The following notes are intended to provide you with a general framework for your doctoral studies. All our PhD students are registered in the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, which is part of the Graduate School of Life Sciences, where you can find more useful information about courses, lectures and requirements. The guidance is informed by the University Code of Practice of the University for graduate research degrees.
Full time students are expected to work at least 40 hours per week and part time students are expected to work 24 hours per week. Further information on terms and of residence and study can be found here.
For students who are undertaking their work while being paid as university staff your holiday entitlement is as according to your contract with the University. For other students there are no clear rules laid down by the University except to state that all students must fulfil the minimum residence requirements for the three University terms. In between University terms any time off is a matter for you and your supervisor to agree. You are expected to comply with their reasonable requirements and you should establish what these are at the earliest opportunity. It would seem reasonable to take up to six weeks each year.
It is worth remembering that you are primarily doing your PhD for yourself. As such, it is not like a paid job with clear entitlements to take time off. It is therefore for you and your supervisor to agree how much time off is reasonable to ensure the ultimate goal of writing an outstanding thesis is achieved within the relevant time period whilst maintaining an appropriate work-life balance.
Leave to work away from Cambridge
You will need to apply for leave to work away from Cambridge if:
- Your research project requires you to be away from Cambridge, or
- You remain a registered graduate student and you are away from Cambridge, but not for the purpose of conducting fieldwork. For example to write up your thesis.
Details of how to do this are on the Student Registry website.
If you are experiencing difficulty with any aspect of your work or outside life as a graduate student, we would like to assist in any way possible. In most situations your supervisors are the most appropriate people to discuss any issue that may arise. However, if your supervisors cannot help or you feel unable to discuss a problem with them you can contact the post-graduate secretary Pam Stockham, the Director of Doctoral Studies Professor Paul Pharoah, any other senior member of the Department, your college tutor, or any of the welfare offices listed in the University’s guide for graduate students.
Your primary supervisor will be responsible for the day-to-day elements of your work, and for overseeing the general training elements of the PhD degree. In addition, you should have a named second supervisor, who may be from a collaborating or otherwise-related research group. Your second supervisor will advise more generally. You are expected to meet with your supervisor on a regular basis, and at least monthly. You should keep a brief, written record of contacts with your supervisor.
At the start of your first year, you should discuss your training needs with your supervisor. For specialist training, the university offers Part II courses in a wide variety of subjects, parts of which you may wish to attend. You may also wish to enrol on specialist short courses from other institutions.
Great emphasis is placed on transferable skills training by the University and the Research Councils. The Research Councils have issued a joint statement setting out the skills that doctoral research students should attain: Research Councils’ joint skills statement.
You are expected to complete 10 days of transferable skills training per academic year, equivalent to approximately 60 credits over three years. The Graduate School of Biological, Medical and Veterinary Sciences run a number of events and courses and hold a Graduate School Symposium each term for all their PhD students. You are also entitled to take courses offered by the University’s Computing Services and some Researcher Development Programme courses.
The actual training you choose to take will depend on your needs.
Student log book
All PhD students are expected to maintain a progress log. You can download a Progress Log from the Graduate School of Biological, Medical and Veterinary Sciences. You should begin filling it in right away, and make sure that you keep it up-to-date. At the end of your first year, you will need to submit a copy of it, together with your first year report, to the Department Post-Graduate Secretary.
The first year of your PhD is provisional. You will only be registered as a PhD candidate after a completion of all the requirements at the end of the first year.
About six to nine months into your first year, you are encouraged to give a 10-minute presentation to the Unit you are attached to. Your talk will describe your progress to date, and will cover the work you have carried out and future plans for your research project. The presentation will provide an opportunity to receive feedback on your proposals, before you begin preparing the first year report.
First year presentation
The Department of Public Health and Primary Care hosts two days of presentations by the doctoral students in June every year. The first year students are expected to present their work to the wider department in a 15-minute presentation with 5 minutes for questions. You should discuss the content with your supervisor. If you have presented your work at a national or international meeting during the first year, this requirement may be waived with the permission of your supervisor. However, even if you have presented at such a meeting you are encouraged to present at the PhD presentation days as this is a showcase for our doctoral students and an opportunity for other members of the Department to hear about the work being carried out by other groups.
First year report
The first year of your PhD is a probationary year. It is a requirement of the University that PhD students are assessed at the end of this first year before formally registering for a PhD. You will need to write a 4-6000 word (approx) report, excluding references, at the end of this probationary year.
It should consist of:
– an introduction, providing the rationale for the project
– a brief review of the relevant literature, which will form the basis for a more complete literature review in your thesis
– a summary of the work you have already undertaken (methods, results, discussion)
– a plan outlining how your PhD research project might develop.
– It should not take more than about 3 weeks to write the report.
Your first year report should be completed by the end of the 11th month of your first year (August/November/February).
First year assessment
Two independent assessors (nominated by you and your supervisor) should discuss your work and plans for the second and third years with you in a private oral assessment format. One of the independent assessors will ideally be from outside the Department, but as it may be difficult to identify someone with the right expertise locally, a second internal independent examiner is acceptable. It is not acceptable to use your Supervisor as an assessor. Your assessment should be held in the last month of your first year (September/December/March depending on the term you started). It is up to you and your supervisor to organise a mutually convenient time for this.
Once the assessment is completed, the assessors will write a brief, joint report with a recommendation. Your supervisor should submit their report and recommendation to the Degree Committee through the CamSIS reporting system. On the basis of this process, you will then become fully registered as a PhD candidate. If you are experiencing problems at this stage, a further assessment may be required one term later.
You will need to submit your report (as a pdf) and a copy of your progress log (signed by your supervisor) to the Department Post-graduate Secretary at the end of your first year.
On satisfactory completion of your first year assessment you will be registered as a candidate for the PhD degree.
During the second year you are expected to continue with transferable skills training. At the end of your second year, you will need to submit a signed copy of your progress log to the post-graduate secretary.
All third year students are expected to present their work at the Doctoral student presentation days. This talk should summarise your entire thesis, and will provide a chance to discuss your research with a wider audience. As with the first year presentation, if you have presented your work at a national or international meeting during the second or third year, this requirement may be waived with the permission of your supervisor.
Details of the process for submitting your thesis can be found here.
Your thesis should not to exceed 60,000 words (or 80,000 by special permission of the Degree Committee). These limits exclude figures, photographs, tables, appendices and bibliography. Lines to be double or one-and-a-half spaced; pages to be double or single sided.
You should discuss the content and format of your thesis with your supervisor. You might find it helpful to look at examples of successful theses submitted by students who have graduated recently from the department. Electronic copies of these can be requested from the post-graduate secretary.
If you need to extend the word limit to more than 60,000 words you will need to apply for permission. Application forms are available from your Self-Service pages.