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 This course is assessed through coursework, and students must complete:

  • A ‘formative’ essay of not more than 3,000 words. This essay is assessed, but does not contribute towards the final mark.
  • Two essays of no more than 5,000 words.
  • A dissertation of 10,000-15,000 words

Essays two and three each account for 20% of the final mark, and the dissertation accounts for 60%.

Guidelines on examinations


Teaching staff will provide lists of up to eight essay titles per module, along with a list of supervisors. For each essay, students will need to confirm their choice of title and supervisor by submitting a topic form by the date indicated. Any combination of topics is permissible so long as no more than two pieces of work are chosen from any single module.


The dissertation is an exercise in original research. Students will explore topics and potential supervisors for their dissertation during Michaelmas term, with the support of their Subject Manager, and confirm these choices during Lent. Students are expected to start work on their dissertation during Michaelmas and continue working on it throughout the course of the year, as well as producing the three essays.

Changing the title or supervisor

Once the Degree Committee has approved the title and supervisor for an essay or dissertation, students must apply for permission to change them using the request form. Permission is not automatically granted.


The University and the Management Committee take plagiarism very seriously. Please read this advice about what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.

Plagiarism guidelines

The text-matching software Turnitin UK is used to blanket screen all student work submitted in Moodle.

Use of Turnitin UK

Human participants

If students are planning to collect data from human participants, or use data collected from human participants, they will need to plan well in advance to ensure that they have obtained ethical approval before starting work on their project and have given consideration to how they are going to handle the information they collect. They should seek advice from their supervisor in the first instance.

Working with human participants: ethical approval and data protection

Policy on editions, translations and bibliographies

An essay or dissertation should be self-contained, including or citing all information needed for an examiner to follow its argument.

The word limit normally includes text and footnotes but not the bibliography. However, in certain cases permission may be obtained for materials strictly relevant to the argument of the essay or dissertation to be footnoted or appended for the information of the examiners, with such materials not contributing to the word count. Materials falling into this category may include primary source materials that are not readily accessible, translations, questionnaire responses, statistical tables, descriptions of objects and analytical bibliographies.

Normally material included in the word count should mainly consist of the student's own discussion and analysis. Exceptionally, when a critical edition or translation, an analytical bibliography, or a technical description of objects and their provenances is based on substantial original scholarship and is central to the argument of an essay or dissertation, permission may be obtained for its inclusion within the body of the essay or dissertation, hence contributing to the word count. Normally no more than one third of an essay or dissertation should consist of such material.

Applications for such permissions should be sought, in consultation with the supervisor, from the Degree Committee at the time at which the topic of the essay or dissertation in question is submitted for approval.

Word limits

The word limits are as follows:

  • Essay 1 (formative): 3,000 words
  • Essays 2 and 3: 5,000  words
  • Dissertation: 10,000-15,000 words

The word limit includes footnotes but excludes the bibliography and prefatory matter.

Figures may be included in the work and should contribute to the argument. They should be captioned only so as to specify the source; such captions are excluded from the word count. Formulae may be used where appropriate and are also excluded from the word count.

In order to ensure the equitable enforcing of the word limit laid down for MPhil work, students will be required to submit their work, on the specified deadline, stating the word count in the work, together with an electronic version of the work. Upon submission the Senior Examiner will inspect each piece of work to ensure that the word limit has been respected. If it has not, the work will be returned to the student who will be asked to revise it so that it does conform to the word limit. Given that the inspection will take place at the time of the deadline, the rule governing penalties for late submission will be applied.

The Senior Examiner will use Microsoft Word to check word counts. If using coding software, such as LaTeX, students should be aware that this software may give a different word count. It may be helpful to use TeXcount, an online tool that analyses LaTeX code to provide an accurate count of words, formulae, captions and footnotes. If using software other than Microsoft Word students should submit a screenshot to demonstrate the word count from the software used.

Coursework submission

Students should submit two copies of each essay and dissertation to the HPS office before 12 noon on the day of the deadline. They should have numbered pages, footnotes where appropriate, and a bibliography. They should be printed single-sided and should be securely bound or stapled.

The essays and dissertation will be marked anonymously, so it is important that the student’s name does not appear anywhere on them.

Each copy should have a cover sheet stating the title of the essay or dissertation, the number of words and the name of the supervisor Students should also submit a completed submission form. Cover sheets and submission forms will be available on Moodle.

In addition, students must upload their work to the MPhil Moodle course. Examiners may use this to confirm the word count and check for derivative passages. Please note:

  • The file uploaded must be exactly the same as the printed copies. It should include the bibliography and any images.
  • Only one file can be uploaded for each submission
  • The following file formats are accepted: DOC, DOCX, PDF, RTF

Students are advised to check their emails the day after they have submitted to ensure there are no queries about their work.

Please note that the Management Committee will retain a copy of all dissertations and essays and may make them available to future students unless a written request is made to the contrary to the Graduate Secretary.

Late submission

Students are expected to manage their time appropriately in order to meet submission deadlines. This includes, for example, preparing drafts well in advance to allow reasonable time for feedback from supervisors, and time for any final revisions.

The Senior Examiner will advise the Examiners’ Meeting of any late submissions and, unless there are exceptional circumstances, this will normally entail a penalty.

Work submitted within 24 hours of the deadline will incur a 3-point penalty. Further 3-point penalties will be incurred for every further day late work is submitted. Work submitted later than one week after the deadline, or not submitted, will receive a mark of zero.

The Management Committee adheres strictly to the rule that permission to submit essays or dissertations late will only be granted by the Degree Committee (or by the Degree Committee’s Chair taking chair’s action) if a formal request is received from the student’s College, with medical or similar reasons given in documentary form. Where an extension is granted, the deadline is 12 noon on the new date.

Assessment standards

Each essay and dissertation is read by two senior academic members of staff, neither of whom will have supervised the work being marked. Both will submit independent reports.

The two assessed essays must show evidence of a critical engagement with health, medicine and society; they are not required to present original research in order to pass. The dissertation must be clearly written, take account of previously published work on the subject, and represent a contribution to learning. It must show evidence of independent research.

The MPhil is formally classed only in pass/fail terms, and no marks are made publicly available. However students will receive feedback, including provisional marks, throughout the year, and internal transcripts at the end of the year.

The standard for a pass begins at 60, and the Degree Committee internally describes several different categories of pass.

80 and above - Starred Distinction

An outstanding and memorable performance in which all the qualities deemed to constitute first‐class work are present in a remarkable degree. The work should be well researched and substantially original, bearing in mind that originality has many dimensions: It may reside, for instance, in the thesis defended; or in the way a known thesis is presented and defended. Such work might well form the basis for publication. Potential for outstanding PhD work.


70–79 - First Class (boundary for PhD)

Mark 70–79: FIRST CLASS

Work which is of high calibre both in the range and in the command of the material and in the argument and analysis that it brings to bear. The assessor would expect some elements of originality — which may consist in putting together material in novel ways — although originality alone would not guarantee marks in this range.

Work in this class will generally meet the following criteria: the argument may be sophisticated, incisive or demonstrate flair; there may be a wealth of relevant information, showing exceptional knowledge and understanding of the issues involved; the approach may be unorthodox in the best sense, suggesting new and

worthwhile ways of considering material. The submitted work may display evidence of extensive research imaginatively and convincingly deployed.


Work which receives a mark of 75 to 79 will be classed as DISTINCTION and in addition to the criteria listed above will show evidence of a very strong performance demonstrating clear originality, and in which the qualities deemed to constitute first‐class work are consistently well represented. Clear potential for good PhD work.


Work which receives a mark of 70 to 74: A solid performance in which some of the criteria for first class work will clearly be present but not necessarily all. Shows potential for PhD work.


65–69: High Performance

Clearly proficient with a proper coverage of relevant material. Work may indicate broader range than the Pass. Category and should be reasonably well presented. Solid but on occasion unimaginative. Ambition of work clearly visible but not always carried through. The analysis and argument are generally good. Work at the upper end of this category shows evidence of a good and broad‐based engagement with, and understanding of, the relevant material and organised in a clearly‐argued, well‐illustrated and relevant fashion. The essay or dissertation will usually contain material which displays evidence of high intelligence, and which is regularly, but not consistently, sophisticated in analysis, impressive in its display of relevant knowledge, and occasionally demonstrate flair.


60–64: Pass

Work which is basically competent, and, in the case of dissertations, reasonably independent. Interesting and provocative ideas may not be not carried through fully convincingly. The main thesis may be vague, too general, too unambitious or else over‐ambitious. There may be gaps in the bibliography, deficiencies in the overall structure; and weaknesses of analysis and argument. A piece of work which is not always clearly written.


59 and below: Fail


Work which although it is broadly relevant and in parts competent lacks organisation or breadth of reference. Work in this category will often be derivative rather than independent. Essays and dissertations in this range may show evidence of poor judgement, contain sections which are poorly related to the main argument, display cogent argument only fitfully or display lack of clarity in writing.


Mark 0–57: FAIL

Work that, while it may show reasonable knowledge of the material, and serious effort, reveals deficiencies in understanding, organisation or breadth of reference. Work that is derivative or irrelevant, ignorant or extremely superficial. Work showing minimal understanding of material or serious deficiencies in argument.


Students are required to pass in each part of the examination separately (i.e. the essays, which together account for 40% and the dissertation which accounts for 60%), except in the following special circumstances:

  • A student whose failure in the essays is marginal shall be allowed to submit a dissertation, and a high performance in the dissertation may be taken into account by the Degree Committee in determining their recommendation.  Students whose overall essay mark is a marginal fail will be warned by the MPhil Manager in April. There is no provision for submitting a revised dissertation.
  • Where a student's failure in the dissertation is marginal, a high performance in the essays may be taken into consideration by the Degree Committee in determining their recommendation to the Board of Graduate Studies.

At the end of the course, examiners may decide to hold an oral examination. Such an examination will in any case be necessary if the essays are judged to be a marginal fail or if the agreed mark for the dissertation is a fail.

Feedback and results

During the course of their studies, students receive feedback from the MPhil Manager, their Subject Manager, and their supervisors. The first essay is examined prior to the end of the Michaelmas term in order to provide students with early feedback on their performance so they can gauge the level of achievement which the course requires. Students also get feedback (including provisional marks) on essays 2 and 3 during Lent term.

After each Board of Examiners meeting, the MPhil Manager meets with students, reports the provisional agreed mark, and provides copies of the non-confidential parts of the reports. At these meetings the work is discussed and examiners' remarks are put in context for future work. Students may contact their Subject Manager and supervisor after this meeting if they want to discuss the reports in more detail.

Marks are subject to moderation up until the final Board of Examiners meeting, and require approval by the Degree Committee in late June/early July. At the end of the course, students are provided with an informal transcript with details of each of their individual marks. Formal transcripts can be downloaded from CamSIS.

Feedback on the overall performance of the cohort is provided by Senior and External Examiners' Reports which are submitted at the end of the year. Students may find it useful to see examiners' comments on the previous year's work if available, particularly mark distributions and recommendations.


To be confirmed.

Degree approval

More information about this process can be found at the Student Registry website. Once marks have been approved by the Degree Committee, students’ Colleges are their primary contacts regarding graduation arrangements.