half papers (two half papers make up one full paper).

So for example, a selection of Paper 1 (core), Paper 3 (core), Paper 15 (full), Paper 900 (half) and Paper 340 (half) would meet the requirements.

The dissertation counts as an optional paper; it is not mandatory to complete a dissertation on this MPhil programme. Please see 'Dissertation' for more information.

Please see 'MPhil Module Choices' for more information on papers.


PhD in Development Studies

The full-time PhD course lasts for a minimum of nine terms (three years), up to a maximum of twelve terms (four years). Candidates must submit within that time-frame, unless they can invoke truly exceptional grounds (for instance a medical emergency) to justify deferring submission. Under certain circumstances, it is possible to spend time away from Cambridge to pursue research. Candidates on the three-year course are expected to devote themselves full-time to their studies.

What happens in the first year?

In the first year, PhD candidates will attend seminars on research methods.

Students will also work on producing their first year report. All candidates for the PhD programme are not at first registered for the degree, as they have to pass a registration exercise towards the end of the first academic year of study. This exercise is conducted by the supervisor and an additional assessor. The registration exercise aims to ensure that the candidate’s project is viable, that an appropriate methodology has been developed, and that the candidate is capable of carrying the project through successfully. Failure to pass the registration (which may be repeated only once) will result in removal from the course.

For the completion of the PhD thesis, PhD students need to follow the University’s detailed guidance on style, citations, printing, etc. All this information can be found at

How the programme is assessed

First Assessment: Registration

  • The assessment period for registration is the second two weeks of June. By mid-June, candidates must submit a progress essay of around 10,000-15,000 words.
  • The assessment will be carried out by the supervisor and an assessor.
  • The registration assessment usually takes one hour. It consists of a short presentation by the candidate of the aims and methods of the study, and the hypothesis/research question or anticipated argument(s).
  • In the subsequent discussion, the assessors must satisfy themselves that the project of the candidate is relevant and viable, offering the prospect of original discovery. They also review the methodology, including, where relevant, the choice of case studies, and consider the knowledge of the candidate of the relevant literature.
  • Registration will be recommended where both assessors have no doubts about the aptitude of the candidate and the viability of the project. Where the assessors raise some issues, but are minded to recommend registration in principle, they may invite the candidate to revise the assessment documents within two weeks. Registration will take place if the two assessors profess themselves satisfied with the revised work, without the need for a second oral assessment meeting. If the assessment results in a fail, the assessors shall invite the candidate to submit revised written work and repeat the exercise within three months.
  • A repeated assessment shall be attended by the Director of the PhD Programme or the Chair or Secretary of the Executive Committee and may also be attended by the supervisor. Where re-submission of the assessment documents is requested, the assessors shall furnish the candidate with a written report stating their concerns, to be communicated to the candidate through the supervisor. The aim of the report is to assist the candidate in addressing the concerns of the assessors in the revised submission.
  • If the assessors do not agree on registration after the second registration meeting, the candidate shall not be registered. The case will then be referred to the Executive Committee, which may recommend to the Degree Committee award of the Certificate of Diligent Study or other steps in lieu of allowing them to continue to read for the PhD.
  • If the repeated assessment succeeds, the candidate shall be registered in the ordinary way.

Academic staff leave

As members of a research-oriented institution, Cambridge University academic staff are entitled to sabbatical leave. As a result, it is possible that in any particular term or year one of the members of the academic staff may be away. The University always endeavours to make appropriate arrangements for substitute teaching, but occasionally one or another option may be suspended during a staff member's leave.

Transferable Skills Training

Further information regarding transferable skills available through the University can be found here


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