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What can I expect as a PhD student?

Undertaking a PhD is an exciting opportunity but can also be quite daunting as there are lots of stages to think about including application, arrival, admission, expectations, and progression to name but a few.

The University website for research students provides information on all of these and much more.

At the Faculty of Social Sciences, we believe it is important that, although our research students are working on individual projects, they are not working in isolation.  We offer a range of opportunities for training, developing skills, regular supervision sessions and ongoing peer support.

Structure of your research degree

A research degree gives you the opportunity to determine your own field of study. Your supervisor(s) will help formulate your research topic and ensure you are on schedule to complete your research on time. Research projects are, almost by definition, unique. It is not easy to describe a typical project. However, certain common features apply to all.

In order to confirm progress on your PhD a recommendation must be made by a Progression Panel proposed by your supervisor. If you opt nevertheless to submit for an MPhil then your remaining work should be accomplished in the following year. 

The second year of your PhD programme may well be taken up with actual data collection. Towards the end of the year it should be possible to attempt an initial analysis of your results.

In the third year you may conduct detailed collation and analysis of your results, and organise them into a logical and persuasive thesis.

During your fourth year, your supervisor may confirm that you are ready to submit your thesis for examination.  Following submission, your thesis will be read by two examiners and you will be required to attend an oral examination, at which you will be expected to answer questions on your thesis.

Induction Programme

All new PhD students can expect an Induction Programme to welcome you to the Unviersity and the Faculty, where you will meet the Director of PG Research and other relevant academic staff.  The Faculty Induction also includes a small tour of the campus with current students and an opportunity to meet your supervisors.

The University Induction Programme is currently delivered three times per academic year for Year 1 students. The Faculty and University induction sessions are a requirement for all new PGR students across the University, whether part-time or full-time.

More information can be found on the Unviersity Induction sessions here.


Students are allocated a principal supervisor and an associate, with whom you work with throughout your studies.  The supervisor(s) has a duty to monitor progress, and to do this in a way that is both searching and supportive.  But remember, one of the selection criteria for applicants, is an ability to conduct research independently and with a degree of autonomy.

Students are required to attend meetings with their supervisors.  These should be held monthly for full-time students less frequent for part-time.  Supervision reports must be completed following each meeting by the student/supervisor(s), and sent to the relevant email address.  The forms and email can be found on the Faculty Blackboard site.

More information on meetings with supervisors and procedures can be found here.

Monitoring Progression

All full-time students are expected to achieve 12 points of engagement each year of study; this is more flexible for part-time students.  The points of engagement are monitored through the following:

  • Enrolment/Re-enrolment;
  • Attendance at induction events;
  • Presentations
  • Completion of an Annual Progress form with your supervisor;
  • Progression Confirmation Meeting;
  • Monthly supervision meetings (with reports submitted)

Seminars and Events

We organise regular seminars for our PhD students covering a range of subjects including Preparation for Fieldwork.  Students are also encouraged to attend Faculty-wide seminars.  Please see our events and podcasts pages for up-to-date information.

You are also encouraged to identify appropriate development opportunities, internally and externally, that will support your journey through your PhD.