Part-Time PhD in History



A PhD in History remains fundamentally the same, whether studied full-time or part-time. The distinction lies in the amount of time that students are expected to be able to devote to their studies and, consequently, the timetable of the major milestones of the course.

In the first instance, we would strongly encourage you to read the full-time PhD pages for further information on the course in general.

Please also see the Postgraduate Admissions' general information on part-time study.

At a glance

Students will research and write a doctoral thesis of up to 80,000 words, representing an original contribution to knowledge.

They will be supported throughout the course by a Supervisor, an experienced Cambridge academic who will provide one-to-one advice and feedback. At the same time, the student will take part in Cambridge's vibrant research community, attending seminars, postgraduate workshops and a broad spectrum of skills training.

As well as regular meetings with your supervisor, students will have an annual progress meeting at which they submit an annual progress paper.

At the end of the fifth term, students submit a Progress Essay (up to 10,000) words and meet formally with their Supervisor and Advisor (another academic who provides additional guidance). This meeting determines whether the student has made sufficient progress to complete their thesis on schedule.

At the end of their research project, students submit their completed thesis and take part in an oral ('viva voce') examination on its contents. The two examiners will be leading academics in the field. 

Students can expect to receive:  

  • Regular oral feedback from their supervisor, as well as termly online feedback reports;
  • Oral feedback from peers during postgraduate workshops and seminars;
  • Access to regular training sessions and relevant undergraduate lectures to develop key skills;
  • Support for fieldwork research;
  • Opportunities to teach and supervise undergraduate students in their field of research.

Part-Time Admissions Questionnaire

In addition to your application, you must complete the Part-Time Admissions Questionnaire.

Download here: Part-Time Admissions Study Questionnaire

This must be sent directly to the Faculty, at, when you submit your online admission application. 


The Course

Generally speaking, a Part-Time PhD takes between five and seven years to complete. Every PhD student, whether full-time or part-time, moves through roughly three phases. For part-time students that timetable is elongated to include 5 terms of probationary study, 10 terms of registered study and up to six terms of 'writing up'. 

Each year, you will also have an annual progress meeting with your supervisor  at the end of the calendar year. You will write a brief, but formal, annual progress paper and discuss your work so far.

The minimum research requirement for the part-time course is 15 terms (i.e. five years). You need to complete this in order to complete the PhD. The maximum of the part-time programme is 21 terms (i.e. seven years).

Need advice?

Dr Julia Guarneri is currently the Faculty’s Part-Time PhD Coordinator. She is available to offer administrative advice to applicants.

Further Questions

Absolutely! As a part-time student, you will still be a member of a Cambridge college and be able to experience the collegiate system. You will have a named Cambridge Supervisor and your degree will operate in almost exactly the same way any other History PhD student

You still have access to all the research training and teaching within the Faculty, with the right to attend seminars and lectures. Your involvement in the Cambridge academic community can be as engaged as your external commitments allow.

However, please note that, in order for you to gain the benefits of a Cambridge degree, it is expected that you will live within a reasonable distance of the University. You must be able to attend Cambridge regularly. The part-time PhD is a not a distance-learning degree.

On the application form, there is a box which needs to be ticked by applicants wishing to pursue a part-time degree. You will then need to provide a statement saying why you need to study part-time instead of full-time.

You can continue to be in employment with the part-time PhD, although full-time employment is not considered compatible with the degree. You provide a letter from your employer stating that you will be allowed the time off work to attend the University as required for the duration of your course.

Both the AHRC and ESRC fund part-time students, but these awards provide only 50% of the full-time University Composition Fee. Applicants should be aware that the University charges part-time students 60% of the full-time rate. The 10% difference will therefore need to be made up by either the student or another funding body.

It is examined in exactly the same way as the full-time PhD is examined. Here are the different termly requirements:

Minimum number of terms of research needed before submitting

  • Qualification: Part-time PhD
  • Term (1 being your first term): 15

Minimum number of terms of research which need to be in Cambridge (in order to qualify for the PhD)

  • Qualification: Part-time PhD
  • Term (1 being your first term): 5

End of term by which your draft dissertation must be submitted to your supervisor

  • Qualification: Part-time PhD
  • Term (1 being your first term): 16

Absolute final submission deadline

  • Qualification: Part-time PhD
  • Term (1 being your first term): 21

Maximum number of terms for which an exemption or allowance will be made following a one-year course

  • Qualification: Part-time PhD
  • Term (1 being your first term): 5

If you have previously completed a portion of the research for your PhD (e.g. as part of a research project or whilst working on a different qualification) is is possible to seek an exemption and include those years of research as part of the 15-term minimum required for submission. The maximum number of terms which can be exempted in this manner is five, part-time.

You apply for an exemption when you are near completion and know how many terms of research are required to complete the work.

Early submission from part-time students who have no grounds for an exemption (e.g. previous qualification), but have been able to devote more time than expected is usually not permitted unless full fees for a five-year part-time hD minimum research period have been paid.

If your circumstances change, this is certainly possible, but changing your mode of study should not be undertaken lightly. The University will only allow such a change to be made once in either direction e.g. move once from full-time to part-time, or move once from part-time to full-time.

Such applications are submitted to the Degree Committee and are considered on a case-by-case basis.

If you are employed then arrangements for intellectual property rights must be agreed in advance. Please make sure your employer reads this section.

If the employer is not asserting any rights in the intellectual property created in the course of the research, a statement to this effect must be provided in writing within the application. Generally, this is expected to be the case where the employer is neither paying for the time of study nor contributing to fees. In the absence of any claim on the intellectual property by the employer, the position on intellectual property is identical to that of a full-time PhD student. More information on this is available on the Student Registry website.

If the employer is claiming rights in the intellectual property, the applicant and the employer must sign a short agreement which, among other things, confirms the level of any sponsorship by the employer and also sets out the position on intellectual property. This is administered through the University’s Research Services Division.

While the employer may wish to retain ownership in any intellectual property created by the student, the University will also want to ensure that regard is given to the intellectual property rights in any contributions from the Supervisor or other members of the University, as well as its obligations to external sponsors.

The University will also wish to make sure that the employer cannot restrict the use or exploitation of the student’s share in any collaborative project in which the student takes part.

Your degree will start with a period of orientation, training and wide reading, culminating in the Research Assessment Exercise ("RAE"), where you submit sample work and a research plan outlining the rest of your project. This period spans 5 terms.