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Tnacilppa
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I'm not actually applying to do one, but I was wondering if anyone knew anything about the process of applying to study for a PhD at Cambridge.

A lot of people who I know with Cambridge PhDs seem to have been undergraduates at other universities. Is this true of the majority of people?

How are people chosen? Does one have to already be fairly specialised in one area?

Any info would be great, esp. in relation to a PhD in English.

Thanks,

Adam
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J.S.
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(Original post by Tnacilppa)
I'm not actually applying to do one, but I was wondering if anyone knew anything about the process of applying to study for a PhD at Cambridge.

A lot of people who I know with Cambridge PhDs seem to have been undergraduates at other universities. Is this true of the majority of people?

How are people chosen? Does one have to already be fairly specialised in one area?

Any info would be great, esp. in relation to a PhD in English.

Thanks,

Adam
I know the process for Econ/Politics, I assume it's the same for Eng. You apply either directly onto a research scheme, or an MPhil. The former allows you to 'get on with it', the latter involves a taught element and a dissertation with which you carry on once you've been 'upgraded' onto PhD status.

It's entirely possible to study for your doctorate there without an Oxbridge first degree, however they are very clearly biased and would prefer very much so if your first degree in Eng, came from say, UCL than Thames Valley! Also, process is very highly competitive, for the actual place and also funding too. Usually the bench mark would, I guess be a first class honours from one of the top universities in your field.
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Radagasty
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(Original post by Tnacilppa)
I'm not actually applying to do one, but I was wondering if anyone knew anything about the process of applying to study for a PhD at Cambridge.

A lot of people who I know with Cambridge PhDs seem to have been undergraduates at other universities. Is this true of the majority of people?

How are people chosen? Does one have to already be fairly specialised in one area?

Any info would be great, esp. in relation to a PhD in English.
I can't answer any of your specific questions, but I have been through the process, and have been accepted to read for a PhD (CPGS in the first instance) in Semiconductor Physics beginning this Oct.

Just for the record, I took my undergraduate degrees, BE(electrical engineering)/BA(linguistics), at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
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J.S.
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(Original post by Radagasty)
I can't answer any of your specific questions, but I have been through the process, and have been accepted to read for a PhD (CPGS in the first instance) in Semiconductor Physics beginning this Oct.

Just for the record, I took my undergraduate degrees, BE(electrical engineering)/BA(linguistics), at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
Congratulations
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Radagasty
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(Original post by J.S.)
Congratulations
Thank you.
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Radagasty
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(Original post by Tnacilppa)
A lot of people who I know with Cambridge PhDs seem to have been undergraduates at other universities. Is this true of the majority of people?

How are people chosen? Does one have to already be fairly specialised in one area?
Just a few further thoughts, keeping in mind my field is not English.

I would say the majority of Cantab PhDs did took their undergraduate degrees at other universities.

How are people chosen? I suppose three major criteria are undergraduate results, references and undergrad university, the third less so than the first two. I would say references are extremely important, and a weak reference will definitely count against you. In the arts, I imagine samples of previous work and the strength of one's research proposal are also important.

I don't think one has to be all that specialised in one's intended area, so long as the references clearly indicate that the candidate will be capable in that area. For example, my undergraduate degree is in electrical engineering, but I have been accepted to read for a PhD in semiconductor physics. Of course, the fields have to be broadly related, but not necessarily identical.
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Jacs
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I've just started my PhD at Cambridge and whilst there is an official route...applying for and MPhil ot going straight into the PhD there are ways in which to improve your chances of getting on the course.

I wrote to potential supervisors last summer in order to find out what they were like and whtehr they would be interested in my ideas, I did this for several universities. An enthusiastic reply is a good indicator of a good supervisor and also getting in touch with them lets them know your are keen and ensures you not just a face in the crowd.

The main problem is funding rather than getting a place, if you have a good relationship with potential supervisors they will be more likely to give you help when you are filling in applications to funding bodies.
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Tnacilppa
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(Original post by Jacs)
I've just started my PhD at Cambridge and whilst there is an official route...applying for and MPhil ot going straight into the PhD there are ways in which to improve your chances of getting on the course.

I wrote to potential supervisors last summer in order to find out what they were like and whtehr they would be interested in my ideas, I did this for several universities. An enthusiastic reply is a good indicator of a good supervisor and also getting in touch with them lets them know your are keen and ensures you not just a face in the crowd.

The main problem is funding rather than getting a place, if you have a good relationship with potential supervisors they will be more likely to give you help when you are filling in applications to funding bodies.

What kind of body provides funding? I mean for a PhD in Medicine I could understand why someone would fund research but what about for English Literature?

If funding isn't available, can one work at the same time? What about loans?

Adam
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Jacs
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Sorry Adam, I am doing a science PhD and I know that getting funding for Arts PhDs is a lot harder. Don't know many Arts students but sure that individual department web pages will give you information and like I said, if you contact a supervisor then he/she might be able to give you ideas.

working is another possiblity and if you're a post grad you can do undergraduate supervisions. All this of course does mean that you will be here a little longer.

Jacs
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Minta
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The list of postgrad courses seems mostly comprised of Phds and MPhils with a few Diplomas and Mst s, so how about MLitts? Cambridge do offer them, but where are they in the courses list??
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Alaric
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(Original post by Tnacilppa)
A lot of people who I know with Cambridge PhDs seem to have been undergraduates at other universities. Is this true of the majority of people?
I think my department aims to get it around half and half from cambridge and from other unis.
Perhaps my department is just peculiar though.

Alaric.
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Radagasty
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(Original post by Minta)
The list of postgrad courses seems mostly comprised of Phds and MPhils with a few Diplomas and Mst s, so how about MLitts? Cambridge do offer them, but where are they in the courses list??
I suspect that the MLitt is not all that popular; if one is going to do a two-year research degree, one might as well spend another year and try for a PhD.

The MLitt can be awarded, though, if a the work of a PhD candidate is not considered to be of sufficient quality, quantity or originality to qualify for the award of a doctoral degree.
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Minta
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Thanks for your reply, Radagasty! I was looking at academic appointments in the Oxford Gazette the other day, and lots of the ads mention that applicants should not have engaged in more than 3 years of full-time research ie should have (presumably) done thei PhD in the standard 3 years. Do people reakon it would be acceptable if you'd spent 1 year doing an MPhil and then 3 years doing a PhD ie 4 years of full-time research?
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J.S.
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(Original post by Minta)
Thanks for your reply, Radagasty! I was looking at academic appointments in the Oxford Gazette the other day, and lots of the ads mention that applicants should not have engaged in more than 3 years of full-time research ie should have (presumably) done thei PhD in the standard 3 years. Do people reakon it would be acceptable if you'd spent 1 year doing an MPhil and then 3 years doing a PhD ie 4 years of full-time research?

Yes, the Mphil is not considered doctoral research as such, even though some/all of your dissertation may go towards your doctoral thesis.

The system at Oxford and Cambridge is different to that of many other institutions, as you most probably know. For e.g. the Econ. Mphil. at Cambridge is a qualification in its own right, you may even take it as a stand alone degree. Whereas, for e.g. the LSE doesn't have an Mphil program per se, the Mphil at LSE is awarded if one isn't able to progress onto the doctorate. People studying at the LSE do not aim for the Mphil, it's something one obtains in the event of a 'failure'. So, during your mphil at the LSE, you are engaged in full time research, it's not a taught course. Suppose you can see why therefore that 4 years on Mphil/Dphil at Cambridge would meet the conditions of the Oxf. gazette, i.e. 1 yr MPhil, 3 yr PhD, as the mphil is essentially your taught/research combination masters degree rather than full time research as it would be at other institutions.
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Radagasty
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(Original post by Minta)
Thanks for your reply, Radagasty! I was looking at academic appointments in the Oxford Gazette the other day, and lots of the ads mention that applicants should not have engaged in more than 3 years of full-time research ie should have (presumably) done thei PhD in the standard 3 years. Do people reakon it would be acceptable if you'd spent 1 year doing an MPhil and then 3 years doing a PhD ie 4 years of full-time research?
Hmm... can you provide an example of such a stipulation?
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Minta
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(Original post by Radagasty)
Hmm... can you provide an example of such a stipulation?
Certainly, when I can get at my home computer which has the link on it (I'm too lazy to bother searching for the Ox Gazette here in New Zealand!)
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