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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


The PhD in History and Philosophy of Science is now offered as a part-time degree.

It is normally expected that applicants for the part-time PhD would be employed in a field related to HPS. Part-time students are also expected to play a full role in the life of the Department, for example via regular attendance at reading groups and seminars.

Most of the requirements for admission to part-time PhD studies, as well as regulations governing the degree, are the same as for the full-time PhD. Supervisors are appointed in the same way, and every part-time PhD student must be a member of a College.

However, there are a number of differences and special requirements.

Entry requirements

It is normally expected that part-time PhD applicants would have taken the Department's MPhil or Part III course and achieved a first class pass.

Length of course

For the part-time PhD the minimum research requirement is fifteen terms (i.e. five years). This is the total number of terms required to complete the PhD. Formal induction takes place in the first week of Michaelmas Term.

Residence requirements

Part-time students have no residence requirements, but are required to attend the University on a regular basis as prescribed by their Degree Committee. The HPS Degree Committee expects supervisors to articulate their expectations for time in Cambridge clearly to part-time PhD students. Overseas applicants need to provide evidence that they have received permission to remain in the UK for the minimum period required to complete the degree. The Student Registry can advise on this and related matters.


The total University Composition Fee for the degree is the same, whether taken by the full-time or the part-time route. In practice, this normally means that 60% of the full-time fee is charged for each term of registration as a part-time student. College fees are charged on the same basis.


Application procedure

When completing the online application form, applicants should give their reasons for choosing part-time study.

All applicants for the part-time PhD must attend an admission interview. Applicants will be advised when, where and how this interview will be conducted once their application for admission has been assessed.

Arrangements with employers

Employed applicants should provide a letter from their employer stating that they will be allowed time off to attend the University, as required, for the whole duration of their course. If research for the degree is to be conducted in the workplace, applicants must agree this with their employer and provide evidence of this consent in their application. The Department will need to assure itself that the supervisor will be granted reasonable access to the workplace on request.

Intellectual property rights

Employed applicants should note that arrangements for intellectual property rights must be agreed in advance. Applicants must ensure that their employer reads this page as well as the information on the Postgraduate Admissions website relating to this issue.

If the employer is not asserting any rights in the intellectual property created in the course of the research, a statement to this effect must be provided in writing within the application. Generally, this is expected to be the case where the employer is neither paying for the time of study nor contributing to fees. In the absence of any claim on the intellectual property by the employer, the position on intellectual property is identical to that of a full-time PhD student. More information on this is available on the Postgraduate Admissions website.

If the employer is claiming rights in the intellectual property, the applicant and the employer must sign a short agreement which, among other things, confirms the level of any sponsorship by the employer and also sets out the position on intellectual property. This is administered through the University's Research Operations Office. While the employer may wish to retain ownership in any intellectual property created by the student, the University will also want to ensure that regard is given to the intellectual property rights in any contributions from the supervisor or other members of the University, as well as its obligations to external sponsors. The University will also wish to make sure that the employer cannot restrict the use or exploitation of the student's share in any collaborative project in which the student takes part.

Financial arrangements

Candidates must produce a financial guarantee, or proof of means confirmed by a bank manager or other appropriate person, to cover at least the fees. The Postgraduate Admissions Office requires a guarantee based on capital for the fees element, but maintenance costs can be covered from various sources including income from the student's employment or from a partner. The Student Registry does not usually entertain requests for assistance with maintenance in case of hardship.

Although the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds part-time students, part-time awards provide only 50% of the full-time rate of tuition fees. This may cause difficulties since the University charges part-time students 60% of the full-time rate.

Progression from year to year

Annual progress paper

At the end of each calendar year (both before and after registration), the student and supervisor are required to meet to consider a brief but formal progress paper prepared by the student. The supervisor may invite other advisors as appropriate. 


The registration of part-time PhD students is the same as for full-time students except in the scheduling. Part-time students are required to undergo a registration exercise by the end of the fifth term if possible, and certainly by the end of the seventh term.

Registration, residence and submission dates

Registration and submission dates are based on the minimum research requirement of the PhD, which is three years of full-time research or five years of part-time research.

Minimum number of terms of research 15
Minimum number of terms of research in Cambridge
Leave to work away may be sought for the remainder. No more than the equivalent of ten part-time terms of leave to work away is permitted. Requests should be submitted in advance to the Degree Committee. Students are required to indicate whether the period of leave to work away is full-time or part-time.
Submission of draft thesis to supervisor
All part-time students who have not submitted their thesis for examination already must by the end of the sixteenth term submit a complete draft to their supervisor. This requirement is monitored by the Degree Committee.
Final submission deadline
Submission by last day of vacation following the term shown. Failure to meet this deadline results in automatic withdrawal from study.
The maximum number of terms for which exemptions or allowances are made following successful registration. Unlike terms of leave to work away, terms lost through intermission always count as part-time terms for part-time research students. Up to three terms of intermission at any one time may be requested, and not normally more than six terms in total throughout the whole PhD. The maximum time a part-time student may be registered for study and still submit a thesis is ten years.

Early submission: exemption for a qualification already obtained

Where exemption is sought for a previous qualification, the maximum number of terms for which exemption can be allowed is five terms, part-time, at the recommendation of the Degree Committee. Exemptions are normally applied for when a candidate is near completion and knows how many terms of research are required to complete the work. Early submission from part-time students who have no grounds for an exemption but who have been able to devote more time to their research than expected under the scheme is not permitted unless the full fee for the five-year minimum research period has been paid.

Transfers between part-time status and full-time status

Transfer of registration status is permitted, providing the student is still within the minimum research requirement. Transfers are not normally permitted after the end of the period for which the student is paying fees nor as a means of avoiding the original submission deadline. Transfer from full-time to part-time status is considered by the Degree Committee on a case-by-case basis and may be subject to the same restrictions as applying for entry to the part-time PhD.