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The course is intended for students who have a substantial background in geography or a related discipline with a good first degree. It aims to provide: (i) broad-based training in geographical research, its philosophical backgrounds and debates, and interpretation of geographical literature, (ii) comprehensive training in research methods in human geography and the social sciences as a whole, and (iii) the opportunity to develop large-scale research management skills by completing a research thesis under academic supervision and guidance.

The course bridges the gap between first degree and PhD, and aims to develop general transferable skills for research employment in a wide range of walks of life, or as the first stage of a PhD thesis. The MPhil thesis element can be a freestanding project, but is usually used as a vehicle for developing plans and research design for subsequent doctoral research.

Students develop their skills of assessing contrasting theories, explanations and policies; collecting, critically judging, evaluating and interpreting varied forms of evidence; preparing maps and diagrams; employing various methods of collecting and analysing spatial and environmental information; combining and interpreting different types of evidence to tackle specific problems; and recognising the ethical and moral dimensions of study.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the 11 months, students taking the MPhil in Geographical Research will be expected to have:

  • Acquired a broad knowledge of qualitative research methods and general statistics
  • Acquired the skills to use library and internet resources independently
  • Acquired specialist knowledge of the relevant literature related to their thesis
  • Acquired skills to independently structure their research design
  • Given a presentation on their thesis to their peers and academic staff
  • Written three essays and one thesis


Students wishing to continue to a PhD in Geography must reapply for admission to a PhD before the end of their MPhil. To be accepted they must satisfy a good pass level in all the assessed units of their MPhil and achieve 70 per cent overall, with particular attention given to the level of performance in their thesis component. However, readmission is not automatic to high-performing MPhil students. In addition a student must demonstrate suitability to undertake a PhD and make a full specification of their research proposal which allows the suitability of the topic to assessed. They must also have the agreement of a supervisor to supervise, based on the appropriateness of the PhD proposal to the expertise of the academic staff in the department.


Most students pursue specific topics tailored to their individual needs by arrangement in small reading groups or in one-to-one discussions with their supervisors. The course also consists of a research project and taught elements including the Social Science Research Methods modules and additional training on elements such as research design and ethics.


Written feedback on each submitted essay and the dissertation. Students receive written termly progress reports.



20,000-word dissertation; oral examination at discretion of examiners.


Three essays or other exercises of up to 4,000 words.

Practical assessment

Some practical assessment for Research Methods courses.

Funding Opportunities

ESRC funding for applicants who plan to continue to PhD study. Note that award of an ESRC studentship does not guarantee continuation to the PhD; students still need to submit a fresh application for admission to the PhD.

AHRC Masters via CHESS Scheme for AHRC topics approved for the AHRC DTP at University of Cambridge.

General Funding Opportunities

Apply using the Applicant Portal

The Apply Now button on the right will take you to the Applicant Portal, where you can create and submit your application and supporting documents, and request references.

An application is only complete when:

  1. you have submitted your application and supporting documents via the Applicant Portal
  2. you have paid the £60 application fee
  3. your referees have provided their references.

If you miss the deadlines specified in this section, you will not be able to submit your application.

Applicants should include information explaining their motivation for the MPhil and details of any employment or other non-academic experience relevant to the subject of the MPhil.

Selection Process

Applications are currently reviewed when they are received (rolling admissions).

Further information on How To Apply

Visit the MPhil in Geographical Research page on the University of Cambridge website for more details!




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Recipient: University of Cambridge

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