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PhD (Doctorate) Programme

PhD and Research Work

This page contains general information about becoming a research student in French and the paths towards PhD (Doctorate) work. A separate page gives full details of the MPhil Programmes to which French contributes.

Resources, Topics and Supervisors

The French Section offers PhD supervision in an exceptional range of areas of French and francophone studies. It contains world-leading researchers in the literature, thought, and culture of the Middle Ages,  the early modern period, the nineteenth century, and the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as well as in cinema and linguistics. There is usually more than one specialist in any given field, which allows PhD students to enter into wider conversations and feel part of an intellectual community.  For more information on current research in French, please see here.

Although formal application for a PhD must be made through the central Postgraduate Admissions Office, potential applicants are encouraged to contact an appropriate member of staff in French for personal advice and to discuss the feasibility of their topic. Applications for both full-time and part-time research degrees are welcomed.

Prospective PhD students interested in other fields, or who have general questions about the course, should feel free to get in touch with the French Section’s liaison for graduate studies, Dr Claire White.

The MPhil Route

The requirement for admission to the PhD is an overall distinction (or equivalent) in a Master’s or MPhil degree in a relevant field. If a candidate’s application is taken forward, the candidate will also be interviewed.

We welcome students both from within Cambridge and who have begun their postgraduate studies at other UK or international institutions. Cambridge French itself participates in three MPhil programmes:

The various essays and the MPhil thesis are all individually supervised, and are considered an excellent preparation for the full-scale research and dissertation of the PhD. In addition, the topic of the MPhil thesis may, and often does, form the foundation of the PhD. Please follow the links above for more information.

Research Training and Feedback

During your PhD research, you will work closely with a supervisor who is an expert in your research area. Regular contact and written work are expected as part of what is a close, structured collaboration. You will also be assigned an advisor, who will normally have an interest in your research area and is available to offer advice on your project.

Postgraduate students are admitted in the first instance for a probationary period during which they are not registered as a candidate for the PhD degree. The registration interview in the third term (or the fifth term for part-time candidates) is the context in which formal registration as a candidate is considered. From then on, further interviews are carried out as part of the formal monitoring of all students’ progress. These provide the opportunity for PhD students to submit reports on their work, and to discuss their projects and wider professional development with two members of the Section.

In addition to providing specialist supervision, the Faculty also runs a programme of professional training for the benefit of all research students. These include training sessions for using library and online resources, sessions in research techniques, as well as guidance in various aspects of career development, including teaching and publishing.

Research Climate and Seminars

The French Section has one of the largest and most successful groups of postgraduates in French in the country. It fosters a dynamic research culture with plenty of opportunities for exchange between postgraduate students at different stages, and between postgraduate students and academic staff. Each year, we run separate Medieval, Early Modern, Nineteenth Century, Modern and Linguistics seminars, each hosting local and national experts as well as distinguished speakers from abroad. All students are warmly invited to take part.

Postgraduates themselves organise the Cambridge French Graduate Research Seminar. During the year, papers are given mostly by Cambridge postgraduate students. This provides them with an opportunity to discuss individual projects with researchers in neighbouring fields as well as useful practice in preparing for teaching and giving conference papers. Over the last few years, doctoral students in French have, in addition, organised a successful annual conference, drawing postgraduates from UK and international universities and hosting distinguished keynote speakers.

Research students have access to the Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics Faculty library, which has a very good working collection in French Studies. They can also enjoy the exceptionally rich resources of the University Library, which is one of the UK and Ireland’s six Legal Deposit Libraries. Research students from all language departments are able to meet and work in the purpose-built Graduate Centre MMLL, which offers IT facilities.

Please click here for a list of current PhD students in French and here for student testimonials.

Latest News

Professor Charles Forsdick elected Corresponding Fellow of Australian Academy of the Humanities

27 November 2023

We are pleased to share that Professor Charles Forsdick has been elected a corresponding fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities.

MMLL Alumnus give talk at Magdalene College

21 November 2023

We are pleased to invite you to the talk, 'The Teacher as Anti-Hero', presented by Professor Nicholas Harrison, alumnus of MMLL.

Former MMLL student, Oliver Wilson, wins French Screen Studies essay prize

16 November 2023

We are pleased to share that Oliver Wilson, a former MMLL undergraduate and MPhil student in ELAC has won an essay competition run by the journal ' French Screen Studies .'

MMLL Cambridge to participate in prestigious Prix Goncourt

3 November 2023

We're pleased to share that the prestigious Prix Goncourt, the francophone equivalent of the Booker Prize, is coming to Cambridge! The laureate will be announced at an event hosted at the French Embassy on March 22, where representatives from 15 UK universities will gather, including two delegates from MMLL.

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