UK PhD Degrees

UK doctoral degrees (PhD) confer considerable prestige and UK universities are world-renowned for their quality research and for their research degrees. The application process can be lengthy and complex though. Funding issues, accommodation and entry requirements complicate matters further and the stakes are high. Let us help you to get it right the first time.

Exactly what is a PhD?

The PhD is a research programme extending over three or more years, culminating in a dissertation or thesis of (usually) 70,000–100,000 words. The thesis must present original findings that are, in principle, publishable. In some subjects such as art, the thesis may be replaced by an original major work and in the social sciences, several published articles may be accepted in place of a single thesis.

What’s an MPhil and what does it have to do with a PhD?

Most universities require you to register first for an MPhil before transferring to the PhD at the end of the first year.

What’s a Split PhD?

Split PhDs let you split your research time between the UK and your home country. You’ll usually spend a minimum of one year in the UK and complete your research in your own country, communicating regularly with your supervisor in the UK. The split PhD can dramatically reduce the impact of a PhD on other things that are happening in your life, letting you get back home to continue the individual portion of your studies where you live and work.

What will a British PhD do for my career?

  • During the course of your doctoral studies you will produce an original piece of research that could give your career an important boost.
  • UK universities are home to some world-renowned experts in all sorts of fields. As a doctoral student you will have access to these people; you could become one yourself.
  • Universities in the United Kingdom will educate you to world-renowned research standards that will stand you in good stead whether your ambitions lie in academia, or in private business.
  • New doctoral programmes have emerged in recent years, aimed at experienced industry professionals. These programmes could give you all that you need to take you to the next level in your career.

How is the degree structured?

  • In your first year, after enrolling, you will sit down with your department head and produce the outline of your programme which will be submitted to your university’s Research Degree Committee for approval.
  • You will be assigned an academic guide to supervise your research, usually a professor with an interest and expertise in your area of research.
  • One of the first things you’ll do is to sit down with your supervisor and agree on some guidelines for your research, such as the methodological approach that you intend to take and a work-and-review schedule that suits you both.
  • As a doctoral student you are entitled to use all of the university’s facilities to complete your degree. You can attend courses, lectures and tutorials to improve your knowledge in specific subjects.
  • Your supervisor may ask you to take specialist seminars or to attend conferences.
  • Throughout your research you have to give occasional accounts of your progress to university staff and to your fellow students at informal seminars.
  • During your second year you may be asked to carry out your remaining research work and typically any empirical data collection is undertaken at this time. Depending on your research area and methodology, this could involve anything from field work and questionnaires to model design. Towards the end of your second year you will need to submit an initial analysis of your results.
  • Your third year you will complete any detailed empirical work and organise your initial findings.
  • You must interpret these final results and interpret them. You must arrange your ideas in a well-argued thesis and you must have that checked, referenced, edited, printed and bound.
  • Once you have submitted your thesis, two examiners (one non-academic expert, generally an industry expert, and one academic from another university) will study your research, as will your academic supervisor. When this process is complete, you must present your findings at a seminar and face a panel of academics in a question-and-answer session. If you survive all of this intact, you will be awarded your PhD.

What are the entry requirements?

  • The English language requirement is usually 6.5 IELTS or 90-100 TOEFL iBT.
  • A relevant master’s degree.
  • A research proposal, usually 1,000 – 2,000 words long. This proposal should outline your proposed area of research, cite books and articles that you consider to be relevant to current debate, summarise how you intend to support your research with empirical data and outline your methodology.