Studying for a PhD

Supervision and support

As a research student you will be assigned two members of the academic staff as supervisors to guide and support your research. All supervisors are selected for their expertise and involvement in the appropriate field of study. The relationship with your supervisors will form a most important aspect of your work. There will be regular meetings to discuss ideas and progress, and a close working relationship will develop. The department also has a PhD tutor who will act as your advisor on general non-research matters.

Year 1

During the first year of your research you are likely to spend some time reading the literature on the area you have chosen to study. You will also be required to participate in the University's Doctoral Development Programme (see below). For those whose native language is not English, courses in English geared towards research needs are also available.

At the end of your first year you'll need to obtain upgrading from MPhil to PhD. You will be upgraded if you have made sufficient progress on your research and this will be judged via a piece of work that will be assessed by an upgrading panel. This panel usually consists of one of your supervisors, another member of academic staff and the Director of Research.

Years 2 and 3

After the first year it usually takes a further two years working full time on your research topic to complete a PhD, and a somewhat shorter time for an MPhil. 'Full time' does not, of course, mean that there is no time for other activities and interests. In particular it is important for research students to broaden their knowledge and experience of the subject beyond their particular research field. To this end attendance at research seminars and meetings both within and outside the department is encouraged. Some funding is usually available to help you attend meetings at other places in the UK.

PhD workshops

Each year you will also participate in the annual round of PhD presentations. These presentations are like a small conference where you present your work to an audience of staff members and other PhD students. This gives you the opportunity to clarify your thoughts by presenting your work to others in a supportive environment. It also gives you the opportunity to develop your professional skills in the presentation of work to an audience.


The department teaches a wide range of undergraduate courses, each accompanied by problems classes or tutorials. Many PhD students act as tutors in the department during their studies, in return for payment at an hourly rate. Though the work gives valuable experience, the amount of time that can be spent on it is limited, in order not to interfere with your main research activities.

The Doctoral Development Programme

The Doctoral Development Programme is a flexible programme of training for research students. The aim is to give students the skills they need both to complete their thesis and also for their longer-term career and personal development goals.

The programme is adapted to each student's needs, assessed by completing an annual Training Needs Analysis. Once we've identified your training needs, your supervisors will help you choose the right modules to study, from the wide range on offer across the University.

The type of training undertaken can be divided into three categories:

subject-specific training; for example, advanced econometric techniques
more generic research training; this might mean developing literature searching or thesis writing skills
personal development training, such as developing communication skills or teamworking skills.

Students record their achievements in an e-portfolio, which can be shown to future employers.

Visit the Doctoral Development Programme website