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Centre of Development Studies


MPhil in Development Studies for intake October 2025 


Vietnam Fieldwork Photo (Alexandra Winkels)

The MPhil in Development Studies provides an inter-disciplinary training whose content and style have kept abreast with the changing reality of development concerns, and the changing requirements of those seeking to make a career in the development field. 

The course gives its students a firm grounding in political economics relevant to development, including the study of sociology, political science, law, economics and anthropology. We have close links with the other area centres within POLIS: African Studies, Latin American Studies and South Asian Studies which helps offer students a comparative lens. 

The inter-disciplinary approach is based on the recognition that together with the analytical rigour required of social scientists today, no important issue in development — poverty and inequality, population growth, the construction of the institutions, war and human rights, democratisation — can be properly understood without an inter-disciplinary perspective.  

The MPhil in Development Studies provides a framework within which students can construct a pathway suited to a wide range of differing interests and needs. Our students are free to select a broad inter-disciplinary set of subjects, while those who wish to continue their studies at the doctoral level can select a more specialised set of options concentrating on the analytical tools of their subject, and discover which university department or faculty is most suited to their research plans.

Course Structure 

The MPhil course consists of one compulsory core paper ‘Intellectual traditions of Development’, two modules selected from a range of optional papers and a 20,000 word dissertation.  


-The core paper is collectively taught by lecturers within the Centre of Development Studies and is offered in Michaelmas Term. It covers major approaches and themes in development thinking and practice. 

- In Lent Term, students will choose two out of the 6-8 optional papers (capped at 25 students each) which will provide a ‘deeper dive’ into some the themes and topics introduced in the core paper. 

All students will write two 5,000 word essays. For the first essay, due at the beginning of Lent term, students will be able to choose from a wide range of questions based on topics covered in the core paper. For the second essay, due at the beginning of Easter term, students will be able to select one topic from a range of questions based on the optional papers. Details about the papers can be found here.

-Students will apply to the course with a dissertation proposal and will submit a 15-20,000 word dissertation towards the end of Easter Term. Research carried out for the purpose of the dissertation must receive ethical approval by the Ethics Committee prior to the student commencing research otherwise the dissertation cannot be accepted. 

Readings and materials for POLIS papers and teaching represent a wide range of different views on major topics in politics and international relations. Many of these topics are subject to intense controversy and debate, and it is common to encounter contrasting and contentious arguments in them. The fact that a text is on a reading list or lecture material is not an endorsement of its content. Students at Cambridge are expected to engage with readings and other materials critically, carefully examining and where appropriate challenging evidence and arguments.

The Applications and Deadlines page contains details of the entry requirements and all the key dates to be aware of. 

The Fees and Funding page contains details of schemes specific to this course.

The FAQ page should cover anything else that the other pages have missed!

The Careers after the MPhil page provides examples of the wide range of careers our graduates move into.