Pen y Fan trip with PhD / PGR students, June 1st 2021

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

What is a PhD?

A PhD is a doctoral degree based on a significant and original individual research project which culminates in an in-depth thesis (or alternative form of submission as below) which is relative to an area of staff expertise.

You can complete your PhD on a full or part time basis, on campus or by distance (if the nature of the research allows). There are no classes to attend as the PhD is based on research. 

You can choose to follow a full- or part-time PhD. In general, a full-time programme takes three to four years; a part-time programme takes five to six years. Full-time students are expected to spend around 35 hours per week on self-study and part-time students 12 hours. 

There are various ways of achieving a PhD, depending on your research experience and / or publication history to date.

See our current funded studentships >>

PhD by Thesis

This is the most popular route to the award of PhD.  You will normally initially register for an MPhil/PhD and submit an MPhil/PhD transfer report at the end of year 1 (or equivalent for part-time) which will be assessed to determine whether you can continue your studies to PhD. At the end of your programme, you will submit for examination and defend a thesis (of up to 100,000 words) on your approved topic which must demonstrate an original contribution to knowledge.

It may be possible to register directly for the award of PhD if you already hold a Masters degree which included a significant research component providing it is in the same discipline as your proposed research and it included training in research and execution of a research project.

Where your submission involves your own creative works or a scholarly edition of the creative works of others your thesis word count will be reduced to no more than 40,000 words. 

PhD by Portfolio

If you're a professional with an existing body of work, a PhD by Portfolio could be the route for you. There are many advantages to completing your doctorate in this way. One of the biggest appeals is that it can be completed in 12 months part time. This not only makes it cost effective but also a viable option for busy professionals who may be musicians, authors, engineers or healthcare professionals, educators or in the police / armed forces who have a suitable body of work.

Up to three projects/pieces of work and associated outputs are required at the application stage; the majority of these will be complete at the time of application and / or registration. You will be supervised to write a critical overview of up to 15,000 words which brings the projects together into the final PhD by Portfolio submission. This must demonstrate an original contribution to knowledge. As with all PhDs, the final assessment includes a viva examination.

The attraction of experienced professionals having a PhD will vary, with some wanting to get a job in academia, while some are more interested in receiving acceptance and recognition from the institution or profession they operate in for work they have already done.

The projects you include in your portfolio for submission may be related to your area of professional practice, and / or derived from empirical or conceptual investigation. 

PhD by Publication

If you are a past or present member of staff, alumni or have very strong links with the University of South Wales, you may apply for a PhD by Publication. You will submit for examination and defend an approved body of published work, together with a critical overview.

Applicants for PhD by Publication normally require six peer reviewed journal articles, or equivalent book chapters or monographs, as sole or first author.

  • MPhil/PhD (Animation and Visual Effects)
  • MPhil/PhD (Applied Sciences)
  • MPhil/PhD (Built Environment)
  • MPhil/PhD (Business)
  • MPhil/PhD (Civil / Mechanical / Aeronautical Engineering)
  • MPhil/PhD (Communication Design & Photography)
  • MPhil/PhD (Computer Science)
  • MPhil/PhD (Cyber Security)
  • MPhil/PhD (Drama)
  • MPhil/PhD (Education)
  • MPhil/PhD (Electronic Engineering)
  • MPhil/PhD (English)
  • MPhil/PhD (Health)
  • MPhil/PhD (History)
  • MPhil/PhD (Informatics)
  • MPhil/PhD (Law / Accounting & Finance)
  • MPhil/PhD (Mathematics)
  • MPhil/PhD (Media, Culture & Communication)
  • MPhil/PhD (Music & Sound)
  • MPhil/PhD (Police Sciences)
  • MPhil/PhD (Psychology)
  • MPhil/PhD (Social Policy)
  • MPhil/PhD (Criminology)
  • MPhil/PhD (Sport)
  • MPhil/PhD (Sustainable Environment)

PhD Direct

  • PhD (Animation and Visual Effects)
  • PhD (Applied Sciences)
  • PhD (Built Environment)
  • PhD (Business)
  • PhD (Civil / Mechanical / Aeronautical Engineering)
  • PhD (Communication Design & Photography)
  • PhD (Computer Science)
  • PhD (Cyber Security)
  • PhD (Drama)
  • PhD (Education)
  • PhD (Electronic Engineering)
  • PhD (English)
  • PhD (Health)
  • PhD (History)
  • PhD (Informatics)
  • PhD (Law / Accounting & Finance)
  • PhD (Mathematics)
  • PhD (Media, Culture & Communication)
  • PhD (Music & Sound)
  • PhD (Police Sciences)
  • PhD (Psychology)
  • PhD (Social Policy)
  • PhD (Criminology)
  • PhD (Sport)
  • PhD (Sustainable Environment)

Entry requirements

Applicants will normally hold one of the following:

  • A UK 2:1 honours degree in a relevant subject (or equivalent) or a UK Masters qualification in a relevant subject (or equivalent)
  • Appropriate, relevant qualifications/experience regarded by the University as equivalent
For direct registration for the award of PhD (without the need to 'transfer'), applicants will additionally hold one of the following:
  • A relevant UK Masters degree (or equivalent) with a significant research component in the same discipline area as the proposed research which included training in research and execution of a research project
  • Significant research and / or professional experience which has resulted in published work, written reports or other appropriate evidence of accomplishment

International applicants must evidence either a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 (including 5.5 in reading and writing) or a recent Masters from an English speaking country. Please note: some subject areas require a higher IELTS score.

How to apply

You can apply online. When you are ready to submit an application, this is how you do it and how much it will cost. If you have any questions, please contact the Graduate School.

Contact us

Graduate School
8 Forest Grove
Treforest Campus
CF37 1DL

Email: [email protected]


Studying a distance PhD allows you to benefit from our support and expertise, while conducting your research from anywhere in the world

"From the very start of my PhD, the supervision and guidance I received from a distance was of the highest quality whether I was in or out of the UK.  My work continued as if I was on campus.     

Not having to travel to campus for meetings or training sessions on testing equipment was very time and financially efficient.  From a time-management point of view, I was able to concentrate more on writing and submission of manuscripts, which really helped my self-development and ultimately my CV.  

Despite being based in a couple of different time zones over the course of my PhD (first China and now India) this did not slow the progression of my research or the submission to high-impact journals." Dr Steven Jones, Sport PhD