Frequently Asked Questions

About PhDs

What is the CDT in Control and Systems Engineering at Sheffield?

Our PhD programme is run from our Centre for Doctoral Training CDT in Control and Systems Engineering. In addition to following your research topic, you will undertake wider research training aimed at making you an effective researcher and communicator as well as helping you become a leader in your chosen area.

How long does a PhD take?

Our PhD programme is for three years. While a fourth year is permitted, this is intended for writing-up and should not be considered as a normal part of the study period.

What training and development will I receive? Are there any compulsory modules?

We have developed a comprehensive training programme to help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to be a successful researcher - this is the University Doctoral Development Programme (DDP). The DDP is a flexible, personalised and integral part of your research degree. Along with fellow students who started their PhD at the same time as you, you will complete a common set of activities, offering training in a wide-range of generic transferable research skills. You will also undertake subject-specific technical training according to your personal needs. Much of this takes place in the first three months except for the technical training.

What supervision will I receive? You will be supervised and guided by at least two members of academic staff – the Supervisory Team – who will be leading researchers in their fields and who will help you shape the training to your individual needs. Further information is available here.
Will I be working by myself or will I get to meet other students?

Nobody works alone at Sheffield. We take a coordinated, interdisciplinary approach to research. You will be able to network and share ideas with colleagues across all disciplines. We have the Doctoral Academy virtual community website and a postgraduate network led by students, Cafe Forum. 

All first year PhD students in ACSE are allocated a mentor. We know that starting a PhD can be a very daunting experience with many different people to meet and new systems to learn so we think that having someone available as a contact who has already been through the whole process will be of use. Our mentors are second or third year PhD students who are there to provide assistance to you on a purely pastoral basis (with all academic queries going to your supervisory team).

ACSE also offers a very successful seminar series, which attracts leading researchers from the UK and overseas to share their research with us. Details of our seminar programme can be found here.

What career opportunities will my PhD give me? An ACSE PhD opens employment opportunities to world leading Universities and highly prestigious industrial bodies. PhD students from ACSE now work at Rolls Royce, Jaguar Land Rover, YASA Motors, GE Aviation, MBDA as well as a number of other Higher Education Institutions across the world include Harvard, the International Islamic University of Malaysia, Manchester and Liverpool.
What would the start date for a PhD be? We strongly encourage all PhD students to start their studies at a fixed point at the start of either Semester, so that all new PhD students undertake their training as a cohort. Our preferred dates for 2018/9 and 2019/20 are therefore:
  • 2018/9 Start: 24 September 2018 / 4 February 2019
  • 2019/20 Start: 30 September 2019 / 10 February 2020
However, if these fixed dates are not convenient for you, you may choose an alternative date (which will then require the approval of the Department’s PhD Admissions Tutor).
What accommodation will be available during my studies? Information about University Accommodation can be found here. The University also has information available about recommended private landlords.
Your website gives a range of tuition fees - what fee would I be paying? The fee to be charged depends on whether your project will require any specific equipment to be purchased to enable you to conduct your research. If the higher fee rate is to be charged, you will be advised of this before an offer is sent to you.

About the Application Process

Why should I choose Sheffield?

A University of Sheffield postgraduate degree is a real investment in your future. Our reputation for teaching and research is world class. Whether you want to develop your career, or deepen your subject knowledge, Sheffield is a great choice.

We’re a member of the Russell Group of leading research universities (which includes Oxford and Cambridge). The most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise confirmed our place as a world-leading university with an international reputation for research excellence. ACSE performed outstandingly well at the last REF where we were ranked first in the country for the quality of our research publications and third in the UK for our overall research quality.

The Faculty of Engineering offers cutting edge facilities, including an extensive range of industry-standard modelling, simulation and controller design tools. The Department offers a robotics laboratory, human performance laboratory, noise and vibration control laboratory, embedded and real-time laboratories as well as clean facilities for the assembly of satellite instrumentation for the analysis of space plasma physics.

What happens when I submit an application?

Our Research Support Officer will check that all of the necessary documentation (academic transcripts, references, indication of English Language ability, etc) has been submitted and then send your application to your prospective supervisors for their consideration. If they are interested in your research they will contact you to organise an interview (this can be via Skype or telephone) and discuss your proposal in more detail.

An offer of a place to study for a PhD may then be made. This will either be an unconditional offer or an offer conditional on the candidate obtaining (for example) a particular qualification before the PhD starts.

Will I have to attend an interview and if so, what will happen at the interview? If the Department is considering making you an offer, an interview will be arranged. This can be organised via Skype or phone so you do not need to appear in person. We would expect interviews to last about 20 minutes and focus on your proposed research project and potential as a researcher.
Is there anyone I can talk to before I submit an application?

Yes. Please contact the Department’s Research Support Officer via or +(0)114 222 5248 and we will arrange a call with either our Admissions Tutor or a specific academic member of staff.

How quickly will my application be processed?

The average length of time for an application to be processed is 2 to 4 weeks. Some applications may take longer, depending on receipt of references, certificates and transcripts from other institutions as well as discussions between applicant and prospective supervisor(s).

Is there an application fee? No.
How much are the tuition fees? The Home tuition fee in 2018/9 is £4,260 - £5,760 and the overseas fee £21,450-£22,950. Full information about tuition fees can be found here.
Does the Department/University have any funding available? Yes. Funding is available but candidates should be aware that obtaining a Scholarship is a highly competitive process with the Department usually receiving in excess of a hundred applications for a small number of available Scholarships.

The main University and Departmental Scholarships competition opens in the Autumn with a closing date in the New Year. Details of how to apply will be posted here. Information about other University funding opportunities (including China Scholarship Council Scholarships) is also available here.

Scholarships are also offered throughout the year for specific projects. Details of these projects can be found here.

What should I put into my application? A comprehensive guide to writing your PhD application can be found here. Please email our Research Support Officer with any specific questions.
What’s the difference between the research proposal and a supporting statement?

Full information about this can be found at this link. Your research proposal should include information about the questions or hypotheses to be addressed; research methods to be used; a brief timetable covering the period of study; how you expect the research to be useful and to whom; why you wish to pursue this area of research.

Your supporting statement should not be a repeat of your research proposal. It is your opportunity to sell yourself to us. You can highlight your skills, academic ability and enthusiasm and demonstrate to us that we will benefit from your attendance as much as you will benefit from studying with us.

What qualifications do I need? Applicants should have a minimum undergraduate Honours degree (UK 2:1 or better) or MSc (Merit or Distinction) in a relevant Science or Engineering subject. Overseas candidates should refer to guidance on equivalent qualifications provided by the University International Office. Applicants with other qualifications or experience are encouraged to contact the Research Support Officer.
Are there any minimum English Language requirements?

Yes. The Department requires candidates with a minimum overall score of 6.5 in IELTS (with at least a score of 6 in each component). The required score for the TOEFL exam is 88+ (with at least a score of 17 in Listening, 17 in Writing, 18 in Reading and 20 in Speaking).

Full information about other acceptable English Language qualifications can be found here.

Can I do English Language training before the PhD begins? Yes. Pre-sessional courses are available and details of these can be found here.
Is there a closing date for applications? No, we accept applications throughout the year. However, if you want to apply for a University/Departmental Scholarship please be aware that there IS a deadline for receipt of a Scholarship application and that the Department will only consider those candidates who have an offer in place.
Can I do a PhD on a part-time basis? Yes, although please note that it may not be possible for overseas students to undertake a PhD on a part-time basis due to visa restrictions.
Can I do a PhD at a remote location? Yes. For EU and International students not resident in the UK, the University operates a Remote Location scheme, through which you can study for a University of Sheffield PhD by undertaking research at an overseas institution. UK students who wish to pursue part of their programme of research away from the University, and EU and International students who do not qualify for the Remote Location scheme, must submit, through their academic department, a case for faculty approval. Undertaking a PhD part-time and on a remote basis can be particularly challenging, which is why additional approval is required.
I’m an overseas candidate so will I need a visa? Yes. Details of what visa you will require and the process of applying for a visa can be found here.
I’m a European candidate. Will the outcome of the EU referendum and Britain leaving the EU have any effect on me (and my fee level)? The University has prepared guidance to address these concerns which can be accessed here.
If sent an offer, and my circumstances change, can I defer entry to a later date? Yes, with the consent of your prospective supervisor and our PhD Admissions Tutor. You will need to inform the Research Support Officer who will discuss this further with you.
Who should I contact if I have a query about my application? Please contact our Research Support Officer via / +44 (0)114 222 5248