Applying for a PhD
Considering applying for a PhD? Explore our advice below and see what sort of things you need to consider – from finding a supervisor to drafting a research proposal – we've got tips and advice to help you begin your PhD journey at Queen Mary.
One of the most important things to do before filling out an application is to find a good match with a supervisor or existing research group. Most Schools advise that you make contact with a supervisor via email before submitting an application. If you're applying for entry via a MRes programme, then this is not necessary.
To learn more about our PhD programmes, check entry requirements and find the applications forms, select your subject from the drop-down menu below.
If you applying to come as a visiting/associate student for part of your PhD, you need to apply via this page https://www.qmul.ac.uk/postgraduate/associate/
Step 1: Identify a research match
Before submitting an application, we encourage you to contact a potential supervisor via email. When you write to them, they will be looking for certain things to ensure you are a suitable PhD candidate and will consider the following:
- Is the proposed project suitable for PhD study?
- Do you have the academic strength to complete your project?
- Can the project be completed within the required time?
- Do they have the relevant knowledge to supervise your project?
- Can the School/Institute support your project and do they have the facilities and resources?
If you cannot find the research area you are looking for, or have any queries about the application process, you can either contact the School or our fill out an enquiry form and our PhD team will be in touch.
Step 2: Review our entry requirements and funding
Typically, the minimum entry requirement is an UK upper second class honours degree (2:1). Some Schools/Institutes require a first class honours degree and/or a masters degree. If your qualifications are not from a UK university, Queen Mary also considers recognised equivalent qualifications from accredited overseas institutions and equivalent professional qualifications. Relevant work experience may also be taken into account.
If English is not your first language, please check your programme's English language requirements. You do not need to meet this at the point of application. You may provide evidence of your English level at a later date.
You should ensure that you have a realistic plan to secure sufficient funding to complete the research and writing-up process within the normal time period. This is usually three to four years for full-time programmes, and six to seven years for part-time programmes.
Many of our PhD students are funded by Queen Mary or one of the Doctoral Training Programmes. Studentships cover your tuition fees and normally include an allowance towards living costs. Studentships are advertised on our School/Institute websites, our Postgraduate Research Studentships page, Jobs.ac.uk and Findaphd.com.
Read more about PhD funding at Queen Mary.
Step 3: Prepare a research proposal
If you are applying for an advertised project, you may not need to submit a proposal. But if you are proposing your own project idea you will and this is a key part of your application.
Before submitting your application, it is likely that you will need to revise your proposal several times. Whilst your potential supervisor will help you do this, it is important that you present them with as clear a proposal as you can when you first make contact with them.
Tips for writing a strong research proposal include:
- Formulate a precise, interesting research question; this may take the form of a hypothesis to be tested, or a more open-ended inquiry.
- Establish the relevance and value of the proposed research question in the context of current academic thinking. Is there a knowledge gap?
- Outline a clear and practical methodology which enables you to answer the research question, and to describe and evaluate any data or source material you will draw upon.
- Suggest what you hope to discover at the end of your research and what new areas it might open up.
- Demonstrate that your research will not take longer than three years.
Check the specific requirements (e.g. word count) on the School/Institute webpages.
Step 4: Gather your documents and apply online
To get to the online application form, select your research area from the list above. You will then be able to select an online application button specifically for your start date (e.g. Semester 1, September 2021).
Each application should include the following:
- A completed application form
- Proof of English language ability for overseas applicants from non-English speaking countries
- Curriculum Vitae (CV)
- Your research proposal
- A one-side A4 statement of purpose. This should set out your previous academic or other experience relevant to the proposed research; why you wish to undertake this research at QMUL; your previous research or professional training and what further training you think you will need to complete a PhD; and what ethical issues you will need to consider in undertaking this research.
- Two references. At least one reference must be from an academic referee who is in a position to comment on the standard of your academic work and suitability for postgraduate level study. Where appropriate, a second referee can provide comment on your professional experience.
Note: If you don't yet have your final degree certificates or proof of English then you can apply and upload these missing documents at a later date. Include all the information you can at the time of applying.
We will contact your referee(s) by email to supply a reference. However, a scanned colour copy of a reference provided on paper can also be provided either at the point of application or in response to the reference request email your referee will receive.
If your referee emails your reference to us we can only accept it if it is sent from a university or company email address (ie not Hotmail, Gmail etc). Paper reference forms should be endorsed by an appropriate official stamp or on institution/company letterhead. Alternatively, if your referee has agreed to provide an open reference letter, you can scan this and upload it in the upload document section of the online form.
What about international applicants?
International applicants are welcome to contact one of our authorised local representatives if they feel they need assistance in submitting their PhD application. Our representatives can help you apply, ensuring you submit all of the requisite documents whilst also supporting you through the immigration process. To find your local Queen Mary representative, see our country/region specific information.
Step 5: What happens next?
Once processed, the School/Institute may get in touch with you directly to discuss your application and arrange an interview. Those not short-listed for interview will receive a rejection message via the applicant portal.
The entire process from the submission of your application, to an invitation to discuss further, interview or decision, typically takes between six to eight weeks. But if you applying for advertised funding, this Schools will not look at your applications until the deadline has passed. If you need a decision by a given deadline in order to apply for external funding, please make this clear in your application.
Can I apply for more than one programme of study?
You may apply for a maximum of two taught programmes or one taught and one research programme at QMUL. If you are applying online, you will need to submit two applications. Please note: although you may apply for two programmes, under QMUL regulations you can only study for one qualification at a time. If you receive offers for both programmes, you will be required to accept one and decline the other.
Is there a deadline for receipt of applications?
There is no fixed closing date for applications but you should remember that decisions on applications will be made as quickly as possible. Students seeking financial support from Research Councils or other award giving bodies are asked to apply as early as possible and make it clear in their application the Research Council deadline. Additionally students applying for QMUL Studentships are reminded that their applications must be in line with Research Degrees Office deadlines. Please see our Postgraduate Research Studentship page and Postgraduate Research Deadlines page.
Is there an application fee?
No, QMUL does not charge an application fee.
Is my qualification recognised?
Our International Office has a list of countries/regions for which we have published admissions information online. Please see our international students section. Alternatively we use UKNARIC to check the equivalency of international and European qualifications: www.naric.org.uk
What happens after I submit my form?
All complete applications will be considered by Admissions Tutors. Providing you have included all the required documentation, we aim to inform you of a decision on your application within six to eight weeks of receipt. Please note this can vary during peak application times (January – April).
Where can I find out more about English language requirements?
Read more about our English language requirements page.
Is there any help for applicants with disabilities?
Queen Mary University of London has a dedicated Disability and Dyslexia Service which offers advice, support and guidance for disabled students, including those with mental health difficulties and specific learning difficulties (eg dyslexia), from the point of application through to graduation. This advice covers issues such as agreeing to the provision of reasonable adjustments, as well as accessing external sources of funding and support, such as the Disabled Student’s Allowance.
Our Disability and Dyslexia Service is represented at the various open days held across the year, but if you would like to discuss any aspects of support, you can contact the service at any time to request an appointment, either in person or over the phone. Fill out our online form or contact us on the details below:
Tel: +44(0) 207 882 2756