apply for phd in uk

How to apply for a PhD

We are looking for ambitious, talented and motivated students. You’ll have the passion to make new discoveries, the drive to test new theories, and the willingness to go above and beyond.

PhD student looks through a microscope in a science lab at the University of Sussex

How do I apply?

To find out more about our degrees see our PhD degrees. You apply using our postgraduate application system.APPLY OR CHECK AN EXISTING APPLICATION

  1. Choose your PhDSussex is the perfect place to find a postgraduate research course that allows you to follow your passion and develop your research interests.We offer:
    • a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and a Master of Philosophy (MPhil). There are more than 50 degrees to choose from
    • full-time or part-time PhDs
    • all courses start in September and some courses offer additional entry points in January or May
    • the opportunity for research students registered elsewhere to visit Sussex. For more information see our handbook.Distance learning may be available for some PhD courses. Before applying, you should check whether this mode of attendance is supported for the PhD you wish to undertake with the relevant School.Find out more about our PhD degrees
  2. Check our entry requirementsOur specific entry requirements are listed with each PhD degree.You also need to meet our general entry requirements, usually an upper second-class undergraduate honours degree (2:1) or equivalent international qualification.You may also be required to have a Masters qualification.If you are an international student, you need to meet our English language requirements, or successfully complete our Pre-sessional English course.You may also be asked to attend an interview.Find out more about our entry requirements for UK applicantsFind out more about our entry requirements for international applicants
  3. Choose a research topic or projectIf you apply for one of our funded projects or to a research centre or group you will normally be asked to provide a statement explaining your suitablility for working in that area.If you wish to propose your own area of research, you need to decide on a research topic and you will normally be expected to write a research proposal. Some areas may only require a summary of academic interests and they will use this to match you to potential supervisors. Before applying check the requirements for your subject area.
  4. Find a supervisorIf you are joining a funded project at Sussex, you will already have a supervisor allocated to you.If you are proposing your own research topic, you can find a supervisor to support and advise you. You can either ask a member of our faculty to be your supervisor if you think they have the expertise to support you or we will match you with a supervisor during the assessment of your application. If you ask to be supervised by a particular member of faculty, this will be considered but not all such requests can be accommodated.
  5. Apply to SussexYou apply directly to Sussex using our postgraduate application system.You can apply for up to three postgraduate courses. If you are applying for more than one degree, you must submit a research proposal/statement specific to each area of study you apply for.You must submit the following documents when you apply:
    • research proposal/research statement
    • summary of academic interests (this is optional depending on the subject area you are applying for)
    • degree certificates and transcripts. If the originals are not in English, certified translations must be provided
    • your English language qualification, where applicable
    • CV
    • two academic references – including one from your most recent university. Or you can provide contact details for your referees and we will email them.Follow our tips for applying to SussexFind out about our admissions policies
  6. Deadline for applicationsYou can apply all year round for research degrees starting in September, January and May.The recommended deadline for applications are:International applicants: Three months before course start date
    Home/EU applicants: One month before course start date.PhD applications received after these deadlines may be considered, but we cannot guarantee you will be able to commence your studies at your requested entry point.Where you are applying for funding or scholarships, check the deadlines for your application. In some cases, you may need to have an offer from us before you can apply for funding.
  7. Check fees, funding and supportWe have a number of PhD funding and scholarship opportunities.If your application is successful, you will have your fee status assessed. If your fee status is unclear, we will ask you to complete a questionnaire. If you disagree with the outcome of your fee status assessment, you can appeal.Fees information is listed with each PhD degree
  8. Receiving an offerWe will notify you through our postgraduate application system if we decide to offer you a place.Your offer may include conditions – for example, completing your undergraduate or Masters degree with a certain grade or meeting our English language requirements.If you are an international student studying a certain science- or engineering-based course you must apply for Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) clearance after you receive your offer.Find out about ATAS clearance on the Student Hub.If you decide to accept our offer, you can notify us using the postgraduate application system.You can still accept your offer even if you have not yet secured funding. However, you should have funding in place when you start at Sussex.
  9. Confirming your placeIf your offer is unconditional, we may still need to verify your qualifications.If your offer is conditional, you should send in your results by email as soon as they are available, so that your place can be confirmed.If you are unable to take up your place, you can request to defer your entry to another available entry point (up to a maximum of 12 months).If your application is unsuccessful and you are not sure why, you can request feedback.
  10. Before you start at SussexYou will be sent information about joining us in the months before you start your research.For most students, the registration process is completed online. Registration opens in:
    • early September, if you are starting at Sussex in September
    • December, if you are starting at Sussex in January
    • early April, if you are starting at Sussex in May.If you are an international student and you need a visa to study in the UK, you complete most of the registration process online. To register, you need to attend in person, so we can take a copy of your passport and visa.

Applying for a PhD

Applications for PhD study are different to other university courses. For one thing, you won’t be applying to a course.

Instead you’ll be seeking to show that you’re the right candidate to fill an advertised PhD position, or complete the research project you’ve proposed.

The articles here are designed to help you do that.

We’ve explained how PhD interviews work (and previewed some of the questions you might be asked). We’ve also looked at common postgraduate entry tests and provided some advice on eligibility criteria for doctoral research.

All that’s left is to wish you good luck. So. . . good luck!

How to apply for a doctorate in the UK and get funding

The application process for a doctoral programme in the UK is very different from the process for applying for a first degree.

For one thing, there is no centralised application system. Second, not only does it vary according to the institution, but it can also depend on the type of programme you are applying for. That limits the level of information we can provide here, but these observations should be reasonably generic.

There are two main patterns of application, which are basically applying for a funded doctoral programme, and applying for a doctorate which is ‘yet-to-be funded’. In practice, there can be lots of other variants too.

  • Applying for a funded programme. Broadly, an institution will have a series of doctoral project opportunities (often called studentships) for which it has funding and you can apply for one of these, usually in competition with others. If this is within a collaborative doctoral training structure, there might be a centralised application process across the collaborating institutions. Funded doctoral projects are often advertised through academic job websites and publications, such as and, as well as through the respective university’s website
  • ‘Yet-to-be-funded’ doctorates. This is more of a two-stage process, where first you apply to an institution and, if they have accepted you as a potential doctoral candidate, they (or you) seek the funding afterwards. Unsurprisingly, this route may take longer and is more complex than applying for a funded programme.

But, either way, in order to give yourself the best chance, you should:

  • start preparing early – about a year in advance
  • be proactive and prepared to do a lot of the groundwork yourself 
  • have a good idea of the field you want to research
  • have a short list of institutions/universities that offer doctoral programmes in your field
  • know something about how doctorates are funded.

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