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Course Details

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The full-time PhD course lasts for a minimum of nine terms (three years), and up to a maximum of twelve terms (four years). Most of our PhD students spend their second year away from Cambridge, conducting their fieldwork for which some limited financial assistance is available.

In the first year of the PhD programme there is a focus on training in research methods and transferable skills. First year students attend a compulsory Research Methods and Approaches course that provides a conceptual foundation for research in Development Studies, including training in theories of knowledge. Students are also able to attend practical training courses on the research methods that they will use, run by the university’s Social Sciences Research Methods Training Programme (

Students are encouraged to attend a wide range of seminars and other events that are organised by the Centre of Development Studies and departments throughout the University.

PhD presentation seminars are held twice a term, on Thursdays, as part of the Centre of Development Studies Speakers Series. All PhD students (first, second and third years) attend these seminars and give a presentation on their own research during their PhD.

The essence of the Cambridge experience remains, however, the work with the PhD supervisor. He or she will help develop the thesis project through discussion and the review of draft materials presented by the candidate.

The process of working on the thesis will differ from candidate to candidate, depending on their project, their preferences and the style of supervision adopted. However, in general, it is expected that the first year will be devoted to the development of a detailed and well thought-through thesis outline and methodology. In particular, at the outset, the student should devote some time to considering how he or she will be making an original contribution to the field through his or her work.