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PhD (Doctorate) Programme

PhD and Research Work

General Information

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

For current Cambridge final year undergraduates, an information meeting will be held by the Faculty in the second half of the Michaelmas term, but you should talk to your supervisors and Directors of Studies as early as possible in the academic year if you are interested in postgraduate studies.

Students who are in the final year of an undergraduate degree should start with the MPhil pages (an MPhil is equivalent to what is known of as an M.A. or Masters in most other universities). Students who have already completed an M.A. or equivalent (including the MPhil in

Cambridge) should feel free to contact an appropriate member of staff in French for personal advice. Applications for both full-time and part-time research degrees are welcomed.

Prospective PhD students should contact the Postgraduate Teaching and Examining Officer (PTEO), Prof. Emma Wilson, with any questions about postgraduate study.


Resources, Topics and Supervisors

For the PhD, the we have expertise and welcome candidates in most areas of French Studies, including Medieval, Early Modern, Modern and Francophone literary and cultural studies, as well as French linguistics, and topics involving philosophy, critical theory, gender, cinema, and other interdisciplinary areas (see staff details).

Those interested in other fields should consult the Postgraduate Teaching and Examining Officer (PTEO), Prof. Emma Wilson, about the availability of supervision.

The Modern Languages Faculty library has a good working collection of works in French Studies and the University Library's collection is very extensive. Many works are on open access and can be reserved on-line from College terminals.


For more information on current research in French, please see here.


The MPhil Route

The normal expectation by funding authorities and the Faculty is that postgraduate studies should begin with success in a Master's degree, to be followed, if they so wish, by a further two or three years' work towards a PhD. French participates in three MPhil programmes:

For details of these programmes, follow the links above. 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. Progress from the MPhil to the PhD is, however, not automatic - a distinction overall on the MPhil is required. Needless to say, we are also very happy to consider candidates wishing to take French options in the M.Phil. but who may not intend to embark upon further study at PhD level.

Research Training and Feedback

Both PhD students and MPhil students participate in formal training sessions for using library and online resources, sessions in research techniques, as well as appropriate sessions in all aspects of career development which are organised by the MMLL Faculty. Above all, PhD students also receive personal guidance and direction from their individual supervisor on research and writing in their topic area. The role of the doctoral supervisor is important because it offers - and requires - a close and structured collaboration, which depends on joint interest and motivation. Regular contact and written work are expected. The Department appoints an adviser as well as a supervisor to each PhD student, and there is also a French Department postgraduate adviser available for consultation. At the end of their third, sixth, and ninth terms of research, students submit reports on their work and are interviewed by two members of the Department, not only to check on their progress but also to provide further advice and stimulus.

Research Climate and Seminars

'Cambridge French' has one of the largest and most successful groups of postgraduates in French in the country, with very good relations between MPhil and PhD students, and with postgraduates in other language departments, who are all able to meet and work in the purpose-built Graduate Centre MMLL. Postgraduates themselves organise the Cambridge French Graduate Research Seminar, which brings together both lecturers and postgraduates. During the year papers are given mostly by the graduates, providing an opportunity to discuss individual research with researchers in neighbouring fields as well as useful practice in preparing for teaching and giving conference papers in due course. Over the last few years the FGRS has also gained a national reputation for its annual colloquium. Lecturers and postgraduates from other universities contribute, and the proceedings are regularly published. The French section also runs separate Medieval, Early Modern, Modern and Linguistics seminars where local and national experts as well as distinguished speakers from abroad give seminars during term. In addition there is a tradition of internationally known Conferences in French, often with a Renaissance theme, entitled Cambridge French Colloquia. Full details of these seminars are posted here and students are regularly informed by email. All students are welcome to attend. 

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

Latest News

Cambridge Medieval Literature and Culture Seminar 2022-23

26 September 2022

The Cambridge Medieval Literature & Culture Seminar (“CamMedSem”), formerly the Cambridge Medieval French Research Seminar, is an open space for scholars from the University of Cambridge, elsewhere in the UK, and beyond to present their current research, followed by discussion. The seminar is organised by doctoral...

Professor Emma Wilson elected as Fellow of the British Academy

25 July 2022

The French Section is delighted to announce that Professor Emma Wilson has been elected as Fellow of the British Academy . Emma Wilson researches contemporary visual culture, modern French literature and gender. She has written on contemporary women filmmakers in France, along with the uses of cinema to respond to loss and...

Cambridge Language Collective Creative Writing Competition winner announced

6 June 2022

We are thrilled to announce Sophie Clare's prose piece « je t’aime jusqu’aux étoiles » as the winner of the Cambridge Language Collective's French Creative Writing Competition! Well done to Jemimah Hawkes and Heather Magee, whose exceptional poems led the panel to award them joint second place. Congratulations to all...

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