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When can I apply?

Admissions for 2017/18 will open on the 5th September 2016.

What are the academic requirements for entry?

Prospective applicants should have a First Class Honours degree and a distinction in their Masters degree from a UK university.  This equates to a minimum GPA of 3.85 at both levels from universities that use the US grading system or international equivalent. A background in international relations, politics, law, economics, security or history is a definite asset but is not a requirement. Each application will be assessed upon its own merits and the Department is by no means averse to receiving applications from candidates with unconventional backgrounds.

What are the language requirements?

A fluent command of written and spoken English is essential, and adherence to this requirement is strict. Students must be able to demonstrate that they are able to communicate in English at a level and in an idiom suitable to the subject.

Accepted English Language Tests and minimum levels

IELTS score of 7.5 (with a minimum of 7.0 in each individual component)

TOEFL score of 110 (with a minimum of 25 in each individual component)

Please note the Department of Politics and International Studies do not refer applicants to the University’s Language Centre, and the criteria listed here are the absolute minimum requirements of the program.

What is the deadline for applications?

The closing date for applications is 31st January 2017.

What supporting documents are required?

In addition to a completed application form:

Two academic references;

Transcripts of previous higher education degree results (though GRE/GMAT scores are not required);

Research proposal and title outlining the subject of the thesis and the means by which it is to be research.  We expect this to be 2 pages  length – please see below for further details.

Please note:

Your research proposal must be uploaded as a separate document.

Within the application form there is a section which asks you to either provide your reasons for applying for the course or a research proposal. We expect you to use this box to indicate your interest in the course, given that the research proposal is submitted separately.

Is there an application fee?

There is an application fee, this will be noted on the Graduate Admissions application page once it becomes live on the 5th of September. 

What should the Research Proposal contain?

The research proposal should be a concise outline of the subject of the thesis, with a working title, and include an indication of the methodology to be adopted and the sources to be used. It should be no more than 2 pages long, so be selective, consider the focus of your research, and what the main outline of your thinking is. Therefore, it should have a well considered title, an acknowledgement and brief discussion of the sort(s) of approach your work will take in terms of a framework or methodology (e.g. archival/historical, empirical/policy based, qualitative/quantitative) and the  particular question or questions you want to examine. A bibliography at this stage can and should only be limited, but we want to see reference to the relevant literature of which you are already aware, and some sense of that which you expect to be able to consult.

We also want a brief sense of why you think Cambridge generally, and POLIS particularly, is a particularly appropriate place for you to carry out this research, which should include reference to the presence of specific, individual scholars with expertise in the field of your proposed research, and whose supervision you would welcome

Please note if your application is successful we will search for an appropriate Supervisor, please do not contact potential supervisors yourself. 

How do I upload my supporting documents?

Within 24-48 hours of submitting your online application form and payment, you will be sent an email giving you access to your Self-Service account. Your Self-Service account will remind you of all the supporting documentation you need to provide, and you will be able to upload electronic copies via your account.

Which college should I apply to?

The University of Cambridge is a collegiate university, and each college offers an extra dimension to student life.  All students are required to be members of a college.

Cambridge colleges are not associated with particular academic disciplines.  All teaching for graduate students is provided by the department or faculty, not by the college. You are therefore free to apply to any college you choose. When you are choosing your college, you may like to think about the following questions:

  • Would I prefer an all-graduate college or an undergraduate college with graduate students?
  • How likely is it that the colleges I am considering will be able to provide me with living accommodation?
  • Do the colleges I am considering have large international communities?
  • Are these colleges able to offer travel or other grants?
  • (For female applicants) Would I prefer a women-only college or a mixed college?


When completing the application form for admission, you can indicate two college preferences for college membership or you can make an open application which will allow a computer program to make college choices for you.

The academic decision on whether to recommend you for a place on your chosen course is made by the Department to which you apply, not the college. Your application papers will be sent to the colleges only after a formal academic offer of admission has been made by the Graduate Admissions Office (Board of Graduate Studies).

Please note that once you have been allocated a college place it is not possible to change colleges.

Can I choose when I start my studies?

All courses start in Michaelmas Term (beginning of October), and unfortunately it is not possible to start mid-year. This is due to the principal induction events, and important aspects of the taught part of the course concerning methodology being held in Michaelmas Term.

Is it possible to visit the department?

Whilst we welcome applicants to visit the University, we hope to have provided all necessary information on the website.  Therefore we do not encourage applicants to visit the department as we do not want to prejudice the application process.

The department does not conduct interviews for any of the courses.  Your application will be considered solely on the materials which you have supplied.

Does the Department have mature students?

The Department has a number of mature students, and there are no age restrictions.

Are decisions regarding applications made on a rolling basis?

Decisions on applications are made on a rolling basis, however all applications received prior to the deadline will be given equal consideration.

When will I find out your decision?

Although applications will be considered on a rolling basis, it may be several months before the department makes a decision on your application.


Am I eligible for funding?

The funding bodies are separate to the department, and your eligibility will be subject both to your own circumstances and by the terms of which each body awards their scholarships.

The University holds two main funding rounds for all graduate applicants with deadlines in December and January for admittance the following academic year.

Further details can be found at the funding your studies section of the Graduate Admissions website.


How much will it cost?

You can find full information about course fees on the Graduate Admissions website.

As a graduate student at the University you are liable to pay a University Composition Fee (UCF) and you are also expected to have 'maintenance' funds to support your living costs whilst you are studying. The value of the UCF is dependent on your 'fee status', which is determined according to your nationality and place of permanent residence.

If you are made a conditional offer of admission to Cambridge, you will need to obtain sufficient funding for the full duration of your course. Evidence of funding is required before your admission to the University can be confirmed. This is known as a financial undertaking. 

I have missed the funding deadlines, are there any other opportunities available?

There may be other external funding opportunities, please consult the Cambridge Funding Search for further details.


Who will be my supervisor?

If your application is successful we will search for an appropriate supervisor, please do not approach potential supervisors yourself beforehand, as all our decisions about admissions are made by committee, not individual supervisors. You are however asked to consider, in your research proposal, who you think would be a possible academic supervisor for your work.

How many people are accepted onto the course each year?

The Department is looking to admit around 20 highly qualified candidates for the PhD programme per academic year.

Can I bring my family?

If you have a dependent partner, or children, you can of course bring them with you to Cambridge but you should be aware of the implications. There will obviously be financial considerations to consider (see below) and accommodation provision from colleges may be harder to obtain, for example (again, see below).

Further details please see 

Do I need to reside in Cambridge for the duration of my course?

If you are accepted for full-time graduate study at the University, you will be required to live in or close to Cambridge for at least the minimum period of study.

This means:

  • Living within ten miles of the city centre for research students and those taking most other graduate courses.

How do I organise my accommodation?

The colleges are able to house many of their full-time graduate students, either in the colleges themselves or in graduate hostels or purpose-built flats. However, few colleges can house all their student members. You may prefer to find your own living accommodation independently of the college, or may have to do so; this can be the case if you come to Cambridge with a partner or children as there is only limited college accommodation for couples and families. If your college is unable to provide accommodation for you, you can get help from the Accommodation Service and the Graduate Union. The Accommodation Service is responsible for letting 360 University-owned properties. These are a mixture of furnished and unfurnished one-, two- and three- bedroom flats and houses located at different sites across the city. Demand for these is high and priority is given to those who are new to Cambridge.


Can I leave Cambridge during the academic year?

The University year consists of three terms. Term dates are published on the University's website. No full-time student can be a candidate for a Cambridge degree unless he or she has spent at least three terms resident in Cambridge; for a term to be 'kept' a student has to reside in Cambridge for a minimum number of nights (59 for the Michaelmas and Lent Terms and 56 for the Easter Term). Students can apply for Leave to Work Away from Cambridge in order to conduct research following the successful completion of their first year registration exercise.

Please see link for Cambridge term dates