The Finance PhD pathway


The Finance group at Cambridge Judge Business School covers a broad spectrum of issues in finance. We define finance as more than a set of financial transactions – it is the glue that holds together corporations, capital markets and the real economy. 

We pursue research on empirical and theoretical corporate finance, asset pricing, and financial accounting as well as the intersections of finance and economics. In doing so, we treat finance as both an art and a science.

Professor Raghavendra Rau talks about the Finance pathway.

Hello. My name is Raghu Rau, and I’m the Head of the Finance and Accounting group here at Cambridge Judge Business School. Finance is actually an area which deals with four different groups of people.

We are looking at investors. Investors are people who give money to corporations and to reinvest in investment project and so on. We’re looking at corporations who take money from individuals and use that to invest in different types of projects. We have financial intermediaries, who sit between the corporations and individuals trying to make sure they have the best match between projects which the companies are offering and the individuals who want to invest in these projects. And finally, you have government and regulators who make sure the whole process is fair.

Here at Cambridge Judge Business School, we focus mostly on corporate finance. So in particular, we look at empirical corporate finance. What that means is most of our research uses actual data from companies. We look at why companies use particular types of financial policy.

We look at why individuals make certain types of decisions, whether they do this rationally, whether they’re driven by behavioural biases, and so on. We look at what conflicts of interest might make financial intermediaries advocate one type of action rather than another, for example, why they might ask firms to issue equity in place of debt and other factors like that. Overall, our focus is on trying to get actual data, hard data, which tells us exactly– allows us to get at the truth, allows us to figure out what it is that individuals, managers, and financial intermediaries are really thinking when they make financial decisions.

A lot of the data we use comes from deep engagement with companies. So in fact, here at Cambridge Judge Business School, we engage a lot with individuals who are at high level positions at firms. And because we are the University of Cambridge, we have been able to get access to a lot of unique data sets, which are not available typically at most universities across the world. And we use these to answer these types of questions.

What type of student are we looking for? Basically, someone who is interested in finding out the truth. The problem with industry is that you cannot really spend much time digging into to issues and figure out what is really going on.

We don’t just have the time. You need to talk to your clients. You need to talk to your company. These are short-frame, short-term projects, which typically last more than less than about three to six months.

Three to six months is a very, very short time for an academic. If you’re interested in truly figuring out how things work, you really have to go in-depth into these matters. And that might take a year, maybe two years. At the end of the day, we’re looking for someone who is at heart interested in the truth, someone who is, well, for better words, an academic.

View video with transcript

The pathway

To start on the Finance pathway you must take one of the following 9-month masters programmes:

MPhil in Finance

Master of Research (MRes) (for students with a Cambridge MPhil in Economic Research)

Essential reading

Download detailed information about the 9-month + 4-year programme structure and content.

The Finance PhD pathway

Research areas

Our faculty research is based around empirical and theoretical corporate finance, asset pricing, and financial accounting as well as the intersections of finance and economics. You will have the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research on the multi-faceted linkages between investors, intermediaries and corporations. While the questions are academic in nature, we strive for solutions that can inform the practice of finance, and we incorporate this spirit into our teaching and other classroom interactions. 

  • Provides the methodical rigour to infer causal statements about the way the world works.
  • Allows us to shed light on questions that we, and businesses in the real world, deemed to be interesting and important at this time.
  • Leads to key new understandings, eg the importance of the role of financial intermediation for growth and welfare.
  • Work on topics and papers related to the study of commercial banks, investment banks, universal banks, mutual funds, hedge funds and other providers of financial services.
  • Market failures and inefficiencies as a result of what happens within firms, not just between financial institutions and those seeking their services.
  • Analysis of how firms work – how are compensation contracts written, and why do companies pay bribes to politicians?
  • Analysis of investors that invest in firms through a set of financial intermediaries. How do these investors understand risk? Can managers and intermediaries consistently fool them into paying too much for securities or assets?

We pay close attention to human decision-making and behavioural anomalies, both of which also apply to the broader context of capital markets and financial accounting.  

What we expect from you

You will need to have earned a first class undergraduate degree or equivalent. In some cases you will need to have a graduate degree from a highly regarded university in financial, mathematical or business economics, and to have performed within the top 5% in your class.

You will also be able to demonstrate a high level of commitment to an academic career in a business school, to this end your academic preparation is key. Finance research is quantitative in nature and your background will reflect quantitative and methodological rigour. 

For more details, please see the academic requirements for the:

MPhil in Finance

Master of Research (MRes)

What you can expect from us

  • You will be considered a junior colleague rather than a student from the outset of the programme. 
  • Work with faculty on joint research projects for publication in leading academic journals.  
  • Learn from a series of courses focused on research methodology and the foundations of the discipline. 
  • Attend seminars given by the top researchers in the field. 
  • Benefit from close interactions both within the Finance subject group and beyond including external researchers, meetings with speakers and research visits to some of the finest finance departments outside Cambridge. 
  • You will be fully funded during your years on the programme. 
  • Access researchers across the University of Cambridge, studying a huge variety of topics at a world-class level. 
  • Take advantage of the specialised interdisciplinary centres established by the Finance group, and access unique data found nowhere else in the world. 

PhD supervisors

Your principal supervisor will be a senior academic, often Professor or Associate Professor, from within the Finance group. You will benefit from their guidance and counsel throughout the programme, and beyond: in helping you to succeed in the job market and in gaining a faculty position at a leading business school. Your principal supervisor will take an active role in your research programme and will assemble a group of faculty (your advisory committee) who will co-author papers with you. 

Take a look at the faculty who may serve as your principal supervisor and view their research interests:

David Chambers

Invesco Professor of Finance

Research interests

David Chambers researches investment management; financial history; endowment asset management; IPOs; law and finance.

Elroy Dimson

Professor of Finance

Not available to take incoming PhD students in October 2024.

Research interests

Elroy Dimson researches investment management; financial market history; endowment asset management; sustainable and responsible investing.

Oğuzhan Karakaş

Associate Professor in Finance

Research interests

Oguzhan Karakas researches corporate governance; ownership and control; corporate social responsibility; private equity; dynamic investment strategies.

Andrei Kirilenko

Professor of Finance

Research interests

Andrei Kirilenko researches the intersection of finance, technology and regulation; fintech; asset pricing, data, and digital technologies; the design of automated financial markets and instruments.

Bart Lambrecht

Professor of Finance

Research interests

Bart Lambrecht researches various aspects of corporate finance such as real options and investment under uncertainty; mergers and acquisitions; payout policy; managerial agency and the role of asymmetric information; bankruptcy; and the financing of firms; housing and household finance; bank lending and bank capital structure.

Bang Dang Nguyen

Associate Professor in Finance

Research interests

Bang Dang Nguyen researches corporate finance; empirical finance; corporate governance.

Raghavendra Rau

Sir Evelyn de Rothschild Professor of Finance

Research interests

Raghu Rau researches empirical corporate finance; empirical behavioural finance.

Pedro Saffi

Professor of Financial Economics

Research interests

Pedro Saffi researches security lending markets; short selling; liquidity risk; and how differences of beliefs affect trading volume.

Lucio Sarno

Professor of Finance

Not available to take incoming PhD students in October 2024.

Research interests

Lucio Sarno researches empirical asset pricing; international finance, and especially foreign exchange markets; macro-finance; microstructure of financial markets.

Finance faculty

Learn more about the faculty that teach on this pathway.

Learn more about the Finance subject group