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MPhil in African Studies

Course Description

The MPhil in African Studies offers a taught course with a substantial research component, and provides an excellent foundation for students wanting to develop their knowledge of Africa. It is designed for students who wish to enhance their historical and contemporary understanding of Africa’s societies, politics, economies, and cultures, as well as for those who wish to apply for advanced research degrees. The degree thus offers a highly regarded postgraduate qualification relevant to a wide range of professional careers, as well as intensive research and language training for students planning to prepare a doctoral dissertation.

See the website http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/directory/hsafmpafs

Course detail

The course introduces the latest research approaches and methodologies in African studies at an advanced level. Students have the advantage of developing an interdisciplinary approach to critical thinking and academic writing, the opportunity to develop skills in an African language, and also receive specialist research training.

By the end of the course, students should have acquired:

1. A deeper knowledge and understanding of African studies and its critical debates.
2. A conceptual and contextual understanding enabling the evaluation of past and present research on Africa and its methodologies.
3. The knowledge and technical skills required for pursuing original research in their chosen area.
4. The ability to situate their own research within current and past methodological and interpretative developments in the field.
5. Increased proficiency in speaking an African language and/or in using an African language for academic purposes.


The MPhil in African Studies is structured by four key elements: a core course, an option course, a dissertation and language training.

African Language Training is also not a formal part of the degree assessment, but all students are required to demonstrate that they have attended language teaching and have made good progress at language acquisition. The language element of the MPhil course is jointly managed by the University of Cambridge Language Centre and the Centre of African Studies. All students are enrolled for Swahili Basic 1 at the University of Cambridge Language Centre, which is taught over 15 weeks during Michaelmas and Lent terms.


Formal assessment consists of two parts: coursework essays (submitted for the Core Course and the Option Course) and a dissertation (submitted at the end of the course). You are also required to submit a ‘practice essay’ on a topic related to your dissertation research, and also a formal dissertation proposal, but these are not formally assessed.

The dissertation must be submitted on the last day of Easter full term, and should be between 15,000 and 20,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography). It counts for 60% of the final mark. If the examiners consider it necessary, they may conduct an oral examination on the dissertation before the final MPhil Examiners' meeting in early July.

The Core Course is assessed by means of an essay of no more than 5,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography) on a topic chosen from a prescribed list of questions, which is distributed by the MPhil Office in the first week of Lent Term. The Option Courses are also assessed by means of an essay of not more than 5,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography). The Core Course essay and Option Course essay each count for 20% of the final mark and are submitted in Lent Term.
A compulsory practice essay on a topic related to the dissertation is to be submitted in Lent term. This essay does not count towards the final mark but a 'pass' mark is a progression requirement.

All students are enrolled for Swahili Basic 1 at the University of Cambridge Language Centre, which is taught over 15 weeks during Michaelmas and Lent Terms. Formal assessment consists of coursework (2 pieces of homework, 10% each) and two exams at the end of the course in Reading Comprehension (30%) and Listening Comprehension (20%) as well as one Oral Presentation (30%).

Progression requirement to proceed to examined coursework essays: 'Pass' mark for the compulsory practice essay submitted in Lent term (candidates are permitted one resubmission of the practice essay).


The Centre of African Studies does not offer a PhD course, but every year several of our MPhil students go on to study for a PhD in Cambridge or elsewhere.

Find out how to apply here http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/applying

Funding Opportunities

UAC Nigeria Fund (departmental grant for fieldwork)

Centre for History and Economics Prize Research Grant (grant for fieldwork)

The Charlie Bayne Travel Trust (travel grants for students with a disability)

For more information http://www.african.cam.ac.uk/fellowship

General Funding Opportunities http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/finance/funding

Visit the MPhil in African Studies page on the University of Cambridge website for more details!

Entry Requirements

Applicants for this course should have achieved a UK II.i Honours Degree. Applications are welcome from British, EU and international graduate students. Minimum qualifications are a solid 2.1 honours degree and an excellent command of English, although an upper 2.1 or first-class honours degree is normally required by the Centre of African Studies. All candidates for admission to the MPhil are expected to be of PhD potential and to have degree results in at least the top quarter of the graduating cohort at their previous university.

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