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University of Cambridge

MPhil social anthropology research review

Hi student roomers, I wanted to put some candid thoughts out there on the Cambridge MPhil Social anthropological research which I graduated from a year ago. Is it worth doing ?
Lots of opportunities to write and research about things you want to. Free rein to choose essay questions and dissertation topics.
Cambridge is pretty magical and there’s some hard hitting academics in the department
Lots of chances to hear academics in the department speak on their work and get involved
Low pressure seminars and courses - none of these are graded but you’re expected to turn up.
Some of the “core seminars” are really interesting, for example ethnographic writing outside academia, social anthropology in other departments like conservation
If you have come through the Cambridge HSPS undergrad then great- this course is catered to you
Not much support - assessment tasks do not come with many instructions, if you haven’t had experience in Cambridge style writing or expectations figure it out by yourself
Very mixed quality of lectures - some are brilliant, some are reallllly poorly delivered , boring and everyone just does other stuff on their laptops. There’s definitely not a focus on teaching and communication skills - but some academics do have these. The methods lectures are useless and don’t prepare you for fieldwork, no guidance on how to approach this. Big workload without much structure beyond “write a dissertation” etc. There was a whole 1.5 hour seminar on outdated podcasting technology. This sounds really negative BUT you can succeed if you’re not familiar with cam already but it’s not designed for you, and you have to work hard and don’t expect the department to really understand. To quote someone in the program I asked for help “if you’re smart enough to be here, you’re smart enough to figure it out” !!!

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