What backgrounds do successful PHS applicants typically have?
We invite applications from students from a wide range of backgrounds – interaction with a diverse student body is one of the strengths of the programme; we have welcomed students with undergraduate degrees varying from physics to politics, mathematics to medicine, social sciences to biological sciences, and many more. We are looking for people with the potential to excel on the course, who have demonstrable success in previous educational and/or work endeavours. We hope to recruit people who are committed to a career in Population Health Sciences (whether that is academic or public/private sector settings).
How can I best demonstrate my interest in the subject through my application?
Explain what you think the subject is, and discuss at least one specific aspect of it that you find interesting/important. Pay close attention to our advice for applicants.
Is research experience an expectation for applicants to the MPhil in PHS?
No, research experience is not necessary. On the application form you will be asked about relevant experience, which may be academic, work, research, voluntary, etc – see advice for applicants.
What qualifications are required for the MPhil?
Please refer to the entry requirements provided on this website.
I have been out of academia for a while, and am wondering if this ‘gap’ will be viewed negatively during the admissions review process?
No, this is not a negative. Before making an offer, we want to make sure that a candidate can cope with the course, has a good and cognate motivation and that s/he will benefit from the course. Please read the advice for applicants carefully, and complete your application accordingly.
References – I completed my studies some time ago and so my academic references are now dated. May I provide other references?
Academic referees will be asked to make an academic judgement of you in the following areas:
Your academic performance to date
Your potential to be original, creative and/or independent of thought
Your suitability for the course you are applying to
Therefore, it is important to select an academic referee who knows you, and your academic work, well enough to make an evaluation based on the bullet points above.
However, we also understand that some candidates may have been working in other areas for some time. In this case, we are also happy to accept two references that you feel are most suitable for your application and course.
Further information about references for postgraduate study can be found here:
References – will you accept more than 2 references?
No. We require 2 references and are unable to accept more.
Is funding available for the MPhil?
The following pages provide further Information on fees and funding sources:
When is the application deadline for the 2024/25 course?
The deadline is 28.03.2024.
However, as this is a popular course and offers are made on a rolling basis, we recommend that you submit your completed application (including references) as early as possible.
How long does it take to receive a reply from the University once the application has been submitted?
Applications are considered on a rolling basis, and are typically processed within 12 weeks. If you are invited for interview, you can expect to be informed of the outcome within approximately 4 weeks of your interview. For more information see the Postgraduate Admissions: What Happens Next.
Do you provide feedback about my application if I am not successful?
We receive many applications each year for the course and the overall standard of applicants is very high. The MPhil Admissions Committee give careful consideration to all candidates before making their decision, but, unfortunately, the number of excellent applications exceeds the number of candidates we are able to offer places to. We are, regretfully, unable to enter into correspondence regarding the decisions of the awarding committee, and our policy is not to provide specific feedback on individual applications.
How are applications assessed / considered?
All applications are considered on a monthly basis (rolling admissions). The following criteria are used:
Class of first degree
References from senior staff at the most recent university and/or place of employment
Relevance of previous academic and work experience
Candidate’s responses to course specific questions, reflections on pre-arrival self-assessment tools, and statement of their reasons for wishing to take the course
Other supporting evidence, including an up-to-date curriculum vitae
Our assessment panel will be seeking assurance that the candidate has the experience, ability and commitment necessary to complete the MPhil course. Applicants that fulfil the selection criteria are invited for an interview. Interviews will be held remotely. Applicants who are selected for interview should normally receive a response to their application within eight weeks of applying.
What will the interview for MPhil PHS be like?
It will be via Zoom (you will be sent a link if invited for interview). It will focus on your reasons for applying for this MPhil at this university, your understanding of the general scope of the theme you’ve chosen, and on your responses to the course specific questions. You may be asked about specific details from your application, and you will be offered an opportunity to ask us questions. It will last about 20 minutes.
When do I need to be in Cambridge?
The Academic Year commences on 1st October and finishes on 31st July each year.
For 2024, Michaelmas term: October 1st to December 18th inclusive
Lent term (2025): January 6th to April 11th.
Easter term (2025): April 28th to July 31st.
(Note: our teaching dates may not always reflect standard university term dates.)
An indicative timetable, which is subject to change, is available here.
Students are expected to be in attendance at all of their classes.
Students may also need to attend a viva in August or September 2025.
Is it okay if I arrive in Cambridge after term starts, or leave early, or miss some teaching?
We’d rather you didn’t. Induction in the first week includes important learning and relationship building that is essential for your success on the course. It is an intensive course, and it is very hard to make up for any teaching that you miss.
How do I choose my dissertation project?
There is a dissertation fair in November (see indicative timetable). At the dissertation fair, potential Dissertation Supervisors give very brief summaries of the projects they are offering and there is an opportunity to discuss these and other ideas you may have with staff. You may also review and consider major research programmes of the departments (PHPC, MRC-Epi, MRC-BSU) and approach key investigators to pursue a research topic in any of these programmes. Students are also welcome to discuss ideas with the Specialisation Theme Leads. You should discuss your emerging ideas with your course supervision group and potential dissertation supervisors to assess the suitability of the topic and the availability of relevant data. When choosing your topic, it is important to remember that while there are lots of options, we cannot guarantee supervisor availability for all possible research interests, so students’ topic choice should be guided by the research interests of the people available. Once you have chosen a topic, you will write up a research proposal as the assessment for the core Research Skills module, which you will submit in January (term 2 of the course). You do not need to decide on a dissertation topic prior to starting the course.
Where does the course teaching take place?
Most classes are held in dedicated classrooms on the East Forvie Building on the Biomedical Campus near Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge. Some smaller groups may meet in other rooms in nearby locations, either within the East Forvie building, at Strangeways Research Laboratory, or in the Clinical School.
Will I need a computer?
Students are expected to bring their own laptops, ideally with the following specifications (or equivalent):
- IBM compatible laptop with Intel Core i5 Coffee Lake or newer processor (students planning to follow the HDS theme may wish to consider an i7 processor), with an x86-64 version of Windows 11 or Windows 10 (ideally Pro versions) or an up to date x86-64 Linux distribution (ideally Ubuntu x86-64) installed;
- MacBook Pro or MacBook Air model, dated 2018 or later with macOS Monterey installed.
- 8GB of RAM (16GB of RAM recommended for HDS)
- Disk capacity of 512GB or more
- Built-in gigabit ethernet port or supported ethernet adapter
- Built in wireless network controller or supported wireless network adapter
- Built in web cam, microphone and speakers or supported external devices
For students experiencing financial hardship and unable to access their own computer, the department has some, very limited, capacity to be able to lend out a laptop. If you are accepted on to the course and you believe that lack of a suitable laptop would be a barrier to your attendance, please contact the course administrator.
What are the language requirements?
Details regarding the language requirements and what tests are accepted for admission to the University of Cambridge can be found on the following webpages:
Can I complete the course on a part-time basis?
Yes. Please tale a look at the information regarding part-time study, where there is also an indicative table of part-time pathways that you can download.
Can the MPhil be taken as a distance learning course?
No. The University of Cambridge does not offer any distance learning or e-learning degree programmes. However, online short-courses are available at the Institute of Continuing Education. For more information please visit the Institute’s website.
How do you handle accessibility issues?
All reasonable accommodations are made to ensure the course is accessible to all successful applicants. We work with the University’s Disability Resource Centre to ensure appropriate provision for all students.
Do you welcome people from all backgrounds?
Yes. We adhere to and actively promote the University’s statement on equality and diversity:
The University of Cambridge is committed in its pursuit of academic excellence to equality of opportunity and to a proactive and inclusive approach to equality, which supports and encourages all under-represented groups, promotes an inclusive culture, and values diversity.
I am interested in applying for the Health Data Science theme but I am not certain if I have the formal mathematical training required to excel in the course. How will you assess candidates’ mathematical capabilities to determine whether or not they are suitable for the Health Data Science theme?
We assess this as part of the application process. Try the HDS self-screening tool to gauge the required standard, and read the pre-requisites for the core Statistics for HDS module. We will want to understand from your application your motivation for studying a quantitative theme and be confident that you can cope with it, so be sure to carefully explain this in the question on maths and stats experience in the application form. If you can demonstrate that you can get yourself to the level of mathematics required, then you are certainly a good candidate for interview.
If a candidate does not meet the criteria for the HDS track but otherwise is suitable for the other themes, could the candidate be enrolled onto one of the other tracks?
Yes. If we think a candidate is good and can benefit from the course, but may not be quantitatively strong enough for HDS, we pass the application on to be considered by other theme admission sub-committees. We take into account your second choice of theme indicated on your application form and which theme is most likely to be appropriate based on the interview and the application. Often HDS applicants are interested in Epidemiology which has much shared content but has a less demanding quantitative requirement. There is nothing to stop Epidemiology students from trying to take the more advance HDS statistics courses if they so wish once they get here, but the lecturer may strongly advise them to switch if they find the material too difficult. The short answer is if you are interested in HDS, apply to that theme and your chances of being accepted as an Epidemiologist will not be reduced.