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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


The MPhil in History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine is a nine-month course that starts in October each year. The course is conducted by means of supervisions and seminars. Students submit two essays and a dissertation. Work for each essay and the dissertation is separately supervised by senior members and associates of the Department.

Programme specification for the MPhil course

Code of Practice for Master's Students

MPhil teaching

The MPhil programme is administered by a senior member of staff, the MPhil Manager, who meets all new MPhil students as a group in early October, then sees each of the students individually to discuss their proposed essay and dissertation topics. The Manager is responsible for helping you find appropriate supervisors for each of these topics; the supervisors are then responsible for helping you to do the research and writing needed for the essays and the dissertation. The MPhil Manager will see you at regular intervals during the year to discuss progress and offer help and advice.

Supervisions are designed to provide you with the opportunity to set your own agenda for your studies. The supervisor's job is to support your research, not to grade your work; your submitted essays and dissertation will be examined by others. Your supervisor for any one piece of work is never allowed to examine it too.

If problems arise with research or supervision, you should talk to your supervisors, the MPhil Manager or your College Graduate Tutor.

You must be resident in Cambridge throughout the duration of the nine-month MPhil course. The word 'vacation' has a technical meaning in Cambridge. It does not mean 'holiday' but 'research time' and you will be expected to work for most of those periods (though of course you should take a break for a week or so over Christmas and Easter).

Seminars and lectures

MPhil students must attend the MPhil and Part III lectures, which meet on Wednesdays during term at 3pm.

The purpose of the lectures is to introduce research topics, methods and approaches adopted by the Department's teaching officers. Normally the lecture will last for 45 minutes with another 45 minutes left for questions and answers, although the precise format may depend on the session. Following (or in some cases preceding) each session the lecturer will canvass interest and announce the schedule for a small group seminar that explores the topics of the corresponding lecture in more depth. All MPhil students should attend each lecture, but they can choose which subsequent seminars to follow. Each student must follow at least one seminar in Michaelmas and one in Lent.

Part III and MPhil timetable

In addition, MPhil students should go to the Departmental Seminar and regularly attend at least one of the other seminars and reading groups arranged by the Department.

Seminars and reading groups

A wide range of postgraduate training workshops is offered throughout the year. You are strongly advised to attend all of those particularly targeted at MPhil students, but you are very welcome to come to others that are of interest to you too.

Postgraduate and postdoc training

The Department offers a full programme of undergraduate lectures for Part II in the Natural Sciences Tripos. Many of these lecture courses are relevant to, and appropriate for, MPhil students. You are strongly advised to attend relevant Part II lectures. The MPhil Manager and your supervisors can help you identify lectures that are close to your interests.

Part II timetable

Whipple Library

The Whipple Library is the largest specialist library of its kind in the UK and provides the basis for the Department's research and teaching. It holds copies of all readings used in the MPhil and Part III seminars.

There are computers for accessing the Library catalogue, the internet, electronic journals and other subscribed electronic resources. The Library also has a scanner, microfilm reader and photocopier. User education sessions are held during Michaelmas Term.

Please register at the Library desk on your first visit with your University Card. MPhil students may borrow up to 10 items for up to 4 weeks, excluding items that are 'on reserve', which can be borrowed from 4.00pm until 12.30pm the next day (weekends from Friday to Monday).

Whipple Library

Continuation to the PhD

MPhil students who would like to continue to the PhD should submit an online application. The application should include a research proposal of at least 600 words. The deadline for applying is 16 May, but you will need to apply earlier than this if you wish to be considered for funding.

The Director of Postgraduate Education is happy to advise MPhil students planning to continue to the PhD, and there is a postgraduate training workshop about this in Michaelmas Term.

Please see our postgraduate study pages for more information about the PhD, how to apply and how to get funding.

Postgraduate study