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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


The Department's Part III course is conducted by means of supervisions and seminars. Students are also encouraged to attend some of the wide range of relevant lectures offered in the Department and elsewhere in the University.

How to apply

The Part III course requires students to submit:

  • two Research Papers;
  • two Set Essays;
  • a Dissertation.

Work for each essay and the dissertation will be separately supervised by senior members and associates of the Department.

Part III students are encouraged to explore a range of different topics, balancing them so that they are both relevant to their interests and also span the subject of History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine. Discussions between the Part III Manager and each student are intended to ensure that all students follow an appropriate, individualised and sufficiently broad course of study; the formal approval of topics of essays and dissertation by the Degree Committee is intended to provide oversight of this procedure.

Research Papers

The two Research Papers are each on a different topic chosen in discussion with a supervisor. Students are encouraged to undertake original research in any area within the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine. The first Research Paper is due for submission at the end of Michaelmas Term; the second is due at the end of Lent Term. Each has a word limit of 5,000.

Set Essays

Every Part III student should attend the weekly Part III and MPhil lecture on Wednesdays during term at 3pm. During the first term, and at the beginning of the second term, these lectures are led by different senior members of the Department, and focus on selected readings in History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine. In addition to reading the texts prescribed for each seminar and discussing them in the seminar, students will be offered up to five supervisions with senior members or associates of the Department on the seminar readings, principally during Michaelmas Term, and will write a number of brief essays for discussion in supervision. In Lent Term, a list of subjects will be published relating to the topics covered in the Part III seminar. Students will be asked to choose two topics from this list on which to write the two essays of 2,500 words.


The Dissertation, of not more than 12,000 words, is submitted in Easter Term. Students are permitted to write their Dissertation in the same subject area as one of the Research Papers, but it must address a different question and it must show evidence of a substantial new research effort. The topic of the dissertation must be submitted for approval at the end of February.

Part III teaching

The Part III programme is administered by a senior member of staff, the Part III Manager, who meets all new Part III 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 finding appropriate supervisors for each of these topics; the supervisors are then responsible for helping the student do the research and writing needed for the essays and the dissertation. Students will see each of their supervisors on a very regular basis; the Part III Manager sees each student at regular intervals during the year to discuss progress and offer help and advice. Supervisions are designed to provide students with the opportunity to set their own agenda for their studies. The supervisor's job is to support the student's research, not to grade their work – supervisors are formally excluded from the examination process.

If problems arise with research or supervision, students should talk to their supervisors, or to the Part III Manager, or to the Secretary of the Degree Committee. The Director of Postgraduate Education will be happy to advise Part III students planning to go on to PhD research. All Part III students must be resident in Cambridge throughout the duration of the course.

Seminars and lectures

The Part III and MPhil lecture is the core teaching resource for the course. During the second half of the second term, and during the third term, there are seminars providing opportunities for Part III students to present their own work. Students are also strongly encouraged to attend the Departmental Seminar and other seminars, workshops and reading groups arranged regularly by the Department. Graduate training workshops, which run throughout the academic year, focus on key research, presentation, publication and employment skills.

Part III students are also strongly encouraged to attend some of the HPS Part II lectures for the papers they did not take the previous year, as well as relevant lectures and seminars held in other departments and faculties in the University. The Part III Manager and the supervisors will help indicate the lectures and seminars close to each student's interests.

How to apply

Students should email their application to by 21 March 2025. Applications should consist of the following:

  • A one-page statement of interests.
  • The student's unofficial transcript from CamSIS.
  • A work sample (this can be an essay or dissertation written during the Part II).
  • A letter of support from the student's College confirming that they support the student's intention to take HPS Part III, and arrangements are in place for a fourth year of study.
  • A reference from the current Director of Studies.

For those who have taken HPS Part II: the Department will normally expect students to obtain a 2:1 in their Part II exams.

For those who have not taken HPS Part II: the Department considers applications on a case-by-case basis. Students will normally be expected to obtain a high 2:1 in their Part II exams, and may be interviewed by a senior member of the Department.

Although their results will be published at the end of the Part II, students going on to the Part III must not graduate after their third year exams and will receive their BA once they have completed the Part III course, along with their MSci (assuming satisfactory performance in the Part III). Any student who in June remains unsure about whether or not they will be going on to the Part III will still have the opportunity to graduate in July.

There is a quota of 20 places for this course. If the course is oversubscribed, meeting the admissions criteria may not be sufficient to secure a place because if the number of applicants exceeds the quota there will be a ranking procedure. All plans to continue to HPS Part III must therefore be provisional until a place has been confirmed.

A preliminary shortlist will be decided upon in Easter Term, but the final decision on who will be offered a place will not be taken until after the Part II tripos results are announced. Letters will then be sent to all students informing them of the decision and telling those who are offered places on the Part III course that they should ensure their Colleges withdraw their names from those who will graduate.

Any appeals made by students not accepted for the Part III may be referred to the University's Applications Committee.

The Department is small and very friendly; the teaching staff particularly are highly approachable.