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Science, Technology & Mathematics Education

Applying to research STEM education at Cambridge

The Science, Technology and Mathematics Academic Group at Cambridge supervises student research projects to Masters and Doctoral level.

You can hear about the work of the group at STeM Research Group Introduction

Survey on STEM education provision

If you are potentially a full time master’s student in some aspect of STEM education, then please could you spare a few moments to complete a very short survey for us? We would very much like to know more about the kinds of master’s courses potential students are looking for. This will help us think about planning future course provision. You can find the survey here. Thank you.

Joining the group as a research student

The academic group supervises research students in areas relating to mathematics education; science education and technology and education to masters and doctoral level. We have preferred topics for projects, but are also always prepared to consider proposals in other relevant areas.

Options for research training and doctoral research

The Faculty provides research training at master's level within its various thematic routes for the MPhil (one year full-time) and MEd (two years part-time) courses.

Students who perform well on a master's degree may be provisionally admitted to doctoral studies, and then will be provided with further doctoral level research training.

Alternatively, there is an MEd / MPhil course in Educational Research which offers research training to doctoral level, for those wishing to proceed to doctoral work.

Direct admission to doctoral study may be possible for those who have completed suitable research training elsewhere.

At doctoral level we offer research supervision for PhD studies (3 years full-time or 5 years part-time students) or EdD studies (5 years part-time only). The EdD is considered a 'professional doctorate' ideally suited to those who seek to learn to become effective researchers from within professional institutions (such as schools) and includes working within a professional learning community (i.e. the kind of peer-support network familiar to many professionals) as part of the doctoral learning process.

The PhD degree can also be suitable for those who are researching their own practice or institutional context, but is also suitable for those who wish to research general educational issues (and is especially suitable for those who seek an academic career as a researcher or university scholar).

All of these options involve supervision by a senior academic, and involvement in the wider academic activities of the academic group.

Sources of more detailed information:

Faculty of Education website includes details of the programmes of study available at Masters and Doctoral level.

University of Cambridge website provides a wide range of information about the University, the Departments, Cambridge as an intellectual centre, the Colleges, etc.

Some frequently asked questions:


Application is made through the central university system. Applications are passed to the Faculty, and the Academic Group is asked to make a recommendation on admission, but formally all admission decisions are made at University level.

Questions about the applications process can be addressed to the Faculty of Education Higher Degrees Office by email:

Admissions criteria

The main criteria concern

  • Potential for academic excellence (based on prior academic achievement and strong references from suitable academic referees - we may also consider any prior publications and research experience where appropriate). Note that a good undergraduate degree or a master's degree in a relevant area is usually a minimum requirement;
  • The potential of the proposal for development into a viable research project;
  • The relevance of the proposal to the active research interests within the Academic Group;
  • Quality of written and spoken English (which is essential to effective study in the UK)
  • Eligibility to study in the UK (where appropriate, a student visa will need to be obtained);
  • Ability to fund studies (whether from personal funds, winning a Cambridge based scholarship; or funding by another sponsor);
  • Ability to meet residence requirements (full-time students must normally live in Cambridge for most of their course; part-time students must live close enough to attend regularly and take part in the intellectual life of the University).

Occasionally when the academic group receives an application for consideration, we may contact the applicant to seek additional information or ask for a sample of academic writing


The University offers a range of scholarships, but each year there are many times the number of good applicants than scholarships awarded. Potential applicants are encouraged to apply for the scholarships available where they can offer an extremely good case for winning funding, but are advised that the process is highly competitive.

Most of our research students are funded from other sources: employers, national awards from the home country; charitable foundations; or private funds.

The academic group cannot provide funding, and are not in a position to help you find funding.

(Occasionally we may have a PhD scholarship associated with a funded research project, but these opportunities are rare, and are advertised - as with other academic posts.)


We expect an application to undertake a research degree to include a proposal for the study to be undertaken. (This is a different tradition to some other national contexts where academics expect research students to follow projects assigned to them). We expect applicants to offer a proposal:

that is clearly related to the areas of work of the academic group;
that identifies provisional research questions or a research focus that is of clear intellectual interest suggesting potential for worthwhile enquiry;
that demonstrates that the applicant already has a basic knowledge and understanding of the research area, based upon reading of relevant scholarly works (this assures us that the proposal is based upon a deep personal and/or professional interest in the topic);
that offers an outline research design for how the research may proceed (and at doctoral level we expect this to be informed by prior learning about suitable research methodologies for educational research).

Supervision - and prior contact with the academic group

Applicants at doctoral level are invited to name a potential supervisor on their application. Applications will not be prejudiced by identifying/not identifying a suitable supervisor, but where a person is named they will be given priority in taking on the student if admission is recommended.

Potential research students are encouraged to:

Consider the personal webpages of members of the group and identify the most likely supervisor(s) for their work;
make prior contact with the most suitable person before completing an application;
seek to conform whether that member of staff might be interested in supervising the planned project, and whether they would wish to offer guidance and feedback on a draft proposal.

Note that it is not considered inappropriate to seek feedback on a potential research topic or proposal prior to making an application - but applicants should not expect input to necessarily be forthcoming. Staff will generally be pleased to indicate whether they would welcome being named as potential supervisor on a particular project, and may wish to offer guidance and feedback on your proposal, but are extremely busy and cannot commit much time to supporting possible applicants.

Please do not send requests for guidance to multiple potential supervisors in the group. Please contact only your first choice supervisor in the first instance. If you are unsure how to proceed, you may contact Dr Keith Taber ( for advice.

You are welcome to make an application without contacting or naming a supervisor, in which case the group will consider who is best placed to comment on your application and proposal.


Cambridge is a collegiate university, where the College acts as a primary learning and social community for students. For Graduate students, the role of the college is usually less central in academic life than that of the Faculty: but all students must be a member of one of the University's colleges, and it is sensible to give some thought to your preferences. The Faculty of Education is based on a shared campus with Homerton College, but faculty students are members of a wide range of different colleges. The student union provides a website giving information on the nature and traditions of the different Cambridge Colleges.

In Cambridge, the Colleges take primary responsibility for the pastoral needs of students - often helping in finding accommodation for example.


Full-time students are normally expected to live in Cambridge, and be in residence in term times. There is scope to work away: for example if a doctoral research project will be carried out in another location (such as a student's home country, for international students), then permission can be provided to undertake fieldwork away from Cambridge.

Part-time students have to live close enough to Cambridge to be able to travel to Cambridge regularly for supervisions; classes (where relevant); and to take part in seminars and other academic activities.