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Apply for a research degree

We offer a range of postgraduate research degrees:

  • Doctor in Business Administration (DBA)
  • Doctor in Medicine (MD)
  • Doctor in Pharmacy (DPharm)
  • Doctor in Philosophy (PhD)
  • Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
  • Master by Research (MRes)

There are two ways to apply:

Write your own research proposal

If there's a specific area you would like to research, you can submit your own research proposal.

Writing a Research Proposal

Important points before you begin:

  • Not all applications for a degree by research require the submission of a proposal. Check Faculty application details before investing time in crafting
    an appropriate submission, and you can browse all existing opportunities on

  • Following this guidance does not guarantee entry to a doctoral programme of study. Experts will evaluate your submission as part of the broader application, and review eligibility requirements

  • If you already have a working relationship with a potential supervisor, it is crucial to follow their subject-specialist advice before any generalist guidance given here

Preparing the proposal material:

Be clear about the purpose(s) of a research proposal. There are four key elements that make up a great proposal:

  1. It ‘pitches’ the need for your proposed project to a potential supervisory team. Therefore, it must establish that the research is of importance and worth carrying out;

  2. This importance is linked to its originality. The proposed research must contribute something new to current understanding within your field.

  3. It demonstrates your critical skills and current subject knowledge, illustrating to senior researchers that you have the (initial) competence to engage in a programme of research training, whilst designing and implementing a project.

  4. It shows that the project is feasible – that it is achievable within the standard time allocated to doctoral study and with appropriate resources.

Proposals should be approximately 1500-2000 words.

What to include:

  1. A clear working title

  2. Introduction and background

    • Present how your research will fit with the Faculty research themes.

    • Provide a brief, selective and critical review of current literature and key research findings to date:
       o Demonstrate you understand the main debates and issues in this area.
       o We recommend that you do some initial reading in order to develop this literature review. For example, something
          like The Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Guide for Students by Diana Ridley can be a helpful starting point;  there are other
          useful literature reviewing guides, some of which are discipline-based.

    • Identify the research problem you want to address and why are you interested in this.
       o What are the broader aims of carrying out the research?

    • State your research questions or hypothesis and how this will address any ‘gaps’ in the literature that you have identified.
       o These should be sufficiently narrow and specific so as to be achievable within the time frame of a doctoral programme.

    • Explain why your proposed research is novel and what will be the ‘added value’ to your subject. N.B. You may wish to make these all one section
      or you may prefer separate introduction, contextualising literature review and aims/questions/hypotheses.

  3. Intended research design

    • How will the project be designed to achieve the best findings?
       o Who or what are the sample/target group or organisation? What is your sampling strategy?
       o What data is needed in order to adequately meet the aims of the research?
       o How will data be collected or generated?
       o How do you intend to analyse the data? How will this approach to analysis help you to address your research aims and questions?

    • What is your methodology?
       o Is there a broad approach, such as qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods that informs the way the research is to be designed?
       o Are there other discipline-related approaches to designing and implementing your intended project?
       o How you will use existing theories/approaches to inform your methodology?
       o This can include philosophical influences that underpin your methods.
       o Why is this design appropriate for addressing your research questions/ hypothesis?

    • Are there any ethical issues that may be relevant at this stage?

    • What problems may you encounter and how will you overcome these?

    • What would be the main stages of your project and how would these relate to each year of your doctoral programme?

  4. Conclusions

    • Make the connection to potential broader implications of your research

    • What may be the potential benefits of your research in terms of changes to understanding/practice/services/policy/society?

    • Any early ideas for the dissemination of the findings, once complete?

  5. A list of key references using Harvard referencing style (or a style specific to your discipline, if this is preferred)
Making your application

When you’re ready to apply, complete our application form. You’ll need to include your proposal, along with a CV/résumé, your degree certificates and transcripts.

The easiest way to apply is online.

What happens next

Once your application is received it will be reviewed by the Director of Postgraduate Research and potential supervisors. At this stage, we may contact you to arrange an interview.

  • You are trying to present a ‘narrative’: something that tells the story of what we know, what we don’t, why it’s important to address using
    research, what your project aims to do about this, and how

  • Your proposal will be assessed on its quality but also its fit with the University (and your intended Faculty) research themes, so ensure this is made clear

  • Additionally, it will be assessed on our ability to offer appropriate supervision. Scope out research-active staff within the area you wish to study. What is their expertise? Where are there overlaps or complementary areas of interest? Would your project be interdisciplinary, bringing together staff from different research specialisms?

  • Your ideas may not yet be expertly detailed – you haven’t carried out the research yet – but they do need to be focused, interesting, realistic, and novel

  • The proposal is a powerful first impression of your potential to become a good researcher. It needs to do this in a way that shows close attention to detail: present the information in short sentences and clear paragraphs, with careful spelling and grammar.

  • Avoid jargon. Use accessible language that is understandable to nonexperts. Where scientific terminology is needed, make sure its meaning is clear

  • Ask a peer to critically comment and proofread your work and provide feedback on their understanding: What is the research about? Why do you want to do it? Why do you believe you will be able to do it? Why it is significant? What you aim to achieve by completing it?


We may arrange an interview with you before making our decision to offer a place. The academic staff who are interested in supervising you will contact you.

If you live in the UK we may invite you to an interview in person - otherwise we’ll arrange to talk to you via Skype or telephone.


If all goes well, we’ll send you an offer letter confirming your project title, start date and fees. We have PhD cohorts in October and February, but we’ll endeavour to accommodate requests to start at other times of the year when required.

You’ll be able to view the progress of your application on our Applicant Portal, and, if we make you an offer, you’ll be able to use the portal to decide whether to accept our offer.

If you’re an international student, some PhD programmes will require you to apply for ATAS Clearance – we’ll let you know if this is the case in your offer letter.

Need more information?

You can make an enquiry, or register your details for regular updates on research, courses, events and careers.