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Graduate Admissions

Course closed:

Social Anthropology is no longer accepting new applications.

This is a demanding course which enables students to reach a fairly high level of specialist knowledge in social anthropology within a relatively short time and, subject to performance in the examination, equips them to undertake a research degree. Given that MPhil students are supervised on an individual basis in order to provide a programme of teaching tailored to individual needs, the assignment of supervisors is spread as evenly as possible among the staff attached to the Department.

Principal fields of anthropological analysis are covered in two core seminar courses in 'The Scope of Social Anthropology'. Attendance at these is compulsory for all students. These two courses cover, respectively, 'Production and Reproduction', which includes the fields of economic anthropology and kinship studies; and 'Systems of Power and Knowledge', which includes political anthropology and the anthropology of religion. 

Students also take one optional course in a specialist subject, and a non-assessed course in theory and methods.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

The course addresses key problems in anthropological theory, interpretation, comparison and analysis in relation to particular ethnographies and substantive debates in the anthropological literature. Through critical reflection on a range of anthropological theories, and through practice in the application of those theories to bodies of ethnographic data, students acquire a thorough and intensive grounding in a range of styles of social anthropological analysis.

Practical and transferable skills

The General course offers training in the following transferable skills:

  1. ability to engage with and undertake critical analysis of complex issues;
  2. ability to engage constructively in discussion in groups in which many different views are held, often passionately;
  3. ability to present an argument in clear and convincing terms both orally and in writing; and
  4. ability to design and undertake hands-on research. This includes training in:
    1. archival review of literature;
    2. ethnographic research methods;
    3. analysis of results; and
    4.  skills in research proposal preparation and presentation.

IT instruction, though not a taught component of the course, is available at the University level. Students are informed of the existing opportunities and strongly encouraged to use them. Language training, including Academic English, is likewise not formally provided within the course but is available at the University and students are encouraged to take advantage of these services if they are relevant to MPhil dissertation research.

Museum Option students are expected to:

  1. develop a comparative understanding of the history and contemporary roles of museums;
  2. examine different ways that specific objects are produced, circulated, interpreted and displayed;
  3. critically compare theoretical approaches to the study of material culture, art, materiality, and the relationship between persons and things;
  4. develop skills in artefact-based analysis as a key component of anthropological research; and
  5. obtain transferable museum skills through practical work experience.‚Äč

Medical Anthropology Option students are expected to:

  1. develop a critical comparative grasp of the cross-cultural variety of illness through a contextualisation of both diseases recognised by biomedicine and varieties of illness or suffering that may be understood and remedied on the basis of different assumptions;
  2. develop an understanding of the biomedical diagnosis of diseases and why certain illnesses are contested;
  3. reflect on some of the ethical issues surrounding biomedical research and practice; and
  4. improve communication skills that enable cross-disciplinary discussion and a fruitful understanding of medical knowledge and the world in which medicine is practised.


Continuation to the MRes or PhD is subject to the following:

  • Acceptance of an application for continuation by the MRes and PhD Committee
  • An overall mark of at least 73 in the MPhil is normally required for continuation to the MRes or PhD

Applicants intending to continue to the MRes or PhD programme should state so in their statement of purpose, however acceptance for the MPhil does not guarantee that you will be accepted for continuation.

Key Information

11 months full-time

Master of Philosophy

Division of Social Anthropology


Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 3, 2018
Application deadline
April 26, 2019
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2019

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Graduate Funding Competition
Jan. 3, 2019
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 10, 2018

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