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Applying: PhD

king's college

PhD Study at MMLL


Which of the Faculty's Sections offer PhD study?

PhD study is offered in each of the Faculty's Sections: French, German, Italian, Slavonic Studies, Spanish & Portuguese, Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, and also in the Centre for Film and Screen Studies.

Overview of a PhD course

A PhD (formally known as Doctor of Philosophy) is a substantial piece of original scholarship, for which the research and writing-up can be reasonably expected to be completed in three to four years (or for part-time students, where this is offered, five to seven years).  In MMLL the maximum word limit is 80,000 words. For the purposes of a PhD, the notion of originality means that the thesis should represent a significant contribution to learning, through the discovery of new knowledge, or through the connection of previously unrelated facts, or the development of new theory, or the revision of older views, or some combination of these different criteria. 

During the period of research, students will  work closely with a Supervisor who is a specialist in their research area. Students are additionally assigned an Advisor who acts as a second point of contact for academic advice. In addition to providing specialist supervision, the Faculty runs a programme of professional training for the benefit of all research students.


Please see the central prospectus for the exact requirements (you will need to search for the particular PhD course you are interested in).​  It is noted that language skills in a particular area may be required depending on the specific nature of your research proposal.

How to Apply & Funding

You can apply online at the Postgraduate Admissions website.  Their site also provides detail on the course structure and content, fee rates, information on the College system, and information regarding the application process. 

Please find further information regarding applications and funding on our Applying and funding page and our Applying: PhD page.

Supporting Documents

When you apply online you will be asked to upload your supporting documents:

  • Academic transcripts for any degree-level courses you have taken.
  • Evidence of your English ability (if you are not a native English speaker).
  • A sample of writing, of approx 5,000-10,000 words. The sample can be either an essay produced during master's-level studies or a section of a dissertation, and must be a single-authored work. 
  • A research proposal, approx 500-1,000 words, written in English.
  • Your curriculum vitae (CV).

In the applications portal you will be asked to enter details of your nominated referees. They will then be sent an automated email asking them to provide an electronic reference via the applications portal. It is recommended that you allow several weeks before the application/funding deadline to allow time for this process.

Further information on supporting documents can be found on the Postgraduate Admissions website.

Finding a Prospective Supervisor

Doctoral study is a team effort. It is conducted under the supervision of at least one member of Cambridge’s academic staff. Before submitting a PhD application to Cambridge, students are strongly recommended to approach relevant professors and enquire about the possibility of their service as a Supervisor. This approach is normally done via email, and it is completely informal. Its purpose is help you determine the availability and degree of research fit of relevant professors at Cambridge. As a first step, explore the Faculty's Sections and Centres (see Which Sections? above and then follow the relevant link to staff pages) and familiarise yourself with the publications and projects undertaken by our professors. Once you have identified a potential supervisor, please send an expression of interest to them via email with your CV and as much of your research proposal as possible. Please do not reach out to more than one professor at the same time. Making such an approach will help you nominate a Supervisor when you eventually submit your application. The Faculty will take this nomination into account, although there is no guarantee that this Supervisor will be formally appointed if you are accepted to the PhD. The MMLL Degree Committee regularly monitors the supervision load for each member of academic staff and may decide to appoint another suitable Supervisor, if necessary. Please note that admission to the PhD is made by committee at the Faculty level in accordance with University standards and guidelines; potential Supervisors can only contribute to admission decisions.

Consideration of Applications

Applicants who apply for US Gates funding by the October funding deadline may normally expect to receive an admissions decision in December.  All other applicants who apply by the funding deadline in January may normally expect to receive a decision before the end of March, and the majority of offers are made in February and March.  Following the funding deadlines, applications are processed on a rolling basis and applicants may normally expect a decision within 12 weeks following the submission of their completed application and required supporting documents.  Occasionally, applicants may not receive a decision within the normal timeframe due to being placed on a reserve list.  If this is the case then the Faculty will be in touch to let applicants know.  Normally the latest date for decisions to be communicated is the end of June.

Consortium in Latin American Cultural Studies 

If you are applying to the Section of Spanish and Portuguese and wish to work on any topic within Latin American literary, visual, or cultural studies, you may wish to read about the Consortium in Latin American Cultural Studies for PhD students.