The new MPhil in Digital Humanities at the University of Cambridge explores ways in which the humanities can engage with digitally enabled research approaches, considers the impact of digital innovations on cultural forms and practices, and explores digital futures. This one year taught masters programme is designed to be inter-disciplinary and caters for different skill levels in digital humanities methods and approaches.
Our culture is increasingly computational. Digital technologies are deeply implicated in the ways we produce knowledge, analyse older cultural forms, and make new ones. Computational technologies and techniques are central to the way we live now. They are embedded into bodies and environments, re-organizing scale and distance, re-wiring social divisions and inequalities in unexpected ways. They are also central to what we know and how we know it – the digital constitutes a radical shift in the forms of knowledge production, circulation, and exchange. It produces new possibilities for scholarship – and ushers in new epistemic culture. There is a need for the humanities to grapple with emerging forms, practices, social formations and epistemic cultures shaped in this digital age.
Our new MPhil in Digital Humanities responds to this. The course explores ways in which the humanities can engage with digitally enabled research approaches, it considers the impact of digital innovations on cultural forms and practices, and it explores digital futures.
The course delivers a series of practical engagement with digital methods, tools, and approaches and also provides an orientation in a range of critical and theoretical approaches necessary to grapple with key issues in digital humanities – these include questions of the ethical or politics of digital culture, environmental load, surveillance and personal freedom, data neutrality issues, algorithmic analysis, machine learning, open access, platform politics, ethics of automation, virtual cultures, data sharing, intelligent agency and creativity, archival justice and digital histories, collections and heritage issues.
The course is designed to offer a structured engagement with a range of methods and critical/theoretical approaches and also to enable the development of specialisms. It will enable humanities or social science trained students to develop the critical literacy and practical skills and knowledges to understand and engage with digital materials and digital methods for the study of matters relevant to the humanities.
Students take two core courses – Digital Humanities Approaches and Methods, and Data and Algorithmic Analysis – and choose two courses from a basket of more specialist options undertaken in the Lent (second) term. These vary from year to year but may include options on Digital Forms, Automatic writing, Cultures of AI, Global Digital Humanities, Digital Approaches to the Past.
Students also develop a year-long dissertation or portfolio project exploring a chosen area with an appropriate supervisor. You will also acquire a critical and well-informed understanding of the stakes of digital transformation in contemporary society and participate in the advanced research culture of the DH community at Cambridge and beyond by attending and contributing to research seminars, practical and methodological workshops, and reading groups. Assessment is through shorter essays and through the dissertation or portfolio project.
The course is directed by Cambridge Digital Humanities, a research centre with links across a wide range of faculties and units at Cambridge, and it is administered by the Faculty of English.
Digital Humanities is an intrinsically interdisciplinary field: we therefore will consider candidates with any academic undergraduate degree. You might have a grounding in History, Archaeology, Literature, Linguistics, Art History, Economics, Computer Science, etc. The degree itself involves working with a range of materials from Cambridge Libraries, Museums and Collections and other disciplines. Whatever your background, we are looking forward to hearing from you.
You must have a good 2:1 Honours Degree – an average mark of 67 or more for your undergraduate degree
General entry requirements for the University of Cambridge:
The MPhil will enable students to demonstrate an advanced general understanding of digital humanities and related topics at both practical and theoretical levels. This MPhil will benefit students seeking to stay with the field of DH at doctoral level and beyond by enabling them to hone their critical and methodological skills, develop new approaches and test them out, and specialise. It will also benefit students wishing to take their learning back to ‘home’ disciplines, as they will have gained the critical and practical digital literacy to inform future research.
Other careers which may follow an MPhil in DH could include those in galleries, libraries, archives, museums, creative industries, digital media industries and media arts – as students will have gained the critical perspectives, practical digital literacies, and methodological insights to pursue these pathways.
MPhil students may apply to continue to a PhD with Cambridge Digital Humanities or with a relevant Faculty at Cambridge. The academic condition for continuation at Cambridge is normally an overall mark of 70 or more for the MPhil course, and a mark of 70 or more for the dissertation/portfolio. Other conditions may also be imposed.
To find out your fee, visit:
You can apply to many funding opportunities through the Cambridge University Graduate Funding Competition. This coordinates funding from multiple sources including:
- Cambridge Trust: https://www.cambridgetrust.org/scholarships/eligibility/
- Gates Cambridge: https://www.gatescambridge.org/
- ESRC, NERC and AHRC Research Councils
- University funding, including The Vice Chancellor’s Award and The Cambridge International Scholarship Scheme
- College partner funding for the above schemes
- General information found at: https://www.postgraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/funding-overview
The University holds two main rounds of competition for postgraduate study on October and January for admittance the following academic year. Funding deadlines and further information on the Graduate Funding Competition is provided by the Graduate Admissions Office.
Please make sure you are aware of the Graduate Funding Competition Timeline.
Current and prospective postgraduate students can use the Cambridge Funding Search tool to locate funding within the University
For students resident in an African country
The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Cambridge is designed to provide talented students from economically marginalised and hard-to-reach communities in Africa with fully-funded opportunities to complete their Master’s training, grow in transformative leadership, and contribute to climate resilience and sustainability in Africa. The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program covers the cost of travel and visas, accommodation, meals, allowance for a laptop, health cover, and a living stipend – as well as tuition costs. It also provides an allowance for dependant children who may accompany a Scholar. Applicants to this funding must be a citizen of an African country and demonstrate that they are from an economically marginalised, or economically disadvantaged, background.
The deadline for this funding is 5 Jan, or 19 Dec to submit a fee waiver form.
European Funding Guide
The European Funding Guide is the largest online-platform in the EU for finding financial aid. The platform contains over 12,000 scholarships, grants and awards across the whole EU worth more than 27 billion Euros per year. Over 4,000 of these are specifically targeted at UK students.
Snowdon Trust Scholarship Opportunity for Disabled Students
The scholarship offers up to £30,000 of funding for disabled students seeking to do a master’s programme at a UK institution in 2022/2023. Successful students will receive up to £15,000 towards their fees and a £15,000 allowance while studying. There are up to 12 scholarships available, and students can apply for any master’s course at any UK university. Applications are open for both National and International Students and usually close in early April. https://www.disabilityinnovation.com/projects/snowdon-masters-scholarships
Postgraduate Administrator (Suzanne Daley):
Resources at Cambridge and Example Projects
MPhil applicants who aren’t familiar with resources at Cambridge might start by browsing the resources below. Descriptions are provided by Cambridge University collections specifically hoping to work with Digital Humanities students.
Cambridge University Library
The Needham papers consist of travel diaries and photographs, predominantly of journeys in China in the mid-twentieth century. Diaries are largely transcribed and available as TEI XML. Photographs are also described in TEI, with short captions. There is potential for using NER to recognise names, dates, places in text and map the journeys themselves, and to relate diary entries to related photographs. There is also potential for visual search etc. to do automated enrichment of photograph captions.
The notebooks of Cambridge Botanist Oliver Rackham span many decades and record his research into landscape history and plant species distribution, largely in the United Kingdom. A good number of the notebooks have crowdsourced transcriptions. Entries tend to be structured by date, place and species lists (with other information, plus maps, diagrams etc.). There is potential for Natural Language Processing to be used to extract dataset of plant species distribution over time/place from the text, and possibly to compare or combine with other datasets. Computer vision could be used to do something with the many illustrations and diagrams available.
The Royal Commonwealth Society library collection is a massive collection of material relating mainly to British colonial activities, including manuscript and printed material and large numbers of photographs. On the whole it is not transcribed and descriptions tend to be quite thin and derived from archive catalogues. There is huge potential here for all kinds of Digital Humanities methods, including automated generation of descriptive data, analysis of historical language (particularly captioning of photographs), mapping of materials, comparison of historical photographs and descriptions to show urban and rural development over time (there are a fair number of panoramas of cities etc.).
CHIP is assembling data relating to Cambridge technology innovation from the 1960s to the present day. This electronic data set will include hundreds of entries, collected in a standard format, concerning the companies of this world-famous technology cluster, including information about their dates of operation, geographical location, technologies and business sectors, key persons involved, and archival records. CHIP’s aim is to tell new stories about innovation for a range of audiences. This data set could form the basis for an MPhil project on mapping and visualising how innovation develops through time.
For somewhat similar projects, please see the University’s impact map for the United Kingdom and for the world. For scholarly resources, including earlier examples of data-mapping, see the chart produced by Segal Quince Wicksteed in The Cambridge Phenomenon: The Growth of High Technology Industry in a University Town (1985) and on USA science and innovation parks, see regional development and economic geography literature such as AnnaLee Saxenian’s Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128 (1996) and The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global Economy (2006). Find a list of Saxenian’s publications here.
Trial with digital assets of John Constable’s letters and prints produced in collaboration with David Lucas to show what might be possible in terms of linking, and in drawing out key data of people names, places, etc. Constable’s letters have recently been archived with transcriptions. The prints are a succession of working proofs, recording Constable’s refinement of an image. There is potential here for a project that shows how these develop digitally, as opposed to a visitor walking along a line of framed prints and keeping track of changes in their head.
The Japanese printed books collection houses potential for projects which explore how digital interpretation can enhance access and understanding of these complex, small objects, using a former, obsolete Flash ‘turning pages’ version, as a starting point. Digital assets for some of the books exist, including whole page illustrations, close-up shots of special printing effects, transliterations and translations of poetry, and contextual information.
(An example which provides a great deal of room for improvement)
Trial with a subset from the massive collection of these small printed objects to look into ways of crowd-sourcing digitisation, capturing key information to be able eventually to map provenance, link lives of makers and patrons, give explanation of symbols used. Digital assets do not exist.