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2. Studying at Selwyn


Postgraduates are admitted by the University through the Student Registry and then by a college.  All students are admitted on the basis of previous academic excellence, and on the assumption that you will give your studies top priority.  Although the Colleges do not provide formal teaching for postgraduates in the way that they do for undergraduates, they nevertheless play an important role in supporting and enhancing your studies in ways that complement the teaching and facilities that are provided by your Department.

2.1 The academic role of the Tutor

As a postgraduate student, your main academic mentor will be your supervisor.  They are the first point of contact between you and your Department, and will oversee your academic progress.  However, if you encounter any problems with your supervisor and/or your Department, it is part of your Tutor’s duties to help you resolve them.  Tutors can, for example, offer advice if you find yourself considering a change of supervisor or even of Department, and Tutors can also play an important role in cases where supervision is felt to have been inadequate.

In addition, your Tutor receives a termly report from your supervisor about your academic progress.  You are able to view these supervision reports via your CamSIS account (  These reports are carefully monitored and provide an invaluable early warning of possible problems.

For those of you doing Master’s degrees, your Tutor will arrange to meet you at the beginning of your course and then on at least two further occasions to discuss your progress.  These meetings also provide an opportunity for you to discuss the self-evaluation form which you will be asked to complete on CamSIS at the end of your first term.

At doctoral level, such meetings with your Tutor do not have a fixed schedule but they are easy to arrange by private appointment.  Students are encouraged to request such appointments whenever they are encountering problems: many issues can be most effectively resolved when they are addressed at an early stage.

In a few very rare cases a student may wish to appeal against one of the University’s academic decisions (such cases usually concern examination results).  If you feel that you have a legitimate grievance, you should contact your Tutor well within the time limits set out by the university regulations, who will be involved with you in formulating and presenting your appeal.

2.2 Academic enrichment

In addition to your Tutor, all Masters students are assigned to a College Director of Studies in your subject.  They provide another point of contact between the College and your Department.  They will meet with you at the beginning of your course, and again on a further couple of occasions later that term.  They can offer more discipline-based advice in a way that complements the more pastoral and administrative role of your Tutor.

Although PhD students are not formally assigned to a Director of Studies, you are also encouraged to make contact with Fellows who teach in your discipline.  Your Tutor will be able to advise you about who these are.

The College provides a number of other facilities that will help to enrich your academic experience at Cambridge.  Most subjects have their own College-based societies, which are open to all Fellows, postgraduates and undergraduates who are studying that subject.  These societies organise a range of academically-related and social events each year, and provide a good opportunity to meet others who work in your subject area.  Your Director of Studies will be able to give you more information about what societies exist in your discipline.

The MCR also organises a number of ‘Work in Progress’ sessions each term in which current postgraduates give an informal presentation about their research.  These sessions are open to all postgraduates and to Fellows, and volunteers to give one of the presentations are always welcome!

Depending on your subject, there may be opportunities for doctoral students to gain experience of supervising undergraduates in the individual or small-group teaching that is characteristic of Cambridge.  This is especially valuable if you are wishing to pursue an academic career.  If you are interested in gaining such teaching experience, it is worth discussing the possibilities with your supervisor, and also with your Tutor and the relevant Director of Studies.

For guidance on careers, you are encouraged to make use of the University Careers Service

2.3 Study skills and language skills

The College provides access to a number of resources that are intended to enhance and develop your study skills.  The University offers a website on transferable skills for postgraduates that can be found here. This site encourages you to think about your skills and how to develop them, to plan for the future, and it includes advice about writing a CV and preparing for interviews.

In conjunction with Newnham and Lucy Cavendish Colleges, Selwyn enjoys the part-time services of Writing Fellows funded by the Royal Literary Fund. In confidential, one-to-one tutorials, it is the Writing Fellow’s role to assist students with their essay-writing skills. The Writing Fellow in 2023-2024 is Claudine Toutoungi ( Any student wishing to set up one or more sessions with Claudine Toutoungi should contact her directly. The support the Writing Fellow provides is not solely intended to help improve academic writing, although that is the major focus of the advice they give. Nor should it be regarded as purely a remedial service. Many students writing at a very sophisticated level also benefit from the extra edge and clarity that the Writing Fellow can help them to achieve in their prose. It is also worth noting that this is not only useful for Arts students: the Writing Fellow is often a scientific author and all can benefit from their advice.

Click here for RLF flyer 

The Study Skills Tutor, Dr Marta Halina, is available for one-to-one coaching sessions throughout term time. If you would like to have a conversation about your individual study skills; guidance on how to become a more effective and efficient researcher and writer; or help initiating a group activity, such as a writing retreat or personal development workshop; please book a meeting with the Study Skills Tutor via the Tutorbook. The University has many resources dedicated to personal and professional development—the Study Skills Tutor can help you identify which resources might be best for you and where to find them.

The University is committed to a policy of ‘languages for all’, and there are various possibilities for language learning which are open to all members of the University.  The well-equipped Language Centre, located in Downing Place, runs courses in a number of languages. It also incorporates an Independent Learning Centre with audio-visual materials in an unrivalled range of languages. Anyone interested in using these facilities should visit the Enquiry Point located in the Centre. Where the Centre charges fees for some of its courses, students become eligible for a 50% reimbursement of course fees on production of the receipt and certificate to the Tutorial Office Manager. The Centre’s website is at:

The Language Centre also provides on-line language learning materials for University of Cambridge users. Resources include audios, videos, text, image and interactive exercises in a range of languages.  The resource library catalogue can be found here. 

NB: This site is only accessible from computers connected to the University network.

2.4 Study away from Cambridge

The University requires full-time students to ‘keep Term’ which means living within ten miles from Great St Mary’s Church in the centre of Cambridge for a period equivalent to the length of Full Term, i.e. 60 days (59 nights) for both the Michaelmas and Lent Terms, and 53 days (52 nights for the Easter Term).  Nights spent away during Full Term may be offset by those spent in residence during that term.  They cannot be carried over from one term to another.

PhD students usually spend their full working year in Cambridge unless they have to travel elsewhere for research purposes.  This is also true of most, but not all, Masters students.

If your work requires you to work elsewhere than Cambridge for any length of time then you will need to apply for leave to study away from Cambridge.  There is a standard form which you can access via your personal CamSIS webpage.  The procedure is simple as long as your supervisor supports and explains the necessity of residence outside Cambridge.  Terms for which leave is received count towards your residence requirement.

Full details of how to apply for leave to work away can be found here. 

2.5 Progression from a Masters to a PhD

If you have been admitted onto a PhD course rather than an MPhil leading to a PhD you will usually be required to undertake the Certificate of Postgraduate Study (CPGS) if you do not already hold a Master’s degree.  The CPGS is designed to give you the opportunity to demonstrate that you have mastered the research techniques and have the necessary aptitude and motivation to proceed to doctoral work.

The CPGS or Masters degree provide the usual stepping stone if you wish to continue to a PhD.  The exact conditions and arrangements will vary from Faculty to Faculty.  From the College point of view, the necessary administrative processes are generated by your application for leave to continue to the PhD, which is processed by the Student Registry.  We welcome such applications.

2.6. Part-time study

In addition to full-time students preparing for Masters or doctoral degrees, the College also has a growing number of students who are pursuing part-time study.  Most of these are taking one of Cambridge’s MSt degrees, taught through the Institute of Continuing Education at Madingley Hall.  Selwyn currently admits students for the MSts in International Relations, Criminology, History, Creative Writing, Crime and Thriller Writing, Writing for Performance and Social Innovation.

The College also has a number of part-time PhD students.  Most of these were admitted for part-time study from the beginning, but students sometimes wish to explore the possibility of transferring from full-time to part-time studies, for example because of a change in circumstances.  Conversely, other students who begin as part-time students sometimes wish to transfer to full-time study.  If you want to discuss such a change in either direction at any stage during the course of a PhD, you should consult your Tutor as well as your research supervisor.

Part-time students are fully members of the College and have access to all the facilities and opportunities described in this guide in exactly the same way as full-time students.

2.7 Plagiarism

Along with all other universities, the University of Cambridge and its Colleges take very seriously indeed the matter of plagiarism. It is important that all graduate students make themselves aware of the University’s guidelines on plagiarism

These pages include a good deal beyond the University’s formal policy and there is much constructive advice available there in the form of FAQs, helpful links, and Faculty resources which can help you answer questions about referencing and citations as well as helping you to access resources on related matters.

2.8 Thesis submission

Those of you who are undertaking MLitt or PhD theses will qualify for a grant from the College to assist with the binding of the thesis.  This will be paid automatically when confirmation of your submission is received from the Student Registry.