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Department of Sociology


This page outlines our answers to some of the most frequent questions regarding the PhD Sociology 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.

Further information can be found on the Graduate Study website: 

Last Updated 27/07/2020

Do I need to be physically present to secure my place on the PhD programme?

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. 

However, in these exceptional circumstances, exceptions may be made on the grounds of travel restrictions, susceptibility to infectious diseases and health issues. These exceptional circumstances are outlined in the University statement [link]. 

If you anticipate travel to or residency in Cambridge will put you at significant risk, please approach your College in the first instance, which will be able to advise on further steps, including deferral, intermission, or permission to study remotely. 

Would students be able to defer under the current circumstances?

The department would encourage you to start your course in October if you can, however deferrals to Lent and Easter terms are allowed under the current circumstances. We would advise you to contact your supervisor for advice and follow the University procedure if you are considering deferring your study.

How can I initiate the deferral process?

If you fall within one or more exceptional circumstances (higher susceptibility to infectious diseases, if you have disability or if you are subject to travel restrictions), you might be able to request either an intermission (recommencing study next academic year), deferral (a later start date this academic year) or working remotely. 

The first step is to approach your College, which is responsible for assessing your particular circumstances. Once you have obtained approval (in principle) to defer, intermit, or work remotely from your College, you should then contact your supervisor and the Sociology Department’s postgraduate administration team, who will guide you through the process.  

Please see the "Deferring my Application" page [link] for more details. 

Will I pay accommodations if I am not physically in Cambridge?

You will not need to pay accommodation if you are not physically in Cambridge. You will remain liable for University Composition Fees [link]. 

What is the deadline to accept my place and to meet offer conditions?

In recognition of the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Graduate Admission Office has extended both acceptance and offer conditions deadlines to 21 August 2020 for all offer-holders 

If you are unable to meet this new deadline but believe that you will be able to meet your offer conditions before your course commences, then a request for an extension beyond 21 August 2020 may be considered. To apply for an extension please download and complete the Offer Conditions Extension Request Form [link]. Completed forms should be emailed to with 'Deadline extension request' in the subject line. We will consider each application on a case-by-case basis and update you accordingly via your self-service portal and/or by email. 

What if I won’t receive my transcripts or results until after the course starts?

The Department can provisionally allow you to start your programme in October and you can then register to the University by 9 November 2020 

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.

Are there opportunities to apply for funding within the university?

If you do not have funding prior to the start of your studies, your chances of getting significant funding is lower once you are registered. There are some small funding opportunities within your College, these are mostly to support fieldwork or support to attend conferences.  

When can I contact my supervisor?

You can email them any time, but please keep your communication concise if possible and give supervisors about a week to reply.  

Is it allowed to have different supervisors in different areas?

Traditionally PhD Students have one supervisor and a Faculty Advisor; joint supervision are acceptable but will need to be approved by the Graduate Education Committee (GEC). If you are looking to arrange a second supervisor you should reach out the Postgraduate Administrator [link]. You can also establish a supervisor collaboration with external institutions (I.e you can have a primary supervisor in Cambridge and a second supervisor at Paris Sorbonne) 

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

You will have the opportunity to meet your supervisor virtually with the same frequency as in previous years. We will offer the same exposure to lecturers and seminars to students; you will have the opportunity to join seminar series and pre-existing reading groups as well as to set up your own reading groups. Any teaching and community building opportunities that we have been delivered in person so far will be now moved online as far as possible.

Are all my teaching and supervisions going to be online?

As research student, you will have the opportunity to attend a fortnightly lunchtime seminars on Tuesday and one-to-one meetings with your supervisor as part of your educational experience at Cambridge.

You are also welcomed to join MPhil and undergraduate core and subsidiary lectures. During Michaelmas Term all lectures will be online, eight lectures per MPhil pathway. Depending on the student’s decision or ability to arrive in Cambridge, we may arrange in person supervisions and small group sessions provided that social distancing rules allow for it. The department follows Government and University guidance on this and for health and safety reasons this might not be possible.

This arrangement is also applicable to Lent and Easter Terms, as the guidelines allow for greater social interaction, we will adjust our reaching offering opportunities as and when is relevant and possible.

Will students be able to access the librares?

The Cambridge Libraries have developed new zero-contact services [link] to enable students safe access to the texts they need for their studies during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes a carefully controlled collection point at which they will be able to pick up books ordered online, return books to an external drop box, and request digital scans. The University Library [link] is not open for studying at present, although some college libraries are opening on a case-by-case basis.