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Postgraduate Study in Mathematics

This is a three year research programme culminating in submission and examination of a single research thesis.  Students joining the course will often have completed prior study at a level comparable to our Part III (MMath/MASt) course and many have postgraduate experience.  Our students therefore begin their PhD research with a good understanding of advanced material, which they build on in various ways throughout the course of their PhD studies. Our PhD students might have written several papers before they submit their dissertation, and can go on to win academic positions at leading institutions around the world.

Structure of the PhD

Students are required to undertake a minimum of nine terms of research (i.e. three years). Students are not registered for the PhD in the first instance but are instead admitted on a probationary basis. All students are assessed for registration towards the end of their first year of full-time study (usually June). This assessment is based on a short written report submitted by the candidate for review by two assessors. In the fifth term there might also be a further assessment of progress, for which students submit a longer piece of written work and receive an oral assessment.

Research areas

The topic of the research thesis may be chosen from the wide range of subjects studied within the Department. It is expected that applicants to the PhD course will investigate the research interests and expertise of academic staff within DPMMS prior to making a formal application. This should be done by consulting the dedicated page on finding a supervisor, as well as research pages of our website, and individual profiles of our academic staff.

Additional training and opportunities

Whilst there are no mandatory taught components to the PhD degree, students may wish to undertake specific courses or further training to expand their knowledge, either for personal interest or to directly assist with their PhD research. All students are encouraged to participate and attend the wide range of lectures, seminars and events on offer within DPMMS and the Centre for Mathematical Sciences.

Many students submit a prize essay at the beginning of their fifth term. The best essays each year are of a scale and quality already adequate for a PhD dissertation, incorporating work already, or about to be, published. We intend that our students publish their work in leading journals. Our PhD students might have written several papers before they submit their dissertation, and can go on to win academic positions at leading institutions around the world.

DPMMS also promotes and encourages researcher development and transferable skills training. This can take the form of assisting with Part III catch-up lectures, attendance at skills based training sessions, or presenting their work at seminars and conferences. The University also offers training via the Researcher Development Programme.

There is no requirement for PhD students to teach but there are plenty of opportunities to do so, such as offering supervisions for third year undergraduates (this involves the supervisor sitting with a pair of students for an hour, discussing their work). PhD students might help too with running examples classes for Part III students.

Academic Entry Requirements

The usual minimum entry requirement is a first class honours degree, awarded after a four-year course in mathematics or mathematics/statistics, or a three-year degree together with a one-year postgraduate course in those areas. Part III (MMath/MASt) of the Mathemtical Tripos provides such a course and most of the PhD students in DPMMS have come through this route. The others have usually completed at least a comparable four-year undergraduate course, and many have postgraduate experience. Entry is competitive and a higher level of preparation may be required.

Funding Opportunities

Applicants will be considered for Departmental funding. Receipt of this funding is not guaranteed and all applicants, irrespective of fee-status, are expected to apply to other funding schemes for which they are eligible. Applicants are advised to investigate potential sources of funding as early as possible.

Students should consult the Postgraduate Admissions website for details of the University Postgraduate Funding Competition. Other University wide funding opportunities can be found via the Funding Search Tool.

How to apply

All applications for postgraduate study must be made via the University’s Postgraduate Admissions Office and details on the process for application and the supporting documentation required is provided on their website. It is important that applicants read all the relevant information and collate the necessary supporting documents prior to starting the application process. Applicants will be charged a non-refundable application fee per application.

Applicants are encouraged to make informal contact with potential supervisors prior to making an application. Applicants should clearly state in the relevant field of the application form the name(s) of those member(s) of academic staff with whom they wish to work, and provide a clear indication of the areas or topics in which they intend to undertake research. We do not currently require submission of a detailed research proposal.

Students who are currently or have previously undertaken the MASt (ie. Part IIII students who came from outside Cambridge) should apply as a student for continuation/readmission. All other students (including those on the MMath) should apply for admission as a postgraduate student. If you are an MMath student you should include one reference from your College Director of Studies.

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity. The Department would particularly welcome applications from women, since women are, and have historically been, underrepresented in our student cohorts.

Please ensure that you use the correct course code when making your application: MAPM21

Application and Funding Deadlines

We strongly encourage all applicants to apply by 12:00pm (midday) UK time on 6 January 2022. Anyone wishing to apply after this date should contact the DPMMS Course Administrator before submitting an application. Students wishing to be considered for Departmental funding (as above), or as part of the University Postgraduate Funding competition must apply by this deadline. Please refer to the Postgraduate Admissions website for other potential earlier funding deadlines.

Applicants wishing to apply for funding are advised that they must submit their application and supporting documents (including referances) by the relevant funding deadline in order to be considered.

Notification of decisions

Most decisions and offers will be made in February or early March. Once a decision has been taken on your application the result will appear on your CamSiS Self-Service page.

Conditional offers

If your application is successful and you are made a conditional offer you will be able to access the details of your offer and what you need to do in order to confirm your place via your CamSiS Self-Service page. We strongly advise students to regularly check their account for updates on the progress of their application. If you do receive an offer, you are advised to meet the conditions made as soon as possible. This is particularly important if you require a visa to study in the UK.

Postgraduate Open Day

Click here for further information on the Postgraduate Open Day.


Please read our PhD applicant Frequesntly Asked Questions. For any enquiries not covered by the FAQs, you can email us on