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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)


When/how can I apply?

  • Applications for 2023-24 are now open.
  • If you wish to be considered for Gates funding the deadline is 12th October 2022 for US citizens.
  • For all other funding, the deadline is 1st December 2022.
  • Applications close on 1st December 2022.

Applications are made online at

You will need to submit:

  • An application form, which takes the form of a web form
  • Two academic references
  • Full Transcript (or as up to date as you have available)
  • CV/resume
  • Research Proposal
  • Evidence of competence in English (if not exempt)

What are the academic requirements for entry?

Prospective applicants should have a First Class Honours degree from a UK university, or a First equivalent (please use this website to find out the international equivalent). A background in international relations, politics, law, economics, security or history is normal for students taking this course, but it is not an absolute requirement in all cases. However, 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.

NB: For applications from the United States - Although the wider University considers a GPA of 3.7 as equal to a UK First, this is a course of exceptionally high demand and so the Department has decided to make the entry requirement a high first (3.85 GPA).

I do not meet the academic requirement, can I still apply?

This course is very popular and a high volume of applications are received every year. If you have not achieved, or are not predicted to achieve, the required academic grades it is very unlikely you will be offered a place on the course.  If you do not achieve the required English Language scores you will not be admitted.

What are the language requirements?

A fluent command of written and spoken English is essential. Adherence to this requirement is strict, especially for candidates on one-year courses. 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 25 in each element). 

Please note the Department of Politics and International Studies does not refer applicants to the University’s Language Centre.

Do I need to submit a GRE/GMAT score as part of the application process?

Cambridge do not use the GRE system for admissions – our admissions panel will be looking at a combination of your research proposal, references and academic grades.

What should the Research Proposal contain?

This should be about 500 words, one to two pages, on any area of the syllabus and should indicate some familiarity with the context of the proposal and research methods to be employed. 

Please include each of the following elements:

  • well thought-out title
  • an explicit reference to the methods of research to be used (e.g. archival, discourse-analytical, empirical - whether quantitative, interview, or survey)
  • references to the relevant literature of which you are already aware, or which you expect to be able to consult
  • reasons why Cambridge is, in your view, a particularly appropriate research institution within which to carry out this research, including the presence of specific individual scholars with expertise in the field of your proposed dissertation, 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. Please note that the Research Proposal must be uploaded as a supporting document.

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 women 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 programme 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 Postgraduate Admissions Office.

Can I choose when I start my studies?

All courses start in Michaelmas Term (Beginning of October). Unfortunately it is not possible to start mid-year.

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 this of the courses.  Your application will be considered solely on the strength of your academic grades, references and research proposal.

Is it possible to apply for more than one MPhil course?

It is possible to apply for more than one of the MPhil courses that the University offers. However, you will need to submit a separate set of application materials for each programme that you apply for.

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 until the Department has made all of the offers available. 

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 but we aim to respond within 8 weeks.


Am I eligible for funding?

The funding bodies are separate to the department; your eligibility will be subject to your own circumstances and to the terms under which each body award their scholarships.

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

Further details can be found in the Funding section of the Postgraduate Admissions website.

Has the status changed for EU Applicants after Brexit?

EU/EEA/Swiss nationals starting a course in England from August 2021 will no longer be eligible for Home Fee status.

EEA and Swiss nationals moving to the UK for studies from 1 January 2021 will require a student visa, except Irish citizens who will continue to be able to enter and live in the UK as they do now.

What used to be the ‘Tier 4’ immigration route has become the ‘Student’ route. Non-EEA nationals will continue to be issued a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) as evidence of their student immigration permission. EEA and Swiss nationals will be issued a digital status which can be verified online. 

Am I eligible to work during my studies?

The University does not allow students to undertake paid work while they are studying full-time, and you should not expect to accrue additional income in this way.

It is a requirement of the University that all full-time graduate students have their funding fully in place before they start their course. Students on one-year courses are not allowed to undertake any type of paid work during their period of study.

How much will it cost?

As a postgraduate student at the University you are liable to pay the 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. 

Please click here for further information. 

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.

How many people are accepted onto the course each year?

We make approximately 140 offers each year, to fill 60-70 places.

Can I bring my family?

If you have a dependent partner, or children, you can bring them with you to Cambridge but you should think through the implications before you do so. There will be financial considerations and you will also have to plan your time very carefully so that no aspect of your life suffers.

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.

 Accommodation Service

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).

Please click here for Cambridge term dates. 

What are the common outcomes for graduates of this programme?

The most common outcomes for students on this course are the fields of media and journalism, research and consultancy, the Civil Service and other diplomatic careers such as the Foreign Office, NATO or the UN, human rights and developments (including NGOs), further academic study, or careers in the law.

Additional figures on University wide student outcomes can be found at