Research degree programme

At the start

During the first week the focus is on meeting your supervisor, attending inductions, finding your desk and meeting some of the others starting their research degrees.


Please take time to have a look through the Graduate Studies Office webpage, under the Research Students tab, where you will find all the information, procedures, forms and deadlines you will need in your first term and thereafter.


All IfM students are allocated a mentor from among the existing research student community to help with initial questions and to find your way around the IfM. The atmosphere at the IfM is friendly and there are few barriers to communication between members of the group, either for work or social activities!


During the first year

All students have a supervisor to provide direction and support throughout their research. Each student is also allocated an advisor from among senior colleagues to provide additional guidance. Most students also benefit from the experience and knowledge of other members of the IfM.

Courses for first year students 

All first year students must meet the First Year Requirements to support the development of research and transferable skills. These are agreed during your first term and include:

  • Research Development Course: To support the development of transferable skills.
  • Reading Clubs: To introduce key literature in the domain, encourage critical review and reflection about the literature and to provide experience of synthesising arguments based on the literature.
  • Research methodology courses
  • Other engineering or related courses

First year review

The first-year report is submitted at the end of the first year and students must demonstrate satisfactory progress at the end of the first year before they can continue with the final two years of the PhD. Information about the review can be found in the Engineering Department Student Handbook which can be found on this webpage.



There is a second year review to ensure that progress is continuing well. Otherwise there is no standard timetable for a PhD. Instead, it is dependent upon factors such as the type of research, the motivations of the student and supervisor, and the requirement of collaborating businesses.


Other useful information

Travel to conferences, industrial visits and case studies 

Throughout the research there are various reasons to travel for conferences, seminars and cases.  


All students are able to apply for Engineering Department Conference Grants, details of which can be found here and most colleges also have travel schemes available.


Many students apply to work away from Cambridge in order to undertake fieldwork (interviews or case studies) in an industrial or business context or to work in a research and development environment.


Teaching opportunities

Depending on their skills and research subject, students have been able to gain teaching experience within the IfM and Engineering Department through laboratory demonstrations, supervisions or accompanying undergraduate industrial visits.


Student Handbook

The Engineering Department Student Handbook (which can be found on this webpage) contains a lot of useful information about the Graduate Student process and experience in the IfM. If you have any further queries, please do contact us.


Studying Part-Time 

The IfM has a number of part-time students studying for a PhD and the majority of supervisors are familiar with this mode of study. The PhD is not available on a distance learning basis.


The University provides information for students about part time study. If the supervisor is willing to accept a student on this basis, the student and supervisor must agree a schedule of study including the mandatory courses for completion which can be time intensive during the first five terms of study.


MPhil students 

Students on the MPhil programme undertake a one-year period of supervised research, leading to submission of a thesis. Some MPhil students go on to complete a PhD.