What You Can Expect from Us
- What we expect from you
- What you can expect from us
- What you cannot expect from us
We aim to provide opportunities for outstanding graduate study in all areas of English Literature. You can expect to be in regular contact with acknowledged authorities in your chosen field, and to have access to resources for research which are among the best in the world. We usually admit around seventy graduate students from all around the world each year, who should be among the brightest people in higher education. The Cambridge University Library is one of only three copyright libraries in England. It can be relied upon to contain the vast majority of twentieth century printed materials on most topics, and a large number of early printed books and manuscripts. It also subscribes to a growing number of electronic resources (such as the Chadwyck-Healey Literature Online service and the MLA Bibliography online) which are available to all students in the University. The Faculty and your supervisor will provide you with guidance about how best to use these resources.
We treat all applications made to us equally, and we consider them as swiftly as possible. In considering applications we take equal account of your academic record, your written work, your proposal, and whether we can provide first class supervision in your area. Competition is intense. If you have a query about your application you can contact The Director of Graduate Studies, 9 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP, tel. 01223 335076 . We normally reply to queries within five working days. The deadline for the submission of applications for M.Phil. and Ph.D. courses is 11 January. Owing to the large number of applications which we receive we cannot guarantee to inform you of the result of the application before early March, but we will try to do so if you have an urgent need to know.
You should be assigned a supervisor before or on your arrival in Cambridge. The supervisor can be expected to be a specialist in the general field in which you propose to work, although he or she cannot be expected to know about every aspect of the topic on which you hope to work. Your supervisor will assist you in refining your research topic, will oversee the general direction of your work, and should give you a clear indication of whether what you are doing is up to the standard normally expected for the degree towards which you are working. You can reasonably expect to meet your supervisor on average once a month to report on your progress, and more frequently than this if you are starting work on a Ph.D. Most supervisors expect you to make contact with them rather than vice versa, and it is important not to allow yourself to go for longer than a term without a meeting. Most supervisors like to see at least one substantial piece of written work each term.
If you are taking an M.Phil. course meetings might be less frequent in the part of the year (usually the first two terms) in which you are doing the bulk of the coursework and might be more frequent in the part of the year in which you are preparing your dissertation. It is usual practice for students to remain with the same supervisor for the whole of their course. There are inevitably some circumstances in which this cannot be guaranteed: if your supervisor goes on leave you will be temporarily assigned to another expert in the field; if your topic evolves in a new direction you may benefit from moving to someone else; if, as occasionally happens, a relationship with a supervisor does not work it is clearly desirable to transfer to another supervisor. There are occasions too when students feel that they would benefit from a fresh perspective, and supervisors can offer advice about ways of making contact with other members of the Faculty, or with academics in other Faculties or other universities in order to broaden the base of a student’s knowledge.
In addition to their supervisor, Ph.D. students are assigned an advisor, who is a member of the Faculty with expertise in the student’s field. The student has a formal advisory meeting with the supervisor and the advisor once a year. The advisor is also available for less formal consultation from the outset. M.Phil. students do not have formal advisors in addition to their supervisors, but the Assistant Director of Graduate Studies (discussed in the next section) and the members of the Faculty responsible for organising each M.Phil. course are always happy to offer advice and support.
Three academic officers in the Faculty have particular responsibility for graduate work: The Director of Graduate Studies oversees the general running of graduate courses, and is always available to see students who encounter difficulties or who have queries about their course; the Assistant Director of Graduate Studies has particular responsibility for students who are taking one year M.Phil. courses; the Chair of the Degree Committee has overall responsibility for graduate affairs in the Faculty. In addition to these officers the Faculty has a full-time graduate administrative assistant who is a very helpful source of advice and support to students. Graduate representatives on the Faculty Board ensure that the views of graduate students are heard in the Faculty, and a Graduate Consultative Committee meets regularly to discuss matters of concern to students. The Faculty runs a wide range of graduate seminars, which cover all of the major areas of work (each period has its own seminar; in addition there are normally seminars on literary theory, Commonwealth literature, drama, psychoanalysis and the humanities, and the history of the book). These provide a forum for students to hear recent work by scholars in each of these fields, as well as giving a chance for Ph.D. students to give papers which relate to their own researches. There is also a Graduate Research Forum, run by graduates, which addresses research and career issues. Seminars are often also social occasions, and many are followed by informal gatherings after they have formally ended. The quality of all aspects of graduate study is regularly monitored, and questionnaires soliciting feedback from students are regularly circulated.
You will be told about the teaching arrangements for your course within the first week of your first term. You will be told which elements in your chosen course are compulsory and which are optional, and you will receive information about a range of additional classes and facilities in the University that you might find useful. As a member of the University you will be able to attend any undergraduate lectures which interest you in the English Faculty or other Faculties (e.g. History, Philosophy, Modern and Medieval Languages). The start of your graduate career is an ideal time to fill in any gaps which you have in your knowledge, or to acquire any ancillary skills, such as languages or computing skills, which will help you later in your career. Excellent language laboratories, computing facilities and libraries provide resources for anyone who wishes to develop their knowledge in any of these areas. You will receive guidance about the resources for research (printed and electronic) available to you and how to use them.
Although graduate research revolves around independent study, it needn't be a solitary experience. The English Faculty building at 9 West Road, a step away from the University Library, provides a place where you can meet and work alongside other English graduates. In addition to the English Faculty library, which graduates are welcome to use, there is a special graduate study area, with computers and lockers, and a graduate common room. Many lecturers have offices in the faculty building, and the building also houses a drama studio, seminar and supervision rooms, social spaces and the Degree Committee office, which is the first port of call for graduate queries. The faculty also has a limited number of laptop computers for loan to graduate students.
Colleges provide a range of social and sporting facilities, as well as varying levels of accommodation and of computing facilities. Colleges usually have a Tutor for Graduates, who can offer help with personal or financial difficulties. If for any reason students find it awkward to discuss any matter with their supervisor a Graduate Tutor can often provide an additional level of support. Some Colleges may also have some funds available for attending conferences and similar academic needs. The University Counselling service also offers confidential support to graduate students.
Most of our graduate students find their time here strenuous but rewarding. Most would accept that what they have got out of their course is in direct proportion to what they have put in.
If the career of a graduate student does not go well it is usually because they either do not enjoy working for the majority of their time on their own, or because they arrive in the expectation of receiving a more directive form of education from us than we usually offer. Do not expect to be spoon-fed while you are here. You will spend long hours in the library working on a topic which on a black day might seem to be of interest to no-one else in the world. You should bear in mind that you will probably be poor, and that you will almost certainly have to spend a great deal of time reading material which you find unappetising in order to master your chosen field. Your supervisor will help you clarify your ideas, will make sure that your work is on target for swift completion, will reassure you that your work is up to the required standard, and will stop you careering down blind alleys. Your supervisor will also give you access to the information and resources which should enable you to produce first class research; but he or she will not write your thesis. No one will make you take advantage of all the range of educational facilities that are available, although we hope that everyone whom we accept will be fully able to do so.
We aim to produce a high proportion of graduate students who go on to successful careers in higher education. Those who do so, and many of those who do not, recognise that their period of graduate research laid the foundations for all of their subsequent thinking and writing. Your graduate career is the one point in your life when you can direct your reading and concentrate on nothing else. Only you can make sure that you make the best possible use of it.