Making an Application


To start the application process you must first visit the Postgraduate Admissions website where you will be able to access the Application Portal. It is important that you read through the information available on this website before submitting your application.

If you are seeking funding for your course, there are specific deadlines and eligibility criteria for each funding competition. Please check the funding webpages and the Application and Funding Deadlines for more information. You may also find it helpful to find out about funding for home students or funding for overseas students before you apply.

All postgraduate students in Cambridge are members of a College as well as of a Faculty of the University, and those applying through the Postgraduate Admission website for a place on the course will find themselves invited to list a number of Colleges in order of preference. It is a good idea to consult the prospectuses of a number of Colleges before you apply.

For applications for admission in Michaelmas Term 2024 and beyond, there is no application fee for application to the PhD; there is a £50 fee for application to the MPhil.

Application fee waivers are available in some specific circumstances, including UK applicants from low income households and applicants with asylum seeker or refugee status. Please see the Postgraduate Admissions Application Fee Waivers page for further details.

Once you have submitted your online application form you will be sent an email with details on how to access your Self-Service Account. Please note that after submitting your online application form, there may be a delay of up to 48 hours before you are able to access your self-service account and submit supporting documentation

Applications are first considered by the Faculty and then potential supervisors are consulted. If you are applying for the PhD you may be asked to interview in person, by telephone or online at this stage. Successful applications are then offered to the Colleges of the student's choice, and may be then passed on to the second or third choice.

*The final deadline for applications for entry in 2024-25 is 3 January, 2024.*

Please consider applying a few weeks earlier than this deadline as this will help us administratively and give more time for your referees to submit their references. If you are a US citizen and you wish to apply for the US Gates award you should submit your application by the deadline of 11 October 2023. If you are not put forward for funding your application will then be considered with the rest of the applications that are submitted in January.

Admissions Requirements

The high number of applications we receive means that postgraduate admission is often very competitive. The majority of students accepted onto the MPhil have a first class BA degree or its overseas equivalent, and the majority of students accepted for the PhD have similarly strong MA marks. But we recognise that things sometimes do not go a candidate’s way in examinations, that a sparkling examination style is not always the best qualification for postgraduate work, and that candidates can have different academic and professional journeys. The Faculty regularly accepts candidates with strong 2.1s, or mature students who have not pursued an orthodox pattern of higher education, provided that such applicants have strong backing from their referees, have a feasible topic, provide a recent high-quality writing sample, and are well qualified for their proposed course of research. The Faculty also considers a wide range of contextual factors when making decisions on applications, as part of the Faculty and University’s wider drive towards widening participation. Applicants whose first degrees are in other disciplines are always considered, provided they can give an account of how their interest in literary studies has developed. We welcome qualified UK, EU, and overseas applicants. Those for whom English is not a first language are required by the University’s Postgraduate Admissions office to provide evidence of competence in English.

Assessment of Applications

In reaching decisions about applications the Applications Committee takes particular account of the following:

  • Academic record and references: Applicants for the MPhil must normally have a good 2.1 Honours Degree, or equivalent, while applicants for the PhD must normally have a Master's degree with merit or the equivalent. If your degree is not from the UK, please check International Qualifications to find the equivalent in your country.
  • Course Suitability: The candidate’s academic expertise must be suitable for the proposed course (including knowledge of foreign languages if required).
  • Research Proposal: The applicant's research proposal (800 words for a PhD, 500 for an MPhil) should suggest a realistic program of work for a 15,000 word dissertation (MPhil) or 80,000 word dissertation (PhD).
    Please note: if you are offered a place at Cambridge, it will be to work on the topic proposed in your research proposal. Whilst topics usually evolve once students start to work on them, and we will do everything we can to support this, we do not guarantee to accommodate absolute changes of direction or period. If you propose such a change after an offer has been made and we are unable to accommodate it, you will have the choice either to stick with your original topic or to withdraw.
  • Supervisor Match: The Faculty must be able to provide a suitable supervisor for all MPhil and PhD students offered a place. This is of even more importance for PhD study, given the one-to-one supervision nature of the PhD programme. Faculty members cannot accept applicants as supervisees before a candidate has been accepted. Applicants do not need to have advance approval of a Faculty member before you apply, but you should nominate one or more potential supervisors on the application form to demonstrate that you have researched the Faculty and know which Faculty members have appropriate expertise for your proposed research.
  • Written Work: The written work can be one long piece or several shorter essays amounting to around 5,000-7,000 words. Applicants may submit any work they like, but it is worth choosing work which is recent and which relates to your proposed area of study, if this is available. Many applicants submit their undergraduate dissertation, Masters dissertation, or similar extended piece of work. Our assessment of the critical skill, scholarly integrity, and originality of the written work carries great weight in the admission procedure.
  • In reaching decisions about offers, the Applications Committee also considers the Faculty’s commitment to sustaining its existing Faculty postgraduate research strengths, as well as expanding to include new areas of research.

Guidance for Referees

Candidates are required to provide references that speak to their academic record, calibre and suitability for their chosen course of postgraduate study. Candidates should direct referees to the University’s general guidance for referees.

Candidates are also advised to indicate that their referees should take especial care with their ranking of the candidate within their current cohort. This information plays a role in the assessment process so it needs to be as accurate as possible. Referees should wherever possible base this answer on exact information (e.g. class lists or essay mark rank lists). Candidates for whom a referee has not provided an exact ranking, or no ranking at all, may be disadvantaged.


If you have any queries about the admissions process please contact:

The Postgraduate Office
9 West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DP
United Kingdom

Tel. 01223 335076