PhD Entry Requirements |

PhD Entry Requirements

Written by Chris Banyard

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 requirements and 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 PhD requirements. You should discuss this with the potential PhD supervisor or admissions administrator.

Qualifications and academic eligibility

Standard PhD requirements in the UK are a Bachelors degree with at least an upper second class honours degree (2.1). You may also need a Masters degree with a Merit or Distinction grade. All your previous qualifications must be in a field of study relevant to the PhD you are applying for.

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.

Masters Degree Grades
Percentage Masters grade
70%+ Distinction
60-69% Merit / Commendation
50-59% Pass
40-49% Borderline Pass / Fail

What if I have a Masters, but my undergraduate degree is in a different subject or 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. For example, if you have extensive professional experience in a relevant area, it might make up for a lack of previous academic qualification. However, this is down to the discretion of the PhD supervisor and / or university, and they might ask you to undertake extra study.


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 to determine whether you show enough competency and dedication for a PhD:


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.

International students (including EU, EEA and Swiss nationals) require a Student Route visa to study a PhD in the UK.

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. Take a look at our international PhD study guide for more information.


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 such as TOEFL or IELTS.

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.

Ready to apply for a PhD?

Head over to our course listings to find the latest PhD opportunities and learn how to apply.

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Last Updated: 14 October 2022