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Department of Sociology


This page outlines our answers to some of the most frequent questions regarding the 2020-21 MPhil programme.

The Sociology Graduate Office and the Department as a whole are working hard to support our prospective students, and we will endeavour to help you as best as we can with the process going forward. We would like to thank you for your patience and understanding during this exceptionally difficult time.

FAQ Last Updated 24/07/2020

Will teaching for the academic year 2020-21 begin online?

Lectures will be delivered online and supervisions will initially be done online. We may move to in-person seminars and supervisions only if the guidance from the University allows this and we can ensure safety for all. We are working on plans to deliver the best possible experience during your time with us.

What will happen with lectures and supervisions from term to term?

There are three terms in each academic year. During Michaelmas Term, all core MPhil lectures will take place online. Teaching will consist of eight core lectures per pathway (one per week for the duration of Michaelmas Term). We may be able to arrange in-person supervisions for students who arrive in Cambridge, provided that social distancing rules allow for it and neither students nor staff are put at risk. However, in most cases, we anticipate that online supervisions will be safer and more convenient for students and staff alike.

Our arrangement is also applicable for Lent and Easter Terms. During Lent term we will offer methods courses online, and during both terms students will continue with their supervisions.

The Sociology department will follow Government and University guidance on social distancing, and as we have seen, this guidance may also change over time. As a result, we are unable to make any firm commitments at this stage, other than to say all lectures will take place online in Michaelmas Term.

We are confident that we can offer all the teaching, training and supervision, as well as opportunities for intellectual exchange online that we offer to every cohort.

How will you ensure that students will have enough opportunity to interact with each other and with lecturers?

We will offer the same exposure to lecturers and seminars to all students regardless of where you are, and as we have offered in the past to our MPhil students. You will also have the opportunity to virtually join our bi-weekly seminar series, webinars, and reading groups -- and we will facilitate you to set up your own online reading groups and discussion forums which can be joined from anywhere.

Will I be able to move to Cambridge?

The University’s registration guidance [link] is that students should take up residence in Cambridge and register in person at their college before they can begin their studies.

There are three primary reasons for which students may be granted permission to study remotely (without coming to Cambridge) in Michaelmas Term, including: higher susceptibility to infectious diseases, disabilities and travel restrictions.

We would like to reassure students that the Department is here to support you in case of any difficulties. If you anticipate travel to or residency in Cambridge will put you at significant risk, please contact your College and the Sociology Department as soon as possible and we can explore your options together.

Is it possible to take the MPhil programme entirely online?

From a departmental perspective, students could complete their entire course online, however the University’s registration guidance [link] is that students should take up residence in Cambridge and register in person at their college before they can begin their studies.

All departmental teaching will be provided online in the first instance. Lectures will be pre-recorded and released in advance, giving you time to watch them before the scheduled seminar sessions that will take place through Zoom.

Will students receive the reading list prior to the start of their course?

Yes, offer holders will receive summer reading lists customised for each pathway in July. Reading lists will only consist of readings that are digitally accessible through open access, and will therefore not require physical access to libraries. 

Have you envisaged an extension to meeting the offer conditions?

Yes, we have. The default position is that conditions to MT 2020 offers can be met by 21 August. Further extensions will be considered case by case and we encourage offer holders to contact Graduate Admissions Office directly. 

I need to book an English language test, but the test centre in my country is closed - what do I do?

Due to the test centre closures we are now also accepting the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition Test which may be taken at home, subject to eligibility (link). The online test is the same format and level as the one you would take at a test centre. If you take this test, please upload your certificate in the normal way. If you successfully pass the test at the required level for your course, you will then be assessed remotely by the Language Centre (free of charge) before we complete the English Language offer condition.

If you are not able, or do not wish to take the above test, you should continue to check the availability of the TOEFL and IELTS test centres in your country. If your course starts in Michaelmas Term 2020 (October), the deadline to provide meet your offer conditions has been extended to 21 August 2020, so there is currently still time to provide a test certificate by this date. We recommend you check the following websites regularly for updates on language test centres. 

Will students be able to defer under the current circumstances?

We are unable to offer deferrals to MPhil students at this time unless there is a compelling personal reason. Please see below for the process of applying for a deferral. 

MPhil offer-holders who decide not to take up their course in October 2020 can of course re-apply for October 2021 entry. While we would review your re-application favourably, we are at this time unable to guarantee that a supervisor would be available in 2021-22.  This will depend on the entering cohort of students, supervisor’s capacity and supervisor leave for research or personal reasons.

The method of requesting deferrals depends on the status of your offer and the time of the year. Please see the Deferring my Application ( page for more details. 

Does the Department recommend reapplying for 2021-2022?

Although we would try to regard any reapplications sympathetically, we cannot guarantee readmission for the following year as cohort and supervisor availability may change.

We can offer you the full MPhil programme online this year, potentially with in person teaching and supervisions later in the year, subject to the latest guidance, risk assessments, and health and safety requirements.

How do I reapply for 2021-22 entry?

The re-application function will be visible for all Michaelmas 2020 offer-holders and confirmed students who choose not to take up their place this October. Prospective students can log into the Application Self-Service portal and click the relevant button, which will allow a duplicated application to be submitted for Michaelmas 2021 study. All materials will be automatically re-submitted, including references. There is however no guarantee that their application will be successful next year since departments will assess applications against the entire 2021 cohort.