PhD in UK

The process of gaining a PhD in the UK varies depending on your study method and career plans. The type of
PhD being undertaken will have an impact on how long the PhD takes as well as how it is studied. Funding is simple with a studentship but becomes more complicated when a student as a specific PhD project in mind. 

Types of PhDs

There are different types of PhD available in the UK.

Integrated PhD

This is the traditional approach to a PhD and the student starts with a year-long project resulting in a Masters by Research then moves onto a three year PhD. If you plan to continue to work in academia, then this approach is ideal as students are able to gain additional skills, such as teaching, through other courses at the university while completing their PhD.

Professional Doctorate

Students undertaking a professional doctorate are not traditionally heading towards a career as an academic and are planning on working in professional jobs such as engineers and architects or in medicine and teaching. Because these courses are for specific career paths there is usually a significant taught element and much less research than an integrated PhD. Students can take anywhere from two to eight years to complete a professional PhD. 

PhD by Publication

This is usually only reserved for those students who have been working for some time in an academic position, but who have not yet gained a PhD. They have to gather together a substantial quantity of original publications and present them in the same style as a PhD thesis.

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Application Process

In the UK, there is no central system to search and apply for available PhDs and the system of application is often driven forward by the student. There are two types of integrated PhDs that students can apply for; studentships and yet-to-be-funded PhDs. Studentships are part of research projects that already have their funding in place and the research position is a job at the university as part of the research group. Yet-to-be-funded PhDs are when the student has a project in mind and has to find a supervisor, an institution to be based at and the funding. A yet-to-be-funded PhD is significantly more difficult to arrange than a studentship, however, the student has a great deal more control over their research. 

Admissions

The admissions process for a studentship is more like a job than a course application. Studentship positions are advertised in academic publications such as www.jobs.ac.uk or the www.timeshighereducation.co.uk. If the studentship is part of a research project that is in collaboration with a number of different institutions, then there is often a central system to coordinate the applications. Those applying for a yet-to-be-funded PhD apply directly to the university then the university and the student search for funding. 

Study Method

Most integrated PhD students who are based at a university will complete their studies full time or if they are part time students they may transfer to full-time study once they have gathered enough funding together. Some students completing a professional doctorate will study part time, but the majority of professional doctoral students have recently completed their undergraduate degree and are not mid-career, so studying full-time is more common. An increasing number of students are undertaking PhDs by distance learning and only attending their university a few times a year. This is because of the independent research element of a PhD and the improvements in communications technology. It is easier for students to be closer to their subject of research than to be based at a distant university. 

Duration

The length of time it takes to study a PhD depends on the study method, but a full-time integrated PhD student can expect to complete all parts of their PhD in the UK in 4 years. A professional doctorate can take anywhere from two years to eight years, depending on the study method. A part-time distance learning PhD candidate will take anywhere between four and eight years to complete their project. 

Costs & Funding

In the UK the tuition fees payable for a full-time PhD student from the UK are around £4,000 per year, but this is only of concern for those PhD students who are self-funded covering all costs themselves. International PhD students will pay significantly more. The UK Research Councils offer a great deal of funding to PhD students in the form of a grant to cover the tuition fees and another stipend of around £15,000 in 2019 to cover student living costs. A large portion of PhD students are entirely self-funded and other sources include government projects, both the British Government and governments abroad, industry and directly by the university itself. 

UK Research Councils

Here are the different UK Research Councils:

Science and Technology Facilities Council
Arts and Humanities Research Council 
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Economic and Social Research Council
Medical Research Council
Natural Environment Research Council

Sources of PhD funding 2012-2013

This table shows the breakdown of funding for PhD students in the UK in 2012-2013.

Source

Find your PERFECT PHD

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