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Mother and child in The Gambia

The PhD in Social Anthropology is intended for students who already have full training at undergraduate and/or Master's level in the methods and perspectives of Social/Cultural Anthropology. A first class Honours degree or strong High Pass in a Master's degree in Social Anthropology is normally required.

The course includes intensive fieldwork training in the first year, a research period of 12 to 18 months, and a further year for writing the dissertation (a maximum of four years is allowed in total). Students work under the guidance of a principal Supervisor and a Faculty Advisor, and the Department also provides compulsory training and specialist seminars which students are expected to attend. Opportunities are available for teaching practice for senior PhD students.

The PhD course consists in the first place of nine months training in research issues and methods culminating in the preparation of a research proposal. This training can either be undertaken through the nine-month (three-term) Pre-Fieldwork Course or through the one-year MRes in Social Anthropology. Students undertaking the PhD Pre-Fieldwork Course can expect to leave for field research at the end of their third term (June-July). Those undertaking the MRes course can expect to leave for fieldwork in their fourth term (October-December).

Students whose MRes or PhD projects will require fluency in an unfamiliar language must build into their application statement and their research proposal a consideration of how and when they will acquire the necessary language skills for their fieldwork.

Further details about the PhD in Social Anthropology, including information about eligibility, funding, training and assessment  and how to submit your supporting documents can be found on the Graduate Admissions website.  To apply, visit the PhD pages in the Graduate Admissions Course Directory. (Applications for October 2020 entry open from 2 September 2019 and close on 30 April 2020. Applications for funding close at noon on 7 January 2020).


Supervision of Graduate Students


All students who are admitted to the Department of Social Anthropology will be assigned a Supervisor to support and guide their work. Your supervisor will be an expert in his or her field of research and will meet you regularly to discuss your work and oversee your progress.

Prospective MRes and PhD students are encouraged to consult the Department's Academic Staff Directory to help them in identifying a potential supervisor. One of the requirements for admission of applicants wishing to undertake a research degree is the agreement of a senior member (normally a member of Departmental staff) to act as supervisor of the student's work. Those seeking admission may indicate on their application form whether they have a specific supervisor in mind: this is not compulsory, and it does not guarantee that the named individual will agree to act as supervisor.



The Department has excellent facilities to support PhD students in their research.

The Haddon Library houses a wide range of anthropological literature, journals, access to online materials and copies of previous MPhil and PhD theses dating back over a century,

The Mongolia & Inner Asia Studies Unit is a dynamic interdisciplinary research unit at the University of Cambridge based within the Department of Social Anthropology. It was founded in 1986 by Professor Caroline Humphrey and Professor Urgunge Onon and has since become a centre of international importance for studies on the region.

The Department is particularly proud to host a significant research collection in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Several of the Museum's curators also teach in the Department:

The Department has a well-equipped Visual Anthropology laboratory, with a selection of cameras, and workstations with film-editing software and a large collection of anthropological films.

 The Department hosts a vibrant student society, CUSAS, run by undergraduate and postgraduate students. CUSAS run a series of activities across the academic year, details of which can be found at:

The Department runs a series of events entitled Anthropology, Beyond the Academy, in which speakers from a range of careers reflect on the ways in which having studied anthropology has informed their work.  Highlights in 2018-19 have included artist Sir Antony Gormley, author, publisher and philanthropist Dr Sigrid Rausing, and contributors from such fields as advertising, public administration, international health care, and global aid and diplomacy.

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology is a free, open access teaching and learning resource hosted by the University of Cambridge. Its goal is to facilitate access to scholarship in Social Anthropology for experts and non-experts worldwide. All entries are written and peer-reviewed by leading academics.

The Department provides a basement area for exclusive use of postgraduate students, which includes desk space for post-fieldwork doctoral research students who are writing up their dissertations and a separate room for MPhil students.

Students also have access to a range of University-wide support, including language learning through the Language Centre, training on research methods through the SSRMP, careers advice through the Cambridge University Careers Service and support for disabled students from the Disability Resource Centre. Students can also access Research Seminars at one of the Area Studies centres in the university: African, Middle Eastern, Latin American, South Asian, Mongolia and Inner Asian and the Scott Polar Research Institute.



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