Doing a PhD: information for applicants


This guidance will assist you in applying for your chosen postgraduate research degree programme and will outline: how your application will be considered, what will be expected of you and what you can expect from the University.

The specific information included will assist you in:

  • Deciding which research programme to apply for
  • Preparing your research proposal
  • Making your application
  • Understanding how your application is processed

The University offers several research degree programmes. Please see individual programmes for entry requirements.

If you are interested in a particular research area or working with a particular member of academic staff, it is often worth discussing your research ideas with them before submitting an application.

A research proposal must be submitted unless you are applying for a funded studentship which has a specified project.

Your proposal will be no more than 2000 words and will enable the reader to obtain a clear understanding of the research you plan to undertake and the context. 

Essentially, the reader will be given answers to the questions “what?”, “why?” and “how?” i.e. what is the research, why is it being undertaken, how is it going to be conducted.

In the case of PhD the expected original contribution to knowledge and the planned form of submission e.g. thesis, portfolio or publication, must be clear. Where the planned submission involves creative work this should also be highlighted. 

You should also indicate whether you have considered any potential ethical issues associated with your proposed project.

A typical proposal will contain:

  • An introductory section which sets out the research question and/or the context in which the research sits. This should include a brief description of relevant previous work with key literature references, or information sources if appropriate. It should include a statement of aims and objectives which addresses the “what?” and “why?” questions.
  • Information about the work that is going to be undertaken including the planned methodologies and why they have been chosen. A provisional project plan or Gantt chart is useful. 
  • A statement as to the nature of the submission e.g. thesis, portfolio or publication (in the case of PhD), and whether the submission will include any creative work or other outputs. 
  • A list of key references.

The above layout is not meant to be prescriptive and different disciplines may structure proposals differently which is perfectly understandable and acceptable.

The first step is to register with our online service and apply online.

Which research degree?  Find the right degree for you in the listing.

The following documents must be uploaded as supporting documents:

  • A single research proposal of approximately 2,000 words is required unless you are applying for a funded studentship which has a specified project.  (Only one research proposal is permitted.)

  • Two references on headed paper. At least one referee should be able to comment on your academic/professional ability. References provided by relatives are not acceptable.

  • Applications that do not include references and / or a research proposal will be rejected as will applications that include multiple research proposals.

  • Applicants from countries where English is not the first language are required to provide evidence of the required English Language proficiency e.g. IELTS or TOEFL certificates which must be uploaded as supporting documents.

  • Evidence of qualifications e.g. degree certificates and transcripts must be submitted at the time of application.

  • If you are applying for a PhD direct and you hold a relevant Masters degree you should submit as a supporting document an outline of the title and content e.g. an abstract of your Masters degree and one of your referees should be an independent academic referee who can comment on your performance on the Masters degree.

  • If you are applying for a PhD by Publication please submit your proposed publications as a supporting document.

  • Please ensure you apply in time for your chosen entry month.

  • October admissions:  Closing date for applications — 1st May, notification of decision — 1st July.

  • January admissions: Closing date for applications — 1st October, notification of decision — 1st December.

  • April admissions: Closing date for applications — 1st January, notification of decision — 1st March.

Your research application will initially be considered by two members of academic staff within the Faculty who will make recommendations to the Faculty Research Degrees Committee (FRDC). The reviewers will consider the quality of the research proposal and in the case of PhD applications, the proposed original contribution to knowledge.

If the reviews are positive, you will be invited for interview. This will be conducted by your proposed supervisory team. Interviews may be held either face to face, by telephone or by Skype / video-conferencing facilities.

In considering admission for any research degree programme, the FRDC considers several important criteria, which you can find more information about on this page.

It is important that you are aware of the criteria for approving research degree applications. If any of these are not met, your application may be rejected.

Before approving your application to study, the Faculty Research Degrees Committee (FRDC) shall ensure that:

  • You have appropriate qualifications and / or experience.
  • You are proficient in English Language (a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 is required including a minimum of 5.5 in reading and writing).
  • Two independent reviews have been received and reviewers are content with the quality of the research proposal and the potential for contribution to knowledge where appropriate.
  • Satisfactory references have been received.
  • You have been interviewed by the proposed supervisory team.
  • You have the motivation and potential to complete on time.
  • You are aware of the financial implications of study.
  • You are aware of the University’s ethical guidelines.
  • Any specific needs have been considered and where the need for additional support is identified this is provided or reasonable adjustments are made.
  • There is supervisory capacity and expertise to supervise you.
  • There are adequate resources within the Faculty.
  • Your proposed research fits the Faculty’s and / or the University’s research strategy.

If your application is successful, you will be issued with an offer letter. This will contain the following information:

  • Start date
  • Project title
  • Name of your Director of Studies
  • Information on Enrolment, Induction and Fees
  • Progression review information
  • A link to the University's Research Degree Regulations and Codes of Practice which you should read carefully
  • A link to the University’s Terms and Conditions for International Students

You will need to formally accept your offer to confirm your place.