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MPhil in Social Anthropology

Course Description

The MPhil in Social Anthropology is an 11 month taught Masters degree and can be taken as a freestanding qualification or as a route to the PhD. It is a demanding course that enables you to reach a high level of specialist knowledge in social anthropology within a short time and, subject to performance, equips you to undertake a research degree.

Problems in anthropological theory, interpretation, comparison and analysis are addressed in relation to particular ethnographies and substantive debates in the anthropological literature. Through critical reflection on a range of anthropological theories, and through practice in the application of those theories to bodies of ethnographic data, students acquire a thorough and intensive grounding in a range of styles of social anthropological analysis.

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

Course detail

The principal fields of anthropological analysis are covered in two courses in General Anthropology; one optional course in specialised learning, and a non-assessed course in theory and methods:

1. Production and Reproduction (Paper 1)
2. Systems of Power and Knowledge (Paper 2)
3. Optional Papers (Paper 3)
4. Theory, Methods and Enquiry in Social Anthropology (non-assessed Paper).

Divided into two strands (1) interdisciplinary perspectives and (2) professional process, the optional papers reflect the current research interests of Social Anthropology staff, and they vary from year to year. By way of example only, in 2015-2016, the Division offers the following options:

Interdisciplinary Perspectives:

- Science and Society
- The Anthropology of Post-Socialist Societies
- Anthropology of Visual and Media Culture.

Professional Process:

- Social Anthropology and Museums (Paper 3e)
- Medical Anthropology (Paper 3f).


Teaching for the MPhil is via introductory sessions, seminars, lectures and individual supervision. It is centred around four seminars (Kinship, Politics, Economics and Religion) that constitute the principal teaching of the General Anthropology. Those who are pursuing one of the professional options are expected to attend and take part in the above core seminars as well.

In addition to the seminars, the Division requires all MPhil students to attend the Part IIA lecturers for Papers SAN2, SAN3, and SAN4, plus one other Optional Paper to be chosen by the student during the first week of Michaelmas Term. Students are not expected to confine themselves exclusively to these lectures, but are encouraged to attend any lectures they find interesting. The Division also offers a separate research methodology course.

Each student will be supervised by a member of staff who can provide general guidance throughout the course. Students will meet their respective supervisors fortnightly and they will be expected to write essays. Supervisions provide an opportunity for them to discuss these essays and to raise wider questions on a one-to-one basis.


Students following the optional paper Social Anthropology and Museums are required to undertake four to six weeks practical work experience. Typically this requirement is fulfilled by the preparation of annual student exhibitions at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, although other museum work or an external placement may be arranged in consultation with the course coordinator and the student’s supervisor.


Each student is expected to write a total of 6-8 essays for supervision in Michaelmas and Lent. The supervisor usually makes written comments on the essays and discusses them in supervision sessions.

A student is also expected to write one set essay and one dissertation over the year on which they will receive written feedback from the assessors. Students may use their supervision time to seek advice from their supervisors.

Supervisors submit online progress reports at the end of each term via Cambridge Graduate Supervision Reporting System (CGSRS).


Continuation to the MRes or PhD is subject to the following:

- acceptance of an application for continuation by the PhD Committee;
- a mark of at least 70% in the MPhil is normally required for continuation to the PhD.

Applicants intending to continue to the MRes/PhD programme should state so in their statement of purpose, however acceptance for the MPhil does not guarantee that you will be accepted for continuation.

Funding Opportunities

All applicants are eligible to apply for the Wyse Bursary for Social Anthropology. A separate application must be made for this via the following link:

UK and EU nationals should note that applicants for the MPhil are not eligible for ESRC or Cambridge European Scholarship funding.

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

Visit the MPhil in Social Anthropology page on the University of Cambridge website for more details!

Entry Requirements

Applicants for this course should have achieved a UK High II.i Honours Degree. Applicants wishing to follow the options in Medical Anthropology or Social Anthropology and Museums would benefit from previous experience in these areas.

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