PhD programme structure

A primary feature of postgraduate study revolves around independent research. Our PhD programmes are often referred to as doctorates, and are available across all of our Institutes and the Academy.

Our PhD programmes take place over 3 years full-time, or 5 years part-time and are usually undertaken after a master’s degree. In some special cases, having a master’s degree is not necessary.

A typical PhD normally involves:

  • The completion of a literature review
  • Original research with the collection of results
  • Producing a thesis that outlines your conclusions
  • Developing your thesis and submitting it as a written study
  • Elaborating on your thesis in an oral exam or presentation

These stages may vary depending on the nature of your research and the Institute or Academy you are studying with.

The first year of a PhD

The first year of any PhD is designed to develop your skills and knowledge as a researcher, and will ensure you have a solid understanding of your chosen subject area.

You’ll have initial meetings with your supervisor and will decide on an action plan based on your research proposal.

The first step in this will almost certainly be carrying out your literature review. With the guidance of your supervisor, you will investigate and explore existing literature to ensure the research you undertake will be an original contribution to your chosen subject area.

The second year of a PhD

The second year of a PhD is usually when most students conduct the majority of their core research. The process will vary depending on your research methods, but typically involves collecting results from experiments, artefacts, archives, surveys or other means. 

You’ll continue to meet with your supervisor to give updates on your progress and get feedback on your ideas. As your results develop, you may start to notice patterns in your findings and may decide to start drafting some early conclusions.

The third year of a PhD

In your third and final year, you will analyse your results and develop your thesis into a written dissertation. The length of your thesis can be between 40,000 and 120,000 words and should make a unique contribution to your field of study.

On completion of their thesis, you may be asked to participate in a viva voce oral exam. This is a formal discussion and an opportunity for you to defend your research in front of at least one internal and external examiner.