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Part-time PhD

The PhD in History

Part-time PhD

Much of the part-time course is very similar to the full-time PhD, so we strongly encourage you to read the full-time PhD pages for further information. 

Please also see the Graduate Admissions information on part-time study: 


How long is the part-time course?

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).


Myth buster: does a part-time PhD mean I don’t get the ‘Cambridge experience’?

Not at all! You will still be a member of a college and therefore be able to experience the collegiate system.

Your supervisor is appointed in exactly the same way and serves exactly the same purpose.

You will still have an interview in the admissions process.

You still have an RAE (Registration Assessment Exercise) but this is usually held during your fifth or sixth term (different timing to the full-time PhD).

You still have access to the training and teaching within the Faculty. In order for you to gain the most benefit, we ask that you live within a reasonable distance so as to be able to attend Cambridge regularly. The part-time PhD is a not a distance-learning degree.

The total University Composition Fee for the degree is the same, whether full-time or part-time. In practice, this means that 60% of the full-time fee is charged for each term of registration as a part-time student. College fees are charged on the same basis.



What is different for a part-time PhD?

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.

AHRC and ESRC fund part-time students, but part-time awards provide only 50% of the full-time rate of tuition fees. Be aware of this as the University charges part-time students 60% of the full-time rate, therefore the difference will need to be made up.

You have an annual progress paper where, at the end of each calendar year, you meet with your supervisor to consider a brief but formal progress paper prepared by the student.



How is the part-time PhD examined?

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



TERM (1 being your first term)

Minimum number of terms of research needed before submitting

Part-time PhD


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

Part-time PhD


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

Part-time PhD


Absolute final submission deadline

Part-time PhD


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

Part-time PhD




Can I request early submission?

Where exemption is sought for a previous qualification, the maximum number of terms for which exemption can be allowed is five terms, 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 the full fee for a five-year minimum research period has been paid.


What about transferring to full-time status?

This is certainly possible, but don’t enter into it lightly – you can only do this once only in either direction e.g. move once from full-time to part-time, or move once from part-time to full-time.

This application is submitted to the Degree Committee and is considered on a case-by-case basis – if your circumstances change then this is an option.


Intellectual Property Rights

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 (16 Mill Lane, Cambridge. CB2 1SB).

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.


Part-time Co-ordinator

Dr Helen McCarthy is currently the Faculty’s Co-ordinator of the part-time PhD. She is available to offer administrative advice to applicants – find her in the Academic Staff Directory here: