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Integrated PhD Programmes – A Guide

Written by Sarah Hastings-Woodhouse

An integrated PhD is a route into doctoral study for those who do not have a Masters degree or lack specialised research training. They generally last four years, consisting of one year of Masters-level study followed by three years of PhD research.

This guide will cover what an integrated PhD is, along with entry requirements, applications, funding and more!

If you’re ready to start applying, you can browse the integrated PhD programmes listed on our site.

What is an integrated PhD?

An integrated PhD is a four-year (or eight-year, if studied part-time) postgraduate programme. You might sometimes see integrated PhDs referred to as ‘New Route’, ‘4 year’ or ‘1+3’ programmes.

In your first year, you’ll study for a Masters-level qualification. Most often, this will be a Master of Research (MRes) or a Master of Science (MSc). This will provide you with the foundational skills you’ll need to carry out research at the doctoral level.

In your second year onwards, you’ll work towards completing your PhD thesis. You’ll only be able to progress onto the full PhD if you make satisfactory progress during your Masters year.

You usually won’t be awarded your Masters degree straight after passing your first year – instead it will be ‘banked’ and awarded along with your full PhD at the end of your programme. However, if you don’t end up completing your PhD, you may be awarded your Masters as an ‘exit’ qualification, provided you have earned a sufficient number of credits.

What is the difference between a standard PhD and an integrated PhD?

In the UK, most PhD students are initially registered for a Master of Philosophy (MPhil), before being ‘upgraded’ to the status of full PhD candidate (typically after nine months of full-time study). This may sound similar to the process undergone during an integrated PhD – but the key difference is that integrated PhD students will graduate with two separate qualifications, whereas those studying a traditional PhD will only graduate with one.

Another important difference is that while standard PhDs are pure research qualifications, integrated PhDs have a taught component. During your Masters year, you’ll be required to take a series of modules that will prepare you for doctoral study.

The addition of a Masters year obviously means that integrated PhDs are generally longer, although this is not always the case. Many standard PhD programmes also take four years to complete. In fact, a potential benefit of integrated PhD study is that it can help you complete your PhD more efficiently due to the additional training you’ll receive.

Who should apply for an Integrated PhD?

An integrated PhD is a great option for anyone who thinks they would benefit from some more structured research training before embarking on an independent PhD project. However, people who apply for Integrated PhDs generally come from one of two groups:

  • Bachelors graduates who do not have a Masters degree, or
  • International students who want to become accustomed to the higher education system in their host country before diving into full PhD study

You may also choose to apply for an integrated PhD if you have a Masters degree in a different subject and want a more guided introduction to your new field.

What are the entry requirements for an integrated PhD?

The minimum entry requirement for an integrated PhD is usually a 2:1 undergraduate degree in a relevant subject. International students may also need to meet English language requirements. Most courses will accept an overall ILETS score of 6.0, with at least 5.5 in each section. Make sure to check the programme description of your chosen PhD for specific entry requirements.

How can I apply for an Integrated PhD?

There are a few different ways to apply for an Integrated PhD, depending on the nature of the programme you’re applying for.

#1 Applying with a project title

For some integrated PhDs, you will be required to choose a research topic before you apply (much as you would for a standard PhD). Once you’ve found a university that offers an integrated option for the subject you want to study, you’ll need to decide whether you want to propose your own research topic or apply for a pre-designed PhD. Either way it’s best to reach out to prospective supervisors before you submit your application.

If you’re applying for a pre-designed PhD, the supervisor will be listed on the advertisement. If you’re designed your own project, you’ll need to find an academic whose expertise aligns with your research interests. In both cases, you should let your potential supervisor know that you’ll be applying for an integrated programme. This can help them decide if they’d be suitable for the project.

Once you’ve decided on a project and found an academic who is willing to supervise it, you can submit your application online

#2 Applying without a project title

Some integrated PhDs do not require students to decide on their research topic prior to starting their programme. Instead, you’ll work on several smaller research projects in your first year alongside potential supervisors, which will allow you to make an informed decision about your final PhD topic. You’ll usually develop your research proposal during your first year. This is most common in STEM fields.

For these projects, you won’t need to contact prospective supervisors before you apply. However, it’s still a good idea to think about areas of research that interest you when completing your application.

#3 Applying for a CDT programme

Many integrated PhD programmes are funded by Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs). These are consortiums, formed by groups of research organisations (usually universities and industry partners) that provide training for cohorts of PhD students and offer fully funded studentships. If you’re applying for an integrated CDT PhD (usually described in this context as a 1+3 programme), you’ll apply either to your host university directly or to the CDT itself.

There will usually be a number of individual projects listed under each CDT programme, so you’ll need to specify which one you’re interested in when you apply. Occasionally, you will be asked to indicate a preference in your application but may ultimately be matched with a different project.

Submitting your application

Applications are usually made through an online portal on your university’s website. The exact documents required may vary, but you’ll generally need to submit a combination of the following:

You may also be required to attend an interview before being offered a place on an integrated PhD.

What’s it like to study an integrated PhD?

Year one

In your first year, you’ll study a series of taught modules, alongside practical research experience. Taught modules will usually focus a combination of foundational research skills and subject-specific content. You may also receive professional or personal development training.

Depending on your area of study, teaching methods could include lectures, seminars, group work and laboratory sessions. If you’re studying at a CDT, you’ll be trained alongside a relatively large cohort of fellow students during your first year, as opposed to individually or in small research group.

You’ll usually be assessed through coursework during your Masters year. This could include written research reports, presentations and literature reviews.

For some programmes (most commonly those in Arts and Humanities subjects) you’ll write up an extended dissertation of around 10,000 to 15,0000 words in your first year. This is an opportunity to start exploring your PhD thesis topic in detail.

You’ll need to complete all the modules in your Masters year to a satisfactory standard to progress to the status of full PhD candidate. You’ll usually be invited to an interview with your prospective supervisor, in which you’ll need to demonstrate that you’re ready to undertake research at the doctoral level.

Years two, three and four

Once you’ve been confirmed as a full PhD candidate, you’ll progress with your research in basically the same way as you would if you were doing a standard PhD. Your day-to-day life will consist largely of independent research, but you may also assist with undergraduate teaching, present at conferences and collaborate with other students.

You may be required to undertake additional training and professional development by your department. If you’re studying at a CDT, you’ll continue to be offered bespoke training opportunities throughout your programme.

By the end of your PhD, you’ll submit a PhD thesis that will make an original contribution to your field. You’ll also defend your work in a viva voce exam.

Read more about what it’s like to do a PhD.

Fees and funding for integrated PhDs

The cost of an integrated PhD in the UK is similar to the cost of a standard PhD. Most universities charge around £4,500 per year for UK students. Fees for international students range between £17,890-28,000.

Most universities charge the same amount each year for integrated PhDs, but some divide fees into a postgraduate taught rate for your first year, and a postgraduate research rate from your second year onwards. This means you may pay slightly more for your Masters year.

Integrated PhDs studied through a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) are fully funded. This means that successful applicants will have the full cost of their tuition fees covered and receive a stipend to cover their living costs.

If your course is not funded by a CDT, you can still apply for a full studentship from the UK Research and Innovation Council (UKRI). As of 2021, these are available to international students as well as UK students. However, tuition fees will only be covered at the domestic rate.

Both UKRI and CDT studentships are extremely competitive – most students will not have the full cost of their integrated PhD covered. UK students can apply for the UK government’s doctoral loan (international students may also be eligible in certain circumstances). Integrated programmes are eligible for funding through the doctoral loan, even if you already have a Masters degree!

Other PhD funding options include part-time work or support from independent charities and trusts.

Read more about how to fund your PhD.

Find an integrated PhD

Ready to start applying? Browse integrated PhD projects here on FindAPhD.


Last Updated: 19 August 2022