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PhD Entry Requirements

To study for a PhD, you will need to meet certain entry requirements before the application process.

This is generalised guidance for most PhD programmes – you should check the specific PhD entry requirements and PhD eligibility criteria for each programme you apply for.

Additionally, there may be certain circumstances in which a special case could be made for an applicant who doesn’t meet the standard requirements. You should discuss this with the potential PhD supervisor or admissions administrator.

Qualifications and academic eligibility

In most cases, a PhD applicant will need to show good performance at undergraduate level. This PhD entry requirement means at least a UK upper second class honours degree (2.1). This needs to be in a relevant discipline for the PhD study.

You may also need a Masters degree, in a relevant subject, to be eligible for a PhD application. Again, you should show good performance at this level, with a Merit or Distinction grade.

Typically, Arts and Humanities PhDs are more likely to require a Masters degree. For Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) PhDs, an undergraduate degree may be sufficient. This depends in the individual degree programme.

What if I have a Masters, but my undergraduate degree is in a different subject field?

A Masters degree usually supersedes a Bachelors, meaning that the undergraduate degree grade is less significant.

What if I have different qualifications?

International equivalents to these degrees may be accepted – the research institution you apply to will assess their suitability.

Atypical qualifications

A special case may be made if an applicant does not have a typical formal qualification. However, this is down to the discretion of the PhD supervisor and / or university, and they might ask you to undertake extra study.

Suitability

A research institution will only admit students who they believe will complete the PhD to a high standard and within the time limit. Prospective doctoral researchers should also have a demonstrable interest in the area of study.

This is usually evaluated via the application process. A PhD supervisor will consider aspects of the application, such as your research proposal and PhD interview, to determine whether you show enough competency and dedication for a PhD.

Residency

In most circumstances, a PhD student will need to be a resident of the country in which the research is being completed at the time of study, or hold a relevant visa.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens can study in the UK without a visa. Non-EU international students may require a Tier 4 visa to study a PhD in the UK.

Brexit

EU nationals will continue to benefit from the same visa, fee and funding arrangements in the UK up to and including the 2019-20 academic year. Keep up-to-date with the latest Brexit-related developments.

Similar visa requirements may be needed to study a PhD in other countries. Typically, in order to qualify for a visa for PhD study you will need to:

  • Be studying full-time
  • Have confirmation of enrolment before applying for a visa
  • Have enough monetary support for the full length of study

The documentation you will need depends on your country of study. Always check the specific requirements for each country.

PhD study abroad

You should always check the requirements for studying a PhD abroad. Take a look at our international PhD study guide.

Language

If your PhD is not conducted in your first language, you may need to provide evidence of your proficiency. This is usually through a language test.

There may be some exceptions to this, such as if you have already studied an English-language degree in a native English-speaking country, for example.

Can I complete the language proficiency tests later?

Language proficiency tests usually need to be completed before the PhD start date. In some cases, it may be possible to receive an offer of enrolment for a PhD without the language proficiency, but this is normally conditional upon passing the test before the PhD start.

Other graduate entry tests

Some universities may require prospective students to take a graduate entry test in order to be eligible for a PhD. These are more common in the USA, Canada, and Australia for PhD applications.

This may be a general test or a subject-specific one. Also, some tests are more widely accepted than others. You should always check the particular PhD requirements.

Last updated 31/10/2018

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