Thinking about doing a PhD?

considering research 1

Things to consider

Should you study for a PhD? Undertaking a research degree demands a significant amount of commitment and there are lots of things to think about before applying. Below are a few key things you should consider before submitting your research proposal.

1. Can I commit the time required?

Studying full-time normally requires a minimum of three years to complete a PhD. Part-time study normally requires a minimum of five years to complete a PhD but a student will have more flexibility for other commitments.

A full-time student is expected to reach the standard for PhD within three years of registration, with a maximum of four years permitted.  A part-time student is expected to reach the standard for PhD within four years of registration, with a maximum of seven years permitted.

You are expected to fully engage with your research project and with the University’s broader research community.  Expectations therefore include:

  • Attendance at supervisory meetings, and compliance with University requirements for recording the outcomes of these meetings;
  • Attendance on and successful completion of the Pg Certificate in Research Practice;
  • Regular and frequent attendance which allows engagement with and contribution to the local, faculty and wider institutional research community. This should be as agreed with your Director of Studies and in line with your mode of study - it is expected that a Full-Time research student will dedicate around 35-37 hours per week to their study, and a Part-Time (including distance learning) research student will dedicate around 15-18 hours per week.
  • Participation in other research events within and outside of the University (e.g. seminars/conferences etc.).

2. Am I passionate about my project and its outcomes?

A research degree requires you to be able to study independently, with advice and support from your supervisory team, other professional services and peers. You will, therefore, need a high degree of self-motivation to sustain your studies and successfully complete your programme.

3. Costs and funding

Funding is sometimes available in the form of Research Studentships. These are provided by UK Research Councils who will provide payment of course fees and a living allowance or stipend (which is usually). Government Agencies in many countries may sometimes provide funding to study for a PhD outside of the home country.

The University also supports a very limited number of PhD studentships each year, either allocated to the University by the Research Councils or r industry, charities and other sources as well as our own resources. However, for funding for research studentships is much greater than supply, so you should not rely on being able to find funding for your study.

The government offers Doctoral Loans of up to £25,000 to be used across the lifetime of your course. View more details and eligibility here.

4. How can I study for a research degree?

The quickest and easiest way to undertake a research degree is by full-time study, but we recognise that circumstances are different and we encourage part-time study for research degrees. For outside the UK, it is also possible to study for a research degree by distance learning. In this case, you must commit to spending a minimum of six weeks per year at the University and you will also need to identify a supervisor at a university in your country of residence who can provide local supervision for you.

5. The application process

Below is an indicative schedule for applications, admissions and enrolment for research degree students.

Standard Intake

Target  date 



Home Applications

International Applications

Home Applications

International Applications

Final date for submission of online research degree application

End of May

End of April

End of October

End of September

Final date for candidates to accept offer

End of July

End of June

End of December

End of November

Start date of course

First Monday in September

First Monday in February

For more information on the application process, visit our guidance page. 

6. Study Visa Requirements

If you are a national of a country outside the UK, you will need a study visa to undertake a research degree. If you have residence in the UK we can assess your status and advice on your fees.

For certain subject areas, particularly Engineering, ICT and Health, you will also need to obtain higher level clearance from the UK Home Office through the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS).

Please note that the ATAS certificates are specific to the course and the teaching institution. Applicants who have a number of offers and have yet to make a decision should file an ATAS clearance certificate application for each course/programme of study and institution.

Also, you will require a valid Academic IELTS certificate with a minimum overall score of 6.5 with no band below 6.0 or an equivalent qualification. However, some courses may require a higher IELTS score. Please see individual course pages for more information.

You will need to evidence that you have enough funds to support yourself and pay for your course - the amount will vary depending on your circumstances.

7. Find out more from current postgraduate researchers 

Our PhD blog is full of stories from our current postgraduate researchers covering all aspects of life as a PhD student. You can also chat to current researchers at our Open Days or read more stories on our blog.

Read more stories on our blog