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How to apply for a postgraduate research degree

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How to apply for postgraduate research degrees

Like postgraduate taught degrees, the application process for research degrees can vary, so always check the programme listing for any specific requirements.


MPhil & PhD programmes

If you’re applying for an MPhil/PhD you should get in touch with the programme contact or academic department in which you’d like to study before you submit your application. It may also be possible to arrange an advisory meeting with your preferred supervisor. As part of your application, you will need to write a research proposal.


Upgrading from MPhil to PhD registration

You’ll usually begin by registering as an MPhil student, and you can apply to upgrade to PhD registration when you have completed an agreed part of the research and training programme: usually after 18 months if you’re studying full-time, or 24 months if you’re studying part-time. Upgrading is a major milestone in your progress. It’s also an opportunity to experience a viva voce on your work, which is valuable practice for your PhD viva later.

You’ll need to write a persuasive research proposal, explaining what you’re intterested in researhing.

If you decide not to upgrade to PhD registration, you can submit your thesis for an MPhil after two years if you’re studying full-time, or after three years if you’re studying part-time.


Research proposals

If you’re considering applying to do an MPhil and/or PhD, you’ll need to write a research proposal. The prospect of writing a proposal can be daunting, and although it may take some time, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

A research proposal is primarily about the art of persuasion: convincing your audience that what you’re proposing is interesting and feasible. You should also aim to convice the reader that you have the knowledge, skills and stamina to work through your ideas to a satisfactory conclusion.

All research proposals should:

  • Persuade the reader that you have an interesting project in mind, with original ideas
  • Demonstrate that you have the skills and understanding required to achieve your plans
  • State your case clearly and accessibly
  • Be realistic in terms of what you expect to achieve
  • Explain how your research will fit within the scholarly community that you’re applying to be a part of
  • Make connections with the supervisor you’d like to work with

 Read more advice for writing a research proposal.

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