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Option courses

The option course is one of four key elements structuring the MPhil in African Studies programme. The other elements are the core course, the dissertation, and language training.

Option courses explore a specific theme in Africanist scholarship or examine the African continent from the perspective of a particular academic discipline. Such courses are usually taught across Michaelmas and Lent terms and their teaching format and structure varies according to what lecturers deem appropriate. Normally, they are taught in small seminar discussion groups (up to 15 students), for which readings are set in advance and preparation is essential. Classes can occasionally be supplemented by optional lectures, while option courses with larger class sizes may receive mostly lectures, in addition to a few seminar classes. This variation in teaching approach reflects the fact that many option courses are based in departments and faculties beyond the Centre of African Studies, giving you the opportunity to interact with students on different MPhil programmes.

You are asked to nominate your option course preferences at the MPhil induction day in October. Although we aim to place students in their first preference course, this cannot be guaranteed. If you wish, you may inform the MPhil Office of your option course preferences in advance of arriving in Cambridge.

The option course is assessed by a 5,000-word essay (including footnotes, excluding bibliography) on a topic devised by you in consultation with your option course lecturer; the topic must be submitted to the MPhil office for approval early in Lent term. The essay itself is due on 15 March. You must submit an essay on the approved topic, as variations are not permitted later. The option course essay counts for 20% of the final MPhil mark.

In 2015-16, a choice of three option courses is offered. Please note that there may be limited places available on the ‘Politics of Africa’ and the ‘Development issues in sub-Saharan Africa’ courses due to demand from other MPhil programmes.

Options running in 2016-17

Christianity, identity and social change in Africa

Development issues in sub-Saharan Africa

Politics of Africa

Related links

MPhil course lecturers

Submitting essays

Examination regulations