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Teaching and Supervisions

Teaching for this MPhil takes place through a combination of fortnightly core seminars, specialist modules and individual supervisions. Students are encouraged to make full use of Cambridge’s extensive resources and expertise and to design their own scheme of study in consultation with their supervisor and MPhil SAR Tutor.


Core seminars

These run fortnightly during term and centre on contemporary anthropological practice and professional development. These include training in writing research proposals, non-anthropological outputs (e.g. blogs, news items and comment pieces), producing podcasts or other audiovisual material, and preparing research presentations. They will also feature a range of guest speakers who are drawing on their anthropological backgrounds in various fields, such as journalism, policy consultancy and the civil service. Core seminars are central to the degree and attended by all students.


Specialist modules

Specialist modules run in half-termly (i.e. 4 week) blocks by members of staff. These revolve around lecturers’ research specialisms, and are an excellent opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge about particular topics, themes and concerns. Seminars are focused around discussions of key readings and enable thorough exploration of contemporary theories and ethnographies. Students choose 6 out of a selection of modules every year, taking 2 every half-term. (Please note that modules will change every year, and may be cancelled if there aren’t enough students enrolled for them.)

The range of specialist modules on offer can be viewed here.  Please note that this is an indicative selection as modules will vary from year to year.



Each MPhil student is supervised by a member of staff who will provide guidance throughout the course. Please note that supervision styles vary according to the supervisor - indeed, we consider this to be one of the benefits of the individual attention that a Cambridge MPhil provides. Students will meet with their supervisors on a one-to-one basis throughout the course to formulate their research plans, discuss their progress and obtain feedback on their written work (practical writing exercise, essays, dissertation).

Current MPhil students applying for the PhD or MRes should discuss their writing samples with their principal supervisor. It will be expected that students will submit at least one of their MPhil essays with their application so that the PhD Committee can evaluate their engagement with an anthropological topic and its literature. It is also expected that one of their referees will be a member of our departmental staff, usually the supervisor.


Collection of Ethnographic Material

Students should be aware that because the dissertation is an exercise in advanced independent study, some field-based study may be desirable as one among several possible ways to gather ethnographic material for your dissertation. You should discuss this as early as possible with your principal supervisor. 

Most but not all MPhil dissertations in our Department involve some on-site collection of ethnographic material. The methods used may vary, but in all cases students should concentrate on subjecting the material they collect to effective anthropological discussion and analysis. Any work that requires absence from Cambridge must be done during the Christmas, Easter or summer vacation periods, not during the eight-week periods of full term (October-December; January-March; April-May). Please ensure that you have read information on the University's Safeguarding Work Away website. You need to agree the details of your planned field-based study with your supervisor and bear the following points in mind:


Leave to Work Away

Before students depart for their period of field-based study students must obtain official ‘Leave to Work Away’ and complete an MPhil Risk Assessment and Ethical Statement Form both of which must be signed by your supervisor and which will be sent to the MPhil Coordinator for approval.   You should apply for ‘Leave to Work Away’ for all absences over two weeks. This must be initiated through your CamSIS self-service account during the term prior to departure.  For more information please see the University's advice for those applying for Leave to Work Away. If your absence is less than two weeks you do not need to complete a Leave to Work Away request but should still complete a Risk Assessment and Ethical Statement form.

Risks and Safety

In order to carry out field-based study you must have attended the University of Cambridge Postgraduate Safety Course, which is run at the start of Michaelmas and Lent terms.

Please ensure that you have read information on the University's Safeguarding Work Away website.

Before leaving to conduct field-based study you must have discussed with your supervisor any possible risks and dangers involved in your field-based study and must be adequately insured. You must make contingency plans should things go wrong, inform the Department, your College and your next of kin of these plans, and ensure that all the parties concerned have the relevant contact details.

The necessary forms are your guarantee that you have considered the risks involved and put in place the necessary arrangements.  MPhil students traveling to high risk areas, or where the travel is high risk because of health concerns, should complete the High Risk additional Section Form.  Please be aware that approval of high risk travel by MPhil students is only given in exceptional circumstances.

Coronavirus, travel and risk assessment

The University policy and advice on Coronavirus can be found here -


As mentioned above, you should ensure that you have sufficient insurance in place before departing. The University offers free travel insurance to students conducting overseas fieldwork.  Please note that some claims associated with unregulated accommodation such as AirBnb will not be covered by university travel insurance if there has not been a suitable consideration of potential risk (financial, crime, safety).

Dissertation Expenses Grant

MPhil students in the Department needing help with the costs associated with their dissertation, including costs of field-based study during vacations, should apply to the Dissertation Expenses Grant.


Course Resources

For reading lists, additional teaching materials, past exam papers and reports please see the MPhil Moodle Course.

Please note teaching staff and students enrolled on the MPhil course will automatically be enrolled on the MPhil Moodle course and you will find a link to it in the ‘My Home’ section of Moodle.

If you are a member of the University of Cambridge and you wish to view the reading lists, past exam questions and exam reports then you can access the MPhil Moodle Course as a guest. For more information on how to access Moodle Courses as a guest please see Moodle Help.