Research Degrees in the UK
What is a Research Degree?
Research degrees are the highest degrees awarded at universities in the UK. Study is based around a substantial research project – often reaching up to 100,000 words – written as a thesis which then must be defended in an oral examination. Very few research degrees feature taught modules, and as such the student will take more responsibility for their work and schedule.
UK universities are free to admit anyone to a PhD programme, and admission is conditional on the prospective student having successfully completed an undergraduate degree with at least upper second-class honours, or a postgraduate master's degree. There is usually a first-year assessment to remain in study and the thesis is submitted at the end of the completed programme.
Types of Research Degree
A research degree, also known as a doctorate, is the highest degree awarded by universities in the UK.
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
A PhD involves researching an area of academic interest, producing original work and submitting a thesis of up to 100,000 words. Students are assigned a supervisor and the duration of a PhD is typically three years full-time and six years part-time.
MPhil (Master of Philosophy)
An MPhil is generally thesis-only, lasting one year full-time and two years part-time. The thesis must present the results of their study and research and be a maximum of 60,000 words. In some circumstances, students may be able to transfer to a PhD programme after 12-18 months.
MRes (Master of Research)
An MRes is an advanced postgraduate research degree in a specific academic discipline. An MRes will require the student to complete a 40,000 word dissertation, and is often a stepping stone towards committing to a full PhD.
Research Degree entry requirements
International students will require an undergraduate degree with at least an upper second class honours, or a postgraduate master's degree. English language ability will ned to be proved and a minimum IELTS score of 7.0 is generally required.
A research proposal is required by all students when applying to study a PhD or MPhil. The proposal should clearly address the research you wish to undertake, how you will do it, and why it is important. The proposal must be accepted by a panel of experts before your programme can begin. Download an example of a research proposal here.
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