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Director of Studies

What is a Director of Studies? It’s one of those bizarre Cambridge labels that means little to those at other universities, but which is central to the unique Cambridge environment, providing students with a close and supportive relationship with their academic lecturers.

A Director of Studies (commonly referred to as DoS) is effectively responsible for the academic welfare of the geography students at their college. This is a level of academic support not routinely provided by other universities. But what does it mean at a practical level?

They usually meet each geography student in their college, one-to-one, at least once or twice per term to discuss their academic progress, as well as organising (and often giving) their supervisions (the small-group teaching which is another central aspect of the Cambridge experience), and providing academic advice (for example on course selection, dissertation topic). They also monitor students’ academic progress throughout the term via online feedback from supervisors. This ensures that any academic concerns that a student or supervisor might raise can be addressed immediately, and additional support provided. For example, a supervisor might mention that a first-year student is struggling to write supervision essays, and the DoS can quickly organise a session with the college’s academic writing skills tutor to help them. Consequently, it is very unusual for a student to ‘fall through the net’ or for concerns about a student’s progress only to be identified at their end-of-year examinations. Of course, being a DoS also means that they can rapidly identify and praise a student’s academic success, encouraging them that their hard work has been recognised.

On a social level, some DoS also organise regular geography gatherings, such as a formal hall subject dinner sometimes with an invited academic guests (selected by the students). This provides an opportunity for students to socialise with their lecturers, as well as providing the foundations for friendship and a support network across the three year-groups. There is also usually a special celebration for the final year geographers just before they graduate. DoS often also support their students in organising any college-based Geography Society, which provides further scope for geography-based events within college.

To conclude, a Director of Studies plays a unique role in monitoring and supporting students’ academic progress from admissions through to graduation, thus providing the foundations for a fantastically supportive environment, and for a relationship that often lasts well beyond the completion of your studies.